Report to NACCHO AGM by the chairperson Justin Mohamed
Above Justin Mohamed (left) speaking at the NACCHO AGM in Brisbane
It’s now just over 40 years since the first Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, opened its doors to provide a community health service for Aboriginal people run by Aboriginal people.
This inspired what is now an incredible network of community controlled health services which is advocating for, and achieving, better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia.
Despite the odds and many ongoing challenges over those 40 years, the movement has continued to grow and provide quality culturally appropriate services to thousands of our people.
Over the last 12 months, we have had cause to stop and remember where we came from and celebrate the innovative thinking and foresight of those who came together to make the Redfern AMS a reality all those years ago.
In January, we also joined with the Canberra Tent Embassy to celebrate their 40th Anniversary and their significant ongoing contribution to Aboriginal affairs in Australia.
Aside from these significant milestones though, it has been another busy year in Aboriginal community controlled health with many new developments and challenges facing our sector.
At NACCHO, we endorsed our Board of Directors for 2012 and I was honoured to be re-elected to the position of Chairperson for another three years together with our deputy chair Matt Cooke
We also said a reluctant farewell to our CEO Donna Ah Chee in May and we will acknowledge her strong leadership and professionalism she brought to the organisation. The board and myself greatly appreciated Donna’s work with developing the new NACCHO Strategic Plan and the complementary Secretariat Review and restructure.
Following an extensive recruitment process and a strong field of applicants, NACCHO is very pleased to welcome Lisa Briggs as our new CEO. Lisa is a Gunditjmara Aboriginal woman from Victoria and an Aboriginal Health Worker by trade. She has worked in Aboriginal health for the last 25 years predominantly within the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector. She will be a great addition to the NACCHO team.
There have been some other significant changes to our personnel over the last 12 months. Our long standing Public Health Medical Officer Dr Sophie Couzos left to take up a position as an Associate Professor at James Cook University where we know she will continue to influence and be a strong advocate on the ACCH.
Yet we are excited that we have been able to attract two very experienced and influential Aboriginal Doctors to the NACCHO team in Dr Mark Wenitong and, more recently, Dr Ngaire Brown. We are very excited about their future with NACCHO.
LEADERSHIP AND PARTNERSHIPS
While this important recruitment has been occurring, we have been building and strengthening our partnerships with some of the key Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations in the movement..
These critical relationships are ensuring our voice is heard and we continue to play an active role in shaping the direction of Aboriginal health in this country.
We have been able to provide input into Aboriginal health provision and leadership to both government and non-government committees including forums such as the National Heath Leadership Forum of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Close the Gap Steering Committee, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Working Group.
We have also had some success in having changes made to the consultation around the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equity Plan and have met with Ministers Plibersek and Snowdon on a regular basis.
In addition, NACCHO has been working to bolster our presence more broadly where it is relevant to improving Aboriginal health by giving keynote addresses, facilitating consultations and workshops across the broader health agenda, producing and lodging submissions, and developing policy at a national and international level.
To name just a few, NACCHO has been involved in the Deadly Choices NRL Cup, NRL Close the Gap Round, ASHM Conference, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the National Ear and Hearing Symposium, and the development of Governance Support Frameworks with and for our sector.
As we have discussing in our members meeting over the past few days in next two years NACCHO will continue to focus on three central areas that are consistent with our constitutional objectives.
Strategic Direction 1: Shape the national reform of Aboriginal health.
Strategic Direction 2: Promote and support high performance and best practice models of culturally appropriate and comprehensive primary health care
Strategic Direction 3: Promote research that will build evidence-informed best practice in Aboriginal health policy and service delivery.
For today’s presentation I will talking about my chairperson’s role in direction one shaping the national reform of Aboriginal health in four key areas
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (NATSIHP)
- NACCHO have made it our business to attend as many of the consults as possible and ensure our views, recommendations and voice is heard
- This our business and together with lobbying and advocacy it is important we participate in the planning process to ensure our voice is heard and tabled at the consultation stages
- NACCHO together with our affiliates will be submitting formal submissions placing State, Territory and National views to provide vital ingredients and direction for the governments plans
- NACCHO will also be developing our own “blue print “ National Aboriginal Health Plan that will be used for lobbying and comparison with NATSIHP
- There are now 61 Medicare Locals established and running across the country – they are here to stay even if there is a change of government next year
- Currently we have approximately 20 MLs well engaged with our movement and partnering to deliver services. We need all the MLs to be engaged in real partnerships with us and for them to hear the voice of our sector load and clear.
- 70% of the services that responded to our recent survey on MLs reported having no formal relationship with the ML in their area – it is crucial that we change this imbalance and get our services on the front foot when dealing with the ML sector
- MLs are obviously the current government’s preferred vehicle for delivering on its health reform agenda and we need to be at the table if we want to have a meaningful slice of the pie
- If we aren’t active and engaging with these organisations, we will most certainly get left behind. The Partners in Recovery money has flowed to the MLs and all sections of DoHA are now being encouraged by senior bureaucrats to stream their new funding into the Flexible Funding Pools of MLs.
- It’s not all bad news though. There are excellent examples from all jurisdictions where our services have taken a lead role in the formation and the governance of MLs and continue to play a key role in their ongoing service delivery and design; we all need to learn from these examples
National Primary Health Care Review
- The Department of Health & Ageing – OATSIH, has initiated the National Primary Health Care Funding Review.
- OATSIH have engaged KMPG to undertake the national community consultations.
- There has been a delay in the role out of the community consultations due to OATSIH needing sign off on their consultation papers. The process outlined to NACCHO states that the consultation papers will be provided to participating organisations two weeks prior to consultations taking place
In May of this year the Deputy chair and I attended the United Nations Permanent Forum in Indigenous Issues in New York where we put forward four recommendations for Agenda Item 4 a: Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Discussion on the rights of Indigenous Peoples to health
We were very please that recommendations 1 and 3 were accepted and included into the final recommendations of the permanent forum
We recommend that the Permanent Forum:
1. Urge States to investigate and promote models of community control for health, social, legal and other sectors and service providers;
2. Urge States that do not already do so to identify senior Indigenous political and bureaucratic positions and develop capacity building pathways into those positions in health and other portfolios
3. Encourage the World Health Organization (WHO) to revisit the report of the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health to address the cultural determinants of health – such as land, language, ceremony and identity – which are essential to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples;
4. Requests that States, as part of their reporting activities, provide information on progress towards national& regional& local systems which respect, protect and promote the principles of the right to health.
Over the last 12 months, the Board and I have also made it a priority to get out and see our Affiliates and member services, and wherever possible holding strategic meetings and workshops within organisations.
These visits include the metropolitan and regional districts in the majority of our states and territories, with additional visits planned in November this year.
And finally what are our challenges and opportunities for the future for better health outcomes for our people.
Of course, NACCHO has been continuing to carry the torch for Aboriginal community controlled health through the national reform process and making real inroads into securing better outcomes for our members and communities.
This is a real opportunity to have Aboriginal community controlled health better recognised at the national level and, while there have been some road blocks, we will not give up.
NACCHO has also undertaken a major overhaul of our communications to ensure our stakeholders, members and the broader community are kept as up to date as possible with activities and news affecting our sector and this will be refined in the future to meet your nneds
This has included a higher level of engagement with the traditional media, the launch of a new more user-friendly website, and a greater presence in social media with electronic communiqués and more regular use of Facebook and Twitter.
Internally, we are continuing to focus on governance and working with our Affiliates to ensure we can all shine under the heavy scrutiny of government and registrars.
Overall, it has been a challenging but satisfying year.
As NACCHO continues to deliver, we are sought out more by government and others in the health environment which in itself brings the pressure of more responsibility.
We welcome this challenge and look forward to fulfilling our strategic objectives in the coming 12 months and beyond – shaping health reform, promoting Aboriginal community controlled health care research, and working with our Affiliates and members to ensure better health for our people.