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Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1002

Senator BONNER - Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to an article appearing in the 'Age' of 5 th April 1972 directed to the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders which states that venereal disease is widespread among Aborigines of the Northern Territory? Can he assure the Senate that his Department will investigate this claim to ensure that my fellow Aborigines in the Northern Territory will be given every medical help in this matter?

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON Yes, I have seen the article in the 'Age'. In fact, I have it in front of me. I want to respond to the article by saying that there is no evidence that the incidence of venereal disease in the Northern Territory poses a threat to the survival of the Aboriginal race. It is true that there has been an upsurge in the incidence of venereal disease of various kinds in the Northern Territory in recent years. This is a reflection of an Australia-wide, even a worldwide trend. The steps that have been taken in recent years to combat the problem in the Northern Territory include the introduction of provisional notification which means that a doctor gives notification before final confirmation of the existence of the condition. This greatly facilitates any contact tracing that may be necessary. In addition, direct reporting from laboratories to the Department of Health of all positive tests is now required. In the field of health education a specialist has been appointed whose duties include the exploration of ways in which the Aboriginal's knowledge of the dangers of venereal disease can be increased. Health education pamphlets are issued in several Aboriginal languages and free treatment is available. I assure the honourable senator and the Senate that the Government is well aware of the seriousness of the problem and will continue to take positive steps towards its control.

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