WA’s peak Aboriginal health organisation has welcomed the release of a review into the performance of Aboriginal health programs, but says it still has some questions the State Government needs to answer.
The review was undertaken by Emeritus Professor D’Arcy Holman and was presented to the government in December 2014.
The Holman Review found that of the Aboriginal health projects it evaluated, 91.3% delivered ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’ value for money.
Aboriginal Health Council of WA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the report endorsed the vital importance of the work done by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).
“This review dispels the myth that Aboriginal organisations are often non-performers, and goes further to say that funding for such programs must be maintained for those important outcomes to be sustained,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
“While we welcome news that the State Government had committed to funding all programs identified by the report as being ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘outstanding’, what we are not clear on is where the funding is going to come from.
“We are calling on the government to ensure that money isn’t going to be shifted out of primary health care funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, which would effectively be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA also had some serious reservations about the reporting standards which had been used to evaluate the projects.
“There has been a lot of confusion among State and Commonwealth agencies about reporting conditions for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services,” she said.
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA was pleased that the government had accepted all five of the Holman Review’s recommendations.
“The review’s main recommendation is for the State Government to guarantee that the minimum term of a service agreement with Aboriginal health organisations is three years,” she said.
“Currently, some projects are being funded for only one year, which is causing serious problems for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
“Twelve month agreements do not allow them to plan ahead, hire more staff or commit to programs long term.
“We also welcome the review’s recommendation that the three year contracts come with an automatic extension for a further 3 months if the government doesn’t offer a renewal of funding in writing prior to the end of an agreement.”
￼Ms Nelson-Cox said the review also raised issues surrounding the duplication of mandatory reporting and the administrative burden on providers.
“The review found that because Aboriginal health organisations are funded by both the State and Commonwealth governments, they are constantly having to spend time and resources reporting back to both governments,” she said.
“It found that a single Aboriginal health organisation could have up to 15 different service agreements just with the WA Department of Health, plus additional agreements with other departments.
“They are being tied up in red tape, when they should be concentrating on their core business of providing services to Aboriginal people.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA would undertake a thorough analysis of the Holman Review and would raise any issues it found over funding and reporting conditions with the State Government.