As previously noted, there has been a deal of uncertainty about the fate of Indigenous health programs and services administered by the Federal Health Department and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) under the new Federal Government.
While no doubt there are still issues to resolve, at last there is some news – some programs will transfer to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, as outlined below.
But funding responsibility for most Indigenous health services remains in the Health Department, to be coordinated by a new Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division (which replaces OATSIH). No doubt many will be interested in the prediction that the new arrangements will mean less red tape for service providers.
The departmental statement below has been distributed to the major stakeholders.
“A number of stakeholders have been asking how OATSIH is affected by the Machinery of Government (MoG) changes announced by the Prime Minister recently.
The Prime Minister has indicated that Indigenous affairs will be a significant priority for this Government and has decided to bring together many of the Indigenous policies and programmes under his own Department.
The Health Department has now received clarity on the changes and I am able to confirm that the following programmes or functions will move from Health to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet:
· A number of strategic policy functions including responsibility for the health performance framework, health expenditure analysis, and life expectancy modelling
· Bringing them Home and Expanding Link-up programmes
· Combating petrol sniffing–expanding the supply and uptake of low aromatic fuel
· Indigenous Drug and Alcohol treatment services (including staff working on these programmes in State and Territory Offices)
· Stronger Futures NT Mobile Outreach Service Plus
· National Sorry Day Committee
· Indigenous Sport and Active Recreation Programme currently managed by the Sport Branch (previously in the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government and Sport).
The funding responsibility for the majority of Indigenous health services remains in the Health department, to be coordinated by a new Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division (which replaces OATSIH).
This decision recognises the importance of the critical links between Indigenous health programmes and mainstream health structures.
While there are a number of structural changes required as part of the movement of policies and programmes to PM&C, the key priority for Government is to continue to deliver uninterrupted services to Indigenous people.
It will be business as usual with service providers and funding arrangements during this transition period from both the Health Department and PM&C.
The consolidation of policies and programmes into PM&C will provide significant opportunities, including reducing the red tape burden on service providers.”
Croakey will be interested to hear the response to these changes.
• You can track Croakey’s coverage of Indigenous health here.