The Collaborative 2024-25 Federal Budget response

The Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative recognises the Australian Government’s initiatives in the 2024-25 Federal Budget aimed at enhancing healthcare services and ensuring equitable access for all Australians, particularly those from multicultural backgrounds.

Strengthening Medicare

The Collaborative welcomes the Australian Government’s investment of $116.2 million over five years from 2023–24 to strengthen and support the health workforce. This includes $90.0 million over three years from 2023–24 to implement health-related recommendations from the Independent Review of Australia’s Regulatory Settings relating to Overseas Health Practitioners (the Kruk Review) to grow and support the health workforce. This funding is part of the $1.2 billion Strengthening Medicare package agreed at the National Cabinet in December 2023 and developed in consultation with the states and territories. Additionally, $17.4 million in 2024–25 will extend the General Practice Incentive Fund until 30 June 2025 to improve access to primary care in thin markets.

The Collaborative supports the government’s efforts to ensure diversity within health service delivery points, enhance the cultural competence of health providers, and ensure culturally safe services for all Australians. The Collaborative emphasises the need for a sustainable, diverse health workforce to ensure efficient and effective health services that improve health outcomes for all Australians.

Cheaper Medicine

The Collaborative notes the government’s investment in making medicines more affordable amid rising living costs. The Government has committed up to an additional $3 billion to strengthen community pharmacies and keep medicines cheaper. The Collaborative is working with the Consumer Health Forum to disseminate information about the new 60-day prescription in multiple languages targeting multicultural Australians. According to Ron Deng, a consumer member of the Collaborative, this effort aims to ensure all communities have access to sustainable medication options amidst competing priorities and increasing living costs, especially for people on aged pensions.

The Collaborative celebrates the $18.8 million investment to make Australia a destination for clinical trials. As a member of the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance Consumer Engagement, Equity, and Diversity Working Group, the Collaborative looks forward to a national one-stop shop for clinical trials, which will be inclusive of strengthening participation and involvement of multicultural communities in clinical trials.

Cancer Outcomes

The Collaborative welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide $71.0 million over four years from 2024–25 to continue support services, programs, and research to improve cancer outcomes for Australians, in line with the Australian Cancer Plan. This includes $38.8 million to continue funding for free bowel cancer screening. The Collaborative is currently co-leading a national campaign to improve the cervical screening rate of multicultural women and multicultural consumer engagement in bowel, breast, and cervical cancer screening.

Medical Research

With a large membership of researchers and as a supporter of MRFF research projects, the Collaborative welcomes the Government’s commitment of an additional $1.4 billion over 13 years from 2024–25 through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to continue to invest in life-saving medical research in Australia, for a total commitment through the MRFF of $6.4 billion over 13 years in research funding. In particular, an additional $411.6 million (for a total contribution of $1.6 billion over 13 years from 2024–25) to continue existing research missions and introduce two new 10-year research missions from 2027–28 for low-survival cancers and reducing health inequities is particularly welcome. The Collaborative is currently supporting the Patient Navigation to Improve Outcomes in People Affected by Cancer from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds project. Additionally, the $329.6 million (for a total contribution of $1.4 billion over 10 years from 2024–25) for patient-centred research, including emerging priorities in areas such as women’s health, and supporting innovative treatments, clinical trials, and more advanced healthcare is supported by the Collaborative. The Collaborative looks forward to continued investment in the participation and involvement of multicultural communities in research.

Women’s Health

The Collaborative supports the Government’s provision of $56.1 million over four years from 2024–25 (and $400,000 per year ongoing) to improve access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for women in Australia across the life course, including support for women’s health services on miscarriages, pre-term or early-term births, stillbirths, early pregnancy, and menopause. The Collaborative is currently co-leading a national campaign focused on improving cervical screening rates of women of multicultural backgrounds.

Mental Health

The Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative welcomes the $361.0 million investment over four years to expand free mental health services, ensuring Australians receive appropriate care. The importance of mental health in multicultural communities was highlighted during the National Multicultural Health and Wellbeing Conference hosted by the Collaborative under the theme “Your Mental Health, Your Wellbeing.” The conference emphasised the need for more specific and accurate measures of multiculturalism in Australia, such as an indicator for ethnicity in national surveys, to inform decision-making. It highlighted the importance of community engagement, cultural safety, and integrated services in creating meaningful change within the mental health space.

There is a call for greater commitment from policymakers and increased funding for culturally responsive models of mental health care. The conference advocated for higher-level commitment from policymakers to address the social determinants of suicide, considering cultural backgrounds and norms. It promoted a multisectoral, collaborative effort in suicide prevention, involving multicultural communities in designing suicide prevention strategies and promoting flexible service models to better meet the needs of multicultural communities.

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