Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4224 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
I believe that is partly to do with priority decisions that various governments have taken over the years. It is also to do with budget constraints. The question of priorities is relevant; you cannot actually say that the territory has never had the money to do more. I think it has, and I think that some decisions have been made for electoral reasons rather than long-term social benefits in all areas. But right now I am talking about health.
Interestingly, I was just looking through some of the reports we have got. In 1991 there was an inquiry into behavioural disturbance among young people that had recommendations not dissimilar to recommendations made 10 or 13 years later by committees I chaired. I remind members in particular of the work that was done in the last Assembly on the inquiry by the committee on health into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the ACT. That was a result of a motion that I put in the Legislative Assembly, and there were a number of very important recommendations in that report.
Now we have seen some increased expenditure, or support, go to Winnunga Nimmityjah and generally to questions of Aboriginal health, but far from what is needed. This week the Productivity Commission produced a report on indigenous health in Australia. There is a good editorial on that in today's Canberra Times, pointing out the need to have real performance measures, indicators, timelines and targets. I have said that many times in this place, and I am sure people find it very boring. But this government and previous governments have produced many strategies to deal with this broad, holistic health issue, and those strategies on the whole are very vague documents that do not have timelines, targets or meaningful measures and indicators to which governments can be held accountable.
The recent Looking at the Health of School-Age Children in the ACT has been well received by the minister, but I am looking forward to seeing a real implementation strategy in the recommendations within that report. Annual reports now have a requirement to report on how the recommendations agreed to by government have been implemented.
We may be crossing over the business of the Assembly here by having this discussion. We are reporting on the annual report soon, so I will not go into too much detail. But I will say that I was disappointed in how the health department's annual report responded to the requirement to report back on how government is implementing the agreed recommendations of committees.
The notion of public health has to be seen in the context of issues such as housing and culture, and I still see a failure by government, and in many ways all of the Assembly, to acknowledge the holistic nature of health and have a fully integrated understanding of health across all government departments. I also reflect on how Winnunga Nimmityjah does its work when I am thinking about holistic health models because I think they do it more successfully than anyone else does in the ACT. They have a very clear understanding of the relationship between education, housing, culture, and so on, and health.
I agree with Mr Corbell that drugs, drug abuse and substance abuse are also obviously related to public health in the ACT. They are a major cause of illness, morbidity and