NACCHO Bipartisan Engagement Strategy

NACCHO’s Bipartisan Engagement Strategy aims to provide national leadership towards the Australian Government’s national policy on Aboriginal Health, the cultural and social determinants of health and to ensure that policy makers and influencers understand who the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Sector are, what we do, and why we are better placed than any other health organisation to deliver these services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Mechanisms that facilitate NACCHO engagement are through our annual Parliamentary Friends’ Group held at the Australian Parliament House, Canberra, NACCHO Board Meetings and by participating in other stakeholder events within the national arena such as the Close the Gap Campaign, AMA or Vision 2020 events. Additional individual meetings are held with Members of Parliament, Ministers and Shadow Ministers on a regular basis and NACCHO participates in other parliamentary processes such as inquiries by the House of Representatives or Senate Committees Hearings. This process is extremely important as recommendations provided by the House of Representatives or Senate Committees are usually adopted in the Australian Parliament.

NACCHO Bipartisan Engagement expands to other national organisations such as the Australian Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, Australian Health & Hospitals Association, and Public Health Association to name a few, in a shared national policy vision of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by improving the responsiveness of the health system and the Australian Government Health Reform agenda.

With a federal election due in the second half of 2016, NACCHO will be aiming to meet with as many of our Parliamentarians as possible next year, and is in the process of preparing kits to assist ACCHOs to engage with their local MPs.

This engagement is undertaken at a number of different levels. The Ministers in the Health and Indigenous A airs portfolios ultimately have the final say on many decisions made by their Departments that affect our Sector. We need to ensure they are armed with the facts in order to argue on our behalf both with their own Department on policy and with the Treasurer when the Budget comes to be written. The Shadow Ministers are engaged with, not only because they could become the Ministers following an election, but also so that our Sector is influencing the alternate government’s policy as it is being written in Opposition.

Personal relationships are important and, when we need assistance with something, it is a great advantage if we have already met and know the politicians in question. As the local representatives of their respective Parties, we are endeavouring to connect MPs with Services in their electorates, so they can see first-hand what it is the Services do and understand the problems they face. Not only are many Backbench MPs the future Ministers, they also have considerable influence with their own Ministers. Requests for support, funding, or changes in policy that come from local Services have a better chance of success if they arrive in the Minister’s office with the backing of the local MP. Many MPs come to Parliament with previous experience in the health sector, or with a history of engagement with Aboriginal people. They can become very articulate advocates for our Sector within government given the chance to understand what we do.

Governments face pressures from many different areas to continually cut expenditure. An understanding of what our Services are about, a chance for us to dispel some myths that MPs may hold about them, and to demonstrate the value for money which our Sector provides to the Government, are the strongest ways we can ensure that the Government of the day supports our policy objectives and maintains or increases our Sector’s current level of funding.

Key areas of discussion:

• Funding Agreements of ACCHOs, NACCHO and Affiliates;
• Standard Funding Agreements;
• Indigenous Chronic Disease Package – Chronic Care Supplementary Services (CCSS), ATAPS;
• Primary Health Networks;
• Impacts of ICE on our people and communities; and
• The Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet Indigenous Advancement Strategy.