I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains

I had never heard of the Sydney Based Ethics Centre until in what I consider a bit of irony the former Essendon Coach James Hird did his question and answer session there a few weeks ago.

Last Friday I again heard of the Ethics Centre as they released a video of a speech by journalist Stan Grant.This was part of a debate about whether Australia is really a multicultural safe haven of equal opportunity? Or is racism more prevalent than ever before?

This debate was held during the lat part of 2015 and I wish this is how I first heard of the Ethics Centre. It is one of the most powerful speeches I have heard on racism in Australia. I am not going to paraphrase his comments. You can read about it at the Guardian.

But I do urge you to listen to a magnificent 9 minute speech from Wiradjuri man Stan Grant.

Australia falling down on progress to close the gap for Indigenous people

The Closing the Gap report was released Thursday morning. Surprise surprise there had been no real change in the indicators being looked at. The following is a reprint of an article found at theconversation.com

By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The latest Closing the Gap report, tabled in federal parliament on Wednesday, shows poor progress on improving the situation of Indigenous Australians on many key indicators.

Only two of the targets set in 2008 by the Council of Australian Governments are on track.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that in many respects the report was “profoundly disappointing”, despite the concerted efforts of successive governments.

Declaring that more work was needed, Abbott also urged Aboriginal people to have high expectations for themselves and especially their children in the effort to make greater progress.

There had been some improvements in education and health outcomes, Abbott said, and “we are on track to halve the gap in year 12 attainment rates for [those] aged 20-24”.

The target to halve the gap in mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children looked achievable by 2018.

A new target of closing the school attendance gap within five years should be also achievable.

“However, the other targets – to close the gap in life expectancy within a generation; to ensure access to early childhood education for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds in remote areas; to halve the gap in reading and numeracy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and to halve the gaps in employment outcomes – have either not been met or are not on track to be met.”

What had to be changed was entrenched and multigenerational disadvantage.

“This won’t happen overnight and it may not ever happen unless we continue to place high demands on ourselves of what we can achieve together.”

Outlining some success stories, Abbott said that in every community the foundations for success were education, jobs and a safer living environment, underpinned by better health. The key was the practical delivery of programs and policy.

But while government policies could be a catalyst, where success was achieved it was due to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who wanted better for themselves.

“Governments can fund and governments can urge but governments can’t change attitudes and behaviours. It’s those who make the choice to send their children to school, those who make the choice to attend school and stick to it, those who make the choice to get a job and stick to it and those who choose to abide by the law who are the ones closing the gap.

“Closing the gap is not something granted by this parliament to Indigenous Australians. Closing the gap is to be grasped by them and closing the gap starts with getting the kids to school – and it starts with expecting much of them while they are there.”

Abbott said that while most Indigenous families did make sure their children attended school regularly, “too many are still missing too much school, especially in remote areas”.

Some Coalition MPs walked out when opposition leader Bill Shorten referred to the government’s funding cuts.

Shorten told parliament the Closing the Gap framework stretched beyond the life of any government. “This is an endeavour where every opposition wants the government to succeed,” he said.

“But when a government cuts $500 million from essential services, we are compelled to point out what these cuts mean.”

Vital organisations didn’t know whether their funding would be continued or withdraw. Cuts would mean shelters for those fleeing from violence would be closed; they would rob Indigenous Australians of legal aid; preventive health programs would be hit.

Shorten appealed to the government to reverse the cuts and “seek to repair the harm”.

The Australian Council of Commerce and Industry said businesses, governments and Indigenous people must redouble efforts to improve employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians. “The private sector has a major role to play in providing sustainable employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians rather than jobs that are dependent on government programs.”

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Commission of Audit and the Budget 2014

Another post not on health or Indigenous stuff. But it is also on health and Indigenous stuff.

The proposed cuts to Centrelink benefits for the unemployed and disabled will make life more difficult out bush, makes good food even harder to purchase and will push people to more processed, salty foods. Costs to seeing a doctor mean less will visit – and people are not too good in diagnosing the seriousness or not of their own condition.

For Indigenous Australians, often in the lowest socio-economic group and having a much higher incidence of illness this is an added burden. Particularly as one objective (as I see it) is “mainstreaming” health services meaning less Aboriginal Health Services which are proven to make a bigger difference in the health of Indigenous Australians.

The Commission of Audit (CofA) looked at cost savings (revenue changes were not included) that could be made. The committee was run by big business people. The CofA had a budget of $1 million dollars of which they spent $2.5 million. Yes they spent more than twice what was budgeted. Yet expect us to believe them.

The CofA can’t even get all of its basic readily accessible facts right. Tony Shepherd runs this Audit Commission. He reckons Australians visit the GP 11 times a year. Actually it is around 5.8 times a year. He seems to have confused actual patient visits with Medicare items claimed by GPs per patient. Yet it seems a fee for visiting the doctor will still be included in the budget.

According to a researcher in the article 5.8% of survey respondents delayed or did not visit a doctor in 2012-13 due to costs. For Indigenous Australians this was 12%.

We seem to be going the American way of things. The individual not the community. Privatising health.

To finish off here is an interesting little study: Changes in Mortality After Massachusetts Health Care Reform. In 2006 Massachusetts reformed their health care. Some say it was the model for the US Affordable Care Act to look after the poorer in their society.

The study looked at changes in mortality in those aged between 20-64 before and after these changes. There was a 2.9% reduction in deaths from all causes (that is 8.2 less deaths per 100,000 people) compared to control counties. Deaths from causes amenable to health care also dropped by a remarkable 4.5%.

The changes were larger in counties with lower household incomes and higher numbers not on health insurance (remember USA health care is privatised).

Remember these health reforms made health insurance available to the poor. For every 830 people who could take up this insurance – and thus easier access to healthcare – one death was prevented each year.

Enjoy the budget.

Centrelink Remote Allowances

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the Minister for Families stating she could live on the Newstart allowance. Personally I think she was talking rubbish that she may yet come to regret down the track. I also mentioned the cost of a few things in remote Australia.

Here’s what Newstart offers you.

Newstart Allowance

There is a remote allowance for those on benefits who live in remote.

Remote Area Allowance

This remote allowance works out – for a single person – at an extra $474.50 a year.

What would the public servants receive when they visit remote areas? The Public Servants Association has a list of the current allowances.

It’s hard to tell what is paid when they come past gazetted towns and onto Aboriginal lands. But their allowance for visiting Alice Springs is a lazy $224.30 a day. Now that covers accommodation and meals (apparently you can’t buy food for yourself when travelling).

But here’s what a public servant would get extra for living remote.

Remote Allowance

A person on Newstart with no dependants living in remote Australia receives an extra $474. If he/she was a public servant they would receive $1260. It is nice it is recognised it costs more to live remote. But are the costs greater for those with a job?

But the discrepancy is even worse if you have children and live remote. If you are on Newstart you receive an extra $7.30 per extra child a fortnight. But if you are a public servant with kids out bush you get an extra $10.50 a week. Apparently kids of public servants cost more to look after than Newstart kids.

And that’s for the lowest employee class in the table.

There are over 600,000 Australians on Newstart. The Australian Senate agrees the amount is inadequate.

Surely we and our government can have some compassion for the least well off in our society.

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