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Aboriginal health

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The 1978 Aboriginal infant mortality rates for the

Northern Territory and the 14 Queensland Aboriginal com­

munities for which data is available are the lowest since

separate figures for Aboriginals have been kept.

Announcing this today, the Minister for Health,

Mr Ralph Hunt, said that the rate for the Northern

Territory was 48.1 deaths per 1000 live births and for

the Queensland communities 48.6.

. 'The trend is most encouraging1, Mr Hunt said.

Although there had been a significant improvement

since the early 1970s, much more remained to be done.

Mr Hunt said his Government was determined that

there would be no lessening of effort to improve

Aboriginal health. <

. He drew attention to the Government's substantial

involvement in the provision of normal health services

for the Australian community generally, and also to

special additional services for Aboriginals.

'For instance, the Government made special arrange­

ments with the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists

to enable the College to undertake the National Trachoma

and Eye Health Program', Mr Hunt said.

Mr Hunt described the trachoma program as 'the most

comprehensive project of its type ever undertaken in

Australia *.

He said he was looking forward to receiving the final

report. '

. ../2


'More than 100 000 people, mainly in remote areas, were

examined, and many thousands received relief from the effects

of this blinding disease and other eye problems',' Mr Hunt


'The Government has continued and increased its

support for the Royal Flying Doctor Service,, enabling

the service to provide much-needed services in remote

areas where Aboriginals figure largely'.

k As a further indication of the Government's concern

for Aboriginals, the Minister said that, when announcing

the changes to bulk billing arrangements under the health

insurance scheme, health program grants were made avail­

able to the established Aboriginal medical services to

meet the salary costs of staff involved in clinical


In addition, the introduction of bulk billing

arrangements for disadvantaged people recognised the

need for access to normal medical services by such people,

including Aboriginals.

Mr Hunt also pointed out that, through the Depart­

ment of Aboriginal Affairs, the Government was assisting

the States and Aboriginal organisations to continue the

special services they had initiated.

Ί hope that the States will also provide resources',

he said.

Medical services merely provided repetitive curative


'We must seek an overall improvement in the health

status of Aboriginals', Mr Hunt said.

'While there has been a significant improvement in

Aboriginal health, the key to further improvement lies in

an improvement in their socio-economic and environmental


This called for co-operation between all Australian

Governments and other providers of services such as



housing, safe water supplies and sewage.

Mr Hunt drew attention to the importance of the

role of Aboriginal health workers as agents of change within

Aboriginal communities.

The need for Aboriginals to be directly involved in

the delivery of health care services, together with their

determination to improve their health situation, must be

accepted and encouraged by the responsible authorities.

'The Health Worker Training Scheme in the Northern

Territory is a model that could well be adopted in other

areas', Mr Hunt said. - .

Comprehensive statistical data on Aboriginal health

in Australia was also needed.

'My Department is endeavouring to establish a

national system of statistics which will greatly assist

in the identification of health problems and will establish

a baseline assessment of Aboriginal health from which health

programs can be further developed.'

Mr Hunt said he hoped the States would continue

to co-operate in this endeavour.

CANBERRA: 12 August 1979

Note; Statistics attached

( ά )

• The Ν.Τ. Aboriginal infant mortality ratev

for the period 1969-1978

' 1969







1976 1977



The Aboriginal infant mortality rate v ‘ for

14 Queensland communities ^ for the period 1972-1978

1972 55.3

1973 110.0

1974 69.6

1975 54.2

1976 65.9

1977 54.1

1978 48.6

(a) The number of deaths of livebom Aboriginal children

within one year of birth, per 1000 Aboriginal live

births,. ’








52.8 74.6


(b) Aurukun, Bamaga, Bloomfield River, Cherbourg, Doomadgee,

Edward River, Hopevale, Kowanyama, Lockhart River,

Mornington Island, Palm Island, Weipa South, Woorabinda,