Only weeks after the Canberra Liberals pledged $4.5 million to Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (AHCS) so it could provide dental care, the Commonwealth Government has stumped up the money.
In a joint statement on Friday, Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt and ACT Minister for Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith announced $4.5 million in new funding which will enable Winnunga to complete the build and fit-out of its new, purpose-built facility in Narrabundah.
The full fit-out of the building’s first floor will include a new state-of-the-art dental facility, as well as enabling the social health and research teams to move into the new building, freeing up space in the old centre for other services.
Ms Stephen-Smith said the ACT Government was pleased to secure the additional funding for Winnunga AHCS after investing $13.5 million to develop, design and build Winnunga’s new purpose-built facility but stressed that the project had been entirely driven by Winnunga.
She had already been in talks with the Commonwealth when Opposition Leader Alistair Coe made the election commitment on-site at Winnunga on 27 February.
Opposition Indigenous Affairs spokesperson James Milligan took credit for the announcement saying he had directly raised with the Federal Government the need to invest in the ACT’s Indigenous community.
“This is a win for the Indigenous community,” Mr Milligan said.
Mr Hunt said that more than 5,000 people a year used Winnunga services and it played a vital role in supporting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT and surrounding regions.
“This funding will enable Winnunga to build on the current services offered, expanding its holistic approach to healthcare and improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.
Winnunga CEO Julie Tongs has welcomed the joint announcement.
“I want to thank Minister Stephen-Smith for her advocacy on behalf of Winnunga to Minister Hunt,” she said.
“Winnunga is an integral part of the overall health system in the ACT and it gives me great comfort knowing that my people will have a finished fit-for-purpose health facility that will allow us to deliver our comprehensive health social services into the future.”
The Winnunga facility is designed to combine clinical and community health services provision with broader social health and community programs, policy development, research and advocacy, training and community events.
The new funding will ensure it is able to achieve its aspiration of a truly holistic health and community services building, where all its health services can be delivered in a seamless way.