Creating healthier smiles for Aboriginal children in Bendigo, Loddon Mallee

INITIATIVE: Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative CEO Raylene Harradine, and Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan.
INITIATIVE: Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards, Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative CEO Raylene Harradine, and Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan.

A new program aimed at improving the oral health and hygiene of Aboriginal children will be trialled in the Loddon Mallee.

The $250,000 initiative will see preschool-aged children given tooth packs and fluoride varnish through preschools, early children services and health organisations.

Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative will lead the year-long pilot, with the help of other Aboriginal-controlled health organisations across the region.

Levels of tooth decay are higher among Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children: those aged five and under are hospitalised for dental care at almost one and a half times the rate of other children.

The average number of filled, decayed or missing teeth is also about twice as high among Aboriginal children aged six to 11 as it is among their non-Indigenous counterparts.

BDAC chief executive officer Raylene Harradine said each organisation involved would gear the delivery of the program according to the needs of their communities.

“Our strength is how we come together,” Ms Harradine said.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan said BDAC was selected to deliver the pilot program because of its “outstanding leadership” in this region and its ability to work with other organisations.

Maree Edwards, member for Bendigo West, said the program was a preventative measure, aimed at ensuring children maintained good oral health.

The funding comes as part of the state government’s plan to improve oral health in the state and reduce the gap in oral health outcomes for those at higher risk.

The state government says it will support this plan with $14.7 million over four years.