Australian Government, 2012‑13 Budget

The Building Blocks (Continued)


This Budget continues our significant investment to close the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non–Indigenous Australians.

Our new investments reflect the particular need to support the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people living in regional and remote areas of Australia.

This Budget also recognises the wider gap in health outcomes between Indigenous people in the Northern Territory and people elsewhere in Australia.

2012—13 Budget initiatives to close the gap in health

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory — Health

The Government is providing $713.5 million over ten years for a health package for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory focused across the following areas.

Primary health care

  • More than 250 full time primary health care staff, including Aboriginal Health Workers, to deliver medical, nursing and allied health support across approximately 80 clinics in the Northern Territory.
  • Extra health professionals for approximately 450 short–term placements to ease the workload for permanent staff and give access to specialists such as optometrists or podiatrists whose services are not normally available in remote locations.
  • Building and upgrading staff housing and regional hub services to continue to deliver chronic disease prevention and management services.

Hearing and dental health programs

  • The Integrated Hearing Health Program will continue to provide audiology and specialist services to prevent ear disease; diagnose children in their communities; manage disease and refer children for treatment where this is required. It will also educate families to prevent and manage ear disease.
  • The successful Australian Government dental health program, which provides dental checks and surgery to Aboriginal children across the NT, will be continued with a complementary focus on prevention work through a fluoride varnish program.

Child abuse and trauma counselling

  • The Government is providing funding for counselling and education to children, their families and communities experiencing trauma from child abuse and neglect. Services will reach more than 200 Aboriginal families, and many more through community education and information sessions that deal with child abuse and neglect.

Tackling alcohol and other drug abuse treatment

  • Funding is also being provided for 20 new workers to provide direct access to substance use treatment and support, and support families to deal with related issues.

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory — Food Security: Strengthening Remote Stores

Independent evaluation found a large improvement in the availability, range and quality of healthy food in remote communities as a result of the Government's work to licence community stores. As announced in the 2011 Mid–Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Government will provide $40.9 million to continue stores licensing in the Northern Territory; expand it to more stores that are an important source of food, drink and groceries for remote Aboriginal communities and improve the range of available management options to make sure stores can stay open to service local people. In addition, the Aboriginals Benefit Account has provided $53.9 million to upgrade and construct new stores and store managers' housing in 18 communities throughout the Northern Territory. Participating stores are currently owned by, or in the process of transferring ownership to, licenced Indigenous corporations. Works will commence in 2012 and are expected to continue through to 2015.

Health and Hospitals Fund — 2011 Regional Priority Round

The Government is investing $48.6 million from the $475m Health and Hospitals Fund 2011 Regional Priority Round in new and extended health care facilities for regional and remote Australia. This will fund ten projects to provide new and extended health care facilities for regional and remote Indigenous communities. This investment will provide much needed infrastructure to help deliver improved health care services. Better and more timely care delivered closer to home will lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of illnesses, better management of chronic conditions and broader choice of health services.

National Immunisation Program — Extended Listing of Prevenar 13®

The Government is providing $1.1 million over four years to fund Prevenar 13® a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, to be given as the fourth dose of the pneumococcal vaccination schedule for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between 12‑18 months of age living in jurisdictions with a high incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD).

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine induces a stronger immune response in younger children than the alternate polysaccharide vaccine currently available through the National Immunisation Program and enables the full childhood pneumococcal vaccination course to be completed earlier in life. It will bring the pneumococcal vaccination schedule for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in line with that of other children at high risk of IPD due to medical reasons.

It is estimated that each year, around 6,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between 12 and 18 months of age living in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory will benefit from this change.

Living Longer, Living Better — Culturally Appropriate Care for Elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

An extra 200 aged care places are being made available in Indigenous communities through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care program. Funding of $30.6 million over four years will allow many more older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have high care needs to stay close to home and country in culturally appropriate care.

Living Longer, Living Better — Residential Care in Regional, Rural and Remote Areas

The Government will provide $85.5 million over four years to help with the higher costs of delivering aged care services in regional and remote Australia. This initiative includes support for aged care homes that provide services to Indigenous Australians and older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, ensuring the financial sustainability of 650 places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

National e–Health Program

The Government is enabling all Australians to register for their own Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR). In time, participating Australians and their chosen healthcare providers will be able to access their healthcare information when and where it is needed.

Indigenous Australians experience a burden of disease two–and–a–half times that of other Australians and are frequent users of many different parts of the healthcare system. PCEHRs will help the system better respond to the needs of Indigenous Australians by enabling a timely and smooth transition of information between providers and reducing the time people have to spend reiterating their clinical history or waiting for test results to be located. This will support better health outcomes.

Remote Hearing and Vision Services for Children program

The Government is providing $4.9 million over three years to improve access to allied health and education services to an additional 125 children with hearing and/or vision impairment in outer regional and remote Australia. This program will be delivered across Australia in 2012‑13.

Utilising the National Broadband Network (NBN) where available, children and their families will have access to information, guidance, support, and skills development from qualified allied health and education services where such expertise may otherwise be scarce in regional and remote locations. The program will be delivered via a combination of high definition videoconferencing, mailed packages with lesson plans, information sheets, multi–media resources, telephone, fax, and email. In regions where the NBN is being rolled out, the government will provide for upgrades to existing videoconferencing infrastructure to ensure it is of high definition quality.

In addition to these 2012‑13 Budget initiatives, the Government has already committed $805.5 million over four years from 2009‑10 to 2012‑13 for health services as part of the $1.6 billion National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.

The main focus of that agreement is chronic disease, estimated to contribute around two–thirds of the gap in Indigenous health outcomes. The National Partnership Agreement is improving chronic disease management and follow–up care in primary health care, tackling risk factors, and expanding the Indigenous health workforce.

The Establishing Quality Health Standards in Indigenous Health Services — Continuation initiative has also provided $35 million over four years from 2011‑12 to 2014‑15 to support eligible Indigenous health organisations to meet best practice through accreditation under mainstream health care standards.

Indigenous Australians will also benefit from the Government's investments in mental health, particularly those targeting prevention and early intervention (especially for children and young people) and better outcomes for people with severe and debilitating mental illness.

The 2011‑12 Budget made a significant investment in National Mental Health Reform. Out of $205.9 million in funding over five years for the expansion of Access to Allied Psychological Services Program, $36.5 million has been earmarked to increase Indigenous Australians' access to these services.

In September 2011, the Government established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Advisory Group to provide guidance on the development of Australia's first national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy. The Advisory Group will also provide strategic advice on priorities for the investment of $6 million for Indigenous suicide prevention activity.

The 2011‑12 Budget included $269.3 million to be invested over five years in community–based mental health services to assist more than 35,000 Australians with mental illness and their families and carers:

  • $154 million for 425 additional Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs), including a $50 million PHaMs employment component
  • $54.3 million to expand Mental Health Respite: Carer Support services
  • $61 million to establish 40 additional Family Mental Health Support Services.

The 2011‑12 Budget investment will include the delivery of four new community mental health services in the Northern Territory between 2012 and 2014. These will consist of two new Personal Helpers and Mentors Services and two new Family Mental Health Support Services.

Personal helpers and mentors work one–on–one with people with persistent mental illness, providing practical help to achieve their personal goals and manage everyday tasks. Personal helpers also make sure participants are involved in community life and connected with other relevant services including clinical health services, accommodation and substance use services as required. PHaMS delivers specialist remote services that have a strong focus on cultural, mental and physical healing for Indigenous people. In 2011‑12, 45 per cent of sites planned for new or expanded PHaMS services were in regional or remote locations. In the period July to December 2011, 1,359 (or 13 per cent of the total) PHAMs participants identified as Indigenous. This includes 320 participants from remote communities.

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