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Part two of wrapping reaction to the Federal Budget, with some ‘thumbs down’

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders and many other health stakeholders have raised serious concerns about the Federal Budget, as outlined in the comprehensive wrap of reactions below.

This post compiles statements from: National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation; SNAICC, the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; Australian Education Union; Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association; Australian Dental Association; Oxfam; End COVID For All; Consumers Health Forum; Youth Health Forum; Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists;  Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education; Australian College of Mental Health Nurses; Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia; Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW; Dementia Australia; Hepatitis Australia; Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations; Professionals Australia; Australian Psychological Society; Medicines Australia; Australian Medical Students’ Association; Community Foundations Australia and Philanthropy Australia.

Also see this previous wrap for reaction from: People with Disability Australia; the Australian Aged Care Collaboration; the Change the Record coalition; community health services provider cohealth; the Australian Medical Association; the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation; the Rural Doctors Association of Australia; Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association; the Australian Academy of Science; the Refugee Council of Australia.


Another big-spending budget short-changes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

Statement by The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has already welcomed the previously announced four-year rolling funding agreement for the sector, but this is just a necessary adjustment to support the current arrangements. ‘Business as usual’ is not going to close the health gap.

NACCHO is tiring of singular announcements in Aboriginal health while the health gap fails to close. Structural reform is required and substantial funding investment. The last three big-spending budgets were the Government’s opportunity to address this. They have failed to act.

The CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner said, “Although I am grateful to see the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme and support for screening services, mental health policy partnerships and $2.4m for ACCHOs to help in responding to the East Coast floods, I am disappointed that the core funding for our services has remained much the same. I am also worried that the Budget has assumed that ACCHOs’ expenditure will contract significantly after COVID. This may be a significant flaw in their modelling.”

In Cairns, the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills said, “What we need is a substantial review of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. In work we commissioned from Equity Economics it has been calculated – as conservatively as possible and using validated Government data – that the funding gap in Aboriginal health is $4.4 billion (= $5,042 per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person). The Commonwealth’s share of this shortfall is $2.6 billion. Yet dangerous myths prevail that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is over-funded. How can we seriously expect as a nation to ever close the health gap if the funding gap is so large? We will continue to live lives 8-9 years shorter than other Australians.”

NACCHO serves well over 410,000 clients per year, delivering over 3.1 million episodes of care, of which 1 million are delivered in remote communities. Its clinics are favoured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are directly controlled by the communities they serve. They are more cost-effective than mainstream health services and represent an effective investment means for the Commonwealth. The model was developed in 1971 – which predates Medicare itself – and can no longer be considered an unproved model of care.

The government has had the opportunity to fix the funding gap in three big-spending budgets focused on stimulus measures. If it had done so, at the same time, it could have delivered financial stimulus to the 550 local economies in which our services are located.

CEO Pat Turner said, “As long as this $4.4 billion funding gap remains and as long as there are funding gaps elsewhere – in particular, in housing – we cannot expect the unconscionable health gap to close. This Budget is an opportunity lost. NACCHO calls upon the Government to close the funding gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”


Budget falls short for our children

Statement by SNAICC, the national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle welcomed the significant funding in tonight’s Budget to increase women and children’s safety.

The $30 million to build and maintain links between the National Framework for protecting Australia’s Children and the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Their Children will help protect at risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people,” Ms Liddle said.

“The creation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Supports and the establishment of a National Advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People are particularly welcomed.

“These are measures SNAICC has been advocating for some time.

“Disappointingly though there is a considerable short fall in the commitment needed to meet the ambitious targets set out in the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.

“There is agreement between all Governments and the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45 per cent by 2031.

“There is also agreement to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track against all 5 domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 55%.

“Achieving these targets ensure our children get the best start in life and can thrive in their families and cultures.

“We can reduce the unacceptably high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander children removed from families, too often ending up caught in the justice system.

“We can give our children a better start in life by making sure they have access to quality, community controlled early childhood education and services.

“But this isn’t going to happen without a sustained effort to transform government service systems, including large scale new investments in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led solutions.

“Disappointingly we just aren’t seeing that effort in this Budget.

“Working in partnership with government we can turn this around and close the gap.”

Ms Liddle called on all candidates and parties running for election to commit to:

  • Investment in prevention and early support services for families through a new national program for ACCO-led integrated family support services.
  • Reforming the federal child care funding model to increase access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to culturally appropriate education and care.
  • Establishing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early childhood intermediaries in every state and territory in partnership with SNAICC to build the community-controlled early years sector.
  • Planning and investment to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce for child and family service delivery across the country.
  • Long-term core funding to SNAICC – National Voice for our Children so we have certainty to continue as the national peak for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and to engage in shared decision-making with governments under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Public schools hit

Statement by Australian Education Union

The Morrison Government’s 2022-2023 Federal Budget has slashed funding for public schools by $559 million over the next three years, whilst increasing funding for private schools by $2.6 billion over the forward estimates.

“Closer analysis of the budget papers shows the Morrison government has cut over half a billion dollars from public schools,” said Correna Haythorpe, Australian Education Union Federal President.

The cuts to public schools’ funding from the 2021-22 budget are:

  • $139 million in 2022-23
  • $193.9 million in 2023-24
  • $226.9 million in 2024-25

There is no funding allocated for capital works in public schools in this year’s Federal Budget either.

“This is a devastating reduction in funding for public schools at a time when schools are dealing with the deep impact of the COVID pandemic and escalating inequality for students across the nation.

“This savage cut to public schools was hidden in the detail. PM Morrison hoped principals, teachers, support staff and parents wouldn’t notice. They will.”

In sharp contrast, the increases to private schools’ funding are:

  • $616.8 million in 2022-23
  • $690 million in 2023-24
  • $715.6 million in 2024-25
  • $537.1 million in 2025-26

“PM Morrison’s blatant favouritism for the private school sector comes at a great cost for public schools and their students, staff and parents.

“Treasurer Josh Frydenberg boasts about delivering “record funding” for schools but does not make the distinction that they are delivering record funding for private schools at the expense of public schools every year.

“It is public schools that are witnessing booming enrolment growth and have the greatest need for capital spending on new buildings and state of the art facilities. It is public schools that need additional funding for more teachers, support staff, smaller class sizes and learning programs for students.

“It is public schools that provide a high-quality education for every child regardless of their background or circumstances. Yet PM Morrison has shamelessly shirked his responsibility to ensure that public schools have the resources they need to cater for their students.

“We urgently need the next Federal Government to address the deep inequality in public school funding, remove the 20 per cent cap on federal funding, guarantee a minimum of at least 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard and establish a capital works fund.

“Anything less fails Australia’s students.”


Many systemic problems left unaddressed

Statement by Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

In the federal budget, Australians would have been looking for an investment in their health.

Over the past two years, the pandemic has disrupted health care. The health and financial impacts of missed opportunities for early diagnosis and treatment on the health system are likely to be long-term, and waiting lists have grown.

‘In this budget, resources towards catching up on the high numbers of patient for whom care was delayed should have been a given. Funding as a one-off boost to capacity for breast cancer, cervical screening and colonoscopy triage is welcomed, yet this only addresses one element of delayed care, with nothing further reflected in public hospital funding beyond recurrent spending and planned growth,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association Acting CEO Kylie Woolcock.

‘With widespread COVID infection across the Australian population, there is going to be a need for investment in Long COVID management and care services. The symptoms are diverse, but able to be managed in primary and community care. Enabling outcomes-focused, value-based care, provided by teams of general practitioners, nurses and allied health providers is critical in minimising the long-term burden.

‘The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequities in Australia’s health, and we know these gaps will only widen if investments are not made now.

‘It is not just the size of the investment, but the terms of that investment. Longer term funding approaches are necessary in rural and remote regions for health care models to be successful and sustainable, and we welcome the 10-year strategic agreement with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) that provides the necessary security for the communities it serves. However, there are many communities that would benefit from the security and certainty in the services that such long-term commitments can provide.’

Reorienting the health system to value over volume is dependent on a national health information strategy to consolidate health information, promote cross-sector linkages and promote efficient, timely and consistent data collection and reporting. The budget should have provided the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) the remit for this to continue.

‘And while $32.3 million will be put to continuing the Intergovernmental Agreement on Digital Health with states and territories, supporting My Health Record and the Health Care Identifiers, further digital health investment appears to be prioritising streamlining administration over enabling the transformation of the way health care is provided.

‘Critical investment in driving innovation is lacking in primary and community care. Without it, problems of affordability for individuals and the system will continue to grow. The budget has done little to address this.’


Government fails oral health

Statement by Australian Dental Association

The nation’s oral health has yet again shown to be of no importance to the Morrison government with scant mention of oral health made in last night’s 2022 pre-election Budget.

The failure to address the declining oral health of many older, poor and disadvanataged Australians in the Treasurer’s speech does not bode well for it to be addressed in May’s Federal election either.

“This is a very disappointing outcome,” said ADA CEO Damian Mitsch, “when we know that thousands of people have to wait years to get a dental appointment in the public system.

“Also, there are large numbers of Australians including those in residential aged care, those on Level 4 Homecare Packages, those from socially and economically challenged backgrounds and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander populations for whom dental care is unaffordable.

“The ADA has put to successive governments and to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety our plan to fix the inequity in oral care between those who can afford their own dental care and those who have to wait years in the public system.”

While National Partnership Agreements were once again extended in the Budget to ensure public dental services for another year or two, this is a Band-Aid measure for a broken system.

The solution to the funding crisis in dental care for older Australians and which was agreed upon by Aged Care Commissioners in their final report to government, is the adoption of the ADA’s Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS) to make dentistry affordable to older Australians.

The SDBS would fund dental services for people in residential care and older people who live in the community and receive the aged pension.

“If the government adopted the SDBS, it would mean funding dental care for older Australians as well as some fundamental systems finally being put into place to ensure better dental care for residential and home care residents,” said Damian Mitsch.

Glaring inadequacies of the aged care sector result in residents going for days without anyone brushing their teeth and/or dentures, painful oral conditions remaining untreated for long periods, insufficient visits from dental staff, and a lack of training in oral healthcare by time-poor staff.

“Our plea to look at this solution has yet to be taken up by a political party with the foresight to see that investment in the nation’s oral health now, saves the public purse billions of dollars further down the track – from presentations at hospital emergency departments for people no longer able to withstand the pain in their mouths, right through to the knock-on effects of poor oral health on the rest of the body including cardiac events, Type 2 diabetes and poor pregnancy outcomes.”

In the run-up to the Federal election, the ADA has put a series of oral health questions to the four main parties to ascertain their oral health policies. Their responses will form ‘Report Cards’ on how their plans to fix our ailing oral health system measure up.

Damian Mitsch added: “These responses and our members’ reactions to them, will be sent to MPs in members’ constituencies and to the media, to ensure that the main parties’ oral health policies – or lack of them – are known to everyone.

“That way people vote with their eyes wide open in full knowledge of which party has prioritised oral health.”


Lacks ambition at time of massive need

Statement by Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain

At a time of rapidly escalating need and growing inequality across the globe, this federal budget fails to demonstrate the leadership that is required from a nation like Australia.

While Oxfam welcomes the marginal increase in aid funding through indexation, a lift in the humanitarian intake for people from Afghanistan and an enhanced focus on gender equality, these measures don’t come close to meeting current global challenges.

Our world is in crisis and Australia’s strategic interests are under threat, as our region continues to respond to COVID-19 and climate change.

This current turmoil is yet another reminder that contemporary multicultural Australia is deeply connected to communities in crisis worldwide. While Australia’s economy has started to bounce back, we must not close our eyes to the devastating impacts of the pandemic, conflict and climate-induced disasters on the world’s poorest communities. We expect governments of wealthy nations like ours to do more when there is such a critical need.

Our region is already being hit hard by the impacts of climate change. Women, girls and other marginalised people will be most affected. Yet the federal government has consistently ignored calls from Pacific leaders to take stronger action by rapidly reducing emissions and paying our fair share to help them adapt to the changing climate.

Pacific leaders are signaling that current development support from wealthy countries in the region is not meeting their needs and are turning to others for partnerships.

As the war in Ukraine pushes up food and commodity prices, the conflict in Yemen extends into its ninth year with millions of people going hungry, and the situation in much of East Africa is becoming increasingly desperate.

Our government must accept its place in our global economy, with all the responsibilities that entails, and contribute its fair share to humanitarian efforts. This budget continues a pattern of humanitarian assistance being woefully below our fair share.

While Australian aid and development spending remains relatively stagnant in the coming years, defence, security and intelligence spending has increased.

This formula will not deliver peace, stability and prosperity for the region. We need quality, long-term development programs that forge closer links and improve the lives of people experiencing poverty and injustice.


Further boost in COVID-19 aid for global neighbours warmly welcomed

Statement by End COVID For All spokesperson Rev Tim Costello

We welcome the Australian Government’s increase in aid to address global vaccine inequity as well as the extension of key pandemic support packages for the Indo-Pacific.

In the 2022-23 Federal Budget, Australia’s aid budget rose from $4.335b to $4.549b.

A new two-year investment of $324.4m to provide economic and social support to aid COVID-19 recovery in the Pacific and Timor Leste was announced, as well as a further $85m for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to provide the poorest 92 countries access to safe vaccines.

“From the outset of the pandemic – as we saw COVID-19 migrate and mutate from the cosmopolitan hubs of Milan and New York, to the packed slums of Dehli and the struggling health system in Port Moresby – we knew the world’s poor would be hit hard,” said Rev Tim Costello.

“And so we’ve said all along, ‘this doesn’t end for anyone, until it ends for everyone.’

“We welcome Australia’s increase in aid to address global vaccine inequity and the economic impacts of the pandemic at a critical time for both those nations and ours.

“Thanks to our access to vaccines, most Australians are now living without fear of death or serious illness from COVID-19. However, that is not the case around the world.

“In the past week, COVID case numbers have surged in Samoa and Vanuatu. Samoa has introduced a strict lockdown and closed its borders, while Vanuatu has brought in daytime movement restrictions and a 6pm to 6am curfew.

“Logistics and supply chains are being disrupted and already fragile health systems are being pushed to their limits.

“Australians lived through this just months ago and we know the solution is through a combination of financial support and vaccine delivery.

“In Vanuatu, fewer than 37 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. Without urgent assistance, this rate is unlikely to reach an acceptable level anytime soon.

“In other developing countries, the situation is even more dire. Just 14.5 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

“The longer we leave COVID to run rampant in developing countries, the more chance it has to mutate into more deadly and vaccine resistant forms.

“Many of us believed we had defeated COVID in Australia until the Delta and Omicron variants emerged from the largely unvaccinated regions of India and Southern Africa respectively.

“We cannot rest on our laurels. There is much work to be done to not only strengthen health systems globally but to secure Australia’s economic and health security and avoid economically-disastrous lockdowns, particularly at a time where we face rapidly rising costs of living.

“As Australia prepares to join other world leaders for an emergency COVAX AMC Summit on 8 April to be hosted by Germany, we call on the Australian Government to increase this new investment in COVAX from $85 million up to $250 million to help deliver and distribute vaccines across the world.

“This is the best global mechanism Australia can invest in to equitably deliver vaccines into arms in the Pacific and across the world.”


Some welcome news, some lost opportunities

Statement by the Consumers Health Forum

The Consumers Health Forum welcomes tonight’s health budget as a solid budget which continues to invest in health care for Australians.

The highlights for health consumers include targeted cost of living measures to make medicines more affordable, significant investments in mental health services, and permanency of Medicare subsidised telehealth.

The Voice of Australian Health Consumers Report, released yesterday by CHF and our academic collaborators, starkly reveal that one quarter of people surveyed said that they did not fill a prescription or omitted medicines and a third said this was because of cost. 24 percent reported serious levels of mental distress.

CHF CEO, Leanne Wells said that: “Lowering the PBS Safety Net eligibility threshold for both concessional and non-concessional patients is a long-standing initiative advocated by CHF and will improve outcomes for people who have chronic conditions or multiple prescription needs.”

“Young people have experienced unprecedented psychological distress in association with the pandemic. Support for critical community-based services like Lifeline, the Early Psychosis Youth Services, headspace and new eating disorder treatment clinics will make a real difference, although more investment is always warranted,” Ms Wells said.

“Australians have embraced digital health care, partly because it was a vital necessity during pandemic lockdowns and also because they value its convenience. It is now important to make telehealth a commonplace service in healthcare as 71% of Australians who use telehealth said it was as good or better than face-to-face care.”

Other welcome measures are the support for pharmacists embedded in government-funded residential aged care facilities (RACFs), which means more quality and safe medication management and avoidance of the harms and costs that are associated with medication misadventure.

Notable for regional Australia, is $296.5 million in funding towards the 10-Year Stronger Rural Health Strategy with funding towards putting more health professionals into rural and regional areas. This will mean more health care support for the 55 per cent percent of rural health consumers in the survey who said they needed more doctors, nurses and health workers in the regions.

“It was pleasing to see the Budget include measures to address the needs of key groups in our community. The women’s health package will see new endometriosis and pelvic pain GP clinics and enhanced breast and cervical cancer screening,” said Ms Wells.

“We particularly welcome specific health communications campaigns and preventive health initiatives for CALD communities, but stress that these must be co designed with the communities themselves. The pandemic highlighted the crucial need for all Australians to receive healthcare information that’s appropriately targeted.”

“While we welcome the release of the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan, we are disappointed that after two years of extensive consultation and co-design with all stakeholders including consumers, there has been a failure to commit to a funded program of transformational implementation.

This is a lost opportunity for the government to lead and drive major structural and financing reform in primary care. Primary care is the backbone of a high performing health system and is the first place people turn to for healthcare. We cannot afford for it to experience under-investment and become overwhelmed.

Targeted affordability measures need to be incorporated into primary health care.  While our sentiment survey showed that 84 percent of Australians were satisfied with the health care services they received, we have a long way to go to ensure accessible, affordable services.  Primary care reform must address these issues.

“While there looks to be significant investment in preventive health, there is a cluster of small-scale project-based measures and no cohesive and consolidated plan.”

Australians need to have confidence that our hospital system is sustainable and able to cope with increased demand as the population ages.  Hospital spending is up almost $20 billion in 14 years. While this reflects demand, there does not appear to have been any genuine attempt to leverage this scale of funding to reform the way we deliver hospital care and to systemically take the pressure off hospitals through alternatives like hospital in the home.

“Most disappointingly some of the measures we were hoping to see were missing, such as pledges to a national social prescribing scheme, no meaningful investments to improve access to dental and the creation of a National Centre for Disease Control, said Ms Wells.


Call for greater focus on young people’s concerns

Statement by the Youth Health Forum

The Youth Health Forum, coordinated by the Consumers Health Forum, has welcomed the $206.5 million for additional Early Psychosis Youth Services (EPYS) to support the mental health of young people and other inclusions such as enhancements to headspace, and community-based eating disorder treatment services.

“The pandemic, natural disasters, steep rises in the cost of living, housing pressures and the general climate of global uncertainty have cumulated to hit young people hard,” said Ms Roxxanne MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Youth Health Forum.

“Healthcare, employment, education and social connection has been disrupted in unprecedented ways, dashing the hopes and aspirations for many young people. The situation facing young people commands a robust response, particularly in the form of accessible and affordable mental health services,” said Leanne Wells, CEO of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

According to ABS and AIHW data, one in four young people in Australia will experience a mental illness, a further one in four of those young people have not accessed treatment for their illnesses. A young person with a complex mental illness will find getting help difficult and expensive, often with excessive wait times.

And rural and regional young Australians face major additional challenges in accessing mental healthcare.

The Australian Health Consumer Sentiment Survey released yesterday by CHF and research partners, is a reminder of the serious levels of mental distress in the community, and of the barriers to care faced by many. Barriers such as affordability of healthcare and medicines are amplified for young people,” said Ms Wells.

“The outlook for young people is stark: many fear an uncertain future. While the announcement of continued funding for the Early Psychosis Youth Services and its expansion is a great start, more needs to be done. Young people who are not in the high-risk categories covered by EPYS, need more support with more funding towards improving all young people’s access to essential mental and general health care.”

Without more action, many young people’s mental illnesses will progress and continue until they reach a higher risk category and place increasing pressure on acute mental health services.’’

“We also need to pay crucial attention to wider social determinants of youth health and wellbeing. The proportion of money spent by the average young person to cover the basics has ballooned over the last few years. Even before the most recent cost of living increases, many young people still had to make choices between accessing the care they need, paying rent and buying essentials like food and medication,” said Ms MacDonald.

We also welcome the much needed jobs aimed at young people, with the announcement of more wage subsidy support for apprentices. More can and must be done – investment in renewable energy and manufacturing will create greater certainty for the future for young Australians. A focus on future jobs should extend beyond apprenticeships and into higher education and other emerging sectors is essential to build a prosperous and safe Australia.

“Instead of malaise, we want young people to have hope and aspirations about a brighter future. To deliver this, we need a comprehensive set of measures organised under a National Youth Health Plan that focuses on not just on mental health, but on general health care, wellbeing and the root causes of poor physical and mental health outcomes for young people,” said Ms Wells.

The Plan should start with the six challenges identified in the YHF’s 2021 Life Transitions and Youth Pathways to Health Services report: trusting healthcare services, transitioning to adult healthcare, delivering digital healthcare, navigating the healthcare system, building a more equitable healthcare system and developing health literacy.

The Youth Health Forum ensures the voices and experiences of young health consumers are a part of the national conversation on health and social services. We stand ready to work with governments to improve and promote youth health and wellbeing.

“Unless we address the overarching issues that concern young people, we cannot hope to stem the tide of mental and physical illnesses that greatly affects our communities,” said Ms Wells.


So much promise, so little delivery

Statement by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warned that this year’s budget fails to address the fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the future challenges of a fatigued health system.

It has not delivered on the planned reforms that would guarantee a stronger future for the nation’s primary health system.

The college’s main concern is that vital components of the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan remain unfunded. Failure to meaningfully invest in this plan means that tonight’s budget did not address the gaps identified by the RACGP and other health groups, including aged care, mental health, disability, and funding to support chronic and complex care.

Tonight’s budget also failed to include funding for the implementation of the long-overdue reforms related to voluntary patient enrolment, aimed at providing more support for patients who need it most.

Whilst recognising these shortfalls, the RACGP has welcomed:

  • $16.4 million to establish new endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics in general practice, ensuring that there is frontline, primary care support available to improve early diagnosis, treatment, and support, as well as $5.1 million to develop an Endometriosis Management Plan to support patients in primary care
  • $81.2 million for a new Medicare rebate for genetic testing for cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, and fragile X syndrome
  • $296.5 million as part of the 10-Year Stronger Rural Health Strategy including more rural medical Commonwealth Supported Places and deregulation of MRI Medicare Benefits Schedule services for Australians in regional, rural, and remote areas
  • $127.8 million for trauma-informed national counselling services to support victim-survivors and extending support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Support Services for families who are experiencing, witnessing or at risk of family or domestic violence
  • $55 million for the purchase and continued provision of essential Personal Protective Equipment for GPs and pharmacists.

The RACGP is also pleased to see the continued commitment to permanent universal telehealth.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price acknowledged the primary care budget measures but considered them underwhelming given the meaningful investment required for the long-term future of general practice patient care.

“In our submission to the draft 10 Year Plan, we stressed that high-quality care offered by GPs is at risk if substantial reform does not take place. Reform without proper investment is not worth the paper it’s written on,” she said.

“General practice is under enormous pressure delivering COVID-19 vaccines and soon we will be doing the same for influenza vaccines. We are helping patients who have delayed or avoided care during the pandemic, including those with mental health issues amidst a looming mental health crisis in Australia. To give general practice a helping hand we need to fix workforce gaps, particularly in rural and remote areas, and increase Medicare rebates to reflect the cost of providing high-quality general practice care for all patients no matter their postcode.

“Tonight’s budget simply did not live up to expectations on the 10 Year Plan. This is very frustrating given the time, resources, and effort we and many other health groups have put in over several years. The federal Government has failed to provide much needed funding to support vulnerable patient groups, including those with chronic and complex disease, and deliver on what is needed to ensure a strong future for primary healthcare in Australia.

“There is also a disappointing lack of new investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare. If we are serious about Closing the Gap, then surely giving greater assistance to general practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and other health services, to improve health outcomes must be a priority.”

The RACGP President said that the Government also missed a vital opportunity to institute voluntary patient enrolment.

“We know that continuity of care is linked to better patient relationships, better uptake of preventive care, increased access to care, and reduced healthcare use and costs,” she said.

“The Budget provides $0.5 million over 4 years to establish and maintain a governance and advisory group for the implementation of the 10 Year Plan. But we’ve already had 3 years of discussions and roundtables. We don’t need more of the same; we need action.

“This budget will do nothing to attract medical students to the specialty of general practice and this means that the sustainability of the most cost-efficient and effective part of the health system remains at high risk. A failure of investment in primary care puts every other part of the health system in jeopardy. We can’t afford to run out of GPs”

The RACGP Election Statement, Pre-budget submission and submission to the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan (July and November) all highlight why investment in general practice is more important now than ever before.


Funding welcomed for National Advisory Council for Women’s Health

Statement by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

RANZCOG has welcomed funding in last night’s Federal Budget for the establishment of a National Advisory Council for Women’s Health.

The Federal Government has committed $1.6 million over four years to fund RANZCOG to establish the Council to evaluate and monitor the implementation of the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030.

As outlined in RANZCOG’s Pre-Budget Submission, the Council will bring together representatives of key women’s health organisations, including the voices of consumers and priority populations.

RANZCOG President Dr Benjamin Bopp said: “RANZCOG thanks the Federal Government for this funding, and looks forward to working with the different organisations who are involved in the delivery of initiatives within the National Women’s Health Strategy.”

Funding for endometriosis

RANZCOG has also welcomed funding for maintenance of the Australian Endometriosis Guideline so it can continue to reflect up-to-date clinical evidence, and further measures to improve the health outcomes of people suffering from endometriosis.

Specialist training in regional, rural and remote areas

While RANZCOG welcomes the Government’s budget commitment to encourage more specialists to undertake their training in regional, rural and remote areas, more needs to be done. Read RANZCOG’s statement calling for more sustainable, innovative models of care which also reinforces the lifestyle that attracts health care workers to work in rural, regional, and remote areas, including the introduction of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Education and Training (OGET) Program.

RANZCOG is piloting the OGET program in 2022-23, with the aim of developing a scalable and sustainable framework for maternity care in rural and remote Australia through ongoing capacity-building and upskilling opportunities. RANZCOG believes that a targeted, consistent approach towards upskilling and supporting medical professionals in rural and remote Australia is crucial to the delivery of high-quality maternity care.

Background
RANZCOG hosted a Women’s Health Summit at Parliament House, Canberra in May 2021, and engaged with over 200 organisations from across the country to develop a statement identifying key themes and recommendations around Women’s Health. The College has also been in ongoing discussions with the Federal Government on the most effective way to deliver some of the initiatives outlined in the National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030.


When no news is good news

Statement by Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

FARE has welcomed news that this year’s Federal Budget does not include a 50 per cent cut to the draught beer tax.

Strong community advocacy has resulted in common sense prevailing, with the health of our families and community prioritised over tax cuts for alcohol companies.

The rumoured tax cuts were labelled as a gimmick by Australia’s top economists, found expensive and ineffective by Australia Institute modelling, strongly opposed by more than 80 health and community leaders and organisations, and viewed by many Australians as a waste of taxpayer money.
Alcohol companies have been pushing for tax breaks for years and are attempting to use the cover of the pandemic to get a handout on top of their billion-dollar profits.

FARE strongly opposes any moves to reduce taxes for alcohol companies and will continue to advocate for decision-makers to put the health and wellbeing of Australians first.

FARE looks forward to working with the Government to reduce alcohol harms that have negatively impacted far too many Australians.


Mental health nurses do not get the recognition they deserve

Statement by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses

Whilst the Federal Government’s pre-election budget sees a welcome boost to further progress the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, it fails to utilise the skills and expertise of mental health nurses.

Last night, the Federal Government announced its 2022-23 budget, setting aside $547 million over five years to fund stage two of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) welcomed the support for vulnerable Australians, early intervention activities, better mental health treatment, and improving workforce and governance. However, if the government wants to achieve these goals, it cannot continue to ignore qualified mental health nurses (MHNs).

“This budget completely misses the mark on workforce issues. Australia’s mental health care system will continue to struggle without greater recognition of MHNs,” ACMHN CEO Stephen Jackson said.

“The $18.3 spend on pathways to practice programs for nursing, allied health, and psychology students does not specifically identify mental health nurses as a specialty. Qualified MHNs are outstanding, highly-skilled, and educated mental health clinicians. The government simply isn’t recognising that,” Interim President Professor John Hurley said.

“Mental health nurses are at the forefront of prevention, early intervention, and research into mental health. This budget does not reflect their contributions in these spaces at all,” ACMHN Vice-President Monica Taylor said.

“More support for Australians’ mental health is always welcome, but the government needs to be more strategic about how it’s spending this money. Giving the Credentialed Mental Health Nurses access to a broad range of Medicare Benefits Schedule items would’ve been an effective and logical step to stabilise Australia’s ailing mental health care services,” she added.

Professor Hurley said that the College was set to continue advocating for more recognition of MHNs and talking with all parties about ways to make this happen.

“Qualified MHNs can provide Australians with the best mental health care. It’s time governments in the country finally recognised that,” Professor Hurley said.


Missed opportunity to learn from the pandemic

Statement by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s pre-election budget centred on easing cost-of-living pressures, while cautioning announced expenditure in hospitals and pandemic preparedness will have limited impact without developing Australia’s current and future workforce of Hospital Pharmacists.

SHPA says while the Federal Budget 2022-23 sees investment in aged care, COVID-19 medicines and care in the community, it is a missed opportunity to learn the lessons of the pandemic and ensure Australia’s backbone of expert healthcare professionals is fully supported, appropriately remunerated and managed under national workforce plans.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says it is important ‘cost of living’ commentary is viewed through a healthcare lens.

‘With twelve less scripts for concessional patients to reach the PBS Safety Net threshold, and two less scripts required for general patients, this is another step in maintaining the accessibility and affordability of this revered pillar of Australia’s healthcare system.

‘Managing almost a quarter of PBS expenditure, Hospital Pharmacists are crucial to its sustainability and will play a key role as $2.4b was committed over five years for new PBS medicines, subsidising access to highly specialised and complex medicines initiated and supplied in the hospital setting, including medicines to treat breast cancer, advanced colorectal cancer, cystic fibrosis and COVID-19.

‘As we work to minimise COVID-19 hospitalisations, SHPA welcomes $6m to extend COVID Community Care Pathways to support effective coordination of care in the community, where Hospital Pharmacists are intimately involved in Hospital in The Home care models to care for patients and keep them out of hospital.

‘Hospital Pharmacists also welcome the advance purchases of vital medicines to treat COVID-19 for the National Medical Stockpile, the majority of which are administered in hospitals by Hospital Pharmacists.’

Ms Michaels says almost $1b to extend the National Partnership on COVID-19 Response, coupled with multifaceted spending on hospitals and aged care, underscores the importance of developing a National Pharmacy Workforce Plan, a key election priority for the Hospital Pharmacy sector, who are experiencing recruitment challenges all across Australian hospitals, both in metropolitan and regional areas.

‘Whilst the investment into the medical workforce in Budget 2022-23 is great news for our medical colleagues, at the same time, we must look ahead and fund the training and development of expert pharmacists, and plan the Hospital Pharmacy roles Australia needs, to safely and fully realise the benefit of these investments.


Continuing negelect of aged care

Statement by Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW

Assistance for aged care announced in last night’s Federal Budget has been labelled “totally inadequate” by the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, describing it is yet another missed opportunity to bring about meaningful change in a sector in crisis.

“We were hoping that given everything that has come to light around aged care facilities, staffing levels and wages in the past few years – which has included the devastating impact of COVID-19 and a Royal Commission – there would be some real initiatives, and the funding support to back those initiatives, in the Budget last night,” said CWA of NSW President Stephanie Stanhope.

“But, today, we are left disappointed and frustrated, and aged care residents, their families and staff have been let down once again.”

Stephanie said last year’s final report from the latest Royal Commission into the industry should have been the catalyst for urgent change, but 12 months on there were still chronic workplace shortages, an unacceptably high number of deaths from COVID-19, and evidence that residents were still living in substandard facilities or were having difficulty accessing care in the first place.

In rural and regional communities, the issues are even more acute. Stephanie said the town of Bombala, in the state’s Monaro region, was currently fighting to keep its one aged care facility after aged care provider Southern Cross Care NSW and ACT announced it would close its facilities in both Bombala and Swansea, south of Newcastle, due to staff shortages.

Following last month’s flooding in the NSW’s Northern Rivers, there were reports of aged care residents sleeping on the floors of other facilities after their own accommodation had been impacted by the floodwaters – weeks after the initial inundation.

The CWA of NSW is also calling for urgent action around increasing wages for workers in the aged care sector, saying last night’s budget may have included some funding for training, but nothing to improve wage levels.

“Action on workforce measures were among the key recommendations from the Royal Commission but is not being addressed, meaning the sector will continue to struggle to attract and retain the staff it needs to provide the level of care needed by older Australians. More money for training is one thing but if you don’t have the incentives there to attract people in the first place, then it doesn’t count for very much.

“In a country like Australia we must do more. Our vulnerable older citizens deserve so much better than this and deserve political leaders who take the issue seriously and can propose an ambitious and innovative aged care policy platform that actually responds to this worsening crisis rather than just paying lip service,” Stephanie said.


Aged care matters

Statement by Dementia Australia

The continued investment into the aged care sector announced by the Government in tonight’s Federal Budget is an essential step in fulfilling the recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

A year on since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect and now into the third year of the pandemic, extra and ongoing pressures are being placed on the health and aged care systems.

The additional $468.3m announced in tonight’s budget including measures announced earlier this week for aged care demonstrates an ongoing commitment by the government to respond to the Royal Commission.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM reiterated the need for maintaining the momentum and focus on aged care, especially in relation to the aged care workforce issues, including dementia education.

“A robust aged care system is essential to provide a guarantee of quality care to people living with dementia,” Ms McCabe said.

“We know from our work and broad consultation with people living with dementia, their families and carers, that if we get quality care right for people living with dementia then there will be quality care for all.

“As we turn towards the election, while the pandemic will continue to present significant challenges across society, we must work with all parties and sectors to ensure providing better care for people living with dementia now and into the future remains a priority.”

For the sector to deliver quality dementia care as a consistent and integral part of aged care, we must continue to support our workforce, strengthen their knowledge and skills and develop practice leaders and mentors.

Dementia Australia is calling for support of three crucial initiatives to build on existing measures designed to deliver quality care and inclusion for people living with dementia.

The three initiatives, outlined in Dementia Australia’s Delivering on the Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care, are focused on the introduction of compulsory dementia education for aged care workers, the establishment of a national dementia palliative care program and renewed funding for the award-winning Dementia-Friendly Communities program.

“Dementia Australia looks forward to continuing this conversation with the government to plan ahead for the next 5-10 years,” Ms McCabe said.

“Together we must keep dementia front of mind.”


Longer-term investment required

Statement by Hepatitis Australia

Hepatitis Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment of short-term (12 months) funding under the National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030 to support key organisations to continue existing programs in the national response to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and STIs.

“The Government has allocated $8.6 million in 2022-23 allowing key organisations to continue important work towards elimination by 2030,” said Carrie Fowlie, Chief Executive Officer of Hepatitis Australia, the national peak body representing the interests of 350,000 people living with viral hepatitis and the State and Territory Hepatitis Organisations.

It should be noted that the $8.6 million includes a $5 million commitment to implement key activities under the Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2018–2022, to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with, or at risk of blood borne viruses and/or sexually transmissible infections.

“We strongly support this critical one-year investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV/STI health, as First Nations leadership is critical to achieving hepatitis B and hepatitis C elimination”, said Ms Fowlie.

The remaining $3.6 million is to support existing programs under the four other national BBV and STI Strategies including the National Hepatitis B Strategy and the National Hepatitis C Strategy.

However, this short-term funding highlights an ongoing challenge to the national response where funding is often received late and short in duration.

“We support Minister Hunt’s acknowledgement at the Budget Briefing that health needs long-term investment strategies, and we desperately need to change this pattern of short-term funding for hepatitis B and hepatitis C”, said Carrie Fowlie.

“Australia has committed to the elimination of hepatitis B and hepatitis C by 2030, and is currently developing new National Strategies from 2023 to 2030 to get us back on track. This long-term policy commitment needs to be matched by a long-term implementation investment.”

Hepatitis Australia will engage with the government and the new parliament as a matter of priority to address the funding uncertainty for the national response from 1 July 2023.

“Progress towards 2030 elimination targets has stalled in recent years and we simply cannot afford further interruptions in service delivery and access to care for priority populations. We must not surrender the hard-fought gains made by affected communities and the hepatitis sector more broadly”, said Ms Fowlie.


Continued funding for HIV community response

Statement by Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations

The Morrison Government has announced continued funding to implement Australia’s National HIV Strategy. The Budget papers reveal a further $8.6 million will be allocated to combat blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections, including $5 million to implement the fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy.

“Our progress against HIV is impressive, but delicate,” Mr Darryl O’Donnell said. “The investments announced tonight are important in allowing us to continue our work to end HIV transmission.“

However, with greater resources we can achieve much more. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can hope to end HIV transmission in coming years. Doing so will require new resolve, policy reform and investment.”

Last June, AFAO released Agenda 2025, which modeled how a $53 million annual investment could end Australia’s HIV epidemic, averting six thousand new infections by 2030 and freeing up $1.4 billion in health resources.

In December 2021, we welcomed the Government’s announcement of funding to make HIV treatment available to all people with HIV, including those without access to Medicare. This $11m per annum commitment delivers one of the pillars of Agenda 2025.

Agenda 2025 provides a path to 95% of people at risk of HIV infection using one or more forms of effective HIV prevention; 95% of people living with HIV diagnosed and treated; and 98% achieving undetectable viral load.

“The HIV response is powered by compassion, evidence and co-operation,” Mr O’Donnell said. “We are committed to our mission because we know bravery, science and passion can overcome fear and prejudice.

“We are ready to partner with the Government to go the last mile. As COVID has reminded us, when elimination is within sight we need to grasp the opportunity.”

As Australia approaches the Federal election, AFAO will continue to advocate for the investment required to end HIV transmission in Australia.


Short sighted

Statement by Professionals Australia

The Morrison Government’s pre-election budget fails to address the long-term challenges facing Australians and doesn’t provide sustainable solutions to assist those struggling with the cost of living.

Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said that after two years of crisis and difficult economic times, Australians needed a budget that delivered real and sustainable measures to combat the increasing cost of living, a decade long decline in real wages and growing job insecurity – factors that are impacting adversely on all workers, including those in the professions.

“While spending cash on short term one-off payments such as the small cut in the petrol excise, modest one-off payments to low-income Australians, the Federal budget measures fail to address the full cost of living pressures faced by Australian families now and into the future.

“With inflation expected to continue to rise, this budget does not provide lasting relief to families dealing with the spiralling cost of living. It doesn’t reduce the cost of groceries, power, rent, education, health, and of course housing.

“While inflation is expected to grow and reach over 4 per cent in 2021/22, wages growth is predicted to be less than CPI at 2.75 per cent, so workers will fall even further behind.

Ms McCabe also said the budget failed to acknowledge a decade of historically low wage growth and the fact that previously predicted wage increases have not materialised with strong doubt that they will eventuate in the future.

“This budget doesn’t address the significant decline in real wages nor the troubling growth of insecure employment over the past ten years. It doesn’t demonstrate how predicted wage increases would flow through to workers who are reliant on awards such as employee pharmacists or to workers who are engaged in precarious forms of employment and are on individual contracts such as IT workers.

While acknowledging increased investment in infrastructure, manufacturing and digital initiatives, Ms McCabe said that there was still insufficient investment in the skills of engineers, scientists, ICT professionals, pharmacists, and other technical professions.

“Once again, this budget misses an extraordinary opportunity to build on Australia’s dynamic STEM sector, which already contributes $330 billion to the national economy and could lock in long term growth and good quality jobs as Australia emerges from the pandemic’s economic downturn.

Ms McCabe said that the Federal budget didn’t provide effective measures to address the gender pay gap or to improve women’s participation in industries like engineering, science, and information technology.

“Women working in the STEM sector face a gender pay gap of 22 per cent and comprise just 29 per cent of the STEM workforce. This budget contains little that will improve their career experiences or make STEM workplaces fairer and more equitable for women.

“We sincerely hope the next Federal Government commits to measures that seek to genuinely address the long-term cost of living pressures and low wages, invests in STEM professions to unlock future economic growth and strongly commits to improving gender equity across Australia’s workplaces.”

While welcoming funding to prevent violence against women and supports women’s health care, Ms McCabe said this investment was very modest and a much stronger focus was required on social infrastructure such as education, health and housing and a fairer and more inclusive Australia.


Mental health neglect

Statement by Australian Psychological Society

Despite some welcome announcements the Australian Psychological Society (APS) is disappointed that the federal government has failed to meet the mental health challenges of the nation at a time where floods, fires and the pandemic continue to cause devastation, as never before.

Based on initial analysis President Tamara Cavenett said the APS was concerned with the lack of funding, planning and commitment for mental health needed in this year’s budget.

“The government is only meeting 35% of their workforce target while one in three psychologists are unable to take on new patients. Before the pandemic, it was 1 in 100.”

“Making university funding on par with dentists, GPs, psychiatrists and veterinarians is critical to the future of the psychology in Australia. The government can’t deliver on its promises without the workforce to back it up.”

“Despite record demand to see a psychologist and worsening cost of living pressure the budget fails to reduce gap fees for people in crisis and contemplating suicide.”

“We needed a budget that lowered gap fees and got psychologists into schools and the regions. Sadly, the opportunity has been missed.”

Approximately 50 per cent of adult mental illness begins before 14 years of age and recent research has found 40 per cent of young Australian’s attempting self-harm or thinking about suicide during the pandemic.

“The government’s own Inquiry recognised prevention and early intervention as the cheapest and most effective forms of mental health treatment and recommended more psychologists in schools.”

“Children, parents and teachers are all crying out for this support.”

While funding towards additional placements and supervisors and the introduction of case conferencing as an MBS item number is very welcome, several crucial reforms have been avoided, namely:

  • Funding university places on par with GPs, veterinarians, dentists and psychiatrists
  • Committing to the 1:500 psychologist to student ratio at all public, private and independent high schools in line with the government’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Inquiry
  • Expanding Medicare coverage and lowering the gap fee for patients
  • Providing regional relocation incentives to psychologists on par with GPs, and
  • Making the additional 10 per annum Medicare-funded psychology sessions a permanent feature of the Better Access program.

While the Government has funded numerous reviews, reports and commissions in the mental health space over recent years, this Budget sadly fails to deliver on action when it’s needed.


Some welcome investment, but NHMRC and ARC continue to go backwards

Statement by Research Australia

Research Australia, the national alliance for Australian health and medical research, has welcomed strategic investment in medical research and innovation announced in tonight’s Federal Budget while expressing concern at the lack of further investment in key funding streams, including the NHMRC and ARC.

Research Australia welcomed much-needed support for primary care research, the establishment of Genomics Australia and two new Rural Health Departments at Edith Cowan and Curtin Universities and a Rural Clinical School at Charles Sturt University.

“A framework to identify gaps and align future initiatives to support the biotechnology sector is also very good news and investment in mRNA further supports Australia as a global leader in RNA research,” Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said.

“We need further significant investment like this if we are serious about innovation and creating future industries.

“We also applaud the continued investment in the MRFF Frontier Health and Medical Research initiative, which was designed by Research Australia in partnership with the Department of Health,” Ms Levin said.

However, while these key announcements supporting health and medical research and innovation are great news, Ms Levin said there is a worrying continuation of the real terms decline in funding for both the ARC and NHMRC.

“This is of genuine concern to the health and medical research community, and it jeopardises our long-term research capability and increases the precariousness of research careers. The pandemic has shown us just how much we need these critical skills and they are not developed overnight. Research is a long term, sustained investment and these funding bodies are crucial to guiding our future,” Ms Levin said.

“It has real impacts for all Australians who rightly expect health and medical research to protect their health and it’s a missed opportunity to build new industries and skills creation in health as a sector.”

“The rising cost of living has been addressed in the Budget with cash payments, tax relief and cuts to the fuel excise however, increasing inflation also affects health and medical research, making the cost of undertaking research higher; and an insecure workforce means we are at risk of losing the skills of those we most need from a health and economic perspective” Ms. Levin said.

Addressing these issues are at the centre of Research Australia’s advocacy for a National Health and Medical Research Strategy, as announced by Minister Hunt at the Research Australia Awards in December.


No ‘big bang’ announcements in health

Statement by Medicines Australia

Medicines Australia welcomes tonight’s Budget announcements for new PBS listings and ongoing COVID-19 measures.

Medicines Australia CEO, Elizabeth de Somer, said increased funding and commitments to ongoing health investment will be necessary to ensure faster access to innovative medicines for Australians who need them.

“Medicines Australia will pursue these long term objectives through the Strategic Agreement, signed with the Government last year and through the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review,” said Ms de Somer.

“The innovative biopharmaceutical industry has been central to Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be a major contributor to the nation’s economic recovery by keeping people healthy and productive in the workplace and in their daily lives.

“As the vaccination rollout has shown, medicines save lives and improve quality of life.

“Rapid access to medicines and vaccines is crucial for Australia’s health and economic recovery.

“The Government must invest heavily in health – including medicines – to keep the population in good health and safe from inevitable health crises and pandemics now and in the decades ahead.

“The Medicines Australia Budget Submission called on the Government for strong investments in the PBS, science and innovation,” she said.

Medicines Australia notes some increased spending in aged care and mental health and welcome changes to the PBS safety net.

Significant Budget announcements for the biopharmaceutical sector include:

  • COVID-19 response package – vaccines and treatments: $1.0 billion over two years for continued distribution and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines across Australia.
  • Improving access to medicines – PBS new and amended listings: the Government will provide $2.4 billion over 5 years from 2021-22 for new and amended listings on the PBS.
  • PBS – lowering the safety net threshold: $525.3 million over 4 years from 2022-23 to reduce the PBS safety net thresholds.
  • Fighting cancer: $423.7 million over 5 years to support specialist facilities and research to fight and prevent cancer, including the establishment of the Western Australian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Genomics Australia.
  • mRNA vaccine manufacturing: the Government will establish an mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility with Moderna to support pandemic preparedness.

“Medicines Australia will continue to work with the Government on policies and reforms that ensure Australian patients have faster access to the latest innovations in medicines, vaccines and treatments,” said Ms de Somer.


Medical Students oppose Budget increase of Commonwealth Supported Places

Statement by Australian Medical Students’ Association

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) opposes the Federal Budget announcement of introducing 80 new medical Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) at rural campuses.

“What this announcement represents is the Government taking the easy way out. It is a missed opportunity of CSP redistribution, whereby they could have taken city-based places and provided them to rural medical schools,” AMSA President, Ms Jasmine Davis said.

AMSA’s position is that no increases in medical school places should occur unless guided by evidence-based workforce modelling. Instead, should the Government want to increase rural training opportunities, a redistribution model is preferred. This involves CSPs from universities that fail to contribute to the rural workforce having their places redistributed to universities that are successful in bolstering the rural workforce.

“We have seen a rapid increase in the number of medical schools in Australia which is likely to cause an oversupply of doctors by at least 4,494 by 2030, placing a significant bottleneck on the capacity of Australian medical graduates to gain access to the health workforce,” claimed Mr Guy Jeffery, AMSA Vice President.

Mr Jeffery said: “Increasing medical student numbers has been utilised as a political tool in almost every Budget. Doing this in the absence of providing postgraduate training pathways in rural and remote areas is ineffective, and a misguided use of taxpayer money.”

This announcement is in addition to the lack of investment provided in the Federal Budget to the Junior Doctor Training Program (JDTP), an initiative historically relied upon to ensure all medical graduates receive internships, the funding of which will expire at the end of 2022.

Ms Davis said: “AMSA is extremely concerned about the possibility that graduating medical students will be left without an internship, especially without the JDTP. Funding medical school places, without a plan for students to complete an internship and specialty training, is short-sighted and extremely irresponsible.”

AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students. AMSA continues to call on the Government to take a whole pipeline approach to the medical workforce as outlined in the National Medical Workforce Strategy (2021-2031).


Philanthropy peaks welcome historic Federal Government support for community foundations

Statement by Community Foundations Australia and Philanthropy Australia

Community Foundations Australia and Philanthropy Australia welcome the Federal Government’s Budget announcement of long-sought reforms that will give community foundations greater scope to drive impact in local communities.

The Budget announced that up to 28 community foundations affiliated with Community Foundations Australia would receive a specific listing as Deductible Gift Recipients from 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2027.

This is an important reform that will streamline how community foundations fund local charitable groups and initiatives in their communities. It will enable a more rapid response to fires, floods or drought, and higher impact support in areas like health, education and homelessness. The change is significant for all community foundations and particularly important for the 80 per cent that operate in regional Australia.

‘Australia’s network of community foundations is a great national asset that has arguably been underutilised to date’, said Community Foundations Australia Chair Ben Rodgers. ‘This reform will position our sector for greater impact in the decades ahead so that we can contribute as we should to regional community development, building resilience to natural disasters, and addressing the big challenges in our cities.’

CEO of Philanthropy Australia, Jack Heath, said: ‘This is a historic reform that changes the dynamic for community foundations – it will enable them to draw on their long-term relationships and leverage their local knowledge to deliver funding where it’s needed most, especially in emergencies that we’re seeing with the current floods in Queensland and NSW.’’

Community foundations are commonly place-based and community-led charities that are owned, run and supported by local people. Being part of the communities they serve, they have an intimate understanding of needs on the ground and have deep trusted relationships in their community. Community foundations are ideally placed to partner with government, philanthropy, national charities, and the private sector when it comes to investment in community development or support in emergencies to ensure help quickly reaches those who need it most and is directed where the greatest impact can be achieved.

The current DGR rules mean that community foundations can currently only receive tax deductible donations if they set up a ‘Public Ancillary Fund’, known as an ‘Item 2 DGR’. This restricts how they distribute funding, which can only be granted to charities that are ‘Item 1 DGR’ endorsed. In regional Australia where most community foundations work, there are very few such ‘Item 1 DGR’ charities. This reform will simplify the work of community foundations, enabling faster responses and greater impact.

The reforms will also allow Private Ancillary Funds (PAFs – private foundations set up by individuals, families or businesses) to distribute funds to community foundations – up until now community foundations have been cut off from this growing flow of private philanthropy.  Philanthropy Australia has heard from a number of members that they want to use their PAF to donate to community foundations, especially in emergencies, and this significant announcement will allow that to happen.

In 2018-19 alone, PAFs distributed $565 million, so access to this potential pool of funds under this reform will likely give community foundations, and Australian communities, a very useful boost.

Sam Rosevear, Executive Director Policy, Government Relations and Research at Philanthropy Australia, commented ‘We really appreciated the open and consultative way Assistant Treasurer Sukkar, his advisers, and the Federal Treasury went about developing this reform. Treasury invited our technical and broader policy input on the reforms, which we provided working closely with Community Foundations Australia and other sector experts. This is a great way to develop good policy and achieve targeted reform that works for all parties and benefits Australia.’


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