NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Agreement on CTG vital to making change

Image in the feature tile is of Pat Turner AM with A Report on Engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to Inform a New National Agreement on Closing the Gap in June 2020.

National Agreement on CTG vital to making change

Today, at the commencement of National Reconciliation Week Friday 27 May to June 2022, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM has issued the following media release :

National Agreement on Closing the Gap vital to making change

This National Reconciliation Week, Australians are challenged to be brave and make change. Members of the Coalition of Peaks have been doing change-making work in and for their communities for more than 50 years. The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) which has a membership of 144 community-controlled health services in every jurisdiction of Australia is one of the key members of the Coalition of Peaks and strongly supports the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

It was a desire to continue driving change that led the Coalition of Peaks – now a representative body of over 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations– to enter a genuine, formal partnership with Australian governments to Close the Gap.

This historic partnership and associated National Agreement on Closing the Gap set out how governments and the Coalition of Peaks will change the way they work together, to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It also provides a framework for governments, policy makers, service delivery organisations and institutions, and all Australians, to take meaningful action towards reconciliation.

“A reconciled Australia is a country in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have full control over our own destinies. A country where we live freely and equally, unencumbered by trauma and poor life outcomes, and where there is true recognition of our rights as First Peoples of this land, and our cultures and languages are honoured, protected and flourish”, said Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO, Ms Pat Turner AM.

“The National Agreement can make real changes in the lives of our people, but we won’t get there without Australians understanding it and the part they play in its implementation.

“The National Agreement’s outcomes are centred on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for decades is needed to achieve equality in life outcomes between our people and other Australians, while strengthening our right to self-determination and identity as First Nations peoples.”

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said, “NACCHO has been working on this new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, as a member of the Coalition of Peaks. This agreement belongs to all of us!

“The National Agreement is built on four priority reforms to address ongoing critical issues around the social determinants of health such as housing, environment, access to health services, education, justice and others as the targets in there.

“We have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for decades on matters that are important to our people and are best placed to represent areas like health, early childhood, education, land and legal services.”

For those wanting to be brave and make change this National Reconciliation Week, the Coalition of Peaks is putting out the challenge to:

  • Become familiar with and learn about both the Partnership and National Agreements.
  • Support their implementation and promote them in your own organisation or business.
  • Encourage your community to become involved.
  • Talk to governments on how to apply the commitments under the Agreements to communities and organisations across the country.

You can view NACCHO’s media release National Agreement on Closing the Gap vital to making change here. You can also find out more about National Reconciliation Week on the Reconciliation Australia website here.

Completing unfinished business of reconciliation

For Ken Markwell, National Reconciliation Week from Friday 27 May to Friday 3 June 2022 is a time for Australians to learn about our shared history, culture and achievements – and to find ways we can contribute to achieving reconciliation. NRW is a time to reflect on how we as a country treat our Indigenous elders and the gaps and barriers that currently exist in Australia that prevent them from ageing well. It is widely accepted that how a society treats its elderly is a measure of its humanity. NRW provides an opportunity to consider our most vulnerable older Australians, our First Nations elders, and to measure our progress towards reconciliation by how well we care and look after them. This will be critical in the coming years when Stolen Generations survivors will be aged over 50 years and eligible for aged care support.”

This year’s theme “Be Brave. Make Change.” is a challenge to us all to be brave and complete the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for all. There is no better place to address the unfinished business of reconciliation than to implement aged care reforms improving access to aged care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The aged care royal commission expressed concerns that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not “accessing aged care at a rate commensurate with their level of need”.

The royal commission identified a range of factors for this, including social and economic disadvantage, a lack of culturally safe care, and the intergenerational impacts of colonisation and prolonged discrimination. Their findings also revealed that long-term health conditions affected 88 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 55 years and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “should be receiving proportionately higher levels of aged and health care” than the rest of the population. Yet sadly, we find this is not happening.

To view the Australian Ageing Agenda article Completing the Unfinished business of reconciliation in full click here.

Ken Markwell is a Mununjhali man and executive general manager for indigenous services at Australian Unity. Image source: Australian Ageing Agenda.

‘They hug a blackie and move on’

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, has characterised Canberra’s Reconciliation Day as “tokenistic”, highlighting that more needs to be done to address the treatment of Aboriginal people in the ACT. Ms Tongs has asked “How many people actually turn up for Reconciliation Day? Most of them jump in their car and go down to the coast for the weekend.” Tongs argues that Reconciliation Day – to be celebrated on Monday 30 May this year – is meaningless without greater action to address the ongoing issues facing indigenous people in Canberra. “For me it’s about actions and until the government and the wider community take Aboriginal issues seriously I think that reconciliation is a long way off,” says Tongs.

Tongs, who has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for more than 30 years, says there’s more to addressing the plight of indigenous people in the ACT than merely on one day of the year. “A friend of mine, [the late] Dr ‘Puggy’ Hunter – who was chair of NACCHO used to say ‘They turn up, they hug a blackie and they move on’.” “If we are fair dinkum then people need to turn out and turn up every day not just Reconciliation Day.”

To view the CBR City News article ‘They turn up, they hug a blackie and more on’ click here.

Julie Tongs… “It’s tokenistic. How many people actually turn up for Reconciliation Day? Most of them jump in their car and go down to the coast for the weekend.” Photo: Belinda Strahorn. Image source: CBR City News.

Chance to put children front and centre

With the formation of the newly elected Government imminent as seats are finalised, advocacy body Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) – National Voice for our Children has expressed its satisfaction at the prominent positioning of early years issues in the campaigning, calling on the new Government to continue to make early learning education and care (ECEC) a priority.

CEO Catherine Liddle said SNAICC is looking forward to working with the new Government to progress much needed policy reform to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have their needs and voices heard. While describing the elevation of early learning by both major parties and independents as heartening, Ms Liddle said more needed to be done to consider the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. “The current policies and systems just aren’t working for our families or our early leaning and support centres,” she explained.

To view The Sector article Formation of a new Government is a chance to put children front and centre: SNAICC in full click here.

Image source: The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Keynote for Dr Mickey Dewar oration

Pat Turner AM, CEO of NACCHO, will give the keynote address at National Archives of Australia’s biennial Dr Mickey Dewar oration. The oration will be held at NT Parliament House, Darwin from 5:30PM next Tuesday 31 May 2022, and streamed live from 6:00PM. National Archives’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Director Phyllis Williams said this year’s event, which is held during National Reconciliation Week, is an opportunity to learn about Indigenous matters and explore how each of us can contribute to reconciliation in Australia.

“The oration will bring together notable Indigenous figures Arrernte/Gurdanji woman Pat Turner and MC for the night Gurindji man Charlie King OAM. National Archives will also have key representatives attending the event, including new Director-General Simon Froude”, Ms Williams said. “The Dr Mickey Dewar oration is a not-to-be-missed event. This year’s discussion promises to be lively and engaging for anyone wishing to attend.”

Every second year, a speaker from the NTis invited to give an oration about the history, society or culture of the territory. Ms Turner was raised in Alice Springs and is at the forefront of community efforts to close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Her talk will provide a fascinating insight into the challenges and achievements in relation to Indigenous issues. “I am delighted to be a part of such a prestigious and important event”, Ms Turner said. “With the impacts of the pandemic exposing critical issues in the healthcare system and Australia’s ongoing struggle to close the gap, now is the time to inspire change and action from all Australians.”

To view the National Archives of Australia media release Pat Turner AM to deliver keynote for 2022 Dr Mickey Dewar oration click here. You can book to attend this free event here.

The late Dr Mickey Dewar. Image source: Perth Now.

Asymptomatic STI testing research

Dr Simon Graham is an epidemiologist in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne. He received the 2021 Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership) for his research which aims to increase opportunistic sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing to identify asymptomatic infections early so treatment is provided to prevent poor health outcomes.

Dr Graham said he had wanted to stay in the field of sexual health but gain specific academic skills via a Master of Applied Epidemiology at the ANU. Dr Graham said, “The bit I enjoy the most is the field work. Not surprising since one of the components of my master’s degree was investigating outbreaks. Whether its visiting Aboriginal Health Services to visiting prisons in regional Victoria, I have always felt the real work is out in the field connecting with others and listening to people who live in the local area about what they think could be a solution. My brain starts ticking at that point in how I can team up with that local community and test that idea or measure what that community just spoke about.

“I hope that my greatest contribution is to listen, connect, and deliver on what l promised. I aim to design things that communities can own and lead and most importantly keep after the project ends. For me the writing and statistics comes second to the ability to listen and connect. The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted this. Although l have won fellowships overseas, I have never planned for my work to have national or international relevance. I am focused on the relevance of the intervention for the communities I work with. Sometimes we are successful at highlighting that this intervention or program made a difference and then we can share it with other communities so they can succeed.”

To view the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) article Research excellence: Build grit and set out a plan in full click here.

Action needed to protect kids in detention

On Wednesday this week Amnesty International Australia issued a statement welcoming election pledges from the new Albanese Government on key human rights issues, and asking for swift action on 11 issues in the Government’s first 100 days, including raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 nationally, establishing a National Justice Reinvestment Unit, and implementing a process for real time national reporting of deaths in custody.

Another human rights issue for the incoming Government’s urgent attention is the 5-year delay in meeting out obligations under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), ratified by Australian in 2017. In an article published this week in Croakey Health Media Lindsay Pearce (University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), Andreea Lachsz (Victorian Aboriginal legal Service) and Tiffany Overall (Youthlaw) discuss why this delay is putting children and young people in Australian detention facilities at risk, and highlight the importance of consulting with ACCHOs on the implementation of our OPCAT obligations.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Australia must act now to protect children and young people in detention in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

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