Media releases

July 7, 2014

High public awareness of Indigenous health gap

Research shows Australians understand Indigenous health issues as Medibank launches new Reconciliation Action Plan.

Australians have a high level of awareness of the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and identify 'health issues' and 'living conditions' as the factors likely to contribute to the problem.

Community research commissioned by Medibank to coincide with the release of its 2014-2016 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), revealed that 87 per cent of respondents know there is a significant difference in the life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Significantly, the research finds that the community over-estimates the size of the life expectancy gap, with nearly 30 per cent believing the gap was 'greater than 20 years' for men and 20 per cent believing it is 'greater than 20 years for women ABS data shows the gap sits at 10.6 years for males and 9.5 years for females.

When asked to consider possible reasons for the perceived gap, 51 per cent identified 'attention to health issues' and 41per cent of people rated 'living conditions' as the two factors "very likely" to contribute to lower life expectancy in Indigenous groups.

Of the range of other possibilities canvassed in the survey, respondents were divided about their likely impact. A fairly even spread of responses were recorded for other determinants such as income levels, family history, education levels, family trouble.

Medibank Indigenous Advisor Kate Malpass, the 2013 NAIDOC Youth of the Year, said while it was positive that Australians were aware of the issues facing Indigenous Australians, the disparity in health outcomes was unacceptable in this country in the 21st century.

"People know there is a problem. The fact that the majority of respondents overestimated the gap would appear to indicate a high level of awareness that a problem exists and that this is a significant issue that needs to be addressed in this country," Ms Malpass said.

"This is a whole-of-community issue. It requires actions across institutions - governments, corporations and individuals - to do what they can to change life expectancy outcomes for Indigenous people to create parity in life expectancy for all Australians.

"As a member of the Medibank RAP Advisory Council it has been a privilege to help guide the organisation through the development of its efforts to help close the gap."

Medibank today released its most comprehensive Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which sets out how Medibank will deliver 22 actions to achieve greater opportunities for reconciliation and equity in health outcomes for Australians over the next two years.

As part of the RAP, five Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) will share in a $96,000 grant provided by Medibank as part of its work to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service (ACT), Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Danila Dilba Health Service (NT), Gippsland & East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-operative and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation are the recipients of the funding that will be used to assist with a range of governance programs.

The five ACCHOs have nominated specific areas for funding which include training to up skill board directors and senior managers, strategic and business operation planning, financial and risk management, CEO/board evaluation and production of a best practice board induction manual.

The 2014 RAP was released alongside the company's Indigenous Employment Strategy that aims to increase the number of Indigenous employees within Medibank, and sets out opportunities for career development and advancement.

The Medibank community survey was conducted on 20-22 May 2014 and considered the views of a 1,504 individuals ranging across Australian States and Territories, income brackets, age brackets and gender.


The Medibank RAP Advisory Council:

The Medibank RAP advisory council is chaired by Medibank Executive General Manager, Customer Centred Healthcare, Laz Cotsios. Other members of the Council are:

Professor Ngiare Brown is a respected Doctor and Executive Research Manager of The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation .She is also a member of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

Kate Malpass - 2013 NAIDOC Youth of the Year and a championship-winning basketball player. She is also physiotherapist to the Richmond Football Club and mentors young girls through the David Wirrpanda Foundation and the Deadly Sista Girlz program.

Mark Yettica-Paulson - founder and director of the Yettica Group, which specialises in leading conversations that create change, social leadership and Indigenous engagement. He is also an ambassador for recognise, the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.

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