National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023

Minister’s Foreword

Page last updated: 27 June 2013

The Australian Government is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through Closing the Gap in health outcomes with the wider Australian population.

In 2008 we established a framework for tackling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage, with six ambitious targets to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. These targets were agreed with all states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments.

As part of this framework, we have provided unprecedented levels of investment, underpinned by a series of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific and mainstream National Partnership Agreements between the Australian, state and territory governments.

This work is beginning to make a difference to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year’s Closing the Gap Report shows we are on track to achieve our target on under-five mortality by 2018 and we are continuing our efforts to close the gap in life expectancy.

As part of our efforts to close the gap, since 2011, the Australian Government has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to produce this National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, providing an opportunity to collaboratively set out a 10 year plan for the direction of Indigenous health policy.

No plan will succeed without a robust partnership, particularly between the Australian Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations and their peak bodies. This Health Plan has been developed in partnership with all these groups, a partnership that has been over twelve months in the making. The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples has provided a critical role through the National Heath Leadership Forum in ensuring input and feedback into the development of this Health Plan. Partnerships require effort and commitment as we work to find common ground. I am very grateful for the courage and contribution that the National Health Leadership Forum and others provided in the development of this Health Plan.

Our vision is bold – we want to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality. In order to make a difference over the next decade there are some things that we need to continue to hold firm on. There are also new agendas that we need to embed. Finally, we need to be able to respond to new and emerging challenges – things as yet unseen.

There are a number of things that we must continue to do. We need to continue to address the pressing social inequality and determinants of health that are so pivotal to long term health improvements. In this Health Plan we place priority on social and emotional wellbeing and the issues that impact on it including alcohol and other drugs. Because we know that health outcomes are life outcomes that are affected by a broad range of factors, we have a comprehensive approach to tackling health inequality through each of the Closing the Gap building blocks. This Health Plan builds on that approach.

We also need to drive health system improvements and maintain a clear priority on primary health care system reform. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services will continue to be supported to fulfil their pivotal role in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes. Research and data will be needed to build our evidence-based practice and policy.

I am also very clear that we will need to open up new agendas for change. This Health Plan provides a clear focus on strategies to address racism and to empower people to take control of their own health. While we need to continue to strengthen healthcare we also need to enhance our focus on specialist care and hospital care in the secondary and tertiary systems. It is also important to place great emphasis on building pathways into the health professions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This Health Plan also provides a focus on the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability, young people and for healthy ageing. As such it builds on our commitment to new Closing the Gap targets, including our new target aimed at increasing access to services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Importantly, in this Health Plan we signal the need to expand our focus on children’s health to broader issues in child development. We have much more work to do in developing robust research and data systems. I am also resolved that we will tackle the difficult and distressing issues of violence, abuse and self-harm.

As always, the Government remains committed to fearless accountability and we will be reporting annually on progress against measures and targets aligned to this Health Plan. Our implementation plans and their associated strategies will respond to new challenges and provide the detailed architecture to meet the challenge and vision that we have set ourselves.


The Hon Warren Snowdon MP
Minister for Indigenous Health