In a recent Croakey post, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert raised concerns that the Federal Government had watered down the findings of the Central Australia Renal Study, which addressed the problems facing Aboriginal people who need dialysis.

Below Warren Snowdon, the Minister for Indigenous Health, explains why the final report differed from the draft cited by Senator Siewert.


Some background on the Central Australia Renal Study

Warren Snowdon writes:

I appreciate the immense challenges facing patients on renal dialysis in rural and remote parts of Central Australia.

The Australian Government has been pro-active and shown leadership to help address the growing incidence of end stage kidney disease in Aboriginal people in Central Australia.

I initiated and commissioned the Central Australian Renal Study to look at potential solutions.

While renal services are the responsibility of States and Territories, it is imperative that the Commonwealth work in collaboration with the NT, SA and WA governments to address the issue, as these governments manage the delivery of renal services.

The Australian Government has acted swiftly, responding to the report by investing $13m in accommodation for the NT Government only six days after receiving it.

This funding will assist the jurisdictions in addressing a key finding of the Study, that found that access to accommodation for patients and family was a priority to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients from remote communities accessing renal dialysis treatment away from home.

The final Report of the Central Australia Renal Study differs from early iterations as it has taken account of the comments and feedback from members of the multi-jurisdictional Steering Committee, members of the community, stakeholders and members of the Technical Reference Panel.

The December 2010/January 2011 draft version of the report was the consultant’s first attempt to pull together their initial findings (following extensive consultations) into a report-like format.

Feedback on this draft from members of the Technical Reference Panel and the Steering Committee led to the request from the George Institute for additional time to meet the Terms of Reference agreed by participating jurisdictions.

While the Report is substantially different in appearance, it retains all of the evidence based research and data gathered from the consultants extensive consultations and research and includes an implementation plan that has been adjusted to take account of financial years rather than calendar years and the need to fit with budget cycles.

Renal services remain the responsibility of States and Territories, and the report provides a roadmap for governments to start the important work of service planning within their jurisdictions to respond to the findings and recommendations within the report.

I would encourage others to acknowledge the Australian Government has already provided $5.3M over five years from 2007/08 to improve renal services as follows:

  • Construction and fit out of three separate renal dialysis rooms (Renal Ready Rooms) completed in Lake Nash and Barunga, and will be incorporated at Maningrida;
  • A mobile dialysis unit (bus) pilot project that allows dialysis clients from remote communities of Central Australia, who must reside in urban areas for dialysis, to safely visit their communities for short periods for special occasions such as festivals and cultural business;
  • Construction of six relocatable haemodialysis units in remote and very remote communities at Ti Tree, Ali Curung, Millingimbi, Ngukurr, Amoonguna and Ntaria;
  • Construction of two drop-in self care renal facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs.  These units enable self-care clients to undertake their treatment whilst in regional centres to attend medical appointments, meetings and personal business.


PostScript from Croakey: It’s a fairly safe bet that there will be plenty more to this story, sooner or later….