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The MCG Congress Lowitja Statement

Melbourne, 15 November 2012

The Lowitja Institute is Australia’s only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research institute. It began as the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health based in Darwin in 1997. It then became the CRC for Aboriginal Health and has been able to secure three rounds of funding from the Commonwealth CRC program as a public good CRC. This source of funding will cease from 30 June 2014 but the need for a national research institute in Aboriginal health funded by the Australian government remains. There is currently no commitment for ongoing funding from the Australian government and the Lowitja Institute has been endeavouring to secure private sponsorship to make up this shortfall. While private sponsorship is a valid source of supplementary income it should not be used to replace the obligation of the Australian government to ensure there continues to be a viable, national research institute in Aboriginal health – The Lowitja Institute.

The Lowitja Institute since its inception has been able to bridge the gap that previously existed between researchers and Aboriginal communities. It has been a leader in the incorporation of an evidence based approach to Aboriginal health both in terms of services and programs and policy. Its research agenda has helped shape Aboriginal health policy and practice throughout the nation. It has also provided a safe place for dialogue and partnerships between researchers and their institutes and Aboriginal community controlled health services and Aboriginal communities across Australia. Now more than ever we need to build on this success and strengthen not weaken the use of research and the incorporation of evidence into practice in Aboriginal health so that the gains that have been made continue.

The function Lowitja Institute plays as a public good research institution does not end simply because one source of funding cannot go beyond three cycles. This is especially the case as the Australian government funds the national peak research organisation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, to more than $800 million recurrent and only 1% of this budget would double the current funding to the Lowitja Institute. The Australian government should therefore provide recurrent core funding to the Lowitja Institute, similar to the equivalent organisation in Canada and over and above the current NH&MRC 5% research target for competitive research in Aboriginal health. Australia is one of the richest nations in the world with a GDP of more than $1.3 trillion but in spite of this the health status of Aboriginal people remains unacceptably below that of other Australians – there should be no question of the capacity of this nation to fund the Lowitja Institute from whatever source.

The 2012 Lowitja Congress held at the MCG, 14 and 15 November, was attended by more than 200 researchers, practitioners, policy makers and others. This meeting calls on the Australian government to continue to fund this iconic national institute as part of its overall commitment to Closing the Gap. This conference also calls on all political parties to commit to the ongoing funding of the Lowitja Institute.

This Statement was supported by acclamation by the more than 200 delegates attending Congress Lowitja 2012.

[For clarification: The statement proposes untethered funds from Government – not from the NH&MRC.]

Created: 05 December 2012 - Updated: 02 February 2016