Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7157

East Arnhem


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:28): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Health Senator Nash. Can the minister inform the Senate of the focus of her recent visit to East Arnhem?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:29): Senators and others would be aware that last week the Prime Minister and a number of ministers visited East Arnhem to talk with local people in the community about many issues that were important to them

Firstly, can I congratulate the Prime Minister and Minister Scullion for their ongoing commitment in this area.

For many of us it was the first time we had been to East Arnhem. I note that Senator Scullion has had a 30-year-relationship with the region and I think his understanding and leadership contribute enormously in this area.

Over the week, we had some great discussions and meetings with local people. To see the response of those local people to the fact that, as government, we had selected a number of ministers to be on the ground for a considerable period of time, it was very much appreciated.

There has been a lot of improvement, but there are still challenges and there is still a lot more to do. Particularly with regard to health, there are very challenging circumstances with regard to chronic conditions and complex health conditions.

The need for effective prevention and clinical intervention was evident. What we have seen is that health outcomes are so closely linked to good housing, education and employment. We cannot look at these things in silos; we must look at all of these things together to move toward improving outcomes for Indigenous communities.

We met with a range of groups throughout the week, as I indicated, culminating in health forum at the end of the week with Minister Dutton, Minister Scullion and me, which provided a significant benefit to our understanding and to those who attended on the way forward.


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:31): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that cracker of an answer. Can the minister provide the Senate with some specific examples of the positive gains being made by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in East Arnhem such as Miwatj Health?

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:31): Thank you very much. I would expect from those opposite, given the gravity of this issue, that indeed they might respond with some quiet. Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation in the regional area of East Arnhem is the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in the area.

What was particularly of note was the high standard that they were setting in clinical and preventative health focus. I met with a number of those on the board and what became very clear was their ability to have turned around what were some very difficult circumstances seven years ago to a well-functioning and forward-thinking organisation that is delivering better health outcomes to those on the ground through transparency, accountability and taking into account the very importance of culture.


Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:32): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister provide more details of the health outcomes achieved through Miwatj Health and share any other insights she gained whilst in East Arnhem?

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:32): It is certainly disappointing to see the lack of respect from those opposite on what is a very important issue. Miwatj Health has four health clinics in East Arnhem based in Yirrkala, Gunyangara, Nhulunbuy and Galiwin'ku. There is a range of outreach programs that they run as well, delivering high-quality and effective primary health care.

What was indeed very impressive was the significant improvements above the Northern Territory average rate for immunisation in all age brackets at 89 per cent—100 per cent at Gunyangara; 95 per cent immunisation for babies up to one year—these are tremendous statistics. Babies born in communities served by Miwatj Health have an overall better birth weight, about eight per cent better than the national average, and a significant increase in providing care, a 408 per cent increase since they took over.