NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: The NACCHO Board supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

The image in the feature tile is of the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills.

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.

The NACCHO Board supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

NACCHO supports constitutional recognition and a First Nations Voice to Parliament. We are an organisation representing 145 Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations operating over 550 clinics across Australia, delivering services to over 410,000 Australians.

NACCHO supports the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including a Voice, treaty, and truth.

Alignment with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap

The Voice also aligns with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Supporting self-determination and building the capacity of the community-control sector is central to the commitment that all Australian governments made as part of this seminal Agreement. The Voice will only lend strength to the Agreement and to existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and structures.

The power of a Voice

There is one excellent example of what happens when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice. It was when we led the way during COVID. The Aboriginal community-controlled sector stepped up early, knowing that the COVID pandemic had the potential to cause devastation among our people.

Almost 2,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives were saved by allowing our communities to design their own COVID responses in their own communities, when the Commonwealth Government heard our voice and even handed over the COVID funding direct to our organisations.

In early 2020, our sector asked the Commonwealth to sit down with us and get an emergency plan in place. Together, we set up the National Indigenous COVID Advisory Committee co-chaired by NACCHO and the Australian Government and including representatives from all state and territory governments. In addition, there was timely funding provided by the Australian Government, disbursed to our members. They knew, better than anyone else, what our communities needed. This meant that targeted funding was on the ground within days. The response had to be rapid, and it was.

As a result of our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID response, lives were saved. The original estimate was that 2,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would die. This was the estimated share of deaths based on population share, burden of disease and comorbidities. Yet only about 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lost their lives. A voice and a genuine partnership with the Department of Health, therefore, saved almost 2,000 lives. This is the power of a Voice.

To download the statement go here.

Honouring Elders and their contributions to health and wellbeing

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is, ‘For our Elders’. This is a concept in action in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) around the country. ACCHOs and ACCOs are aware they stand on the shoulders of the Elders and older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are responsible for establishing systems and structures outside of the mainstream, to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.

These organisations are not only part of the fabric of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, ACCHOs are now considered a leading model for primary healthcare in Australia and the world. Working alongside ACCOs, they deliver culturally secure and effective services, fostering engagement and improving health outcomes. Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative and Kura Yerlo are among many organisations that have designed programs and events specifically tailored to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. These initiatives aim to encourage cultural engagement, promote social connections and facilitate health and wellbeing.

Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative Men’s Group is aware of the significant role of Elders in their community, what they have fought for, the culture they know, their wisdom and the importance of providing the space for that wisdom to be shared with younger generations. Levi Geebung, the Social & Emotional Wellbeing Caseworker who leads the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative Men’s Group stated:

“Elders are one of the main driving forces for why we do what we do, this is the passing down of knowledge and culture. If it wasn’t for the teaching I’ve received from my Elders, I wouldn’t be able to pass that knowledge on to those who attend our men’s group.”

To read the Croakey Health Media article Honouring Elders and their contributions to health and wellbeing in full click here

Kura Yerlo Elders. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

The future of NDIS in remote communities

Local expertise and responses are urgently needed for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, where little has been delivered since the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was launched. Founding NDIS chair Bruce Bonyhandy, who is co-chairing the Independent Review Panel has also said the health and education sectors need to step up to ensure that the NDIS is sustainable and transformative for people with disability. It comes as the NDIS review panel released its interim report last week, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the NDIS and amid ongoing concerns for the scheme’s future.

In the NDIS Review’s interim report, a NDIS participant’s family member said, “I love the NDIS. It has been a life saver for my family but not without stress, anxiety…and seeing my family at breaking point. Every year we go through the same mundane crap and have to fight the fight, not knowing what the outcome will be.”

Members of the Review spent a week visiting the NT, spending time with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Bonyhandy said the lack of impact from the NDIS over eight years, especially in remote communities, “is not just disappointing; it is deeply shocking that so little has been achieved.” He said the NDIA is still flying or driving support workers into and out of remote communities, rather than building the NDIS community-by-community, training local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be support workers, allied health assistants, recovery coaches and peer workers.

This would not only be more cost effective, “it would also boost remote economies, deliver culturally-safe services, and help Close the Gap,” he said.

Read the full Croakey Health Media article here and to get involved with the NDIS Review go here.

NDIS Logo. Image Source: UNSW Canberra.

Health key policy area for the Voice

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be asked to give advice on four main policy areas including health, education, jobs and housing, if the referendum held later this year is successful. At the National Press Club on Wednesday Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said, “The Voice will be tasked with taking the long-view.

“I will be asking the Voice for their input to solve these most pressing issues,” she said.

Minister Burney said Australia needs new perspectives to solve old challenges. To illustrate how the Voice would work and how better policy can be developed, Ms Burney used the example of the Indigenous-led birthing on country movement.

“Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations have pioneered a more effective way of caring for mums and babies, one that embraces tradition and language so mothers feel safe accessing medical services early and often.

“And by respecting and elevating the role of the extended family Birthing on Country sets mums and babies up for a health beginning,’ she said.

Read the full National Indigenous Times article Voice to be asked for advice on four key policy areas here.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. Image source: Mick Tsikas AAP Photos.

TAC reflects on 50 years of providing care and advocacy

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) has been dedicated to promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, culture, health and wellbeing for 50 years. Serving the Tasmanian community for five decades, TAC northern regional manager, Lisa Coulson reflected on the adversity overcome by the organisation in its early days and the milestones achieved throughout the years.

“From its small beginnings in Tamar Street … to today with over 240 staff shows the growth of the organisation and the need within the Aboriginal community for the support of the programs that we deliver,” Ms Coulson said.

TAC has already ticked off a few celebratory events this year, including the Putalina Festival, “There was also the Invasion Day rally on January 26, and in March we celebrated a 30-year anniversary of the Palawa Kani language program,” said Ms Coulson.

Looking ahead TAC aims to expand its services, strengthen cultural education, and create sustainable economic opportunities for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read the full article here.

TAC northern regional manager Lisa Coulson. Image source: Rod Thompson.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

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