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The Army Aboriginal community assistance program is a joint initiative between the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Army to improve environmental health conditions within remote Aboriginal communities across Australia.
One project is undertaken in one remote community each calendar year. For each of the projects there is a construction component, a health component and a training component. The construction component focuses on the provision of environmental health infrastructure such as housing, water, sewerage and electrical services as well as improving access to primary health care facilities by constructing or upgrading roads and airfields. The health component focuses on enhancing existing community medical, dental and veterinary programs. The training component focuses on specific skills required within the community and includes courses on construction and building maintenance, vehicle and small engine maintenance, welding, concreting and cooking.
The Army undertakes projects only after close, culturally sensitive consultation with the Indigenous communities concerned. Work is not undertaken without the approval of the communities involved.
Abstract adapted from the Australian Army
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The third annual report outlines the progress that has been made towards meeting the targets set to close the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The most positive change has been in the area of child mortality where the gap has significantly narrowed in recent years.
The report provides information on the seven key building blocks identified by the Government as addressing specific areas of Indigenous disadvantage, including:
The Government has committed to investing $5.75 billion over three years to make long-term improvements in each of these building block areas. The report acknowledges the interrelated nature of the Closing the gap targets, and outlines how each of the seven key building blocks works individually and together to make progress towards the targets.
The report also acknowledges how progress can only be made through a partnership approach with Indigenous individuals and communities, and the large role that the corporate and community sectors have to play in closing the gap. The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australian's are cited as key instances of how this partnership approach has been implemented.
The report recognises that previous methods of data collection were inadequate to measure progress made; to improve the evidence base the Government has committed $46.4 million over four years from 2009-10. Finally the report concludes that there is still much work to be done to address Indigenous disadvantage, but hopefully through following the targets set 'closing the gap' will be a realisable achievement within the next generation.
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract