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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1418 ..

Indigenous people

MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Chief Minister. Is the government concerned at statistics from national data collections that consistently show that indigenous people in the ACT are disadvantaged compared to the non-indigenous community? In particular, what is the government doing to address the serious issues around indigenous health and wellbeing, which are surely fundamental measures of quality of life?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms MacDonald, for the question on a very serious issue. Indeed, indigenous health is a major concern of this government, and to address the issues we have made a number of commitments towards improving the health outcomes of indigenous people in the ACT.

One of the actions the government is undertaking is trying to improve the identification of the level of need. There is evidence to indicate that there is a high proportion of indigenous people in Canberra-Queanbeyan who are socio-economically disadvantaged and that indigenous people are more likely to die at a younger age than other Australians and die from circulatory diseases, injury, cancer, respiratory diseases and endocrine diseases, such as diabetes.

Hospital separations across Australia tend to be higher for indigenous people than for other Australians in all age groups, with dialysis treatment, pregnancy and childbirth, respiratory diseases and injury being the most common reasons for admission to hospital.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the above indicators also apply in the ACT, along with other health indicators, including high rates of drug and alcohol use and family violence. Government and non-government agencies are actively working to improve data collections, and the government is assisting in refining national performance indicators in order to provide more accurate statistics on indigenous health.

With regard to improving services, the government, along with the Commonwealth, is funding the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Centre-and, no, they have not yet asked for poker machines-to develop a strategic and operational plan. Without pre-empting the outcome of this work, I know it will assist in further identifying the needs of the local indigenous community. This plan is essential because of the exponential growth of Winnunga Nimmityjah over the last few years, indicating the high level of need being met by this service.

One issue in particular that the plan will focus on is the adequacy of facilities from which Winnunga operates. I know, from my visits to the health centre, that there is an appalling lack of space that workers and clients have to cope with. In my view, the situation must violate the health and safety of employees and clients, and the lack of space must contravene client confidentiality and privacy.

The ACT government provides some funding of Winnunga, but the medical centre is primarily funded by the Commonwealth. I will be pressuring the Commonwealth to meet its responsibility in this area to provide appropriate facilities and support for a health service for indigenous people in the ACT. The ACT government is willing to help wherever possible and would consider making land available if this were required.

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