COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
The Turnbull Government will spend $12m to save children’s lives and help close the gap in Indigenous health, NT Senator Nigel Scullion (pictured) trumpeted this morning.
The grant will “focus on child health and chronic disease [and] will help address significant challenges in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities,” he said.
“This demonstrates how the Coalition Government works closely with important Territory institutions to deliver better outcomes for Territorians.”
In fact not a cent of this will go to encouraging parents to give their children good food and keep them clean (very basic tasks), or to keep their houses and communities clean (another basic task), or pointing out to the parents that these are legal obligations they have, namely providing the necessities of life for their offspring.
The reality is that every cent of this “more than $12m” will go to Darwin’s Menzies School of Medical Research, no doubt adding to the billions of words written about people frequently regarded as the most studied race in the world.
Researching – not fixing – the problems is what the money will be spent on:-
• Preventing early-onset pneumonia in Indigenous infants through maternal immunisation: a multi-centre randomised controlled trial ($3.2m).
• Vitamin D supplementation to prevent respiratory infections among Indigenous children in the Northern Territory: a randomised controlled trial ($3.1m).
• Early life and contemporary influences on body composition, mental health, and chronic disease risk markers in the Aboriginal Birth Cohort ($3.1m).
• Prophylactic antibiotics to prevent recurrent lower respiratory tract infections in children with neurological impairment study ($1.2m).
• Healthy Stores 2020: Reducing retail merchandising of discretionary food and beverages in remote Indigenous community stores ($900,000).
• Diabetes and cardiovascular risk among Indigenous women after pregnancy complicated by hyperglycaemia ($126,000).
• A prospective study of the aetiology, associations, clinical features and outcomes of community-acquired pneumonia in children and adults in tropical Australia ($126,000).
• Vaccine and antibiotic selective pressures on the microbiology of otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in northern Australia ($87,000).
• 2017 Equipment Grant ($84,000).
We sent this comment as a draft to Menzies at 11:42am with the question: “Do you regard this comment as reasonable or unreasonable, and please give me your reasons for your view.”
At 12:23pm Menzies replied: Please find attached our media release regarding Senator Scullion and Minister Wyatt’s media release. I can check if our director Alan Cass is available for interview to discuss the funding.
At 12:39 we emailed back: I based my comment in part on your [Menzies] release.
We have heard nothing further from Menzies.
UPDATE Nov 13
Professor Cass has made himself available for an interview at 10:30am on Thursday.