A new report has demonstrated the economic benefits of the 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and reveals they provide a range of quality employment and education opportunities for Aboriginal people and boost local economies.
Justin Mohamed, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations launched the report at the National Press Club in Canberra this week. “Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are major contributors to closing the appalling health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by providing culturally appropriate primary health care to Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.
“We now know that they are even more valuable – providing employment and training opportunities to our people which in turn boost local economies and tackle some of the huge barriers to Aboriginal people achieving economic independence and quality of life.
“The ripple effect of healthy Aboriginal communities cannot be underestimated. Healthy communities keep our kids in school, keep our adults in the workforce and provide a greater opportunity for participation in broader society.
“Ultimately that means reducing welfare dependency, reducing criminal justice rates and diverting people from the need for more expensive health care such as hospital admissions.”
The Report outlines how a single investment in Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisations deals with all three of the main challenges in Aboriginal communities: high unemployment, low education levels and poor health.
It describes how Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services have up to 43 years’ experience in delivery of culturally appropriate Comprehensive Primary Health Care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The main findings of the report include:
- Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisations are the largest private employer industry of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within Australia, estimated at 5829 workers, 3,215 who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
- The ACCHS workforce provide 2.5 million episodes of care to an estimated 342,000 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians annually.
- ACCHS have successfully contributed to the Close the Gap targets that have reduced child mortality rates by 66% and overall mortality rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 33% over the last two decades.
Mr Mohamed urged the Federal Government to quarantine Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations from any cuts in the upcoming Federal Budget in acknowledgment of their broader economic value and to index funding to growth in inflation, population and service demand.
He said “the fact is that the primary health care sector that delivers the best results for Aboriginal Australians – the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector – is the least well funded.
“So what is needed to ensure that the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector continues to deliver the health gains against the critical close the gaps targets – so that we can achieve a better quality of life for our people now and into the future?
“At the minimum we need to ensure that funding to our services keeps pace with inflation, population growth and service demand.
“We need a commitment to long term secure funding with reasonable checks and balances but without the onerous reporting our services are burdened with now.
“We need to ensure Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services are quarantined (protected) from budget cuts across federal, state and territory jurisdictions.
“But the task that seems to be continually side stepped or ignored is the need for comprehensive reform across Australia’s health care funding system.
“Poorly distributed government health care funding is draining budgets, jeopardising potential gains in Aboriginal health and contributing to the high Aboriginal unemployment, poverty, welfare dependence and community malfunctioning across Australia.
“High barriers to our people accessing mainstream services and the demand for Aboriginal Controlled Health services is on the increase.
“Given the flow on economic and social benefits of our model and services, it makes sense for governments to not just support existing services but to expand the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health model to deliver more services to more of our people in more geographical areas across the nation.
“Expanding the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector has the potential to deliver strategic and accountable regional development better than any other mainstream sector.
“In fact, investing in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services to improve and developing their capacity must be recognised as a cost-effective multi-sector strategy that generates multiple benefits across sectors and communities – helping to meet targets in health, education, employment and social well-being.
“I would like to see the Prime Minister lead the State and Territory governments to recommit to the now expired National Partnership Agreement or another bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and states that will guarantee Closing the Gap in Aboriginal Health Outcomes has a coordinated and integrated approach to closing the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of this Nation.
“I do have concerns about the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act as racism in quite prevalent throughout the health system, our workforce are often confronted with discrimination and stereo typing within mainstream health institutions and many patients also experience racism within the Australian heath system. Racism, does contribute to poor health outcomes for our people.
“So as the Government proposes changes to the Act that currently provides protection and enhances wellbeing for many Australians, I would like to take this moment to remind the Prime Minister of the commitment he made to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and carefully consider the broader implications of any changes that weaken protections against racist behavior in this country.
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services makes economic sense because we encourage prevention and early detection and take the pressure off the substantially more costly secondary and tertiary health care; we provide real employment and training for Aboriginal people and promote regional development and sustainability.
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are a part of this important community fabric and it’s why we have been able to rise above the challenges and achieve the unachievable for over forty years.
“Becoming a integral part of the Australian Health System and a leader of what works in Aboriginal Communities.
“It is more than a place where you go when you are sick,
“Our services provide real employment, sustainable economy, improved educational standards and in doing so build stronger Aboriginal individuals, families and Communities for now and just as importantly into the future.”