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Aboriginal health in Sydney

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The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr .Ian Viner, said today that he had assured the Administrator of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern on July 15 that there was no need to consider ceasing effective operations as funds would be available from the Government to maintain the operations of the Service at least at the same level as last year.

"More operational funds will be available to the Service than last year. There never has been any suggestion by me that operational funds for the Service will be reduced", Mr Viner said. "I regret that the public has been led to believe that this would happen or that I proposed action which would cause the Service to close down", he added. .

Mr Viner ' said that the Service received total funds from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in excess of $300,000 in 1976/7,7."'"

The Minister was commenting on reports of cuts by the Federal Government in funding to the Medical Service.

The Minister said that officers.of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs had been in discussion with the Aboriginal Medical Service concerning- funding levels for 1977/7 8 for some time.' His Department had received a request for funds for 1977/78 only on July 7. That request was

still under consideration. He had assured the Service that interim . funding would be available in the normal course during the Supply Period before the Budget is passed later this year. .

Mr Viner said that the administration of the Service had incurred a debt neither authorised nor agreed to be underwritten by the Commonwealth, which he understood to be of the order of $55,000. "The decision by the Service to cut wages of staff to make up this deficit was taken ■ without consultation with me, nor have I received any proposal to assist

the Service in respect of that amount", Mr Viner said. He said that there has been no cutback in funds. The decision as to the total level of funding for the Service for the financial year 1977/78 cannot be made public until the Budget is announced on August 16. All Aboriginal

organisations are advised at this time.

Turning to the general question of Aboriginal health, the Minister for Health, Mr Ralph Hunt, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, today expressed concern at the reports relating to malnutrition and ill health among Aboriginal children in the Sydney metropolitan area. Mr Hunt went on to say that the reports had been investigated and an

ficer from his Department obtained, on a visit to Sydney, evidence confirming the .existence of conditions which have a relationship to nutrition. He added the full extent of these conditions remained to be determined.


Members of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Sydney, during the recent discussions with the Health Department doctor, handed him.a proposal for a nutrition program. This is currently being studied by Departmental nutritionists.

Both Ministers expressed their deep concern for the health of the Aboriginal people in general but particularly for Aboriginal children who were most vulnerable and who were the ones who suffered most under these circumstances-. They

said the children after all are the citizens of the future and to establish good dietary habits will help alleviate this situation and assist them to grow up as fully contributing members of the community.

Canberra, ACT 26 July 1977