25 May 2016

A Shorten Labor Government will make a major commitment to preventive health strategies for Indigenous Australians, helping to close the shameful gap in chronic disease and life expectancy with non-Indigenous Australians.

Despite improvements in some areas of Indigenous health, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person born today can still expect to live an average of ten years less than other Australians. The burden of ill health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is two-and-a-half times higher than that of other Australians.

In large part this is due to the higher incidence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and kidney disease. Much of this is preventable.

This is not acceptable. It is a national shame - it is time to do more.

In addition to Labor’s investments in Medicare and affordable medicine for all Australians, Labor will invest in tailored, culturally-appropriate health programs aimed at preventing chronic disease for Indigenous people.

Deadly Choices

Empowering Indigenous Australians to make their own healthy lifestyle choices is the first and most important step to improving health outcomes.

Deadly Choices is an initiative of the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) that aims to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to improve their own and their families’ health by improving their diet, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. It has been running in South East Queensland since 2011 with great success.

A Shorten Labor government will provide $5.5 million a year per year to partner with the IUIH in rolling out Deadly Choices across the country.

Elements of the roll-out will include:

  • National campaigns to promote positive health and lifestyle choices.
  • Partnerships with sporting organisations and sporting ambassadors.
  • Training and licensing for State and Territory affiliates.
  • Local Deadly Choices coordinators.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Kidney Health Taskforce

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more than twice as likely as other Australians to have indicators of chronic kidney disease. The incidence of end-stage kidney disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is especially high in remote and very remote areas, where treatment such as dialysis is not often readily available.

The patient pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients is often confusing, fragmented, isolating and burdensome.

A Shorten Labor government will convene a National Taskforce on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney disease as a priority to look for holistic solutions to the current crisis. In particular, it will address coordination of the complex and fragmented health and social supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families affected by kidney failure.

The Taskforce will bring together experts in Indigenous health, kidney disease, General Practice, health systems, consumer representation and the NGO sector to develop strategies in prevention, early identification, management, treatment and transplantation.

A Shorten Labor government will commit $295,000 to the National Kidney Health Taskforce.

Improving Indigenous eye health

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are six times more likely to suffer from blindness. Shockingly – in a first world country such as Australia – 94 per cent of this vision loss is either preventable or treatable.

If this were addressed, it would alone account for an 11 per cent improvement in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Australia is the only developed nation where the infectious and wholly preventable eye disease trachoma still exists at endemic levels, and it only exists among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

There are some basic steps to take that would help to improve this situation. Around 35 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have never had an eye exam.

We can eliminate trachoma from Australia by 2020 if we give this problem the attention it is due.

A Shorten Labor government will invest $9.5 million to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vision loss.

This will go toward increasing visiting optometry services, supporting specialist ophthalmology services, and investing in trachoma prevention activities recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Protecting Medicare

Only Labor will protect Medicare, ensuring universal and affordable healthcare is available to all Australians.

Labor’s three-part pledge on Medicare includes:

  • Protecting bulk-billing by abolishing Malcolm Turnbull’s GP Tax by stealth.
  • Keeping medicines affordable by scrapping the Liberals’ price hikes.
  • Legislating to protect Medicare from creeping privatisation.

Only Labor cares about our health system for all Australians, and addressing the long-standing injustice of poor health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

We must do everything we can to accord Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the most fundamental right of all: the right to grow old.

For more information on Labor’s commitment to closing the gap in Indigenous health, please visit