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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7301

Indigenous Health


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Rural Health, Senator Nash. Will the minister update the Senate on the government's actions towards tackling the high rates of smoking in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Minister for Rural Health) (14:52): I thank the senator for his question. The government recognises the significant impact smoking has on health outcomes and the higher rate of smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of particular concern. We are redesigning the tackling indigenous smoking program to ensure its delivery is based on the most up-to-date evidence and is delivered in the most appropriate, effective and efficient way. The redesigned program follows a University of Canberra review of the old program. The new program is based on the review and on discussion with experts on tobacco control in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We are funding $116.8 million over the next three years. That funding will be provided for regional activities which will reduce the number of people taking up smoking and will encourage and support people to quit. Grant funding will be provided for regional tobacco control activities, national support for workforce development, performance monitoring and evaluation and leadership and coordination. Because local knowledge is always best, service providers will make decisions on how they tackle smoking in their regions. New intensive tobacco control approaches will also be trialled through a number of pilot projects in communities with very high rates of smoking. Funding will continue for enhancements to quit lines and training for front-line health and community workers who help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders smokers.

Existing grants under the program have been extended until December while the program redesign takes place. Current and former service providers will be invited to apply for a new targeted grant round to deliver the new grant program. It is important that service providers in the new program will be able to choose methods to reduce tobacco use within their region within an evidence based framework.


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate what other measures the government is implementing to tackle smoking in Indigenous communities?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Minister for Rural Health) (14:54): I am pleased to announce that the government will provide funding of $10 million from the National Tobacco Campaign to target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. According to the 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 42 per cent of Indigenous Australians over the age of 15 smoke on a daily basis. Tobacco smoking is responsible for around one in five deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As part of the process associated with preparing advertising and promotional materials, we will ensure that the campaign complements the rollout of the revised tackling Indigenous smoking campaign.

It is expected that once planning and concept testing is completed, a range of media and promotion activities will commence in the first half of 2016. Tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of ill health and early death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and it is important we have a range of targeted programs to address this issue.


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister inform the Senate how these investments build upon existing efforts to close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Minister for Rural Health) (14:55): This government is committed to closing the gap and achieving health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians. We recognise that good health is both a key enabler and an outcome which supports children to go to school, adults to lead productive working lives and to build strong and resilient communities. In addition—

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Minister, although I believe the clock might not have been set. We will allow you to conclude your answer, Minister.

Senator NASH: Thank you, Mr President. In addition to the smoking prevention programs, key investments over the next three years include $1.4 billion to the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services for primary and preventative care, $154.5 million to New Directions: Mothers and Babies, for child and maternal health services, $62.6 million to the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, to provide targeted support to high-need Indigenous Australians, and $3.9 million for free influenza vaccinations under the National Immunisation Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged six months to less than five years. Improving Indigenous health is a priority for the government and all healthcare providers both within ACCHOs and in the mainstream system, ensuring continuity of care for clients and services is important and a key investment in closing the gap.