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Collaboration needed to improve hearing outcomes for Aboriginal children

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Australian Greens Media Release

22 June 2012

Collaboration needed to improve hearing outcomes for Aboriginal children

Improved state and federal collaboration that breaks down the silos between health and education is essential to make inroads in the issue of ear health problems amongst Aboriginal children, the Australian Greens said today.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health last year helped form the Australian Collaboration for Healthy Ears (ACHE) after hosting an Aboriginal Children’s Hearing Health Forum in Canberra and her call for state and federal cooperation was backed by the Senate last November.

“The Senate passed my motion last year, that calls on the State and Federal Governments to collaborate on breaking down the silos between health and education. Most states and territories have responded positively, but now it is time to take the next step, by supporting national collaboration and exemplar projects through COAG,” Senator Siewert said today.

“It has been estimated that Aboriginal children experience ear disease for an average of 2.5 years in the first five years of life, compared to an average of 3 months for other Children.

Unaddressed hearing loss early in life can have long-term negative consequences for communication, numeracy and literacy skills, reducing employment and training prospects, increasing interaction with the criminal justice system and effecting personal


“It’s a vicious cycle, that carries on through out a person’s life, and we have a responsibility to intervene whenever possible, but particularly finding ways to help kids before they miss too many opportunities for education and start to feel excluded.

“While the prevalence of hearing health problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been long acknowledged, the social determinants of OM are often overlooked, as is the significance of a range of non-medical interventions such as early childhood literacy programs or reducing overcrowding.

“I hope the WA Government, having now collected overwhelming evidence of the prevalence of ear health problems and their impacts, along with the other states, will take this issue up through the COAG processes to ensure that hearing health for Aboriginal Children is a national priority, and demand that the educational, social and medical aspects are addressed in concert rather than separately,” Senator Siewert concluded.

NOTE: ACHE has started to bring together health and education experts including ENT surgeons,psychologists and teachers with representatives from NACCHO and Australian Hearing to collaborate at a national level on the problem of Otitis Media.