ABORIGINAL leader Tom Calma has been tapped on the shoulder by the Queen, and he’s taking it as a good omen.
Reproduced from the Australian-Natasha Robinson
As the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice commissioner spearheads a push to change Australia’s Constitution to recognise indigenous people, Dr Calma said he hoped his recognition in the Queen’s birthday honours list would increase public awareness of the need for constitutional change.
Pictured from Left Dr Tom Calma .Minister of Indigenous Health Warren Snowdon.them Health Minister Nicola Roxon and NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed
“I think whilst Australia does come under a monarchist system we are still independent in a lot of our thinking,” Dr Calma said.
Dr Calma has hardly slowed down since finishing his six-year stint at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, where he also served as race discrimination commissioner. He is currently co-chairing Reconciliation Australia, as well as leading an anti-smoking push among indigenous people. He sits on the board of a dizzying number of health advocacy groups as well as chairing the federal government’s Indigenous Chronic Disease Social Marketing Programs Campaign Reference Group. Dr Calma – who was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Curtin University last year – has been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list for distinguished service to the indigenous community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, through contributions to government policy and reform, and to cross-cultural understanding.
Dr Calma said he was surprised when he learned he had been included in the Queen’s birthday honours list. He said the recognition also belonged to all of those who had worked with him to raise the plight of indigenous people.
Dr Calma is an elder of the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are southwest of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
He names his work in founding the Close the Gap steering committee for indigenous health equality as his proudest achievement.
The steering committee aimed to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2030, through taking a human-rights approach to health reform.
The policy work of the steering committee laid the basis for a wider campaign eventually adopted by the Labor government to close the gap of Aboriginal disadvantage in health, education and housing within a generation.
In the very little spare time he gets outside of his public advocacy work, Canberra-based Dr Calma enjoys spending time with his family, gardening and taking trips to the coast.