NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Improved environmental action needed to CTG

The image in the feature tile is of artwork that appears on the cover of the Australia State of the Environment Report 2021. The painting We All Share Water 2001 is by Gertie Huddleston, Wandarang/Mara peoples.

Improved environmental action needed

Earlier today the Coalition of Peaks (CoPs) issued a media release saying: as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we have been saying for a long time that we need to have a much greater say in how programs and services are delivered to our people, in our own places, and on our own country. The Australia State of the Environment Report 2021, released last week, reiterates the importance of this.

“The State of the Environment Report’s findings are shocking, but they’re not surprising”, says CoPs Lead Convener Patricia Turner AM. “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations see the impacts of colonisation on our Country every day. Our people aren’t involved enough in decision-making on key environmental and heritage issues, to the detriment of the environment. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap outlines formal partnership and shared decision-making, and clearly this mindset needs to be extended to environmental and heritage issues as well”, Ms Turner said. “The report found that Australia’s environment is poorer because of lack of Indigenous leadership, knowledge, and management. We’ve been caring for Country for 65,000+ years – it’s time to listen to what we have to say”, said Ms Turner.

The report also found that ongoing and intergenerational impact and trauma of colonisation continues to adversely affect Indigenous people’s connection to Country and manifests in unacceptable rates of imprisonment, suicide, and unemployment. “This report shows unequivocally that our connection to Country is vital to our wellbeing. We will never close the gap and reach the socio-economic targets in the National Agreement without governments acknowledging our deep, cultural connections to Country”, Ms Turner said.

To view the CoPs media release State of Environment Report highlights need for improved action under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in full click here.

The devastating 2020 bushfires killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals. Photo: James D Morgan. Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Elder reveals mental health demons

A stolen generation survivor has revealed his own mental health demons as he pleads for his community to rally around those with suicidal thoughts. Uncle George Ellis is a “third-generation dispossessed person”, his grandmother brought to Sydney from Tennant creek as a child, his mother growing up at Cootamundra Girls Home and father at Kinchela Boy’s Home. Uncle Ellis was taken to Marella Mission in Kellyville as a boy.

Speaking at the Cox Inall Ridgeway Connect, Reach Out, Heal our Way suicide prevention campaign launch on Wiradjuri land Tuesday, Uncle Ellis spoke of his plight and decision to make a change. “I never thought I’d say this out to people, I’m actually seeing a psychologist,” Uncle Ellis said. “And that’s made a big difference in addressing issues that I’ve had.” Uncle Ellis shared his lived experience and its impact on life, parenting and his own father’s “big decline” later in life from similar tolls from dispossession.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in suicide statistics, accounting for 5.5% of all deaths compared to 1.9 % of non-Indigenous Australians according to the Governments Institute of Health and Welfare’s most recent reporting period.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Stolen Generations Elder bravely reveals mental health demons in rallying cry for community support in full click here.

Uncle George Ellis – Dubbo Suicide Prevention campaign launch. Photo: Brycen Horne. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Australia urged to join NZ tobacco ‘endgame’

Leading tobacco-control experts have urged the federal government to join NZ in pursuing “endgame” reforms that could eliminate smoking and dramatically close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and white Australians. As the Ardern government introduced legislation designed to make tobacco products non-addictive and prohibit the sale of cigarettes to future generations, anti-tobacco campaigners said the Australian government needed to shake a decade of complacency and resume its global leadership role.

While adult smoking rates in Australia are among the lowest in the world, rates among Indigenous Australians remain lethally high. Tobacco-related disease kills more than one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “We are talking about a significant opportunity for change,” said ANU researcher Raglan Maddox. “If we are talking about closing the gap, eliminating or reducing as far as possible tobacco use is a massive step in the right direction.”

Tom Calma, an Aboriginal social justice campaigner whose work led to the Closing the Gap movement, praised NZ’s ambition and lamented our own. “The New Zealand parliament has embraced this target of a smoke-free Aotearoa. The Australian government hasn’t been so interested.”

To view the WAtoday article Australia urged to join New Zealand in tobacco ‘endgame’ in full click here.

Photo: Dave Hunt, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

VIRAL: Are You The Cure? film launched

Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s VIRAL: Are You The Cure? is a  deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C. Originally staged as a play which toured in 2018 and 2019, VIRAL is a short film made by Australia’s longest running First Nations theatre company, Ilbijerri, about navigating hepatitis C. The film is one of a suite of works tackling health and social issues, commissioned by Ilbijerri’s long term partners of 15 years, the Victorian Government’s Department of Health. These works are specifically designed for First Nations audiences and are performed and distributed in community spaces, prisons, and health centres across Victoria. Now, in film format, VIRAL is set to reach broader audiences, available via Ilbijerri’s website, and will be further disseminated by myriad partners across the health and justice sector, and many First Nations community groups.

This project has been commissioned by the Victorian State Government via the Department of Health. With special thanks to Liver WELL incorporating Hepatitis Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), Justice Health via Department of Justice and Community Safety, Thorne Harbour Health, the Burnet Institute, and the Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health (CERSH).

You can view the Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s media release VIRAL: Are You The Cure? A deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C here and the film here. The film below is one of the true stories you can access on the Ibijerri Theatre Company Are You The Cure? webpage.

ACT overincarceration funding ‘not enough’

Faced with disproportionate numbers of First Nations people in prison, the ACT Government has announced it will spend more than $20 million to reduce overincarceration and to improve health services for inmates. But Julie Tongs, head of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS), which runs a clinic in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), Canberra’s prison, thinks more must be done.

For perhaps the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia, the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison figures are concerning – as the government recognises. Indigenous people make up less than 2% of the ACT’s population, but nearly a quarter (24.4%) of AMC detainees, January’s Report on Government Services stated. The ACT has the lowest adult imprisonment rates in Australia – but Indigenous people in the ACT are incarcerated at 19 times the rate of the general population (well above the national average of 16 times). And 91% of Indigenous detainees have been imprisoned before.

To view the Canberra Weekly article ACT’s $20M response to Aboriginal overincarceration ‘not enough’ in full click here.

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services. Photo: Kerrie Brewer. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Preserving language a matter of life and death

With a history stretching back more than 60,000 years, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, have one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures. But that long history — centuries and generations linked by the common thread of shared languages — is at risk. For thousands of years, Indigenous languages relied on storytelling to pass down historical accounts, and with them a sense of nationhood. In 1788, there were approximately 250 languages and 800 dialects spoken. Today, estimates suggest that just  120 languages are in use.

That number is likely to decrease as more Indigenous communities across the globe lose their languages due to the consequences of colonisation: changes to way of life, land dispossession, assimilation policies and migration, as well as the death of native speakers resulting in the loss of intergenerational transmission of Indigenous language.

As language declines, so too does its associated culture and all the knowledge it has acquired over countless generations. It is yet possible, however, to preserve these ancient languages and cultures — and in doing so, improve medical outcomes for Indigenous communities who have too often missed out on the extraordinary medical advances of recent years and decades.

To view the World Economic Forum article For Australia’s Indigenous communities, preserving their languages is a matter of life and death in full click here.

The Sea of Hands exhibit was part of Australia’s National Reconciliation Week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Image source: World Economic Forum website.

Calls to pause post-intervention alcohol laws

Alcohol bans, first introduced by the Commonwealth during the NT intervention in 2007, lifted in some remote communities after federal legislation expired earlier this month. The end to the bans has coincided with reports from frontline services of a spike in alcohol-related incidents and health presentations, as well as a rise in liquor sales. Independent MLA Robyn Lambley said the end to alcohol restrictions in some remote communities was fuelling domestic incidents in Alice Springs. “What we’re seeing in Alice Springs is the rolling out of an absolute disaster,” she said.

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) CEO John Paterson has previously said the organisation had concerns about the “hasty” transition process following the end to the legislation and that more consultation was needed. “We’re predicting that there will be an increase in emergency department admissions, alcohol-related injuries, domestic violence, child safety,” he said in April. Earlier this year, Mr Paterson said he had written to the federal and NT ministers requesting a delay to allow Aboriginal organisations to prepare. He said he could see a future where the alcohol bans were lifted, but that “we’ve got to have good regulations”.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory government facing calls to pause new post-intervention alcohol laws in full click here.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has defended the lifting of alchohol restricitons in dozens of remote communities. Photo: Hamish Harty, ABC News.

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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