The Close the Gap Campaign today reiterated its call for the Government to deliver on its commitment to the national effort to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
The Close the Gap Campaign has previously welcomed the Prime Minister’s strong commitment to a shared goal of closing the gap but Campaign Co-Chair Kirstie Parker expressed concern today about a new wave of policy upheaval in Indigenous Affairs and Health sectors.
Ms Parker said the Budget changes could undermine a uniformed and targeted strategy to close the gap and address disadvantage.
Ms Parker noted that the Coalition’s election commitments include using existing frameworks to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality.
“The Budget seeks to create a new Indigenous Advancement Strategy which appears to be a complete overhaul in Indigenous Affairs.
“The Campaign calls on the Government to demonstrate how this will align with a nationally coordinated effort to close the gap,” said Ms Parker, who is also Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
“The Budget cuts $534.4 million over five years from Indigenous expenditure through the consolidation of 150 programs into five.
"The Campaign supports the reduction of red tape and duplication but we are concerned about a lack of detail on how these cuts will apply. We are deeply concerned that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representative organisations have not been engaged in this process.
“Of particular concern is the $165.8 million to be cut from Indigenous health over the next four years,” Ms Parker said.
Campaign Co-Chair and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said the Budget also flags a new methodology for funding Indigenous health programs. He said the Campaign believes it is essential that the Government accommodate the active participation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector in this process.
“The Budget cuts to mainstream services are of concern because they could have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Gooda said.
“To meet its commitments to close the gap it is imperative that the Government take steps to mitigate this. The $7 co-payment that will be required for visits to a GP could entrench barriers to equitable healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The cuts to preventative health could also have significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because of the negative impact this will have on addressing chronic disease. Chronic disease is a significant contributor to the health equality gap. Cuts to preventative health now will only cost many more dollars in future health expenses.”
The Close the Gap Campaign will write to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer seeking clarification on a number of concerns raised by the Budget.
“The community wants strong and continued action on this national priority.
"Earlier this year, on National Close the Gap Day, 150,000 people participated in almost 1300 events around the country to show their support for closing the gap,” Mr Gooda said.
The Close the Gap Campaign is Australia’s largest public movement for health equality. It is a coalition of Australia's leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.
The ASU is a long term supporter of the Close the Gap Campaign, participating in activities, promotion, etc.