NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Raising awareness about LGBTQI+ discrimination

feature tile image of rainbow flag; text ' LGBTQI+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience significant and intersecting points of discrimination and marginalisation'

The image in the feature tile is from the Yarra City Council’s Celebrating IDAHOBIT webpage, published on 17 May 2021.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Raising awareness about LGBTQI+ discrimination

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Achim Steiner has released a statement to mark International Day against Hoomophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) – 17 May. In the statement Mr Steiner said “Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes and social norms leave many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people extremely vulnerable to discrimination.  Far too often, LGBTQI+ people are singled out for hate-motivated violence, or even murdered. Many are mistreated and even disowned by their own families. This has led to LGBTQI+ people, of all ages and around the world, being among those left furtherest behind as countries pursue the [17] Global Goals [agreed to by world leaders in 2015].”

To view the UNDP article International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) in full click here.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says brotherboys, sistergirls and other LGBT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience a number of significant and intersecting points of discrimination and marginalisation in Australia. The AHRC Resilient Individuals: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Intersex Rights report considered the intersecting issues of racism, homophobia and transphobia faced by these communities, with participants involved in consultations for the report raising a range of issues including: Little investigation into the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, experiences of racism, discrimination and isolation and the gap between Aboriginal specific service provision and service provision that accommodates for broader LGBT populations

You can read the AHRC article Brotherboys, sistergirls and LGBT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in full here.

You can also read about the 2021 Edith Cowan University (ECU) research which found that 73% of Indigenous LGBTQIA+ participants had experienced discrimination. The study, Breaking the Silence, was led by Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Braden Hill, a Nyungar Wardandi man and head of Kurongkurl Katitjin, ECU’s Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research. “For many of the participants there was a great sense of pride in being Indigenous and LGBTIQ+, however, the experience of discrimination, particularly racism, was a major concern,” said Professor Hill.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article Over 70% of Indigenous LGBTQIA+ experience discrimination, new research finds in full here. and also watch Professor Hill, one of four panelists, who came together at the PRIDE@AGSM Network Event: Queer Aboriginal Voices Matter to discuss inclusion of LGBTIQ+ First Nations People through their work, research and authentic leadership, below.

Fears for increased incarceration as legal services cut

There are concerns innocent people will end up in jail as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services are cut across the country, leaving more people to represent themselves in court. Queensland and NSW legal services have withdrawn from 23 locations due to what they say are increasing workloads and a lack of funding.

Atherton Courthouse, where Ngadjon-jiman man Terry Murray helps First Nations people navigate the legal system, is among them. Mr Murray, who works as a court support officer, said he had felt more pressure since lawyers from Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service had withdrawn from the Far North Queensland court. “Clients always ask questions and legal advice and if you don’t have the answers to answer that, that also puts them in an impacted position,” Mr Murray said. “If we don’t have a legal service, they’re just going to sort of do the best they can [representing themselves].”

Aboriginal legal services in Australia receive state and federal funding, the vast majority of which being allocated through the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s department. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Legal Service (NATSILS) says demand has increased “up to 100% since 2018”, but Commonwealth funding had not kept pace. The peak body called for a $250m emergency package in the lead-up to the May budget, but the request was not granted, and state-based services have withdrawn in regional and metropolitan courts. 10 Queensland locations — including Brisbane and Cairns — will no longer have court-based support dedicated to First Nations clients.

To view the ABC News article Fears for increased First Nations incarceration grow as Indigenous legal services cut in full click here.

Aboriginal Legal Services CEO Karly Warner portrait against Aboriginal painting of crocodile

Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Karly Warner says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services around the country are on a “slippery slope”. Photo: Patrick Begley, ABC News.

Connecting to Country strengthens culture

20 projects throughout the Kimberley, Pilbara, Mid-West, Goldfields-Esperance and Metropolitan regions will share in $469,384 through the Connecting to Country program. Connecting to Country is a competitive grants program that supports Western Australian Aboriginal people and organisations to undertake on-country activities that foster the intergenerational transfer of knowledge, preservation of culture and strengthening of communities.

The program aims to:

  • facilitate sharing of cultural knowledge and skills between generations, such as the preservation of language, stories and dance;
  • recognise Aboriginal cultural leadership within the Aboriginal community and support leadership development in young people;
  • contribute to stronger community mental health and wellbeing; and
  • strengthen, protect and maintain traditional ways of maintaining cultural knowledge.

To view the Government of WA’s media statement Connecting to Country strengthens culture and communities in full click here.

group of ATSI people in bush

Image source: Government of WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries – Connecting to Country webpage.

Aboriginal health leader kicks goals

From a member of the first ever all-Aboriginal rugby league team to the first person employed in an Aboriginal identified position at Nepean Hospital, Clarke Scott has been a leader in both his football career and his career at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

Working in community health for 16 years, Clarke helped break down barriers between clinicians and people in the community. “At Lawson Community Health Centre I helped to support people, and their families in their homes,” says Clarke. “On home visits, I would go along and help the community feel relaxed. Just having another Aboriginal person there really helps.” Clarke also ran Aboriginal Boys Cultural Mentoring Camps out of the Community Health Centre, ensuring young boys were connected to culture, and their responsibilities.

Up until 2022, Clarke was a valuable member of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Board. Having served two consecutive five-year terms, Clarke’s passion championing for health equality for the Aboriginal community continues to drive his career. Currently as Aboriginal Health Programs Manager, Drug & Alcohol Services, Clarke says it’s his toughest gig yet. “The stories behind the issues are devastating, helping to address those issues is the challenge for me. But I know it’s part of the job where I can make a difference,” says Clarke. He says having dedicated leadership in the Aboriginal Health team has made a significant difference to embedding change.

To view the NSW Government article Aboriginal health leader kicks goals in full click here.

Clarke Scott, Aboriginal Health Programs Manager, Drug & Alcohol Services

Clarke Scott, Aboriginal Health Programs Manager, Drug & Alcohol Services. Image source: NSW Government webpage Aboriginal health leader kicks goals, 17 May 2023.

Federal budget support for Central Australia’s youth

Following the delivery of the 2023–2024 Federal Budget by the Treasurer last week, mixed reactions have been voiced across the nation regarding the adequacy of funding for the education sector. Ongoing issues with teacher workloads, skills shortages, and wage caps have been compounded by strong concerns surrounding a lack of action on improving equity and diversity across the education sector, which continues to position marginalised socio-economic groups in regional, remote, and Indigenous communities at a marked disadvantage.

In a joint statement released on 9 May, Federal Minister for Education, Mr Jason Clare announced that the Australian Government and NT Government are working together to deliver the next stage of the $250m landmark plan for a Better, Safer Future for Central Australia to improve community safety and provide more opportunities for young people. The Better, Safer Future for Central Australia plan includes funding for community and regional infrastructure; on-country learning to improve school engagement; enhancement of digital connectivity; justice reinvestment; strengthening community safety; a Youth Services Action Plan; up to five new Junior Ranger sites in Central Australia; effective governance to ensure successful service delivery; and improving First Nations health outcomes.

The Australian Government will invest $23.5m to support the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and their families in Alice Springs and surrounding communities. This includes $18.4m to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) to expand their existing Children and Youth Assessment and Treatment Services (CYATS). The funding to expand CYATS aims to meet current demand and increase the availability of early detection and intervention services for neurodevelopmental conditions, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Additionally, there will be $5m provided to Congress in 2022–23 to support the development of Health Hub in Alice Springs – combining the four current health services into one single centre.

To view the Education Matters article Federal budget supports young people in Central Australia in full click here.

yellow sign, silhouette adult holding child's hand & walking & text 'School Bus' by side of dirt road in outback

Image source: Educations Matters.

Cash incentive offered to find health workers

A program to attract interstate health workers to Queensland has been announced by Queensland Health. The Workforce Attraction Incentive Transfer Scheme will provide interstate and international medical practitioners with a payment of up to $70,000 to move to Queensland with $20,000 payments for other healthcare workers. Applicants can take their pick from one of more than 2,400 communities to work in. To qualify for the payments they must work there for more than 12 months.

Minister for Health, Yvette D’Ath said it had become necessary to think outside the square to lure doctors to the State. “Innovative policies like this means every dollar we spend works hard delivering the right care at the right time, in the right place,” Ms D’Ath said. She described the scheme as a win-win — “more quality healthcare workers in our unique regional and remote communities, more efficient use of resources and great career memories to be made”.

Healthcare workers eligible for this incentive are medical doctors and specialists, nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce members, dentists, oral health practitioners and scientific officers.

To view the QLD PS News article Cash incentive offered to find health workers in full click here.

young ATSI boy having a hearing test in mobile medical van; male allied health professional & ATSI female health worker

Image source: Winter 2019 edition of UQMedicine Magazine – University of Queensland website.

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