So many questions were left unanswered during the election campaign about the Coalition’s plans for health policy.
The situation remains as clear as mud when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, with no definitive news on whether it remains within the Department of Health or is being transferred to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The administrative arrangements released yesterday do not show Indigenous health listed under matters dealt with by the Department of Health.
“Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy, programmes and service delivery” are listed as one of the matters dealt with by PM&C, along with Native Title, promotion of reconciliation, and the Stronger Futures Act for the NT.
However, it is not spelt out in this document if PM&C will have oversight of Indigenous health matters.
Government statements are not adding to any clarity.
But AAP is quoting a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying that Indigenous health would be the responsibility of Scullion and Indigenous health programs would fall under the department of PM&C.
Meanwhile, an NITV report has Scullion saying that Senator Fiona Nash will be responsible for Aboriginal Health as the new Minister for Rural Health under Peter Dutton, the new Minister for Health.
If this is indeed the case, it doesn’t suggest much awareness of the basic demographics of Indigenous health, given that the latest Census has one-third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population living in capital cities. In some states (eg SA and Victoria), about half of the Indigenous population lives in capital cities.
Perhaps this is just what happens when political parties don’t bother consulting widely or taking a formal policy to the election: shambles.
Indigenous health needs, and deserves, so much better than this unpromising start.
Update on 20 September
Meanwhile, this latest NACCHO Communique quoting the incoming chair of the new Indigenous advisory council, Warren Mundine, suggests we will know more in another week or so….