The New South Wales (NSW) 2020 – 2021 budget raises questions about whether the NSW Government can genuinely partner with the Aboriginal health sector. The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) is disappointed that the budget has neglected their commitment to support Community-led approaches to Closing the Gap and that the budget made no specific investment to prioritise Aboriginal health in NSW.
The AH&MRC welcomes the promise of $20 million dollars over four years but is unsure how this can be effectively used to drive real change and improve health outcomes across 16 Closing the Gap targets. While the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is gradually improving, the target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track.
“If we are to meet the target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031, we urgently need more funding. With only $5 million dollars per year, split across the 16 Closing the Gap Targets, it is difficult to see any meaningful commitment from the Government,” said Robert Skeen, CEO at the AH&MRC.
The NSW Budget was an opportunity for the Government to uphold their commitment to the National Agreement and ensure they are funding and resourcing ACCHOs to have equal participation in the priority reforms at a state level. The AH&MRC had held hopes for the budget to reflect a shift away from the NSW Government’s previous lack of support for the sector.
“Aboriginal people, just like anyone else, are more likely to use healthcare services that are culturally appropriate and in a space that they feel comfortable. Ensuring our ACCHOs are equipped and resourced to meet their needs would have seen an improvement of the overall health and wellbeing of our people,” said Robert Skeen.
Even the lack of inclusive imagery in the graphic design of the publication, reflects the Government’s broader lack of understanding that the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector is central to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in NSW.
“Our strong response to COVID-19 is because ACCHOs are at the heart of Communities, driving real health outcomes for Aboriginal people. We want more funding so we can continue to deliver culturally safe, and Community-led initiatives to work towards the Closing the Gap targets,” said Robert Skeen.
ACCHOs continue to do a remarkable job keeping Communities safe during the COVID-19 outbreak – with not a single death caused from the virus. This is a testament to the strength and important role the sector plays.
The AH&MRC will continue to work with industry partners to push Governments to fulfil their commitments to Closing the Gap in the next budget cycle, and ensure the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector is adequately resourced to continue to deliver the best healthcare services for Aboriginal people in NSW.
The AH&MRC ensures ACCHOs across NSW have access to an adequately resourced and skilled workforce to provide high-quality health care services for Aboriginal Communities. As the Peak Body for Aboriginal Health in NSW the AH&MRC represents the rights and interests of 47 Member Services, who are an integral part of Aboriginal Communities
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