Media event date: 
9 May 2021
Date published: 
10 May 2021
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Good morning everyone, and indeed it’s a happy Mother’s Day. And to meet beautiful young bubs such as Elysée and Sadie, both two days old, both with their very proud and very health mums here at the Frances Perry Maternity – that’s real life on Mother’s Day.

Today we celebrate and commemorate Mother’s Day with a $354 million package to support mother’s health, women’s health and the health of our beautiful young babies.

I’m delighted to be joined by Dr Katie Allen, who’s also a paediatrician in her own right, as well as the Member for Higgins, by Christine Morgan, the head of the National Mental Health Commission; by an extraordinary group of leaders in women’s health here today; by Professor Jeanie Cheong from the Royal Women’s Hospital; Susan Evans, chair of the Pelvic Pain Foundation; Kirsty Mead from the Pelvic Pain Foundation; Janet Michelmore from Jean Hailes for Women’s Health; Kirsten Pilatti and Kathryn Fagg from the Breast Cancer Network of Australia; Vase Jovanoska, the CEO of RANZCOG; and Dr Jenny Dowd, the Victorian Councillor from RANZCOG; as well as Professor John Newnham, our former Senior Australian of the Year, the chair of the Australian Preterm Prevention Alliance; and Greg Hall; and the amazing team here at Frances Perry. So, to see our doctors, our nurses, our midwives in action is to see the best of Australia.

My mum was a midwife and she would be just thrilled to see these beautiful babies being born and brought into the world, and here on Mother’s Day. And everybody is thrilled by the gift of new life. So today we’re announcing a Mother’s Day package of women’s health support measures, and I’ll run through them very briefly and then invite others to speak.

The $354 million starts with support for premature birth, and overcoming the challenges and problems of premature birth. That includes $13.7 million for the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance.

What we know is that premature birth can affect 8 per cent of births around Australia and twice that number in Indigenous Australia. And John Newnham and his team know very well about the impacts on development and health and all of the consequences, and their trial work is now being expanded around Australia. It’s as simple as saving lives and protecting lives for mums and bubs.

The additional thing is that there’s $19 million for a new PBS listing, Oripro. This will help over 14,000 patients have access to a new medicine which will assist in helping to prevent premature births. It’s hard to imagine a more important medicine.

In terms of mental health and eating disorders, both for mums and also for in particular young women, but women of all ages, there’s a $74 million package.

We know that perinatal mental health can have an enormous toll. In many ways it’s still a hidden condition and we have to help support it, but bring it into the light.

So, in particular, there what we have is $47 million for perinatal mental health to help expectant mums and mums who have given birth, deal with the challenge, which is natural, which is biological, which comes with all of the great joys of being a new or expectant mum.

There is a real challenge of perinatal anxiety and depression and this support will help save lives and improve lives.

Equally, a real personal passion is eating disorders, and we know that eating disorders can affect up to a million people in Australia - overwhelmingly women, in particular young women, and it has one of the highest mortality rates of any of the mental health conditions.

So there’s $27 million to expand and extend support for eating disorders. This has been a hidden condition in Australia and we’re helping bring it into the light along with perinatal mental health.

Related to this, of course, is breast and cervical cancer. We lose almost 3500 women a year to these two conditions.

We nevertheless have some of the highest survival rates in the world. But there’s $110 million to support the fight against breast and cervical cancer in Australia.

We are on track by 2035 to be potentially the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer. The combination of our vaccine, of Gardasil and now Gardasil 9, of our vaccination program and our screening program, this gives real help for Australia to save lives and protect lives but also to be a world leader.

In addition to all that, with regards to breast cancer, which itself takes over 3000 beautiful women every year, there is $6.6 million to the amazing Breast Cancer Network of Australia - you do an extraordinary job.

And in particular we’re expanding the breast screen program too. It will now cover ages 40 to 74 on a permanent basis and this will give better access for more women and more women will have access to mammograms - and that, of and in itself, is important.

Another critical thing is $21 million for endometriosis and other related women’s health conditions.

Endometriosis, until recently, has been largely unspoken of in public life in Australia. But, again, for an extraordinary number of Australian women, it can be a painful, agonising, debilitating condition.

And this $21 million in funding, in particular, to expand the PEP Talk program, which will talk to not just girls and young women in schools, but also to boys and young men, to give that education right around Australia, will make a real difference and will hopefully lead to better treatment, to better support, to better understanding and to earlier diagnosis.

And then finally there’s MBS listings or Medicare listings of just over $91 million, largely for birth-related treatments, in particular earlier access to IVF programs. These programs, whether it’s in terms of pre-implantation genetic screening, will help mean that more children are born without conditions such as cystic fibrosis and they’ll have a better life and a longer life. So, these things together mean a very happy Mother’s Day.

I’m delighted to invite Katie Allen, and then Christine Morgan, and then others.

KATIE ALLEN:

Thank you, and isn’t it wonderful to be here on a beautiful Mother’s Day at Frances Perry House. Congratulations to all of those of you here today who’ve helped bring these sets of announcements to the table.

Because as a government we care, as you do, about the health and wellbeing, not only of all of us, but particularly today, on Mother’s Day, it’s about women’s health.

And of course not every woman is a mother, but every woman has a mother. And today on Mother’s Day I think it’s wonderful to hear about some particular issues that I’m particularly passionate about, and that is perinatal anxiety and depression.

As a paediatrician caring for young mothers and fathers, I know the toll that those early weeks and months of sleeplessness, of anxiety and worry, not knowing what to do necessarily, it’s wonderful to know that the Federal Government, the Morrison Government, has the back of young families, as they navigate these incredibly difficult early weeks and months.

Whether you’re a new mum or you’ve had many children, it’s a really tough few weeks and months.

We’ve heard today from some beautiful young mums with their babies born today, on Mother’s Day. Sadie, a beautiful baby born today, my- from a constituent in my electorate.

I’m so delighted that the Federal Government is delivering funding to support a better hotline - so, we already have a hotline, but there’s been a massive increase during COVID and I know this because maternal health services were under lockdown themselves and so mothers were reaching out for helplines.

And it was wonderful that we could provide that extra support through the very difficult stages that they were experiencing as young mums through COVID. The calls through the hotline doubled during COVID in 2020 and they remained elevated.

So mums have found this hotline, it’s fantastic that they’re using it and there are now increased resources to make sure that that goes on into the future.

The other thing we’re doing is providing more funding for the Centre of Perinatal Excellence, COPE, to improve national access to perinatal mental health screening.

Sometimes it can feel so lonely when you’re at home with your new baby, everyone’s gone back about their normal activities again and the flowers have gone, flowers are actually wilting, and people need that help.

So it’s wonderful that there is now extra funding provided to ensure that perinatal mental health screening is available for Australian mums.

And lastly, we need to know what we’re doing, and how we’re doing, and how to do it better. So I’m delighted that there’s extra funding for the Australian Institute of Health Welfare, Health Welfare to develop and manage a perinatal mental health dataset - because you can’t manage what you don’t know.

So, it’s important that we measure and manage better to prevent mental health issues as they arise in those really beautiful first few weeks and months after families have had their baby. So I’m delighted with these new announcements today.

Thank you, Minister Greg Hunt, for what you’re doing.

GREG HUNT:

Christine Morgan, thank you.

CHRISTINE MORGAN:

Thank you. And what wonderful news, and I would just like to add my special happy Mother’s Day to all mums. We absolutely wouldn’t be here without them, as we all know.

It is my real pleasure to be able today to talk for a few minutes towards some new initiatives which are being funded around eating disorders.

A couple of things I’d like to say about that. Firstly, it is under this Government that we saw some very, very significant initiatives being introduced for eating disorders.

As the Minister has said, eating disorders for many years have been seen as a lifestyle choice, and we now know that it’s not. It is a killer, it kills approximately 650 Australians every year, and that is a harsh reality. It is a very complex neuropsychiatric disorder.

One of the things that was introduced by the Minister and by the Prime Minister was a specific MBS number for eating disorders. That has taken us a long way further. But what we’re now seeing the Government do is to not stop at that but actually continue its investment, as we continue to seek to improve the lot, and actually to make sure that people, if they have an eating disorder, can be made well.

So in this area, what are we doing? Firstly, we are trying to ensure that anybody who works with somebody with an eating disorder is credentialed. We want absolutely top notch training.

So resources are going in to making sure that we’ve got the training, we’ve got the practice standards and we’ve got the website which tells us who can do this properly.

Second thing, during COVID not only did we see an increase in the perinatal side of things, but we actually saw a significant increase in the presentation of eating disorders, not just in community but in hospital presentations. So another initiative that we’re investing in is what we call a brief intervention.

We’re going to be training our mental health workers in our community setting. So, in our adult mental health centres, in headspace, in other places, so they can actually know what to do. And they can either give that early intervention for somebody early in episode, or, for somebody who’s got a longer wait time, we can actually do something effective until they can get into the treatment they need.

We’re looking to increase community access for treatment. We’ll be working with all of the jurisdictions to see if- not only in addition to the residentials which have been a commitment of this Government, we can actually also get some day, day care centres in as well.

We’re not forgetting carers, they’re a critical part of recovery and treatment for somebody with an eating disorder. So, Eating Disorders Families Australia, EDFA, which is a fantastic organisation, has a program called Strive, where they seek to provide mentoring and peer support for carers. That is receiving an additional boost.

And then something incredibly special, incredibly special - $13 million is being invested in a National Eating Disorders Research Centre. There is so much that we know now about eating disorders, but still so much that we don’t know, and this funding will enable a research centre of excellence to be established for eating disorders.

We already have researchers in Australia that really hit above their weight internationally. This will make sure that we can do this not only for Australians, but I truly believe it will contribute to what is known on the international scene.

So it is a package for eating disorders, which looks at how do we understand it better, how do we intervene early? How do we treat it more effectively? And, how do we look after carers? So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of those women, mums, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and others who do have the reality of an eating disorder in their lives.

This will make a difference. Thank you.

GREG HUNT:

And, thanks very much, Christine. I’ll just invite Kirsten and Susan and John to make some brief words and then we’ll open up for questions.

KIRSTEN PILLATI:

Thank you very much, Minister. Kirsten Pillati, CEO of Breast Cancer Network of Australia.

First I would like to acknowledge the Government on their incredible investment in prevention and early detection of breast cancer. It will certainly help us to pave the way for better outcomes for Australian women and men who are diagnosed.

But not only that, you’ve taken the next step forward in supporting Breast Cancer Network Australia to deliver support services so that we can let the hospital system look after the treatment and care of patients. But BCNA can be here to make sure the emotion wellbeing of Australians are looked after.

And I’m so proud that this funding will help to build on the community support that we have right around the country, and ensure that Breast Cancer Network Australia can take the very best emotional care experts out into regional Australia where we know they are screaming for additional support right now.

So, Minister, thank you for your ongoing support, and for really seeing the importance that Breast Cancer plays in our community.

SUSAN EVANS:

Hello. Susan Evans from the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia. Today is a great day for girls and women with pain.

We know that one in five girls are missing school because of period pain. We know that one in 10 will develop endometriosis in their life, and one in 30 Australian girls are already living with pain every day.

Australian women identified schools’ education as one of their top three priorities when they developed the national action Plan for Endometriosis. And The Pelvic Pain Foundation, in collaboration with the Federal and state Governments is delivering on that priority.

Our Period Pain and Endometriosis Pep Talk Schools program is coming to schools already in South Australia and in Western Australia. We provide a medically trained and medically supported education for girls to help them work out if their pain is normal? What they can do themselves? A healthy lifestyle based program. And where to go when they need more help?

We’re reducing the time to diagnosis of endometriosis. We’re helping girls stay at school and live their life to their true potential, and we’re working to integrate with the health community to sustainably build that into health services.

In South Australia and Western Australia, the Pep Talk Schools program is already available, and 100 per cent of schools that we visited want us to come back. So we’re happy that the community needs and wants us.

So, we’re looking forward to collaborating with any state that wants to work with the Federal Government and with us to match funding, and bring Pep Talk to their state for the betterment of their young Australians.

To Minister Hunt, to the Parliamentary friends of Endometriosis Group, particularly the Honourable Nicolle Flint and Lisa Chesters, and to all the countless women in Australia who’ve worked hard to make this day happen, thank you and thank you and happy Mother’s Day.

GREG HUNT:

Great. And John.

JOHN NEWNHAM:

Good morning everybody, and happy Mother’s Day,

Minister, I’d like to thank you very much on behalf of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance for this fantastic support. It is very important and we will spend every dollar with great care.

Preterm birth is the single greatest cause of death in young children in our society and all similar societies. It is also one of the major causes of life long disability.

Until recently it was thought that you could not strategically lower the rate of preterm birth, and that was a set part of our biology.

But five years ago, in Western Australia, we launched a whole of population, whole of state multifaceted program built around seven interventions, and showed that we can actually lower the rate of preterm birth across the population – we lowered it by 8 per cent across the state, and by 20 per cent in our major centre.

We were then funded by NHMRC to extend it into Eastern Australia, and have shown that program – which is called The Whole Nine Months – can be replicated in Eastern Australia as well.

So that has led to the development of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, which is being funded federally this morning. This is the world’s first national preterm birth prevention program, and I hope you are as proud as we are to know that Australia is now leading the world in population based preterm birth prevention. It is run financially through the Women and Infants Research Foundation in Western Australia, which is now assuming a more national role.

So this campaign, this program, The Whole Nine Months, rolled out effectively across Australia can now be expected to save the lives of many children; it will prevent disability in a large number of people; it will help women, pregnant women and newborn mothers who will not have to suffer the high rates of preterm birth that we've had in the past; it will help families; and, it is very important for our nation's future, productivity, and our economic strength.

So, once again, thank you very much, Minister, for this wonderful support. And we can now look forward to Australia becoming the first nation in the world to strategically lower its rate of preterm birth, which is the major cause of death in young children.

Thank you.

GREG HUNT:

Well, what an amazing group of leaders helping with an amazing group of programs to protect women and to protect babies.

Happy to take any questions. I’ll start, if I may, with those on the telephone and then come to Erin and Ashley who are here.

Clare?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. The Prime Minister has clarified Australia’s COVID strategy. State borders will only be open when it’s safe to do so. Just wondering what is considered safe on current medical advice?

And just also, the Treasurer talked about there being at least $10 billion for aged care in the Budget. Can we expect a full response to the royal commission recommendations? Or will there be more to come after Tuesday?

GREG HUNT:

No, we’ll respond in full to the royal commission on Tuesday. And there will be a very major package, the largest package in Australian history with regards to aged care.

Now, in relation to borders, our goal is very simple, and that is to keep Australia safe. And as we look around the world, we're seeing COVID on a more extensive basis in more countries on a grander scale than we've seen before.

Over 800,000 cases a day. Most days, there are more than 50 countries with a thousand cases a day. Most days, there are more than 100 countries with over 100 cases a day. We know in India the agonising situation of up to 400,000 cases a day. So our job has been, is, and will continue to be keeping Australia safe.

This year, we've had 79 days with zero cases of community transmission. We've overcome the outbreaks. We have arguably the strongest quarantine system in the world.

And so our goal is very simple: to keep Australia safe and to progressively open as quickly as we can, subject to safety, green lanes, vaccinations, and then the potential for those that have been vaccinated to be able to travel and to return in different circumstances more rapidly on a faster basis.

So that's the goal. And Australia at the moment is perhaps arguably the safest country in the world, along with a couple of others. But even in countries that have done incredibly well, such as Japan and Korea, Singapore and Thailand, we're seeing new restrictions in place as they face new outbreaks.

So we're safe, we're secure, but we'll have to be continuously vigilant.

Rosie?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks, Minister. Just following on from that. Can you tell us when you expect the Government to receive medical advice on the transmutability of COVID-19 among vaccinated people?

And then therefore be able to provide a road map for reopening of the international border. And I wanted to ask whether you believe, as Health Minister, that we will see fully vaccinated Australians able to travel overseas for some purposes such as you mentioned by the end of this year?

And do you believe those Australians should also be exempt for domestic restrictions? Lockdown restrictions?

GREG HUNT:

Sure.

So, look, in terms of the road map and vaccinations, respectively, the road map is about progressive opening of the borders and it's really built around the three principles of green lanes and opening up new bubbles with different safe countries, as we've done with New Zealand, and as we’ll do with others in the Pacific and within the region as they become progressively safer. And we’ll judge those on the basis of medical advice.

Second part of the road map is in relation to our own domestic vaccination strategy, protecting the nation and we’ve seen that this is on the advice I have from Commodore Young just before joining you.

On the first five days of this week, it’s already a record week with two more days of vaccinations still to come, but tomorrow we’ll provide the weekly update with Commodore Young.

And then the third element is exactly as you raised, Rosie, and that is the capacity for regular travel for those who have been vaccinated.

Now on transmission, which will determine that, the world is learning. We’ve had the largest global mass vaccination program on history.

Every day, we’re learning about prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation, death, and those results are extraordinary and global. They are proving to be highly effective vaccines.

At the same time, we’re learning that there is a very strong impact on transmission, but not a universal impact. We know that in the United States, the Center for Disease Control has already provided information that those who have been fully vaccinated in some circumstances have been contracting – and this is in relation to the Pfizer vaccine – have been contracting.

And we also know that even through our own quarantine program here in Australia, that those who have been vaccinated either partially or fully have nevertheless been diagnosed with a case, the cases we’ve seen that in New Zealand with a twice vaccinated quarantine worker who was wearing PPE and did everything right.

And so what we see is closer to universal protection against serious illness, hospitalisation, and death. And the world is learning about the transmission effect. A high prevention, but not a universal prevention.

So as we have more medical advice, we’ll share it. We’re not in a position to quantify that yet. The world is not in that position. But more Australians will be able to travel earlier. And it is highly likely that they’ll be able to return with lesser restrictions where they have been vaccinated.

And I think that’s the important message. A clear road map, green lanes, and the ability for those to travel and to return where they had been vaccinated with lower restrictions.

But there is more work to do on that, so when we have the global information, we’ll be able to make those judgments in Australia. But that’s the road map and that’s the pathway.

Tom?

JOURNALIST:

Thanks for taking our questions Minister. Just wanted to return to aged care and the investment you spoke about a month ago. Is the Government’s intention to combine that extra funding in sort of changes to the user pay type of system and increase federal contributions that are required for Australians who are actually using aged care services?

GREG HUNT:

No, there are no write up plans to change that component. One of the important things that we have here is a response to the royal commission, which is based on ensuring that we have respect and care and dignity.

And as we have mentioned previously, there are five pillars to that: home care, services and sustainability, safety and quality, workforce, and governance.

And the details of that will be made available on budget night, respectfully. But what we want to do in all of these elements is to make sure that aged care is accessible and as available as possible for as many as possible.

Erin.

JOURNALIST:

I’ve got three questions. So I’ll go one at a time.

GREG HUNT:

That’s alright, you’ve been very patient, so thank you.

JOURNALIST:

On the issues of endometriosis, cervical cancer, breast cancer, these aren't new issues. So why announce this funding now? Is it a concession that the Government hasn't been doing enough in the past?

GREG HUNT:

Well, there's always more that we can do.

Of course, Australia has been at the forefront of cervical cancer and breast cancer treatment. We had the equal highest rates of five-year survival in both of those areas. Of all the countries in the world, we are perhaps the most advanced on the cervical cancer program - our breast cancer programme is very, very close to that.

The introduction of the screening program for cervical cancer, the introduction of Gardasil, the introduction of Gardasil 9, all of these put us on a path to being potentially the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer as a fatal condition.

But if we're going to get there, we have to keep going forward. And today is about the next step, and the next step, and the next step.

And it's exactly the same with endometriosis. We put together the first national action plan on endometriosis, the $9.5 million previous funding, the $21.6 million funding for endometriosis and pelvic pain as Susan so eloquently set out.

But we’ll keep going forward because there’s always more to be done.

JOURNALIST:

Last two here on aged care again. The Treasurer says there'll be $10 billion in funding for aged care over the next four years - that's $10 billion less than, than what some want, $10 billion short of what- tens of billions, sorry, dollars short of what some economists have advised the system will need.

Is that going to be enough to fix the system? Why not put more money into it?

GREG HUNT:

I think what the Treasurer said today is that there will be more than $10 billion, and I won’t pre-release the Budget for him, but this will be the most significant investment in aged care in Australian history.

And it's our watch and it’s our time, and it’s our responsibility. The Prime Minister called the royal commission, and look, to take you inside the private discussions at the time he said to the Treasurer, and myself, and Ken Wyatt who was the Minister, this will come with a very significant investment.

Then he said my time, my watch, my responsibility, my passion. And it’s our time, our watch, our responsibility and our passion and, and that’s what we’ll be doing on budget night.

The most significant investment in aged care in Australian history to provide that respect, that care, and that dignity for our magnificent older Australians.

JOURNALIST:

So, based on that then, what faith can Australian’s have that the Government’s actually going to fix this system?

GREG HUNT:

Well, the fact that we’ve called the first ever royal commission into aged care, and that, as a consequence of that, we will make the greatest investment in aged care that Australia has seen.

JOURNALIST:

I’d just like to loop back to endometriosis – obviously many of those funding packages that you previously discussed were about research. I know from personal experience with me and my friend, their issue was getting diagnosed through their GP’s, through their gynaecologists.

Can you tell me, you know, why hasn’t there been more investment from the Government to give that training to GPs and gynaecologists about this?

GREG HUNT:

Look, a very important part of what we do - and I appreciate everything you say – this has precisely the same reason, because of so many women and young women who are close to my family, we know that this is an agonising condition.

It really is previously an unspoken of and hidden condition. And so one of the things I’ve tried to do on my watch is to bring it into the light and to talk about endometriosis.

And we’ve had a wonderful bipartisan coalition of people such as Nola Merino, and Nicolle Flint, and Jane Brockman, and Lisa Chesters that have focused on it - and we are talking about it as a country at the moment.

One of our important initiatives through the national action plan is education – not just for women and girls about seeking treatment, but education for our GP’s to give them better advice, to give them better understanding.

So that’s a critical part of the national action plan, and precisely the PEP-Talk program will make a difference.

I might ask, Susan, if you want to make comments on this.

SUSAN EVANS:

This area’s been under recognised, under managed, under researched, underfunded, under diagnosed for, forever. And it’s a vast area of human unmet need.

We are incredibly grateful for the support that has happened, and we’re incredibly grateful indeed for Mr Hunt and the bipartisan parliamentary friends.

You are absolutely right. There is a long way to go but we are making steps in that direction.

So, yes. It’s the beginning, I think, of many, many more needs and steps.

JOURNALIST:

Would you- Sorry. I might just ask you a few questions.

GREG HUNT:

Yeah, of course, of course. No, I understand

JOURNALIST:

So, would you like to see more funding?

SUSAN EVANS:

Always.

JOURNALIST:

Because obviously it does, it does feel like, it does feel like the onus is on girls and women to have to advocate for their own, you know, diagnoses rather than having GPs and gynaecologists, who are on ball and go, you’ve got these sorts, types of pains.

SUSAN EVANS:

Yes.

JOURNALIST:

Would you like to see more funding from Greg Hunt?

SUSAN EVANS:

Well, the answers always I have plenty of things to do with. The problem that women have is that they have a wide range of symptoms and conditions that can range from period pain, migraines, anxiety, fatigue, irritable bowel, et cetera, and their need to fall between the gaps of different specialities. So no health speciality really owns the whole thing and that's a problem.

At Pelvic Pain Foundation we offer health practitioner training seminars. We work with those practitioners across a wide range that want to work together to make the teams of health care professionals that we would need. And we actually have many program and plans for this area.

So, yes, the answer is, yes, we’d love more funding. Yes, we need to do more. Yes, there needs to be more education. And it needs to be symptom related to manage the needs of women.

JOURNALIST:

And [indistinct]

SUSAN EVANS:

That’s, that’s something we will research over time. This is our second year in South Australia, first year in Western Australia, but we will certainly be looking at ways we can measure that.

We have a strong belief that we are making a big difference to reduce the time to the diagnosis of endometriosis, and importantly, manage pain in young women.

GREG HUNT:

I might just add something on that. The endometriosis revolution has started, and women will never need to go back to suffering in silence.

JOURNALIST:

And my other question is on the $30.7 million that’s allocated for preterm births. Obviously there's a big of a stark difference between the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the outcomes for the rest of the population.

You know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a 16 per cent chance, which is almost double the rest of the population.

Would you like to see, like, the bulk of that funding kind of dealing and closing that gap? Because it is, it is so stark and does lead to such difficult outcomes for mother and for baby?

GREG HUNT:

So, two things very briefly. Firstly, in terms of indigenous preterm birth rates, it is right - they have been double the national average.

This program has a deep focus on Indigenous Australia, and what we've already seen in the trial program is dramatic results. And so that's why we’re making it permanent, and we're making it national - so it will have a particular focus on indigenous mums, but it will be available to all mums.

I might ask John. At all the presentations I've had since being in health, one of the powerful was when John and his team presented clinical evidence of the outcomes of indigenous Australia and non-indigenous Australia of the trial programme.

John, and then I'll finish after that.

JOHN NEWNHAM:

Thank you very much. So, as you said, the preterm birth rate in indigenous Australia is far too high and needs to be lowered.

But we have very good news. We've learnt a lot in the last few years. There's been wonderful research done in Darwin, Townsville, Perth, which shows that midwifery continuity of care with very strong indigenous representation profoundly lowers the rate of preterm birth – from about 14 and 15 per cent down to 8 per cent.

We now need to work out how to introduce this widespread across Australian indigenous communities.

Our leader in the preterm birth prevention alliance is Dr Kiarna Brown in Darwin, she's an Aboriginal woman from Darwin, and she'll be our leader in this regard, putting these programs in place.

I think you can see a major improvement in the years to come. And with the cycle of the social determinants fulfilled, preventing preterm birth may well be one of the best avenues for us to make a very big difference.

JOURNALIST:

And how quickly do you think the other scale up of this kind of trial? And what is your, I guess, now that you’ve got this funding, what is your objective?

JOHN NEWNHAM:

So we know this, we know this protocol works, and it's been rolled out in various parts of Australia. And it’s always stopped because of a lack of ongoing funding.

So we will use our dollars from the Minister to try to get matching funds from local agencies to roll these out and try to make them on a permanent basis.

Thank you, Greg.

GREG HUNT:

So look, I’ll just thank everybody for being here today. We'll have a quick photo with all of those representative group.

And today’s very simple. It's about healthy mums, healthy bubs, healthy women, and healthy girls. And there’s not much more important a gift that you could have on Mother’s Day.

Thanks very much.

Ministers: