Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 23 May 1995
Parliamentary Record 11
Debates for 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 7th Assembly 1994 - 1997
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 23 May 1995 hospitals across the Territory. However, the demand for clinical services continues to grow at an ever-increasing rate. For example, at Royal Darwin Hospital, we have seen a 12% increase in patients in the last 12 months. However, the solution to these problems involves much more than treating the sick. We will not turn the tide in Aboriginal health until we begin to tackle the underlying causes of the problem more effectively. In fact, unless we substantially increase our investment in programs to address the causes of ill-health, the need for clinical services will grow beyond our capacity to respond. Members will recall the Northern Territory health outcomes report by Dr Aileen Plant which reported that the major causes of excess disease and death for Aboriginal people are nutrition, smoking, alcohol abuse and environmental health factors. Maternal and infant nutrition is particularly important and this was given some prominence by Dr Plant. Poor nutrition in young children has a long-term negative impact on adult health. Similarly, the most recent research into kidney disease suggests that the damage caused by some early childhood skin infections contributes significantly to adult kidney failure some 30 or 40 years later. Lead times of this magnitude cannot be solved by a simple injection of funds. As many members would be aware, a range of programs have been developed in the Territory to address these issues. The Living With Alcohol program, the Strong Women, Strong Babies, Strong Culture program, the development of a food and nutrition policy and program, and pilot programs on 5 communities to develop improved design and management of Aboriginal housing are successes which we will be building on. However, even as we cannot turn Aboriginal health around simply by treating disease, neither can we solve the problem by concentrating on first-level causes such as alcohol abuse, nutrition, smoking and environmental health issues. No matter how well intentioned they may be, governments cannot give Aboriginal people good health. However, governments can ensure that relevant health information is available to Aboriginal people. We must deliver health programs and services that take account of Aboriginal culture. We must ensure that appropriate education and employment programs are in place and, most importantly, we must encourage Aboriginal people to become key partners in decision-making. While the issue of Aboriginal health has been the subject of intense national debate, much of this focus has centred unfortunately on the enormity of the problem rather than on strategies designed to make a difference. In this budget, the Territory government will facilitate a 5-year Aboriginal health strategy to deliver improvements in health outcomes. The new Aboriginal health funds in 1995-96 will be directed to priority areas where we can achieve a measurable impact on the health status of Territory Aboriginal people. An essential element of this program will be the expansion of key programs which have been trialed and which we know are successful. One such is the Living With Alcohol program. Since the program was introduced by this government in November 1991, alcohol-related fatal accidents have fallen by 30%, alcohol-related deaths on Territory roads have reduced by 31%, accidents by 29% and arrests for exceeding the legal blood-alcohol level by 29%. Over the same period, per capita alcohol consumption has fallen by 18% and light beer consumption now comprises 30% of the beer market where, in 1992, light beer represented less than 1% of sales. In its second year, the Living With Alcohol program specifically targeted Aboriginal people and provision has been made for expansion of this program. In initiatives this year, the department will investigate community-based models for alcohol rehabilitation. This will result in the implementation of programs in Aboriginal communities that will provide new rehabilitation services in the remote communities. More 3534
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