Commonwealth Budget 2017: two steps forward, one step back for Aboriginal health

Posted by VACCHO Policy Team on 11 May 2017

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“VACCHO welcomes Commonwealth investments in Medicare rebates, mental health and the NDIS, but the lack of targeted investment in Aboriginal health is disappointing.

‘Freezes to indexation of GP rebates have been a major burden on the already stretched resources of Aboriginal community controlled health services, so restoring this indexation is a step in the right direction but is still too slow” says VACCHO CEO, Ms Jill Gallagher AO.  

The 2017-18 Federal budget has promised:

  • Progressive removal of the freeze on Medicare rebates – starting with rebates for GP bulk billing incentives (1/7/17), standard GP and specialist consultations (1/7/18) and specialist procedures and allied health (1/7/19)
  • $9.1 million telehealth initiative that will increase access to psychologists for people living in rural and remote regions.

“Investment in community mental health services and the NDIS is also welcome, given the intergenerational trauma and high rates of disability experienced within our communities but it’s disappointing that this budget fails to directly address the health needs of Aboriginal people” said Ms Gallagher AO.

There has been no new funding allocated to the implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and limited reference to Indigenous Health in relation to Strengthening Preventive Care.

“This budget fails to undo damage done by $534 million in cuts to Aboriginal programs as a result of the introduction of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy in 2014.” 

“The Commonwealth annually reports its failure to deliver on Close the Gap Targets, but this budget ignores the health equity gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and the rest of the community” said Ms Gallagher AO.

“Aboriginal communities know what to do – and we’ve been repeatedly consulted, but lack of funding makes a mockery of that consultation process.  There must be adequate funding to turn words on the page into action on the ground: local funding to support locally developed responses”

VACCHO calls on the Turnbull Government to allocate health resources where they’re needed most by investing in proven strategies led by Aboriginal people at the local level.

Download the full media release here. PDF


Media enquiries: Noeleen Tunny, Manager Policy on 0417 131 081