NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Every government needs to lift its game

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.

Every government needs to lift its game

Earlier this week the Productivity Commission released a review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The review indicates that Governments have failed to properly share decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to accelerate Closing the Gap, accountability is limited, and progress is falling short. NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner sat down on ABC’s The Drum last night. When asked if she was surprised about the Productivity Commission’s findings Pat said she has met with all levels of government throughout the year, “and I’ve made it very clear that progress has been very patchy, and it has been inconsistent, and every government needs to lift its game.”

“The fundamental issue in this country is the level on inequality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians, and we must fix that now,” Ms Turner said.

Ms Turner said where there have been pockets of reform, it is where ACCOs “have had some agency in those circumstances to negotiate a better approach and resources, and actually delivery the services.”

“They do it much better and we need this to happen on a much broader scale,” Ms Turner said.

Ms Turner went on to say that the report by the Productivity Commission is timely and a “wake-up call” for what she’s been discussing with governments all year and will continue to do so.

“They have all acknowledged, with hand on heart, that they are lagging, and they need to improve their game.”

“I think there is a bit of a block when it comes to them understanding exactly how much the unmet needs, that have existed for so many decades, are going to cost.”

Watch the full The Drum interview on ABC IView here.

cover of Aust Govt Productivity Commission July 2023 Review of the National Agreement on CTG draft report

Water access in Yuendemu and Milingimbi

Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities still don’t have access to healthy drinking water. It harms people economically, because towns and families can’t get ahead if they can’t rely on the basics of life, and culturally it causes harm for people to see their river and waterways run dry. Part of the Federal Government’s $150 million fund to Close the Gap on First Nations Water Security, $17.5 million will fund two projects in the NT, alongside $9.1 million from the NT Government.

In Yuendemu there will be three critical construction projects in the Central Desert community. The project includes a water service line replacement, equipping of two existing bores and a rising main replacement which will prevent leakage and provide increased water transfer capacity that can support new housing development. There will also be three projects in Milingimbi to improve access and reliability of water supply in East Arnhem Land.

Environment and Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek said, “In a country like Australia, here are things that most of us take for granted. Like when we turn the tap on at home, safe drinking water will come out.”

“But for more than 25,000 people in remote Australia, that isn’t the case. These Australians live in places without access to water that meets basic health guidelines. And another 600,000 people live in places without access to water that meets recognised standards – relying on water that’s murky, or contains unsafe levels of minerals, heavy metals and chemicals.”

“This level of deprivation is unacceptable. It makes Australians sick, and it holds them back in life. Our government is committed to changing this,” said Minister Plibersek.

Construction will commence in the 2023 Northern Territory dry season and will be delivered closely with the Yuendumu and Milingimbi communities to ensure their views and priorities for their own communities are heard.

Read more here.

Image Source: ABC News.

Derbarl Yerrigan leading the way in holistic primary care

Leaders from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will meet with local GPs and practice teams, including Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Services to discuss WA rural workforce concerns. RACGP President, Dr Nicle Higgins said she’s looking forward to visiting Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Services and “meeting with the incredible team there which provides culturally secure primary care, mental health and dental services for Aboriginal families living across Perth.”

Derbarl Yerrigan are a wonderful example of holistic primary care, and we can learn a lot from them,” she said.

Access to holistic primary care in WA is a top concern for rural communities, said RACGP WA Chair, Dr Ramya Raman.

“People living in rural communities have lower life expectancies and worse health outcomes than those in Australia’s major metropolitan cities.”

“Rural communities need a strong, sustainable primary care system, where GPs are supported to work in multidisciplinary teams with allied health professionals, nurse practitioners and pharmacists,” Dr Ramya said.

Read more here.

Calls for Indigenous-led education system

A new report by Indigenous leaders has called on governments to overhaul the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are educated. The MK Turner report makes the case for an Indigenous-led education system that priorities Indigenous language and culture. It comes as school attendance rates in NT continue to fall in urban and remote areas and several national Closing the Gap education targets are unlikely to be met.

Board member at Children’s Ground and contributor to the MK Turner Report Joanne Willmot said the education system would require significant reforms in order for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to excel in the classroom.

“Education of our children is everyone’s business.”

“Children who grow into healthy, engaging, articulate and eloquent human beings contribute better, so why wouldn’t you want to use that as an investment to create better societies?” said Ms Willmot.

Learning in-language is only “part of the equation” for better engaging children in school, Ms Willmot said.

“It is about how do we do it in our way. And we’re supported in ensuring that our children get to be able to work and walk in both worlds,” she said.

Gavin Morris, Principal at Yipirinya School in Alice Springs, which teaches four Aboriginal languages and English, said enrollment has tripled in the past two years through working with student’ families and communities. However, across the education system Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are not being represented.

“Unless you’ve got a First Nations curriculum, which is led by First Nations people. Which has come from community and taught by First Nations educators, then this conversation around attendance and enrolment just won’t change,” said Mr Morris.

Read the ABC article in full here.

Image source: ABC Alice Springs: Lara Stimpson.

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