As part of the campaign by ‘Break the Sound Barrier’ to make hearing health and wellbeing a national priority in Australia, the Anangu Lands Paper Tracker wrote to the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health (the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP) and the South Australia Minister for Health and Wellbeing (the Hon Stephen Wade MLC).
Our letters highlighted the fact that about 75 per cent of Anangu children fail a standard hearing test and that many children suffer from ear perforations. We referred to the Federal Parliament’s inquiry of 2017 into hearing health and wellbeing and that its report, ‘Still waiting to be heard’, had indicated the gaps in services, support and funding. The report made 22 recommendations for Government action. We called on the Ministers to act on the inquiry’s recommendations.
Our letters were written in the run-up to the meeting of all the Australian Health Ministers on 2nd and 3rd August 2018. We urged both the Ministers to ensure that the ear health and high number of Anangu children with hearing loss was discussed at this national meeting of health ministers.
The Anangu Lands Paper Tracker has received responses from both the Health Ministers that we wrote to.
Minister Wyatt’s letter highlights the Federal funding that is being allocated to improve ear and hearing health – almost $97 million between 2017/18 and 2021/22 is being allocated through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme and the National Partnership on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment. This funding is to be used to carry our annual hearing assessments of children aged 0-6 years; increasing access to clinical services, including surgery; providing equipment and training; and raising awareness of otitis media symptoms (middle ear infections) and the need for ongoing monitoring and early treatment, including in remote communities across Australia.
His letter goes on to say that the Government’s overall investment of $3.9 billion in Indigenous health from 2018/19 to 2021/22 includes funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across Australia to provide holistic and culturally appropriate patient care.
Minister Wyatt’s letter states that he raised the issue of improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council meeting in August.
Minister Wade’s letter also refers to the COAG Health Council meeting and he committed to giving serious consideration to supporting the recommendation to make hearing health the next national health priority.
The Anangu Lands Paper Tracker will continue to advocate for children to live happy and healthy lives and that they should not be having to cope with hearing loss when it can be prevented.