” Thank you for that introduction and warm welcome, and a special thank you to Minister Hunt for his commitment to Closing the Gap.
It is wonderful to stand here on the land of the Larrakia people in a room filled with such strength; with representation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from around the country, all with a common goal: to improve the health and wellbeing of our mob.
Today I’m up here wearing two hats.
As CEO of NACCHO, and as Co-Chair of END RHD – an alliance of peaks, community and research organisations leading the work to end rheumatic heart disease in Australia.”
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner at NACCHO Members Conference see Part 1 Full Speech
“Today is a game-changing step. Ending RHD is a critical, tangible target to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.
Our Government is building on the work of the Coalition to Advance New Vaccines Against Group A Streptococcus (CANVAS) initiative, by providing $35 million over 3 years to fund the creation of a vaccine that will bring an end, once and for all, to RHD in Australia.
The trials and development, led by Australia’s leading infectious disease experts and coordinated by the Telethon Kids Institute, will give hope to thousands of First Nations people whose lives and families have been catastrophically affected by this illness.”
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what works best for us.
We need to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are reflected and expertise is recognised in every way at every step on efforts to close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.’
‘The Coalition of Peaks is leading the face to face discussions, not governments.
The Peaks are asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to tell us what should be included in a new Closing the Gap agreement and we will take this to the negotiating table.’”
Closing the Gap / Have your say CTG online survey closes today Friday, 8 November 2019 see survey link Part 2 below
Part 1 Pat Turners Speech
Most of you will know too well the devastation that rheumatic heart disease is causing to our people. Some of you will have lost family members and friends to RHD; some of you yourselves will be living with the disease; and as Aboriginal health workers, a lot of you will be the ones on the frontline administering the monthly injections that prevent heart failure, stroke, and death.
END RHD’s vision is simple: that no child born in Australia today dies of rheumatic heart disease. And in theory, it should be just that, simple, because RHD has already been eliminated in Australia’s non-Indigenous population. 94% of people who get RHD now are our mob.
It’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are most at risk of developing RHD – our kids, kids as young as five have open heart surgery. And without critical investment, the number of our mob living with the disease will triple to 15,000 over the next 11 years. That figure represents another 10,000 of our children developing a deadly disease that is preventable. We cannot let it happen.
Today, my END RHD Co-Chair, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, is going to talk about the RHD Endgame Strategy – a plan for us to prevent these unnecessary deaths; to eliminate the disease by 2031.
After him, we’ll hear from Raychelle McKenzie and her mother Noeletta. Raychelle was diagnosed with RHD aged 8. Half her life she’s been living with RHD, getting monthly injections to keep her heart strong.
But first, I want to tell you why ending RHD is so important to me.
As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, the range of issues that require our urgent attention is extensive. Doing everything means that we rarely choose to focus on a single disease. There is so much to be done, we can’t afford to have ‘favourite’ diseases.
But RHD sticks out. It’s the greatest cause of cardiovascular inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.
We get it because of crowded houses, because a lot of our people don’t always have access to hot water, to showers that work, to washing machines that aren’t broken.
We get it because our clinics are overwhelmed with demand and sometimes skin sores and sore throats go untreated. We get it because rheumatic fever gets missed and sometimes it is too late for treatment.
At NACCHO, we became a founding partner of END RHD not because this disease is a simple fix, but because it is hard. Because it spans from housing to clinics to open heart surgery and exemplifies the gaps in the health system and in outcomes.
We are focusing on this disease because the only possible solution is a comprehensive, Indigenous-led, primary care-based strategy of both prevention and treatment.
Our people know what needs to happen to end RHD in this country. In fact, community-driven work is already underway across Australia; our communities are rising, demanding action, demanding support to prevent the next generation experiencing this unnecessary suffering.
But what we’ve been missing, is a blueprint that ties it all together. A collaborative strategy, involving community, government and research, that outlines what needs to happen, who needs to do it, and what it’s going to cost. A plan that has been informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities – our perspectives and expertise – and aligns with the community-controlled work and principles of the Coalition of the Peaks.
And that’s exactly what this RHD Endgame Strategy offers. If fully funded and implemented, not only will this strategy eliminate RHD, it will significantly help close the gap in health outcomes. Because by addressing the root causes of RHD, we will also eliminate other linked conditions like scabies, ear infections, and kidney disease that unfairly blight our people.
The RHD Endgame Strategy is research with an impact; a solution to RHD that we can all be part of, and I ask you all to get behind it.
Part 2 Closing the Gap / Have your say CTG online survey closes today Friday, 8 November 2019.
The engagements are now in full swing across Australia and this is generating more interest than we had anticipated in our survey on Closing the Gap.
The Coalition of Peaks has had requests from a number of organisations across Australia seeking, some Coalition of Peak members and some governments for more time to promote and complete the survey.
We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their say on what should be included in a new agreement on Closing the Gap so it is agreed to extend the deadline for the survey to Friday, 8 November 2019.
This will help build further understanding and support for the new agreement and will not impact our timeframes for negotiating with government as we were advised at the most recent Partnership Working Group meeting that COAG will not meet until early 2020.
There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.
The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.
To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here
The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here: