Justin Mohamed (pictured above) the chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the national authority in Aboriginal comprehensive primary health Care has called on the Commonwealth and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people by accepting three basic recommendations;
1. Increasing the engagement of Aboriginal communities and their service provider in the development and implementation of policies and programs. This is in line with the National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians agreed by COAG in 2008.
2. Resourcing NACCHO to enable our national peak Aboriginal health body to assist in the development and implementation of these policies and programs thereby adding to their effectiveness when they are delivered by our member services on the ground.
3. Making the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) members more accountable in the proposed COAG “Closing the Gap” mental health targets.
Mr Mohamed said whilst he welcomed the fact that in the release of the 2012 National Report Card Mental Health and Suicide prevention that the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples was included as one of our national priorities he considered the key recommendation did not go far enough in identifying the three major areas of concern of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health movement.
“Firstly the report acknowledged that Australian governments must start thinking about Aboriginal peoples’ mental health in different ways but the current report card continues to ignore many of the recommendations that NACCHO have repeatedly submitted to mental health enquiries and policy plans since the mid 1980’s.
These include the 1988Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the 1989 National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS), the 1993 NACCHO manifesto (see below) on Aboriginal well-being, 1995 Ways forward: national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health policy, the 1997 Bringing them home report right through to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental and Social and Emotional Wellbeing Plan to commence in 2013.
Mr Mohamed went on to explain that the evidence presented in these reports shows strong support for investing in culture and communities to support social and emotional wellbeing but to date there has been a lack of coordination and commitment
“Supporting self-determination and working in partnership should be part of any overall response. The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector has historically recommended that services be funded to offer an integrated social and emotional wellbeing program with Aboriginal family support workers, alcohol and substance abuse workers, social workers and psychologists available.
With the national consultations underway for NATSHIP, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental and Social and Emotional Wellbeing Plan to commence in 2013, combined with the current work and future findings of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Advisory Group now is the perfect time to increase the engagement of Aboriginal communities to find and implement solutions to our mental health and suicide crisis” Mr. Mohamed said.
NACCHO needs to be resourced to enable us to assist in the development and implementation of these policies and programs thereby adding to their effectiveness when they are delivered by our member services on the ground.
Finally as previous Aboriginal health plans – and in particular the 1989 NAHS have all agreed on the key principles to be followed in any mental health plan are, a holistic definition of health, a social determinants approach that involves genuine intersect-verbal collaboration, the centrality of comprehensive primary health care and the importance of Aboriginal community control.
NACCHO would expect that any future plan builds on these agreed principles, which have become increasingly well supported by the evidence over the last twenty years or more.
However, Aboriginal health remains overwhelmingly poor, and improvements have been patchy. NACCHO believes that much of the relative failure of previous Aboriginal health plans has been the result of poor processes for implementation and accountability. Addressing these will be critical to ensuring that the new plan is effective.
We would welcome any form of targets or a position where the government can report back on how they are progressing with closing the gap, particularly in this field of mental health”
NACCHO will be seeking a commitment from the Commonwealth that our organisation, affiliates and members will be resourced to be actively involved in the development and implementation of these policies and programs so that we work with communities and the government agencies to be more responsive to the broader issues around the many wellbeing issues of our people” Mr Mohamed said
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1993 NACCHO manifesto on Aboriginal well-being:
In a position paper on Aboriginal Mental Health alongside a “Manifesto on Aboriginal Well-Being” NACCHO (September 1993) it was stated that
“For Aborigines, mental health must be considered in the wider (Aboriginal concept of well-being) context of health and well-being. This requires that this health issue be approached in the social emotional context and that both social emotional health and psychiatric disorders encompass oppression, racialism, environmental circumstances, economical factors, stress, trauma, grief, cultural genocide, psychological processes and ill health.”