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  • Shorten declared that the Labour Party will reinstate the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council.

    Shorten declared that the Labour Party will reinstate the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 18 April 2019

The U$82 million plan includes some US$18 million to be used to address rheumatic heart disease, which has been killing up to 100 Indigenous children annually.

Australian Labour Party leader Bill Shorten has issued a challenge to the office of prime minister by rolling out an election campaign promise to budget more than US$70 million to improve the social and physical status of he country’s  Indigenous people.

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Shorten made the announcement in the Northern Territory Thursday, stating that the money will be divided up for allocation across vulnerable areas, specifically to tackle youth suicides. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children account for one-quarter of youth suicides despite representing less than 5% of the youth population. 

Suicides have been occurring at record levels as well as preventable diseases; both are plaguing Indigenous Australians.

"Every Australian, Indigenous or non-Indigenous, should have access to the health services they need, where and when they need them," Opposition leader Shorten explained and added that Australia’s First Nations people "have the right to grow old."

Shorten noted that the mental health package would fund child psychologists, pediatricians and Indigenous health workers. "Improving the health status of First Australians is critical to our journey towards reconciliation."

The U$82 million plan includes some US$18 million to be used to address rheumatic heart disease, which has been killing up to 100 Indigenous children annually. Children in the Northern Territory community of Maningrida reportedly have the highest rates of Rheumatic heart disease in the world.

Other budgetary allotments are US$12 million for the Queensland-based Deadly Choices health campaign, US$14 million for sexual health promotion activities and US$9 million to combat vision loss.

"Wholly preventable eye diseases and blindness should be unacceptable in a developed nation like Australia," Shorten added.

Also a special sum of US$2 million in seed funding, Shorten says will help Aboriginal Medical Services to develop health and justice programs to address the link between incarceration and poor health.

Shorten declared that the Labour Party will reinstate the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council, which was abolished by the Abbott Government in 2014 if elected.

The Opposition leader said Patrick Dodson would be appointed Indigenous affairs minister, if Labor wins, making him the only First Australian to hold the role.

"We want to try something different if we get elected. We want to try bottom-up control. We want to try the idea of Aboriginal-controlled organizations making decisions," Shorten affirmed.

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