Minister for Disability Services, Mental Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt today reaffirmed the Bligh Government’s commitment to disability and aged-care workers in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Mr Pitt opened the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Statewide Gathering’ for representatives of non-government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers across the Home and Community Care (HACC), specialist disability and community mental health sectors.

The Statewide Gathering will run today and tomorrow (10-11 August 2011) and is an opportunity for information sharing, problem solving and networking amongst service providers.

Mr Pitt acknowledged providing Home and Community Care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities presented special challenges relating to healthcare and, in many cases, physical remoteness.

“The government is well aware of the challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers face, and we remain absolutely committed to giving you as much support as we can to help you provide high class community care services,” Mr Pitt said.

“To help improve the support available, the Queensland Government along with the Commonwealth, has increased funding to support community care services by $91 million – or 23.68 per cent – over the last three years.

“Through a development plan for HACC services, people on the front line have been given important opportunities to increase their skills and to have better peer support.”

Mr Pitt said programs run by or for the Queensland Government in recent years had:

• offered professional mentoring to Indigenous workers, volunteers or carers that had enabled 142 people to gain valuable new knowledge and skills since 2009;
• awarded skills development scholarships to Indigenous workers in the non-government sector which enabled 48 Indigenous workers to receive accredited training last financial year; and
• started a peer support program, with the first group of staff in Far North Queensland trained to conduct this support after completing the Certificate IV in Home and Community Care.

Mr Pitt said speakers at today’s conference would spell out what the National Health Reform Agreement meant for the HACC program.

From 2012, the Commonwealth will accept funding and program responsibility for people aged over 65 – over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – through a national aged care system.

The states will assume responsibility for people under 65 – under 50 for Indigenous people – through a disability and community care service system.

“These reforms open the way to create a better aged care system and better services for people with a disability,” Mr Pitt said.

“The Queensland Government has already invested in the Growing Stronger reforms to improve the way disability services are delivered.

“The national health reform process is an opportunity to build on these changes here.

“The agreement gives us an opportunity to develop a continuum of services that is simpler, fairer, sustainable, and supports the social inclusion of Queenslanders with a disability.”

Mr Pitt said the Queensland Government was working closely with the Commonwealth to make the transition as painless as possible, both for people who are receiving services and for the organisations which deliver them.

People with a disability, their families and carers can find information on government supports and services at