Why does the health gap exist?
The crisis facing Indigenous health has a long and complex history. It continues largely as a result of decades of government inaction and a continuing lack of adequate funding and appropriate medical services.
A 2007 report by the Australian Medical Association also uncovered evidence of inherent discrimination in our health system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders do not benefit from mainstream health services to the same extent as other Australians because:
- Health services are not accessible to many, and particularly remote, Aboriginal communities.
- Mainstream health services often lack cultural sensitivity and remain unwelcoming places for many Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous health workforce remains disproportionately low when compared to the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that make up the Australian population.
- It fails to address other root causes. More than 200 years of dispossession, racism and discrimination have left Indigenous Australians with some of the lowest levels of education, highest levels of unemployment, poorest health and most appalling housing conditions.
Successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs have been those that have recognised and addressed these factors in consultation with the Indigenous community.
What needs to be done now?
Work in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a critical success factor. Indigenous Australians need to be consulted, empowered, resourced and supported to address the health issues facing their communities.
Success stories from Indigenous communities indicate that properly resourced services in control of the community bring positive change.
Secure adequate funding for the long-term
Oxfam is a strong advocate for the Indigenous community controlled sector. Achieving Indigenous health equality will require investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care, health education, improved nutrition, maternal and child health and the prevention and management of disease.
Recent cuts to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) which saw more than $500m taken from Indigenous programs had a disastrous impact on Indigenous health services. These cuts must be restored and priority given to ACCHOs to access funds and implement their culturally appropriate programs.
The Australian Medical Association estimates that $500 million a year is needed to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the same level of access to primary healthcare as other Australians.
Strengthen the movement to Close the Gap
The inadequacy in infrastructure and service delivery to Indigenous people is now extreme; but the strong and sustained public support for action has put Indigenous health equality on the agenda of State and Federal Governments. Recent cuts in funding to Indigenous health services highlight that we need to maintain the pressure on governments to meet their commitments to closing the gap.
With your help, we can keep it there. The movement to Close the Gap now needs to maintain, and grow, to ensure sustained and meaningful long-term change; and most importantly, an end to the Indigenous health crisis.
Take action now and support Indigenous health equality: