NACCHO media: Aboriginal health to benefit from NACCHO “KUMMUNDOO” partnership with RAAF


photo RAAF

In an effort to bolster activities to close the gap in Aboriginal health, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) health professionals will be working in Aboriginal-run health services across Australia under an agreement announced today at a NACCHO Parliamentary breakfast in Canberra

Picture above :NACCHO chair Matthew Cooke and CEO Lisa Briggs with Acting Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Leo Davies ,Federal  Health Minister Sussan Ley and Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the RAAF have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) committing both organisations to work together for the next five years on agreed health-related initiatives.

Acting Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC said the MoU was part of Air Force’s commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians.

“Air Force is committed to playing our part in closing the gap for Aboriginal Australians. This partnership with NACCHO will facilitate RAAF dental personnel to work alongside Aboriginal health workers in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

“This will help reduce waiting times for Aboriginal health services and allow more Aboriginal people to access the care they need. It will also provide benefits for RAAF dentists who will be able to use their skills in different health settings and patients with complex needs,” AVM Davies said.

NACCHO Chairperson Matthew Cooke said this collaboration was a win for Aboriginal health and RAAF personnel.

“Our health services, run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people, are the preferred provider of primary health for Australia’s Aboriginal population and demand is growing at around 6% a year,” Mr Cooke said.

“In many locations we have waiting lists for our services, especially in high demand specialities like dentistry. We have a chronic shortage of health specialists, especially in some of our regional and remote areas. There are growing numbers of Aboriginal health specialists graduating but not enough yet to fill the demand.”

Mr Cooke said poor oral health can impact much more broadly on a person’s health and wellbeing like cardiovascular disease or birth weights of babies.

“On a lesser scale, every Australian has experienced how painful a toothache can be and how it can impact on your ability just to get through the day.

“If you are diabetic, which you are nine times more likely to be if you are an Aboriginal person, and need to take medication with food, a toothache can complicate your health even more.

“This is why this partnership with the RAAF is so important. Getting more Aboriginal people into our dental services means we can have an impact not just on oral health but in other health areas too.”

Mr Cooke said the dental initiative was the first in a series of health initiatives being planned between the RAAF and NACCHO.

He said NACCHO was also working on a number of other partnerships to deliver ongoing affordable and accessible health care to Aboriginal people.


Acting Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC

Ladies and gentlemen firstly, on behalf of the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown, I’d like to thank Aunty Matilda House for her Welcome this morning, and I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this part of our wonderful nation. And I pay my respects to all Elders – wherever they may be – past, present and emerging.

As part of our NAIDOC Week celebrations last year, the Chief launched an Air Force Indigenous Handbook. The idea was to provide basic information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and our about Air Force Indigenous programs. It was in that handbook that we first announced Kummundoo as part of our vision for the Air Force Indigenous Strategy:  Our Place – Our Skies.

To my mind, Kummundoo is a very good choice of name for at least three reasons:

  • First, to choose an Aboriginal word honours an ancient language (in this case the language of the Queensland Kalkadoon people).
  • Second, the word Kummundoo translates as “eagle” – and as I’m sure most of you are aware, the eagle is a very important part of our Air Force culture.
  • Finally, Kummundoo, to my ear sounds very much like the phrase “Come-and-Do” – it has an active dimension to the sound. And I think that’s appropriate.

We, in Air Force, have greatly admired the work that has been done by Army’s Aboriginal Community Assistance Program over the years. I am pleased that through the Kummundoo initiative, we too will have the opportunity to partner with communities across Australia.

In essence, Kummundoo will create opportunities for small teams of Air Force people to be deployed to assist communities on agreed local issues. And the scope of potential opportunities is very broad. That’s because we have such a wide cross section of workforce skills – in particular our trades and professions.

Now, while we hope that agreed Kummundoo initiatives will be beneficial to communities, there are some very real benefits to Air Force as well. For example:

  • Through Kummundoo, we will have a growing number of in-Service, culturally aware people who have participated in the program. And that awareness makes us stronger.
  • Kummundoo will provide a powerful opportunity to showcase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander role models – and also our non-Indigenous role models.
  • Kummundoo will promote a greater awareness in community about our Air Force Indigenous youth programs, and about our career options, and the ADF specialised pathways to employment programs.
  • As a secondary benefit, we anticipate that Kummundoo will contribute to our workforce retention strategies, and
  • Finally, it will provide an opportunity for Air Force people to exercise their skills and showcase their professionalism in quite unique environments.

In essence, Kummundoo is very much a win-win proposition.

Before I close, the Chief has asked me to pass on his appreciation for the way in which the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation has embraced this opportunity and worked so positively with Air Force to create this Memorandum of Understanding.

To you, Chief Executive Officer Lisa Briggs, and to you, Board Chairperson Matthew Cooke, I congratulate you and your team.

Your sense of what is possible, and your willingness to make this idea a reality, is commendable.

The Chief and I look forward to hearing positive things about Kummundoo in the very near future.


Lisa Jackson Pulver (file photo)



I open by paying my respects to our Elders of this country, and acknowledge you Aunty Matilda, for the always generous welcome you provide. I feel welcome on your land and in this house – thank you. I acknowledge the Elder of the Air Force, Uncle Harry Allie, our esteemed guests, colleagues, friends and family.

I acknowledge this place as a Koori woman whose peoples come from the Lands of the Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta; and from the far north-coast to the Dhunghutti Lands and even further afield to those peoples of Wales (kəm.rɨ) and those of the ancient lands of Alba (or Scotland).

I am a proud member of the Royal Australian Air Force, just as my father was, and a descendent of many a warrior who has served our nation in uniform.

Aunt, I am delighted to report that Air Force has embraced many of the ancient traditions of our ancestors as a part of professional practice within our organisation. For example, people know the importance of Acknowledging Country, of participating in Welcomes, understanding and recognising the many roles or our Aboriginal and Torres Strait members play, and of the centrality of belonging to country. I spend time at many meetings, from international security conferences through to Air Shows, sharing the importance of the first Welcome to Country this House had seen, back in 2008 – and how that was the perceivable shift in the psyche of modern day Australia which continues today.

Our important gatherings have Welcomes, smoking ceremonies or acknowledgements. Last year I had the privilege of witnessing the Chief formally restore full control of a parcel of Country to the Maralinga Tjarutja people. It gives me joy to see our senior leadership group so embrace Aboriginal culture. We even have a FA18 Classic Hornet – named the Worimi Hornet after the Traditional peoples of the Williamtown Air Base, painted up with the Kilyarr Kilyarr, the Wedgetail Eagle story. The Woromi Hornet also honours one of our Aboriginal pilots of World War 2, WOFF Len Waters.

And of course, the WOFF was not the first, the talents and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are known throughout our history, from participating in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) through to todays’ contemporary and modern RAAF.  The first steps – or rather flights – in our organisation began at the Central Flying School in Point Cook in 1914. Since then, our peoples have served in every major campaign and action, in every job imaginable. From pilots, navigators, mechanics, airfield defence, welders, photographers, logistics, engineers – this list goes on.

As mentioned by our Deputy Chief, NAIDOC Week is acknowledged in Air Force annually, and we were delighted with the theme of “Serving Country” last year. It was a time that focussed the conversations around what it is to serve, now, in the past, and into the future, across the organisation.

Along with the handbook, the Chief released the Maliyan Medallion – Maliyan is the Wiradjuri word for Eagle – as a part of Air Forces annual NAIDOC week celebrations. This medallion is very special. They are given only to those who have been recognised at the highest levels in our organisation for their leadership. I am delighted that the Chief, in recognition of the importance of this day with NACCHO, has authorised the giving of a Maliyan Medallion to the Chairman and to the CEO of NACCHO in recognition of our partnership with them.

This years’ NAIDOC theme is “We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate”. With the steps we are taking with NACCHO and Kummundoo, the learnings, respect and celebrations will certainly be a two way process that acknowledges not only the Sacred Land that we stand on, but also of the Sacred Skies we fly in. Kummundoo will not only support the communities our teams are deployed to, but will allow community to see the diversity of roles in the RAAF.

This program is a natural progression for us, and one that I am sure will develop over time as we Stand on Sacred Ground, to Learn, Respect and Celebrate.

Thank you.


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