NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Elders’ significant role in health and wellbeing

image of Professor Peter O'Mara; text 'RACGP panellists discuss the significant role of Elders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community health and wellbeing

The image in the feature tile is of Professor Peter O’Mara from a Rural Health Pro article Mining to medicine: Wiradjuri man Peter O’Mara shares his journey to medicine published on 28 April 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.

Elders’ significant role in health and wellbeing

In an event to tie in with NAIDOC Week 2023, three RACGP panellists have explored the role of Elders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Panellists included Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and a Torres Strait Islander woman descending from Boigu Island, along with her predecessor in that role Professor Peter O’Mara – a Wiradjuri man who works as a GP at Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service and founded the Werin Aboriginal Medical Service. Dr Kirsty Jennings, a Biripi woman from NSW who first trained as a social worker before turning to general practice, was the third member of the panel.

In the webinar, which is now available on-demand, the panellists discussed identifying Elders and recognising their important status, as well as their significant role in community health and wellbeing. “I feel really privileged that I am someone who gets to work with people who are considered Elders in the community, and learn from their role-modelling, their gentleness, [and] their subtle approach in how they get messages across,” Dr Nicholls said.

Professor O’Mara also welcomed the opportunity to acknowledge Elders and their role, saying “Elders are a significant foundation of our culture. I would say the true sense of an Elder is not just a person who is old, it is much more than that. An Elder for me is someone with wisdom and humility … I think mostly it’s about hearing and wisdom and putting the community before themselves.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article ‘A significant foundation of our culture’: Elders’ role explored in full click here.

Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP ATSI Health

Dr Karen Nicholls. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Putting communities in front seat of innovation

A program, hosted by Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology (IT), is inviting First Nations communities and organisations to co-design innovative solutions with leading Monash researchers to sustainably address challenges faced by Indigenous communities. Launched recently, the National Indigenous Innovation Challenge, presents an opportunity for Indigenous organisations and community groups to pitch a challenge or idea for a chance to co-develop long-term solutions with experts across Monash University with the help of seed funding.

Community organisations are being invited to submit pitches until Monday 31 July 2023. After the pitches have been received representatives will attend a full-day workshop to delve into their challenges and team up with researchers with relevant expertise in science, technology, engineering, law, business, medicine or public health.

Program Lead and proud Wadjak/Ballardong Noongar man Associate Dean (Indigenous) Professor Christopher Lawrence in the Faculty of IT said after the workshop the organisations will be invited to present project proposals describing their sustainable co-designed solutions and selected participants will receive seed funding. “Our main aim is to build a bridge between First Nations peoples and researchers so that traditional Indigenous knowledge can be supported with science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) and business research to resolve the issues they know best,” Professor Lawrence said.

To view the Monash University article Putting Indigenous communities in the front seat of innovation in full click here and watch an explanatory video below.

If we stand in solidarity the Voice will succeed

In her opinion piece If we stand in solidarity, the referendum will succeed, published earlier this week, Dr Shireen Morris, a constitutional lawyer and Director of the Radical Centre Reform Lab at Macquarie University says “Last week I travelled with the Kimberley Land Council’s ‘Referendum Roadshow’, participating in community discussions at Kununurra, Hall’s Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and Derby. What struck me was the passion of these communities: the love and warmth that infused the discussions, the staunch belief in justice despite the hardships of the past and present, and the commitment to doing the hard work to achieve to a national ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum.

Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians discussed their visions for a more united Australia. Equal parts desperation and hope, struggling local people explained how they want and need things to change. They want to close the gap. They want to right the wrongs of the past. They want a fairer and more reconciled Australia, and a better future for their children and grandchildren.

What I saw in the Kimberley was ordinary Australians imagining an even better country – a country that recognises Indigenous peoples by making a national commitment to dialogue, listening and mutual respect. That is our choice in October. Do we want to transform the top-down relationship that has characterised Indigenous affairs into a true partnership? Or do we want things to stay the same? The next few months will be tough, but if we stand in solidarity, the referendum will succeed.

To view the opinion piece by Dr Morris published in the National Indigenous Times in full click here.

Dr Shireen Morris

Resources to help mob in remote areas

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) leads and provides direction in developing digital health, bringing the Australian health system into the digital century. It is responsible for the national digital health strategy including the design, development, delivery and national operations, while the Commonwealth Department of Health is responsible for national digital health policy.

ADHA wants to ensure that digital health tools help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to take control of their health and maintain their health and wellbeing while staying connected to Country. Find out how digital health tools are helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples stay on Country by watching the videos released by ADHA to mark NAIDOC Week 2023, available here.

Below is one of a range of videos produced by the ADHA.

Breaking the incarceration cycle

Wendy Ah Chin, Queensland Corrective Services’ (QCS) first-ever Chief Superintendent for First Nations and Cultural Capability, says QCS recognises its important role in addressing the over-representation of First Nations people in custody and under supervision in the community. “One-third of people in custody in Queensland identify as First Nations and we are in a unique position to influence the lives not only of those in our custody and care but make lasting generational change,” Ms Ah Chin said.

Ms Ah Chin continued, “While QCS can’t influence who comes into our system, we can work with them to make lasting positive changes which can prevent reoffending. This can have generational benefits, as we know the largest indicator of whether someone ends up in custody is if they have a parent who is incarcerated. In fact, a child who has a parent who spends time in prison is nine times more likely to end up in custody themselves as an adult. To break this cycle of disadvantage in First Nations people, we need to provide culturally appropriate services.”

“I have the opportunity to be a part of the whole-of-government approach and build stakeholder partnerships to shape and influence Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice agenda, including developing our Reframing our Relationship Plan. Top of my priority list is to understand what our “truth-telling” journey looks like over the coming months and years. Recognising, respecting, and valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and lived experiences is fundamental to improving our services, as is acknowledging where things may not have been done well and learning from that. As a Maya Angelou once said: ‘When we know better, we do better’.”

To view The North West Star opinion piece Opinion: Breaking incarceration cycles for lasting generational change in full click here.

Wendy Ah Chin, is QLD Corrective Services Chief Superintendent for First Nations & Cultural Capability & a proud Waanyi woman from N QLD

Queensland Corrective Services Chief Superintendent for First Nations and Cultural Capability and, Wendy Ah Chin. Image source: The North West Star.

Indigenous leaders – the key to social change

Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity (AFSE) supports the next generation of Indigenous leaders to inspire, collaborate and facilitate change in communities across Australia, NZ and the Pacific. Based at the University of Melbourne, a unique inter-cultural fellowship for social equity, the program works towards Indigenous-led solutions that make a real impact in communities, and advocates for Indigenous leadership and ways of knowing as the foundation for social change.

Jonathon Captain-Webb (2022 cohort) a Gomeroi and Dunghutti man from Gomeroi and Dunghutti Countries, is the manager of Culture and Heritage at the NSW Aboriginal Land Council based in Western Sydney. There, he is working with 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils across NSW to promote, protect and celebrate Aboriginal cultural heritage in all its forms. Captain-Webb said the foundation year of the program completely changed how he viewed Aboriginal affairs and policy. “Coming into this space I thought I knew everything about best practice for achieving outcomes for my community,” Captain-Webb said. “This has been the best study I have ever done; the content and delivery have been amazing, the subject matter experts that we have in the room is second to none, and the readings we engaged with have been designed and tailored specifically for us as Indigenous people.”

2022 Fellow Alicia Veasey is a Torres Strait Islander woman providing state-wide advice on broader system issues and barriers to achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Queensland. She is also an Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctor and Co-Chair of Queensland Health’s state-wide Queensland Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Clinical Network. Veasey said the program has been deeply transformational, “After spending decades within colonial institutions of health and education, this program has provided me the space, support and tools to decolonise my mind,” Veasey said. “I’ve been able to work towards changing systems to not just ‘close-the-gap’ but to change structures of power and systems so that we can have true health sovereignty for our communities.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Indigenous leadership – the key to social change in full click here.

graduates of Masters or Graduate Certificate in Social Change Leadership, Uni Melbourne

Melbourne University graduates of Social Change Leadership course. Photo: James Henry. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *