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In 2008-09, 3.5% ($3.7 billion) of Australia’s total health expenditure was on Indigenous Australians, who make up 2.5% of the Australian population, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

This compares with $3.1 billion spent two years earlier.

The report, Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2008–09, estimates that average health expenditure per person was $6,787 for Indigenous Australians in 2008–09, compared to $4,876 for each non-Indigenous Australian.

‘This represents a per person ratio of 1.39—that is, $1.39 was spent on health per Indigenous Australian for every $1.00 spent per non-Indigenous Australian,’ said Teresa Dickinson from the AIHW.

‘This ratio has increased from 1.31 in 2006-07.’

Relative to the non-Indigenous population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are high users of publicly provided services, such as public hospital and community health services.

‘On the other hand, Indigenous Australians tend not to use as many medical, pharmaceutical, dental and other specialist health services that are, for the most part, privately provided.’

Community health services, including those provided by the Australian Government funded Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, accounted for just over 22% of all Indigenous health expenditure, compared with 4.5% of all non-Indigenous health expenditure.

‘Per person expenditure on public hospital services for Indigenous Australians was more than double that for non-Indigenous Australians,’ Ms Dickinson said.

‘Again, this reflects the patterns of use of different service types between Indigenous and non- Indigenous Australians.’

Conversely, more was spent on non-Indigenous Australians in benefits paid through the Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The vast majority (91%) of total health expenditure for Indigenous Australians in 2008–09 was by governments: 48% by state and territory governments and 43% by the Australian Government.

‘For non-Indigenous Australians, 69.5% of total health expenditure was by governments,’ Ms Dickinson said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 24 June 2011

Further information: Ms Teresa Dickinson, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5104, mob. 0439 430 577

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer (02) 6244 1032

Full report: Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2008–09