Health care policy for aboriginal Australians: the relevance of the American Indian experience

S J Kunitz, M Brady
Australian Journal of Public Health 1995, 19 (6): 549-58
This paper discusses and compares the systems for the delivery of health care services to indigenous peoples in the United States and Australia; both are poor minorities in wealthy countries and many live in remote locations. Three necessary conditions that have shaped the relative success of the Indian Health Service in the United States are relevant to the Australian situation: federal government administration; the separation of the Indian Health Service from other Indian affairs; and the provision of an integrated health service. Ironically, recent policy changes in the United States by the Clinton administration are reducing the federal bureaucracy, and along with it, Indian Health Service funding. In Australia, the states have had responsibility for service delivery to Aboriginal people, there have been no treaties formalising the relationship between indigenous people and the federal government, and Aboriginal health has been switched between different departments while remaining primarily within the Aboriginal affairs (rather than the health) portfolio. Since 1993, there has been pressure to return Aboriginal health to the health portfolio, and in July 1995, funding and administration of Aboriginal health services were moved from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission to the Department of Human Services and Health.

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