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Celebrating some auspicious anniversaries in health policy, with a focus on community health services

Introduction by Croakey: It’s time for celebrating some auspicious anniversaries. As we recently reported, the 50th anniversary of the Whitlam Government’s Community Health Program is a reminder of the importance of comprehensive primary healthcare – and of inequities in access to such services across Australia.

No doubt the upcoming 40th anniversary of Medicare, on 1 February, 2024, will be an opportunity for highlighting the importance of universal health coverage, as well as related gaps and inequities.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) recently took the reins of Croakey’s rotated X/Twitter account, @WePublicHealth, to celebrate #50YearsOfCommunityHealth. This followed an event at Government House last month hosted by the Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Margaret Gardner AC.

A related statement noted that Victoria has a proud history of ensuring universal access to primary and community-based care through the community health service model, saying:

“Community health is an integral component of Victoria’s public health system with a proven track record of delivering accessible, affordable and integrated primary care services for people with complex and chronic health needs, especially those who face barriers to accessing mainstream health services.”

The Community Health Program funded over 700 projects and services nationally by 1976, including community health centres in metropolitan and rural areas, women’s refuges and health centres, family planning services, Aboriginal community health services, workers health centres, specialist training for general practitioners and foundation chairs of Community Medicine in universities.

The program formally ended by 1981, but community health centres and services continued and developed differently in each state and territory. Victoria has 78 community health services that deliver a range of services across metropolitan, rural and regional areas, spanning primary care, allied health, prevention and health promotion. They sit alongside general practice and privately funded services to make up part of the state’s primary health sector.

On the day that National Cabinet meets to discuss health reform and financing, it’s timely to reflect on the history and importance of comprehensive primary healthcare, including the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector.


Tweets by Victorian Healthcare Association

Royal Abbott’s journey from journalism to volunteering with Banyule Community Health

Royal Abbott is a former journalist and widower. He lost direction after retirement and a period of drug misuse but at 70 has found volunteering to be an avenue into a satisfying and life-affirming late career change.

Around a decade ago, Mr Abbott moved to West Heidelberg. Around that time, Banyule Community Health was recruiting volunteers with a history of drug and alcohol misuse to be trained as support group facilitators. As someone whose life and family had been impacted by substance misuse, he applied to volunteer and became a co-facilitator of the drug and alcohol peer group.

Mr Abbott said this rewarding opportunity restored his sense of self-worth and assisted in dealing with his and others’ mental health struggles. He said he was very quickly welcomed into the team, which felt more like family than a workplace.

‘I had initially visited Banyule Community Health primarily to get to know my neighbours as I was going through a difficult period at the time. The opportunity to help others in my community revived my love of learning and took me on a new and unexpected path in life helping people,’ he said.

Find out more about Royal’s story on the VHA website.


See Croakey’s archive of articles from @WePublicHealth guest tweeters in 2023.

Please contact @MelissaSweetDr if you would like to pitch for a week at @WePublicHealth in 2024.

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