Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Audit Report 2012

26 May 2012

After ten years of annual AMA Report Cards on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, the AMA has produced an “Audit Report” that tracks government activity in the light of the AMA's Report Card recommendations in the key areas of:

  • provision of primary health care to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders commensurate with their level of need;
  • the availability of a skilled health and medical workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health;
  • the provision of high quality and best-practice primary care, including support for the Aboriginal community controlled sector;
  • how well the risk factors and social determinants of poor health have been tackled, and
  • how well governments have performed in engaging Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in genuine partnership in the planning and implementation of policy and programs.

In many of these areas, the government track record over the last decade has been variable, and in some cases disappointing. The AMA believes this is changing, however, and that the $1.6 billion commitment made by Australian governments through COAG in 2008, has added a significant and proportionate impetus to the prospects for closing the health equality gap within a generation.

A major focus of the COAG National Partnership on Closing the Gap is better provision of quality primary care, including through the mainstream health sector. There is also a concerted focus on chronic disease and tackling health risk factors and social determinants. The AMA welcomes all of this, and recognises how well it resonates with the recommendations made over the last decade in AMA Report Cards. However, with this said, the AMA believes there are still gaps and weaknesses, and challenges that remain. In particular:

  • much greater effort is needed to build the necessary health and medical workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health;
  • greater priority must be given to building the potential of Aboriginal community-controlled health services to provide even better primary care;
  • he rate of incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders (with its compounding health effects) is a national shame, and must be addressed;
  • greater support must be given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to develop workable solutions to local health-related problems, and
  • the partnerships and funding levels that have been established through the COAG agreements must be maintained after these agreements end in 2013. Otherwise the momentum to close the gap will dissipate.