NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: VACCHO CEO recognised with university’s highest honour

The image in the feature tile is of VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO.

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.

VACCHO CEO recognised with university’s highest honour

Gunditjmara woman and VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO has been conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Melbourne. Ms Gallagher has been VACCHO’s CEO since 2003 and has been influential in raising awareness of health issues and improving access to dedicated services, including the establishment of the Koori Maternity Service and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council.

As well as being an advocate for self-determination outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Ms Gallagher has led consultations with community for the development of the first piece of Treaty Legislation in Australia, now an Act of the Victorian Parliament. She was honoured alongside disability advocate, Keran Howe OAM and marine science and conservation expert, Professor Emma Johnston AM.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell congratulated the three recipients of the University’s highest honour.

“Honorary doctorates recognise the outstanding contributions and distinguished community service of people like Ms Gallagher, Ms Howe and Professor Johnston.

“In different ways, they have made major and lasting impressions on society, and it is very fitting that the University recognises them in this way,” Professor Maskell said.

Read more here.

Jill Gallagher AO, Keran Howe OAM, Professor Emma Johnston AM. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Health Minister visits AHCSA

On Tuesday 15 August, Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler visited the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA). The minister spoke about the influence the Voice to Parliament would have on closing the health gap; He said health is a key policy area where the Voice would deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“…for years and years now, the community, the Parliament, health ministers of both political persuasions, have been confronted time and time again, the appalling statistics of the yawning hap in health outcomes and life expectancy between First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The truth is, we need a new approach, and the Voice allows us to turn a new page as a government and as a parliament in listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about solutions that will actually shift the dial,” said Minister Butler.

AHCSA and the health minister also discussed the challenge of vaping for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The health minister said it is a challenge right across the country, however, community-controlled health organisations are in discussions with government on how to best address adolescent vaping.

“There’s a program delivered out of this building by AHCSA as well, but it is now having to come to grips with the very new recent challenges of vaping. We’ve been talking about how best to do that,” said Minister Butler.  

Read the full doorstop transcript here.

AHCSA staff member. Image source: AHCSA Facebook.

CAHS celebrates 15 years

Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) celebrated 15 years of operation on Friday 11 August. More than 200 community members, as well as special guest speakers including Stan Grant came together at the Coonamble Bowling Club to mark the milestone. In a “strong” and “emotional” speech, Stan Grant paid tribute to the Elders and the founding members of the ACCHO for their dedication to improving health outcomes for Coonamble and the wider community.

CAHS CEO, Phil Naden said a highlight of the celebration was sitting down and yarning with mob and hearing about the legacy of such a wonderful organisation.

“I’m privileged to be the CEO of this wonderful organisation and I’m also privileged to know so many beautiful people,” he said.

Read more here.

Image source: Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service Facebook.

Combining curriculum with culture

A new way of learning which combines curriculum with culture is seeing high-school students once at risk of dropping out now excelling. The Wiradjuri-made school program Ngurang-gu Yalbilinya (NgY) is helping schoolboys connect to their identity and increasing school engagement by intertwining curriculum with cultural lessons. In the classroom they are taught the usual school subjects like maths and English, while also learning Wiradjuri language, traditional wood carving, ceremonial song and dance, and painting.

14-year-old student, Steven said before the program he struggled in school, “I was getting in a lot of fights and sometimes I would get a suspension warning or two. I’d be wagging.

“The teachers here really helped me… through the tough times,” he said.

Since the program began more than two years ago, attendance rates have almost doubled from 44% to 94%. Teacher Tim Bennett, said a key to its success is the wrap-around support students can access, which goes beyond the classroom. Teachers work closely with local ACCOs to ensure the students and their families receive the support they need, that includes the Orange Aboriginal Medical Centre providing regular health checks and encouraging healthy eating.

“It’s not just an academic need, if the child or the family suffered trauma that could also affect the student engaging in mainstream classes. So, we have to address that as well,” said Mr Bennett.

Read the full NITV article here.

Students of the Ngurang-gu Yalbilinya education program. Image source: NITV.

Input on National Housing and Homelessness Plan

The Federal Government has begun consultations for the new National Housing and Homelessness Plan. Community organisations are among those Housing and Homelessness Minister, Julie Collins wants to hear from for input on the national plan’s issue paper. Croakey Health Media said given the critical connection between housing and health, health organisations should be encouraged to submit their feedback.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association recently said, “having access to safe and affordable housing is a key social determinant of health, with many Australians currently facing poorer health outcomes as a consequence of the standard of their living conditions.”

Homelessness Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies are calling for a separate and self-determined First Nations National Housing and Homelessness Plan, to address the unique issues relating to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in homelessness.

Public consultations on the plan will be conducted via face-to-face community events in each State and Territory from Monday 28 August and submissions close Friday 22 September.

Read the full Croakey Health Media article Federal Government seeks input on long-awaited National Housing and Homelessness Plan here.

“It’s important to count the milestones”

Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Richard Weston says we are seeing improvements in areas of the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Broken Hill region. In the interview with 2WEB – Outback Radio Mr Weston said while the region is a long way behind the rest of the state and the country and there’s “a lot more work to be done,” it’s important to count the milestones.

Mr Weston said they have seen some improvements in early childhood health and development, “which is really important for those future generations.”

“We [also] have very good programs for supporting people with chronic diseases… and also for preventing and intervening early in chronic diseases,” Mr Weston said.

Listen to the full radio interview here.

Image source: Intereach.

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