Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Health

Annual funding for Indigenous health has increased by over $270 million or by more than 170 per cent in real terms since 1996.

Page last updated: 08 May 2007

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8 May 2007
ABB57/07

Annual funding for Indigenous health has increased by over $270 million or by more than 170 per cent in real terms since 1996. The 2007-08 Budget continues that growth.

This Budget includes a range of measures aimed at improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their access to high quality health services.

A Better Future for Indigenous Australians – family centred primary health care

Primary health care is vital to improving Indigenous health outcomes.

This Budget delivers an extra $38.2 million over four years to provide better access to health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities in rural and remote locations throughout Australia.

The measure will fund:
  • up to 45 additional health professionals to deliver health care services, primarily to prevent and manage chronic disease across generations;
  • new and upgraded buildings and clinics in six rural and remote areas; and
  • business management training for 100 Indigenous health service managers.

A Better Future for Indigenous Australians – Health @ Home Plus

The Commonwealth Government has committed new funding of $37.4 million over four years to Health @ Home Plus, a nurse-led home visiting program for mothers and babies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children up to two years old and their families in targeted outer regional and remote areas will benefit from dedicated, intensive home visiting services by health professionals. Ongoing child and family support will also be provided to high-need Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged two to eight years.

This program will improve children’s health during the first weeks of life, and reduce maternal smoking, childhood injuries and child abuse and neglect. Over the longer term, the program will improve children’s ability to learn, increase use of community services, improve parental skills, increase maternal employment and improve school readiness.

A Better Future for Indigenous Australians – establishing quality health standards

The Commonwealth Government has committed new funding of $36.9 million over four years to fund accreditation which will ensure Indigenous health services meet the same standards as mainstream health services.

Consistent accreditation processes for Indigenous health services - most of which are not yet fully accredited - will assure patients, the medical profession and the broader community that these services meet Australian health care standards.

A Better Future for Indigenous Australians – building an Indigenous workforce in government service delivery

$8.5 million over four years will be spent to convert approximately 120 positions held by Indigenous Australians in community-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community care services into real jobs.

These workers are currently participants in the Community Development and Employment Projects (CDEP) program. They work either in the National Respite for Carers (NRC) program in remote areas or the Home and Community Care (HACC) program in urban and regional areas.

This measure is the Health and Ageing portfolio component of a whole-of-government initiative to provide Indigenous workers with the opportunity to obtain real jobs in education, aged care, and a range of other fields.

Expansion of the Puggy Hunter scholarship scheme to dentistry

Indigenous students will be encouraged to work in dental health through three $15,000 scholarships per year under the expanded Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme. There are currently only six Indigenous dentists practising in Australia.

At present the Puggy Hunter scheme only supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people studying in medicine, nursing and allied health fields.

The scheme’s expansion to include dental and oral health scholarships is part of a broader rural dentistry initiative in the Budget which will receive funding of $12.5 million over four years. The program will be ongoing.

As a result of the new scholarships, the number of Indigenous dentists and oral health specialists practising in Australia will rise.

This will provide new role models and new career options for young Indigenous people. It is also likely that some scholarship recipients will choose to practice in Indigenous communities.

Other initiatives

In addition to the above measures, the 2007-08 Budget also funds other initiatives that will help generate better health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
  • While the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians is improving, drug and alcohol abuse still have significant and detrimental impacts upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families. The Government has therefore committed a further $14.6 million over four years to continue the National Illicit Drugs Strategy – Indigenous Community Initiative to help develop and implement the necessary local community solutions.
  • The Government has committed $8.6 million over four years to expand and enhance the Visiting Optometrists Scheme. The new funding will benefit Australians living and working in remote and very remote communities, including many Indigenous communities which tend to have poorer eye health.
  • The Budget includes funding to include rotavirus vaccine on the National Immunisation Program at a cost of $124.4 million over five years. Rotavirus gastroenteritis most often affects young children. It causes severe diarrhoea and is responsible for hospitalisation of around 10,000 Australian children every year. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children tend to be more seriously affected by the disease.All babies born on or after 1 May 2007 will be eligible for the free vaccine, to be given with other vaccines at around two, four and six months of age.
  • Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever represent a serious health risk to Australia. This Budget commits $2.1 million over three years for mosquito control operations in the Torres Strait to be undertaken by the Queensland Government, and a further $0.6 million over two years for mosquito control operations on Groote Eylandt to be undertaken by the Northern Territory Government.
Media contact: Claire Kimball 0413 486 926

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