The inquiry into the 2017-18 annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing focused on hearing services and follows the committee’s own 2017 inquiry into the hearing health and wellbeing of Australians.
The 2017 hearing health report was well received by those in the hearing health sectors and has been a catalyst for the Roadmap for Hearing Health, recently released by the federal government and COAG. Given the significant commitment and contributions by hearing health stakeholders that informed that 2017 hearing health inquiry, the committee was keen to examine the government’s progress relating to its previous recommendations. The committee also looked at developments in hearing health policy and programs more broadly as contained in the annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.
The committee’s report has highlighted a range of areas where the government has acted, or intends to act, on the hearing health report recommendations, and these are very welcome. These features include additional funding to target the hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; the funding of Sound Scouts, an online hearing assessments for school-age children, which was recommended by the committee; and the Roadmap for Hearing Health itself, which presents an overarching direction for hearing health services and priorities and represents a new commitment by state and federal governments to addressing many of the issues outlined in our report.
While these are all positive steps, a number of hearing health stakeholders expressed their disappointment that some of the hearing health report’s recommendations are yet to be actioned. The committee has therefore reiterated many of its hearing health report recommendations that remain relevant today.
The committee also put forward six additional recommendations relating to hearing services and the NDIS, mandatory hearing screening for children, a pilot hearing and screening program for adults accessing the aged-care system, and research into balance disorders.
The Roadmap for Hearing Health should be supported by a clear delineation of jurisdictional responsibilities, time lines for implementation and funding.
I want to thank the stakeholders, individuals and government agencies who participated in both inquiries with such keen interest. I also particularly, as we come to the end of the 45th Parliament, thank my committee colleagues for their continued commitment to sleep health, hearing health and health policy more broadly. It has been a committee that’s worked exceptionally well, and I pay particular tribute to my deputy chair, the member for Hindmarsh.
Finally, as these are the last reports we will be tabling in this parliament, I want to place on record the committee’s thanks for the work of the committee staff, which has been exceptional during the course of this parliament, and we are in their debt. I commend both of these reports to the parliament.