First Nations health leaders and Health Ministers gather to progress Close the Gap reform agenda

Department of Health

The Albanese Government in partnership with the Lowitja Insitute have today hosted the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Ministers Roundtable.

The meeting brought together Health Ministers and Chief Executives from all states and territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collaboration members, and First Nations health leaders to discuss priorities for health system reform.

It is only in working in partnership and acknowledging the depth of experience and leadership that this sector offers, that we will improve health and wellbeing outcomes for First Nations people.

The Roundtable specifically focused on topics identified by the First Nations health sector, including:

  1. Closing the Gap
  2. Building a health system which is culturally safe and free of racism, and
  3. The National Health Reform Agreement

The Albanese Government is committed to changing the way we work with First Nations people in line with the Priority Reforms of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

In collaboration with all jurisdictions, for the first time, we are intending to develop a First Nations Schedule to the National Health Reform Agreement.

In line with our Closing the Gap commitments, the draft schedule will be co-designed with First Nations stakeholders, so it includes the right actions and reforms that best suit the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Albanese Government is committed to building and strengthening the community-controlled health sector, as committed to under Closing the Gap Priority Reform 2.

Additionally, the Department of Health and Aged Care is identifying opportunities to transition grants in programs that explicitly target First Nations health outcomes to First Nations-led organisations.

As part of this process and as a first step, we are transitioning the well renowned Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme from the Australian College of Nursing to First Nations control.

From July 1 2024, Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) will lead the management of this successful scholarship program.

IAHA is a highly experienced First Nations organisation within the allied health field that is strongly placed to support and develop students and clinicians across a range of health disciplines.

Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:

“All Health Minister’s are committed to developing a First Nations Schedule to the National Health Reform Agreement, is a critical step to achieve this.

“Last year, I directed my department to review every program that aims to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure that, wherever possible, those services are actually delivered by First Nations led organisations.

“Transitioning the renowned Puggy Hunter Scholarship to First Nations control is the first step, and that work of review and transition will continue.”

Quotes attributable to Senator Malarndirri McCarthy:

“In his role chairing the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter devoted his life to improving health outcomes for First Nations Australians.

“Today, I am sure he would be very proud that the scholarship scheme named in his honour will soon be Indigenous led.

“This will ensure the next generation of First Nations health students are well-equipped to work with communities to provide quality, culturally safe and appropriate care for better health outcomes.”

Quote attributable to Donna Murray, Wiradyuri and Wonnarua woman, Chief Executive Officer, Indigenous Allied Health Australia

“As a national, community-controlled organisation, Indigenous Allied Health Australia have long been leading in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce development and support, by being culturally responsive to the holistic needs of our people, through supporting their goals and aspirations.

“IAHA are honoured to carry this legacy forward and to support the future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce.”

/Media Release. View in full here.