Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Rudd Government tackles Indigenous smoking rates and Health Workforce in next down payments on closing the gap

Joint Media Release with:

    • The Hon. Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister
    • The Hon. Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing

The Rudd Government today announced two significant new policy initiatives at today’s landmark Indigenous Health Equality Summit.

These are important steps in the Government’s commitment to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people within a generation.

The Rudd Government will:

  • invest $14.5 million in tackling high rates of smoking in Indigenous communities – a leading cause of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease which contribute to Indigenous people’s low life expectancy; and
  • invest $19 million in a National Indigenous Health Workforce Training Plan, to get more Indigenous people into the health workforce.

Tackling smoking in Indigenous communities

The Rudd Government will invest $14.5 million over four years to tackle high rates of smoking in the Indigenous population.

Half of Indigenous people aged 18 years and over are current smokers, which is more than double the smoking rate of the non-Indigenous population. According to some reports smoking rates are as high as 80 per cent in some Indigenous communities.

Tobacco smoking is the number one risk factor for chronic conditions and diseases – such as cardiovascular disease and cancer – in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2003, smoking was responsible for 12 per cent of the total burden of illness, and one-fifth of deaths amongst Indigenous Australians.

Tackling smoking is critical to closing the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.

The Government’s initiative will comprise three key elements:

  • supporting research into Indigenous tobacco control. In partnership with research organisations such as the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH), this initiative will help build the evidence base around what works in helping Indigenous people to quit smoking;
  • trialling a range of innovative community interventions, including targeted, culturally appropriate communication activities; and
  • offering smoking cessation training to staff working in Indigenous health.

National Indigenous Health Workforce Training Plan

The Government will invest $19 million over three years in a National Indigenous Health Workforce Training Plan.

Supporting a strong Indigenous health workforce and encouraging more Indigenous people to take up careers as health professionals is critical to improving health services and increasing Indigenous peoples’ life expectancy.

This Government’s initiative will:

  • support the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association to expand its work of mentoring and networking young Indigenous doctors;
  • support the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous Nurses to expand its network of mentoring Indigenous nurses;
  • support the Aboriginal community controlled health sector to encourage Indigenous people and students to join the Indigenous health workforce;
  • provide additional training opportunities for Aboriginal Health Workers, and support for the establishment of a National Aboriginal Health Worker Association; and
  • support the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education Network to ensure that Indigenous health is expanded into the curriculum in medical, allied health and nursing schools.

Commitment to achieving Indigenous Health Equality

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin also today signed the Indigenous Health Equality Summit’s Statement of Intent, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to working in partnership with the Indigenous community and in particular the Indigenous health sector to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy within a generation.