Government urged to fund Indigenous health

On National Close the Gap Day, Indigenous leaders have warned of dire consequences if funding to vital health programs does not continue.

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They say the progress that has been made will be threatened.

The $1.6 billion funding package for Closing the health gap expires in June.

It’s underpinned many programs which deal with the crisis affecting all levels of Indigenous health around the nation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says that funding must continue beyond June.

“What we’re looking for is a commitment by the governments, all levels of government, to keep the effort going” said Mr Gooda. “Particularly in this health space where we’re just starting to see some really good results come through.”

The leaders stress that while there is a long way to go to Close the Gap, real progress has been made so far.

For example, infant mortality rates in Indigenous communities have begun to fall. Also, initiatives to combat smoking and chronic diseases are starting to have an impact.

“The trend lines are heading in the right directions now,” said Mr Gooda.

“So it’s taken a big effort to turn those indicators around but we’re getting there. And again, it’s not time to reduce the effort. It’s time to ramp the effort up and keep this going.”

Mr Gooda’s sentiment was echoed by other leaders attending a National Close the Gap Day event in Sydney.

Justin Mohamed, Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community and Child Health Organisation said “this funding is one part, an important part, that if it does not get continued we’ll see a lot of the hard work and the planning and the gains that we have made so far will be lost. And we can’t afford to do that because we’re talking about people’s lives.”

There are also signs that the gap is slowly closing in education. New figures show that for the first time 50 per cent of indgenous students finished school at the end of Year 12.