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Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council

Commonwealth Budget compounds Voice failure: more must be done for First Nations health equity

| Posted in: Media, News

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) is bitterly disappointed the Commonwealth Budget did not do more for the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.

“This budget is a missed opportunity following the failed referendum and the continued underperformance of Close the Gap measures,” QAIHC Chairman Matthew Cooke said.

“The Budget should have provided a watershed moment for the Albanese Government. With a 9-billion-dollar budget surplus, the Government could have made real investments to deliver on the promise to Close the Gap by 2031, a promise which fades further away each day.

“Yes, the Commonwealth has made some investments in Indigenous health, particularly in very remote parts of Australia; but more must be done to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Our people live in our towns and cities, not just remote communities. Wherever they live, we must invest more in their health and wellbeing. We’ve got to ensure they don’t continue to experience the systemic racism so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face when attending mainstream health services.

“The Federal Budget delivered a $9.3 billion surplus. The Commonwealth must strengthen partnerships with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector to drive better outcomes for our people.

“Let’s be clear, spending on 29 new urgent care clinics is not an investment in comprehensive primary health care, it’s more band aid medicine. They’ve created 29 more opportunities to cut a ribbon, but when will this government get serious about preventative health?

“The government should have made concrete investments to significantly increase funding through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme and respond to the findings of the recent Productivity Commission review on progress of Closing the Gap. We need more regional and local place-based investment. While real investment in social and emotional wellbeing is needed, the Government’s approach to investment contributes to the confetti shower of inadequate and piecemeal funding.

“Here in Queensland, it’s time to invest in building and strengthening our ACCHOs, and the structures that empower First Nations communities to provide local, culturally safe, health solutions.

“The ACCHO sector already provides primary health care to the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland. The sector must be properly funded and resourced.”

Mr Cooke said the Commonwealth needed to:

  1. Invest in health equity: In Queensland, this means committing substantial funding to ACCHOs to implement health equity strategies that address the health disparities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  2. Invest in Closing the Gap: The Commonwealth must make genuine investments in community-controlled solutions to address the social and health challenges we continue to confront. Empower Indigenous communities to lead the way in shaping their own futures.
  3. Reform funding mechanisms to recognise the role of ACCHOs. ACCHOs currently receive most of their funding through fragmented grant funding arrangements and a flawed MBS system. Our people don’t benefit from the PBS in the way most other Australians do. The Commonwealth needs to reform the MBS, PBS and National Health Reform Agreement so ACCHOs are recognised and acknowledged as an integral part of our health system and new investments made to allow ACCHOs to play a greater role in health service delivery. New funding mechanisms will create opportunities for services to partner with ACCHOs to deliver health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They will also create opportunities to improve income through MBS and ensure First Nations people have much better access to prescription medicines.
  4. Act decisively for meaningful reform. The Commonwealth must act decisively to bring about meaningful reform, addressing the structural and systemic inequalities that persist. Meaningful reform is essential for achieving a just and equitable Australia for all.

Mr Cooke said QAIHC would continue to lobby the Commonwealth to invest in our community-controlled health sector. ACCHOs must be critical partners in delivering health services and solutions that were culturally safe and suited to their communities.

“We have always held that the best primary health care happens in culturally safe settings controlled by local communities, who are best placed to understand the needs of those closest to them. We will continue our work to be a state and national voice for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland, advocating for accessible and equitable comprehensive primary health care, and supporting our Members on the ground to make an impact in their communities,” he said.

Mr Cooke said QAIHC looked forward to working with the Commonwealth to deliver solutions that were community-led and co-designed.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with the Commonwealth to build a better future,” he said.


Media contact: Samantha Townsend, QAIHC Communications Manager on 0417 080 203 or