Saturday, November 26th, 2011
After nearly 14 years of health service delivery, Djabulukgu Association has reluctantly decided to bring its operation of Kakadu Health Service to an early close next year. With too many hurdles to jump to maintain high quality health care and too little help to get over them, the Association feels exhausted. It is time for change. Many nice words are said about closing the gap on Aboriginal disadvantage but getting the needed support to make a difference is harder than ever.

This decision has been a very difficult one to make as Djabulukgu Association has been providing quality health care to the residents of Kakadu and Gunbalanya since 1998, after taking it on in what the Association thought was a short term ‘caretaker’ role. It inherited a very embryonic and severely under-resourced service at that time. Many years of effort have been spent building up the level of care offered to the community, and then maintaining services in often very difficult conditions. A number of factors have contributed to the decision to hand over the baton. They are not restricted to a single funding body or program.

Two of the key reasons are the ongoing difficulties with GP funding, and the lack of progress on region health reform.

The Djabulukgu Association Chairperson, Mr Jonathon Nadji, says “It is sad that we have come to this position but we have been telling government the same story for years. A little bit of help is given when things are really critical but the problems are not fixed properly and they come back again. I am really worried about the lack of funding for our doctors because there has been no solution from governments after months of work with them. “

On the issue of regional health reform, Mr Nadji says “Djabulukgu Association is concerned about the lack of progress on the Red Lily regional health board that we always planned to hand over services to. It feels like the Association and Kakadu Health Service have been pushed to the side in this process and we are worried about the future. I feel the people advising the Red Lily board have made sure lots of paperwork has been done but haven’t understood community development. It looks like being too long for us to wait for Red Lily to be ready now. “

There has been a long build-up to reach this point and it is not just a reaction to the current problems. Kakadu Health Service has been working under great pressure with an inadequate resource base for a long time. Through the commitment of staff and a degree of resourcefulness the health service not only survived but expanded service delivery and laid the foundations for regional reform over many years.

The Djabulukgu Association CEO, Mr Liam Maher, sums it with the following words, “Unfortunately the great work the health service has done has come at a cost to our board and staff. The health service executive manager, David Scholz, has done a great job over a long time but he and other staff have been working under enormous pressure to keep all the balls in the air. Something needs to change. By taking this step the Association hopes government takes a good hard look at how health services are supported and also revisits the regional health service reform process which has lost its roots in the community.”

Contact Profile

Djabulukgu Association - Kakadu Health Service

Kakadu Health Service is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service providing a wide range of primary health care serives in the Kakadu / West Arnhem region
Liam Maher
P: 08 8938 3200
M: 0419 824 398


Aboriginal health; health reform; government support



More Formats

View QR Code