10-year policy for Indigenous health - 10 more years of despair

To start meeting its fancy health policy priorities, the government must put an end the NT Intervention immediately, allow communities to remove Income Management if they so desire and give back the nations their rights to their lands, waters and air space ...

The government boasts that their policy blueprint builds on the 2008 Closing the Gap health objectives and will guide policy and programs to improve Indigenous health.

They inform us that they held 17 consultations on the plan, along with roundtable meetings, and accepted more than 140 written submissions. This is all very well and good, but are they really listening and are they bold priorities or just rhetoric and flowery language, as we have heard so often before.

They say their policy priorities are continually striving to improve accessibility, appropriateness and impact, but surely many of their priorities are not possible without massive position changes from other government departments. Surely its just a prettied-up document, like the graphics on their report and their policies of the past.

The 12 billion, 10 year plan priorities include:

  • mothers and babies get the best possible care and support for a good start to life
  • a robust, strong, vibrant and effective community controlled health sect
  • free of racism and inequality
  • growth and development of children lays the basis for long, healthy lives
  • youth get the services and support they need to thrive and grow into healthy young adults
  • adults have the health care, support and resources to manage their health and have long, productive lives
  • supported by housing, education, employment and other programs focused on eliminating the causes of health inequality
  • individuals and communities actively engage in decision making and control

and then there's the vision:

The Australian health system is free of racism and inequality and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable. Together with strategies to address social inequalities and determinants of health, this provides the necessary platform to realise health equality by 2031.

The words just fly of the tongues of the white public servants in these departments and then forgotten.

The 'Indigenous Health Minister' Warren Snowdon says annual reporting to Parliament will make the Government accountable. Surely he doesn't expect us to believe that.

Those smooth tongued pollies are pathetic at getting the job done, but are damn good spin doctors, and the department will be sure to expand with many, many more jobs in Canberra.

"This is the first time such a plan has been developed. I think that in itself will be a difference," Mr Snowden said. "And by the way, we will make a difference, we will meet our target on child mortality rates by 2018, and that is clear."

"But we've got to do a lot more. The life expectancy gap - if we want to close it by 2030, which is the objective - we've got to do a lot more work."

A statement from the Minister says the plan emphasises the centrality of culture in the health of Indigenous people and the rights of individuals to a safe, healthy and empowered life.

The Coalition's spokesman, Andrew Laming, says the budget already forecasts $1.2 billion for Indigenous health each year and the announcement is just an extension of the existing funding model.

"Far from being groundbreaking, we are struggling to find any detail in this plan being announced today to show Aboriginal kids, or Australians, will be better off than they are today," he said.

"We don't think the document is terribly ambitious. The document wasn't shown to anyone before it was released so stakeholders were completely in the dark."

The highly paid and unrepresentative Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, Jody Broun, says for too long racism has been a major barrier in people's access to health services.

"There might be a hospital or there might be a health service in a town; people won't use it if they have had a negative experience and what they perceive as a racist experience in that place," she said.

"We heard far too often that that was happening, so we really have to make sure that that is eliminated from the health system so that people feel comfortable."

Those words are true, Jody - but what about Sovereignty - Self-determination, Self-esteem, Self-worth and 'Self-funding'?

Bruce (SU website volunteer) 24 July 2013