Election 2019 – Labor’s Indigenous health policy

Labor has released its Indigenous health policy, pledging $115 million towards tackling preventable diseases and youth suicides among Indigenous youth.

The plan also addresses rheumatic heart disease, sexual health, and eye diseases.

Announcing the policy in the Northern Territory a week into the Federal Election campaign, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said improving the health status of First Australians is a critical component of Australia’s journey towards reconciliation.

“Every Australian, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them,” Mr Shorten said, adding that Indigenous Australians “have the right to grow old”.

Included in the $115 million dollar commitment is $25m to address rheumatic heart disease, !16.5m to expand the Deadly Choices campaign, $20m for sexual health promotion, and $13m to help stop vision loss.

“Wholly preventable eye diseases and blindness should be unacceptable in a developed nation like Australia,” the Opposition leader said.

AMA President Dr Tony Bartone welcomed the commitments, describing them as a “good start to a much-needed, strongly-funded, long-term strategy to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians”.

Dr Bartone said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the right to enjoy the same level of good health that is experienced by other Australians.

Key to achieving that goal is to provide culturally responsive services for Indigenous people, where and when they need them, he said.

Dr Bartone said Labor’s plan recognises the expertise and unique experience of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

“The AMA wants to see funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services increased so they can continue to deliver sustainable, high-quality, comprehensive primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities,” he said.

The AMA has previously welcomed the Coalition’s Budget commitments for Indigenous health, including $15 million for Indigenous suicide prevention and $20 million for Indigenous-specific initiatives such as the implementation of the national strategies for blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections.

The major parties have announced similar approaches to address Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD).