NACCHO Aboriginal Men’s Health : John Paterson launches Men’s Health Our Way – Let’s Own it #Ochre Day program in Melbourne around three main themes, – In Control, Influence and Innovation : Read full speech HERE

Ochre Day is an important event for reflecting on these issues, and for hearing stories of hope and empowerment, and learning what is working in our communities – of strategies that are successful in engaging our men to take better care of their health and wellbeing.

It is good to see that other presentations will also be illustrating the connections between culture, sense of place and wellbeing, and the importance of supporting Aboriginal men to become leaders, role models and mentors within their communities. ”

Opening address by John Paterson, AMSANT CEO August 29

Download or view the full 2 Day Program

Good Morning everyone and welcome to the NACCHO Ochre Day Men’s Health Conference.

My name is John Paterson, I am a Ngalakan man from the Roper River Region of the NT. I am the CEO of AMSANT, the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health peak body in the Northern Territory, and I have been invited to speak to you today on behalf of NACCHO.

I would like to acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurnundjeri) peoples of the Kulin Nation. Their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung (Wurnundjeri) people today.

This is also true for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are here this morning. We draw on the strength of our lands, our Elders past and on the lived experience of our community members.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank our hosts, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

And finally, I would like to acknowledge and welcome our Mr Phillip Matsamato of Broome who has been our patron since 2013

Ochre Day was first held in 2013.

It is an important initiative that seeks to bring a positive approach to male health and wellbeing that celebrates Aboriginal masculinities, and uphold our traditional values of respect for our laws, respect for Elders, culture and traditions, responsibility as leaders and men, teachers of young males, holders of lore, providers, warriors and protectors of our families, women, old people, and children.

Finally, NACCHO’s commitment is to support Aboriginal males to live longer, healthier lives as males for themselves.

The goals of Ochre Day are to:

  • Provide an opportunity to ‘showcase’ examples of best practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health service delivery;
  • Raise awareness of issues that have an impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health and social, emotional wellbeing; and
  • Enable the exchange of information among delegates on initiatives that are focused on improving male health and wellbeing.

This year’s Ochre Day program has been developed around three main themes, – In Control, Influence and Innovation. They focus on strategies that:

  • Enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to take control of their health;
  • Influence new health behaviours; and
  • Highlight new innovations in Aboriginal men’s health.

The three main themes sit comfortably with the Ochre Day logo – Men’s Health Our Way – Let’s Own it.

This year marks the seventh Ochre Day. The concept of Ochre Day was developed in 2013 by Mark Saunders and Colin Cowell to launch the NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health 10-Point Blueprint Plan 2013 -2030.

Deputy NACCHO chair Matthew Cooke, Chair Justin Mohamed and board member John Singer launching Blueprint 2013

The 2013 one day event was held in a marque in front of Parliament House Canberra to highlight the positive work of Aboriginal males in our sector and communities

We do not need another top down Federal Government strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Men’s health when we already have the foundations with this Blue Print.

See 2013 BluePrint Plan HERE

Yes ,we need to review and edit our plan but

As we say its Men’s Health Our Way – Let’s Own it.

Speaking of the history of Ochre Day I  would also like to acknowledge the great work of Mark Saunders who managed on very tight budgets the first four Ochre Days held in Canberra , Brisbane , Perth and Adelaide.

See OCHRE DAY history HERE

So why is it important to hold an annual conference specifically focusing on men’s health?

When NACCHO first conceived the idea of an Ochre Day, it was in response to what we were hearing in the Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector, backed up by evidence-based research that suggested our men have the worst health outcomes of any group in Australia.[i]

Our men have an unacceptable higher rate of fatal and non-fatal burden for almost every health condition, and we also have a higher prevalence of risk factors and risk-taking behaviours. We are overrepresented in mental health statistics and are three times more likely to die prematurely than other Australian men.[ii]

Help seeking behaviour is important for addressing health issues. Sadly, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men are much less likely than our women to seek help from health professionals.[iii] It is not surprising, then, to learn that our rate of preventable hospitalisations is almost three times higher than for other Australian men.

These statistics paint a disturbing picture of the state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Ochre Day is an important event for reflecting on these issues, and for hearing stories of hope and empowerment, and learning what is working in our communities – of strategies that are successful in engaging our men to take better care of their health and wellbeing.

We are looking forward to hearing from Lomas Amini and Ernie Dingo on how Camping on Country, which has been designed around the principle that culture is an integral part of health, is achieving great outcomes in communities.

It is good to see that other presentations will also be illustrating the connections between culture, sense of place and wellbeing, and the importance of supporting Aboriginal men to become leaders, role models and mentors within their communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men make up one of the nine priority population groups of the National Men’s Health Strategy. We will have an opportunity to learn more about the goals of this important strategy later in the program, including how we can become involved in key activities.

We all know the devastating effects of social and emotional wellbeing issues in our communities, and the Ochre Day program includes several presentations on culturally appropriate interventions for engaging with young people and identifying persons with depression and possibly at risk of self-harm.

Sadly, nearly half of our men continue to smoke. This is in comparison with about 17% of non-Indigenous men. As you are aware, smoking is one of the biggest causes of death. It will be good to learn about how a Smoking in Prisons project is being rolled out in SA.

Culturally appropriate health promotion interventions are vital for engaging our men and changing health behaviours. I am looking forward to discovering more about what is working and what doesn’t work. It will also be good to learn more about Aboriginal Health Television, which plays important messages in the reception areas of our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

Making sure that we have the information we need to help us improve our health outcomes is also important, and it will be good to hear about a national longitudinal study of culture, health and wellbeing that has been designed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.

I am sure that you agree that an excellent program has been put together again. I am confident that the presentations will interest and inform; and I am looking forward to our discussions over the next two days.

I sincerely hope that the knowledge gained from Ochre Day will energise you to continue your ongoing and important contributions to men’s health in your communities.

I HEREBY DECLARE THE SEVENTH ANNUAL NACCHO NATIONAL OCHRE DAY CONFERENCE OPEN

[i] Commonwealth Department of Health. 2019. National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. Canberra.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework. Canberra.

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