Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today reported dismal progress on closing the gap in Indigenous life expectancy, but more Indigenous people in Maranoa are taking command of their health according to CWAATSICH CEO, Cheryl Lawton.
“I’ve been the CEO for the last fifteen years and I’ve seen significant improvements… our people are now taking control of their life and their health and they’re making better choices,” she says.
“They’ve got better access to allied health services like podiatrists, dieticians, nutritionists… they’re the things that are going to help Aboriginal people live longer.”
The 2016 Close the Gap report delivered by the Prime Minister this morning shows that five of the seven targets including Indigenous employment, school attendance and life expectancy are not on track to be met.
The PM opened his address to the Federal Court in Aboriginal language, before going on to present mixed results on the progress of the closing the gap scheme.
“There have been gains in Year 12 attainment rates and a significant decline in infant mortality rates… However there is slow progress in other critical areas such as employment and life expectancy.”
Ms Lawton says that while she remains optimistic about progress in Indigenous health in the South West region, more support is needed for local community health organisations like CWAATSICH.
“You can’t expect to see significant improvement when there is still a lack of resources in the sector… you can’t expect us to increase the life expectancy on the bitter dollars that we get now,” she says.
“The Aboriginal community-controlled health sector doesn’t get the recognition we deserve… we’re the ones actually doing most of the work.”
Circuitous avenues of government funding is limiting the support available to organisations like CWAATSICH according to Ms Lawton.
“There’s a lot of money that is skimmed off the top for bureaucratic processes to run at a higher level, where that money should be put on the ground into one department.”
Mr Turnbull said the government was still committed to closing the gap initiatives.
“Closing the Gap targets remains a key government priority and these must be accompanied by the recognition of the success of many Indigenous people in many areas, in all parts of society,” he says.
“It is not until we close the gap between Indigenous and other Australians that we can truly say that we are a country of equal opportunity.”