Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt has confirmed the non-Indigenous organisation awarded $1.6 million in funding to deliver Indigenous health care will be partnering with Koya Aboriginal Corporation.
After extensive questioning directed at the Department of Health in last week’s Senate Estimates, more details have emerged around the issue.
The Department said in Estimates that while their key focus is supporting Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, they are also looking at “alternative methods of primary care and alternative delivery methods” of health care to Indigenous Australians.
First Assistant Secretary of the Department’s Indigenous Health Division Mark Roddam explained in Estimates how the funding will be used.
“[It] will support Redimed to run a program of health assessments [for] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, followed by ongoing support through home visits.”
“In addition, the funding will support improved access to medical specialists for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Mr Roddam said.
Roddam said Redimed’s program was not to duplicate any other funded services in the area and should only serve those not already visiting other services funded by the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program (IAHP).
He also said a condition of the funding was that Redimed consults with Indigenous organisations in the area. It remains unclear how much – if any – consultation outside of Koya has been undertaken to date.
Roddam said the arrangement Redimed has reached with Koya is an important part of the consultation process.
Koya Aboriginal Corporation is an Indigenous-run not-for-profit that works to establish essential health services for Indigenous Australians in WA’s City of Swan.
CEO Marie Redman said Koya are unable to give an official comment at this stage.
In a statement to NIT Minister Wyatt said the Redimed plan, in partnership with Koya, will be delivered in a holistic and culturally focussed way.
“[It] aims to fill a gap in services in two areas of Perth where there has been significant growth in Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations,” Minister Wyatt said.
The Minister did not define what this gap in services was and failed to acknowledge the existence of Indigenous organisations other than Koya already delivering health services in the area.
He said overall, $3.9 billion is currently being invested in Indigenous health through the IAHP.
Anyone can receive Indigenous funding
Senate Estimates also revealed there was no tender process for the grant and that instead, an unsolicited proposal was submitted by Redimed.
Roddam said in Estimates this process was not uncommon.
“Any type of organisation is able to apply through the unsolicited process,” Mr Roddam said.
Minister Wyatt confirmed this, saying many proposals of this type are presented to the Department of Health.
“Unsolicited funding applications can be assessed against IAHP Guidelines,” Minister Wyatt said.
“The key consideration is their capacity to help in Closing the Gap in health equality.”
While each application is measured against its ability to close the gap, this ignores research that shows Indigenous-controlled health services are both better at retaining Indigenous clients and improving Indigenous health.
A report from BMC Health Services in 2012 stated there are higher rates of Indigenous Australians using Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services compared to mainstream providers. The report concluded that the benefits of health care delivery from such Indigenous providers were therefore greater compared to mainstream organisations.
Minister Wyatt declined to comment on what safeguards are in place for Indigenous organisations to make sure they are fairly considered for Indigenous grants.
NIT has reached out to Redimed for comment, however has received no response.
By Hannah J. Cross