Community Health First campaign calls on Andrews Labor Government to act

Released on 23rd February 2023

All 24 registered independent community health services from across metropolitan, rural and regional Victoria, including cohealth, have come together to call on the Andrews Labor Government to put community health first in a new campaign being launched today. The Community Health First campaign is calling on key decision makers to recognise the critical role of Victoria’s community health services across the state in addressing the overwhelming demand facing our healthcare system.    

Time and time again community health services have partnered with the Victorian Government to support Victorian communities in times of crisis – whether that be the pandemic, bushfires or floods – and the health system crisis we are currently facing should be no different. We are the experts when it comes to ensuring Victorians get the care they need, when and where they need it.   

cohealth has enjoyed working closely with the Andrews Labor Government over the last few years of the pandemic, but while Government seeks solutions to alleviate the current health system crisis, we hold the answers within our services. Our strong connections to local communities built across 50 years of operation and our ability to reach those who need world-class healthcare the most make us a pivotal component in addressing the sustained pressure being felt by our health system.   

Against this backdrop, the Community Health First campaign is asking that government decision makers respect the central role registered independent community health services play in the wider Victorian health system and prevent further avoidable presentations in our overstretched emergency departments by implementing the following measures:   


  1. In recognition of the lack of core funding increase over the last 10 years, increase core funding to registered independent community health services by at least 20% to meet population growth over the past decade and help ensure ongoing delivery of critical services and health promotion work, with a commitment to annual indexation of funding aligned to inflation; 
  1. Cement registered independent community health services as the “partner of choice” for the State Government for any primary care and community-based health initiatives; 
  1. Immediately prioritise fair and sustainable investment in community health infrastructure and workforce development, including identification of critical areas of need and inclusion in system-wide forward planning; and 
  1. Work with the Federal Government to recognise registered community health services in the National Health Agreement, so that State Government funding for community health is matched by Federal investment as it is for hospital funding. 


All 24 registered independent community health services from across Victoria look forward to working in partnership with the Andrews Labor Government to strengthen local primary healthcare services, address health issues before they worsen, and keep all Victorians safe and healthy in their communities.  

Quotes attributable to a campaign spokesperson:  

“The Community Health First campaign is calling on the Andrews Government to urgently fund community health services throughout metropolitan, rural and regional Victoria.”   

“We commend the Government on their commitment to building new and improved hospitals, however opportunities are being overlooked to invest in prevention, early intervention and primary care in people’s own communities.” 

“Without adequate investment in community health Victorians are being robbed of the opportunity to receive quality care that is focused on keeping communities healthy and out of emergency departments.”    

“Our health system is facing sustained pressure like never before. It is critical that the Government ensures community health services are properly resourced as core partners in the health system, rather than as an afterthought.”  

Quotes attributable to Nicole Bartholomeusz, cohealth Chief Executive 

“cohealth is supporting the Community Health First campaign because we know that the key to solving our current healthcare crisis sits within our services.”   

“No other part of our healthcare system has the same level of community connection and stewardship and ability to rapidly enact scalable responses to emerging public health issues.”   

“Victoria’s community health services ensure that world-class healthcare is accessible to all, especially the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people in our communities.”    


Victoria’s 24 registered independent community health services operate across metropolitan, rural and regional Victoria, reaching hundreds of thousands of Victorians each year and employing well over 10,000 staff living and working in their local communities across the state.  

Community health services provide a range of services including health promotion activity, chronic illness and disease prevention and treatment, mental health services, oral health, allied health, general practice and community outreach.   

Throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Victoria’s community health services were central to vaccination efforts, community education and outreach to vulnerable cohorts.  

Community health services specialise in working with communities and people who face the greatest barriers to good health and wellbeing, such as people experiencing homelessness, people living with disability and experiences of mental ill-health, First Nations people, members of the LGBTIQA+ community, refugees and asylum seeker communities, and people who use alcohol and other drugs.  

In 2023, Victoria’s community health services are celebrating 50 years of operation. 


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