NACCHO to present recommendations on Indigenous Health Equality to the United Nations Permanent forum on Indigenous issues

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Representatives of NACCHO the national authority on Australian Indigenous health have joined more than 2,000 indigenous people from around the world who are in New York City for the twelfth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, May 20 to May 31 at the UN Headquarters where they will discuss culture, education and health.

Deputy Chair Matthew Cooke, CEO Lisa Briggs and Public Health Medical Officer Professor Ngiare Brown said NACCHO will be presenting a number of recommendations on Indigenous health in a Joint Intervention on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Organisation (IPO) network of Australia.

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“We will be emphasizing to the forum that Indigenous primary health care must be driven at the community level and access must be available.  The lack of health related data is of concern as it is needed to enable developing, informing and shaping health policies that are evidence based. More needs to be done in this area.

There needs to be a focus on best practice and quality standards.  Focus needs to be placed on those preventable diseases that can be eradicated.” Mr Cooke said

Mr Cooke said from the first day’s youth report NACCHO was very concerned to hear from expert health panel member that Australian Indigenous youth suicide rates are amongst the highest compared to others. International Indigenous youth suicide rates are reaching above 10%.

“According to the latest research, nearly one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults report high to very high levels of psychological distress in their lives – two and a half times the rate reported by other Australians. NACCHO believes that the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders should be given greater priority in the nation’s health policy agenda.

 In his opening address to the Forum Paul Kanyinke Sena, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues told the forum, “the right to culture, education and health are basic rights for Indigenous peoples, they are at the core of indigenous peoples’ right to life, our right to dignity and well-being.”

“This is a real challenge for us as we are well aware that Indigenous peoples are still lagging behind in terms of access to basic services such as health and education and Indigenous peoples’ culture is not respected by the wider society unless it is about luring the tourist dollars.

We are aware that indigenous peoples throughout the world — whether they live in developed or developing countries continue to die from preventable diseases. In fact, it almost seems there is a real lack of understanding of indigenous people’s vision of health.

“Indigenous peoples’ health is widely understood to also be affected by a range of cultural factors, including racism, along with various indigenous-specific factors, such as loss of language and connection to the land, environmental deprivation, and spiritual, emotional, and mental disconnectedness.” Mr Sena said

Mr Cooke said he hoped that the Australian recommendation reflects the direction of the forum and will be accepted when presented later this week


  1. Through the General Assembly and the World Health Assembly, that WHO and its Regional Offices be mandated to promote an agenda relevant to Indigenous health equality, in consultation with Member States and Indigenous health and social justice peak bodies in those regions;
  2. The term for the current Millennium Development Goals concludes in 2015. If these goals are to be reviewed and/or renewed, the relevant UN agencies must engage Indigenous expertise through the UNPFII and incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the development of future goals in order to progress Indigenous health equality;
  3. That the UNPFII promote the development of a body of work articulating the cultural determinants of health, to complement existing discourse, evidence and practice on the social determinants of health. We recommend a collaborative approach, including but not limited to contributions from the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; Indigenous Youth networks; the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples Issues; and of course representative Indigenous organisations, Elders and communities members; and
  4. That member agencies of the Inter-Agency Support Group on Indigenous Peoples Issues work with the UNPFII and delegates to promote special intra-country reports on priority health issues – for example, child health, men’s health, mental health, youth suicide, chronic disease.

Press Release from

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s delegation to the UNPFII 2013

 Indigenous organisations from all over Australia gather to be heard on the world stage as part of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City, USA.

The 12th session of the Permanent Forum is being held at the United Nations headquarters in New York from 20-31 May 2013. As a review year, the focus of the Forum will be on previous recommendations, such as progress made towards implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the upcoming World Conference of Indigenous Peoples to be held in New York in 2014.

The Indigenous People’s Organisation (IPO) Network is a broad affiliation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals, who engage with United Nations mechanisms and frameworks that negotiate, design and develop international standards on Indigenous rights.

The IPO welcomes Kanyinke Sena as chairperson for this forum.

IPO Co-chair Brian Wyatt and acting Co Chair Sandra Creamer will assist in coordinating the work of a wide variety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations attending this year’s forum.

 Discussion will also take place on the status of previous recommendations around health, culture and education as well as future priorities and work of the Forum. However, there will also be an opportunity for dialogue between Indigenous peoples and both the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Chief Willie Littlechild as well as interactive dialogue between Indigenous People’s and UN agencies. The attendance of Mr Anaya will offer an opportunity for Indigenous People’s to discuss ongoing challenges and human rights violations.

 According to Co-chair Brian Wyatt, this years Forum is a “unique opportunity for Indigenous peoples from around the world to assess the impact of past recommendations, particularly around the implementation of the Declaration as well as engage in honest dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the distinct challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

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