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Report on Northern Territory health services

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The Minister for Health, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, said today that

the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry into Health Services in the Northern

Territory v/ould be given immediate and close consideration.

Sir Kenneth said many of the recommendations concerned matters of

detail. These would all be examined. However, on two important matters of

principle on which recommendations had been made the Government had already made

progress. The Government announced in July of this year that the co-ordination

of responsibility for health care on Aboriginal settlements in the Northern

Territory will be taken over by the Department of Health.

These new departmental responsibilities are currently being proceeded

with. Already the Department of Health has commenced to staff settlements with

its own nurses.

The Department of Health will, in addition to operating health services

on the settlements, have an advisory role on such matters as housing and

environmental and occupational development policies for Aboriginals.

Another major recommendation concerns the establishment of a Northern

Territory Health Commission to operate all health services in the Territory.

Sir Kenneth said the Government had recently taken a decision in

principle to establish a Health Commission for the A.C.T. It was recognised

that both the A.C.T., and the Northern Territory were reaching stages of develop­

ment where autonomous health services needed to be considered. The recommendation

by the Board of Inquiry would be viewed against this background. However, one

matter which would need to be given particular consideration was the aspect of

Aboriginal health and the involvement of Federal agencies. Sir Kenneth said the

Government would v/ant to retain some effective. Federal control over Aboriginal

health matters in the Northern Territory.

Sir· Kenneth said he had noted with interest the recommendations concerning

health education programmes and the involvement of Aboriginal people. In April ,

this year four committees had been formed by the Departments of Health and the

Interior to work on Aboriginal health problems in the Northern Territory. These

were a health education committee, a health facilities committee, a hygiene committee

and a nutrition committee. The Department of Health had arranged with the Office

of Aboriginal Affairs for Mr. Phillip Roberts, a full-blooded Aboriginal, to be

seconded to the Department to v/ork with these committees with the objective of

involving Aboriginal people in preventive health activities, . .

Sir Kenneth said it was also interesting that the Board of Inquiry had .

discussed the possible role of Aboriginal medicine men in health programmes.

He said the Department of Health had long recognised the need to involve medicine

men and other influential members of the Aboriginal community in health activities.

In the Alice Springs region in particular there was already a working arrangement

between departmental doctors and Aboriginal medicine men. Similar arrangements

were also unden vayin the Northern region of the Territory.

Sir Kenneth said the Board of Inquiry had made a number of recommendations

concerning additional hospital accommodation in the Territory. These would be


It should be noted however that tenders closed today (Tuesday, 3 October)

for the construction of the new Alice Springs Hospital at an estimated cost of

$12.6m. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works had also recommended

the adoption of the Department of Health's proposal that the first stage of a

new general hospital be built in the Darwin suburb of Casuarina at an estimated

cost of $24m.

Other items on this year's health works programme included the erection

■ of the 32-bed ward and extra accommodation for nursing staff at Darwin Hospital,

the erection of a 20-bed midwifery unit at Alice Springs Hospital, extension of

the X-ray Unit at the Darwin Hospital, erection of public health nursing units

at Papunya and Maningrida settlements and construction of a new medical centre at

Yirrkala Mission. Two new community health centres v/ere also to be constructed

- one at Darwin and one at Alice Springs. These were in addition to three such

centres already under construction at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Pine Creek.

Excluding the new Alice Springs and Casuarina hospitals the health

work programme in the Northern Territory this year totalled approximately $3m.

Another of the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry concerned

regional administration of health services in the Territory. Sir Kenneth said it

was worth noting that the Department of Health was already operating a regional

organisation in the Alice Springs area and that following the opening of the

64-bed hospital at Gove this year an Hast Arnhem regional administration had also

been established.

Canberra October 3» 1972. Dept. No. 99