UOW Professor Ngiare Brown and NACCHO Executive Research Manager sees her appointment to the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council as both “an enormous challenge and a great opportunity”.
The Professor of Indigenous Health and Education at UOW’s School of Medicine said she was “humbled but excited” to be invited to the join the newly formed advisory council that will meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior government ministers three times a year to inform Government policy on Indigenous issues.
The 12-member council announced by Mr Abbott this week includes Westpac Bank CEO Gail Kelly, Rio Tinto Australia Managing Director David Peever, Australian Indigenous Education Foundation Chief Executive Peter Shergold and Reconciliation Australian Chief Executive Leah Armstrong.
Describing herself as a “pragmatic optimist”, Professor Brown believes the advisory council can help to make a difference to Indigenous communities across Australia.
“The council has a good mix of people from business from other disciples, so I think we can make a real contribution,” she said.
Professor Brown, who grew up in the Shellharbour area, is one of Australia’s leading Indigenous health practitioners and educators. She was one of the first Indigenous doctors in Australia, graduating from the pioneering program to train Indigenous doctors at Newcastle University’s medical school. She also has a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and was Foundation CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association in 2002-2003.
Professor Brown has also been Indigenous Health Advisor to the Australian Medical Association, Manager of Preventative Indigenous Health Programs at World Vision Australia and a researcher and academic at the Australian National University and the Universities of Sydney and NSW. She joined UOW as a Visiting Fellow early in 2012.
And while she will be bringing expertise in Indigenous health and medical matters to the advisory council, she hopes to make a broader contribution.
“I am also passionate about education, research, social inclusion and human rights, so I hope to make a contribution in those areas as well as in Indigenous health,” Professor Brown said.
She believes the secret to improving services to Indigenous communities and “closing the gap” of Indigenous disadvantage lies with reforming the system of service delivery.
“There is only so much the council itself can achieve. But the council will help to look at systems and how well (government) policies work.
“Systems reform is essential if we are to provide better, more effective and more relevant services to indigenous communities,” she said. “Good intentions are not enough. We need to match that with evidence-based best practice.”
Professor Brown said it was critical to empower Indigenous communities to contribute to finding solutions to problems they faced.
“It comes down to self-determination, ownership, leadership and contribution. We have plenty of talented and experienced Indigenous Australians, and lots of friends, colleagues and supporters. If we can bring that all to bear we can make enormous progress.”
The advisory council will hold its first meeting before Christmas.
Report and pictures: Nick Hartgerink
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