The need for coordinating our multitude of NGOs


A meeting of some 60 non-government organisations (NGOs) yesterday heard about successful ways for services to cooperate, but also laid bare absurd failures of the current system.
The meeting was not open to the public but Donna Ah Chee, CEO of the $38m a year Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, says her organisation’s role in the health system showed how an NGO can complement – not duplicate – state providers.
The collaboration between the Territory’s health services, the Commonwealth Health Department and Aboriginal community controlled health services including Congress makes the NT the only jurisdiction on target to “close the gap” in life expectancy by 2031.
As a result of this successful partnership Ms Ah Chee says there had been about a 30% reduction in “all causes” of early death with the death rate declining from 2000 to 1400 people per 100,000,” says Ms Ah Chee.
The partnership on the ground means that services like Congress works on preventative health – keeping as many people as possible out of hospital – and if they have to go there, take care of them when they come out.
“There are two separate but interdependent health systems,” says Ms Ah Chee, “he hospital for the really sick, and Congress for primary health care, minimising the need for hospital admissions.”
In that way the primary health care of Congress, identifying patients’ health issues early, works hand in glove with the NT’s hospital system.
This “effective partnership” in health between the NT and Federal governments and the Aboriginal community controlled health sector could readily be copied in the housing and employment fields, leading to equally positive results.
Ms Ah Chee says the competitive tendering for government money is at the root of much of much dysfunction, causing “fragmentation of services, a multitude of services on the ground”.
She says in one small bush community there are about 17 providers just in the mental health field: “It’s bureaucracy gone mad. Everyone goes for the dollar. Better needs based planning is what’s urgently required.”
Ms Ah Chee says the meeting, called by the Department of the Chief Minister, has shown up the potentials and the problems of the system. It now remains to be seen what is done about them.


  1. On 2006-10 ABS data the death rate for NT Indigenous people living is 1541 per 100,000 compared with 645 non Indigenous.
    Moreover, the NT Indigenous death rate is the highest in the nation, 50% higher than SA. If there has been a decline from 2000 deaths per 100,000 (I can’t locate that figure) that is good but coming off such a high base it is hardly something to crow about.
    In recent years there has been a marked slow down in improvement in death rates suggesting that it is more medical “solutions” that have improved health rather than preventative approaches.
    There being just so much that hospitals can achieve without fundamental changes in lifestyles. The data suggests that hospitals and the NT Government Health Department can take most of the credit for lowering Indigenous mortality.

  2. NGOs. Depending on what area they operate in they are okay but in Alice it seems many NGOs operate in the same areas.
    It should be 1 NGO per particular contract. Disability, and care related industry.
    But there are a number of positions that should be for private industry as NGOs failed to fulfill their roles. Cannot believe that so many NGOs have failed those they were paid to assist.
    Aboriginal and youth organisations have proven over and over the issues they address, in too many occasions, have increased not reduced. That to me smacks of incompetence. And inability to empathise with their clients.


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