Strengthening Community Controlled sector key to Closing The Gap

 In Uncategorized

March 20, 2024

This year’s Closing The Gap (CTG) Report came with a clear warning from the Productivity Commission that with only 5 of 19 targets ‘on track’, the entire CTG Agreement was destined for failure without fundamental change.

The release of this year’s report was also critical of the Federal Government’s role since the latest agreement came into effect in 2016, including the government’s response and attitude. Notably, it was also critical of the failure of its commitment to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled sector with the report accusing the government of, “disregarding the suggestions of Indigenous communities”.

Apunipima Cape York Health Council CEO Debra Malthouse, agreed with the Productivity Commission and noted the fact that the gap in health still isn’t closing, primarily because of the inequality of access to health and wellbeing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation (ATSICCHO), Apunipima continue to advocate for better access to health and wellbeing services for our communities, including in our own clinics, with the provision of culturally appropriate care vital to the health and wellbeing of First Nations people,” she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Control is a process where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities determine what their own health needs are, based on their unique circumstances and taking into account not just physical well-being but also the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of individuals, families and the community. This approach takes in specific factors individual to each community by identifying the key health issues and working with the community to find local solutions.

Ms Malthouse said an important part of the Aboriginal concept of health is being aware of the social determinants and their impact on health and wellbeing.

“We know that Closing The Gap is not just about health, but at Apunipima we believe that it all starts and ends with health and wellbeing. A physically and emotionally well individual, family and community is our goal as a community controlled health organisation.”

ATSICCHOs around Australia are accustomed to the negative headlines that appear every year around Close The Gap (CTG) Day. However, Ms Malthouse believes this year’s report acknowledges ATSICCHOs claims that their recommendations have been falling on deaf ears.

“We didn’t need the report to tell us that the Closing the Gap Agreement has failed, including the failure to listen to what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want and need, at the forefront of which, is community-control.”

As research into Aboriginal Community Controlled Health increases, it’s becoming clearer that Primary Health Care is only one part of a person’s overall health and wellbeing and Apunipima is continually expanding its scope to look at the root causes of poor health and wellbeing.

“We know we won’t Close The Gap in health by treating the symptoms, we need to get to the cause. Apunipima recognises the importance of population health approaches through education and early intervention programs. We are also committed to driving research in our space and we’re currently undertaking a community-based trial, in partnership with local service providers and community groups, that aims to identify and encompass all of the social factors that influence health and wellbeing, not just for an individual, but for the individual and their entire family. By bringing all of the social factors into the health and wellbeing sphere, we can make the best possible care plan for individuals and their family.”

Ms Malthouse believes that while this year’s report was disappointing, it is an opportunity for the government to finally listen and take meaningful action to Close The Gap.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Sector is united and has a clear direction, but we need the government to heed the Productivity Commission’s warnings, listen to our communities and match our determination by honouring their commitment to Close The Gap.”