Inaugural Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum calls for sustainable investment

Apr 22, 2021

Victoria’s 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) have called for meaningful, formalised partnerships with Government, a clearly defined role in legislation, and a long-term investment strategy to transform Aboriginal health outcomes.  

Last week the Minister for Health, The Honorable Martin Foley, met with more than 50 Aboriginal health delegates and mainstream health organisations across Victoria as part of the inaugural Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum held at the MCG.

Co-chaired by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Minister for Health, the forum was the first state-led initiative to see mainstream health services, government, and Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations (ACCOs) meet under the same roof.  

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said the treatment of Aboriginal people in the state’s institutions – including health services – remained high on the agenda.

“To this day, Aboriginal people are facing systemic racism, discrimination, and inadequate care when they are accessing health services,” she said.

“Our mobs have much higher morbidity rates from preventable diseases, and many go through life with a much lower quality of life because they are often viewed as being in the too-hard basket.”

Ms Gallagher said its 32 Members statewide had a proud history of serving Aboriginal communities in Victoria for more than 50 years.  

“Our organisations are the heart of Aboriginal Communities offering vital health services, social supports, and a sense of belonging and connection,” she said.

“They are sites of healing and now, more than ever, they need strong, stable and sustainable foundations.”

Ms Gallagher said VACCHO’s 32 Members were calling for minimum five-year funding contracts and adequate funding to support Aboriginal organisations to collect data, upgrade technology, and have access to relevant government data so they can be truly self-determining in the future.  

They are also calling for a greater proportion of funding to go towards prevention and early intervention, maintain strong communities, and keep Aboriginal people out of hospital and the welfare system.

“There is irrefutable evidence, in Australia and across the world, that self-determination is the only way to improve Aboriginal health outcomes but without adequate investment and access to data we are behind the eight ball,” Ms Gallagher said.

Ms Gallagher said the new forum would run three times a year, bringing Aboriginal organisations, government, and mainstream partnerships together to set priorities, track progress, and hold each other to account.

“Aboriginal health is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.

“I am confident if we all work together, we can transform Aboriginal health outcomes within a generation.”

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher believes it is time to create a new day that is inclusive for everyone.

“It is time for us to press the reset button and create a new day – a new date – a day where we can all celebrate and feel included. January 26 is not that day – January 26 hurts.”

“Change needs to be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with our voices at the forefront, but we need allies around us, and we need a focus on educating all Australians about the true history of this country.”

“We also need a bold and brave government to make this change. Last year we saw the government listen to Aboriginal leaders and free the flag – we must keep the momentum going and do something about this date.”

“The time for change is well and truly overdue and needs to happen now.”


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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 32 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.