NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 125 health organisations pledge support for Voice

The image in the feature tile is of Health organisations from across the country which have signed a statement supporting the Voice to Parliament. Image by ABC News.

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.

More than 50 health organisations pledge support for Voice

NACCHO is one of 125 health organisations across the country pledging their support for the Voice to Parliament with an open letter to the Australian public. The open letter in support of the Voice to Parliament follows a survey of 1,600 health workers by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Orgainsation (VACCHO) which found the majority of health care workers believe Indigenous health and wellbeing outcomes will improve if those communities are more involved in Aboriginal health policy.

The open letter states: We speak as leading health and medical organisations who spend our professional lives dedicated to caring for all Australians.

We have considered carefully both the case for and the case against the proposed Voice to Parliament.

We confidently believe that the proposed Voice will enhance government decision making about matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ultimately improving health outcomes.

As health professionals, we witness firsthand the disparity in health outcomes between non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Despite the best efforts of successive governments at all levels, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to have an average life expectancy gap 8.2 years compared to other Australians. The Voice is an opportunity for us to make a practical difference, to ensure the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians does not continue to widen.

We encourage all Australian to actively consider the possible health and wellbeing benefits that the Voice to Parliament would have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Just as a good clinician listens to their patient, a Voice to Parliament is about listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Read more here.

An Open Letter to the Australian Public: A Voice to Parliament will improve health outcomes.

Why the Voice to Parliament will help close the gap.

In an edited extract from Thomas Mayo and Kerry O’Brien’s The Voice to Parliament Handbook, Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Fiona Stanley explain why Australia should vote yes in the upcoming referendum. The extract states that there is clear evidence mainstream government services have, for decades, failed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Most state, territory and federal government services for Indigenous Australians have been very expensive, based on inappropriate data, and ignorant of vital Aboriginal knowledge. Programs that are initiated and implemented by Aboriginal experts, or in close collaboration with them, are trusted and used, are based on local personal/geographic/social circumstances about which Aboriginal experts are full informed and enhance the self-esteem and mental health of the community.

Examples include Aboriginal birthing, the Youth Justice System, and the First Nations COVID response; these show that when services are developed with Indigenous knowledge, they are extremely effective. For example, all colonised, Indigenous populations internationally are at very high risk from pandemics such as COVID. We, therefore, expected very high infection, hospitalisations, and death rates from COVID in Aboriginal populations. And yet, nationwide, Aboriginal populations had six times fewer cases than non-Indigenous groups.

This extraordinary, and unexpected outcome was due to the Aboriginal leadership taking control of all activities for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as housing, social and medical support. From NACCHO down to state/territory, regional and remote areas, Aboriginal services demanded and received all the resources they needed to implement this success. They had a Voice that was acted upon.

The evidence is clear. Having a Voice will make a huge difference to improving First Nations outcomes.

Read more here.

Professor Fiona Stanley. Image source: Junkee.

Voting yes will provide a stronger platform to improve health.

Palawa man, and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at the University of Tasmania Professor Ian Anderson says Indigenous Australians need a ‘stronger platform’ to improve health and wellbeing. Explaining why he will be voting ‘Yes’ on October 14, Professor Anderson writes: An Indigenous Voice to Parliament does not guarantee outcomes, but it does provide a stronger platform through which governments can work more effectively with Indigenous Australian at a regional and national level.

Governments that don’t listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice can make significant errors in policy or legislation. Professor Anderson draws an example from 2022 where the Stronger Futures agreement between the Commonwealth and NT governments ended. This ended a regime of alcohol restrictions in towns such as Alice Springs. For over a year, Aboriginal community leaders and experts warned of the need for urgent action to maintain these alcohol restrictions, fearing a rise in crime and a decrease in community safety. Neither government took on advice from Indigenous leaders and a year later, the restrictions were lifted, and Alice Springs was in crisis.

“There is more to the crisis in Alice Springs than alcohol supply. It requires a focus on a range of issues such as access to domestic violence services or addressing poverty and improving educational outcomes. However, to see change, it is important to continue to engage with the voices of Indigenous people on the ground and Indigenous experts in this area of public health,” said Professor Anderson.

Read the full article here.

Image source: Shutterstock.

Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2023

The Dr Charles Perkins Oration celebrates Dr Charles Perkins life-long dedication to achieving justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the Oration and Memorial Prize. Keynote speaker, and Dr Charles Perkins’s daughter, Rachel Perkins reflected on her father’s leadership, as well as the upcoming referendum.

“As we stand on the brink of referendum in this country, it presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to bind this nation together with its first people, our greatest ever handshake, if you like, placed in the Australian Constitution.

“And it’s now, at this time, that I miss him most acutely. I miss his leadership, his fearlessness, his ability to reach out and touch the Australian people with his words.”

Rachel Perkins talked about the lessons which can be learned from her father’s leadership.

“…leadership that is earned, by being amongst and working with our people. It is not bestowed by a party preselection process, or the media spotlight. Leadership in our community is forged sitting in the dirt, listening to our people, working towards consensus, building organistions, building people’s capacity, talking with people, protesting on the streets. And on the inside, within the corridors of power, negotiating with grace and when that fails, going against all the odds, rejecting the status quo, paying the price of speaking truth to power. And still, when you are rejected and you have lost everything, having no regrets. That is what makes a great Indigenous leader.”

Watch the full Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2023 here.

Improving cultural comfort in pregnancy and early motherhood

Indigenous health practitioner Lisa McGrady says she could not ignore the lack of engagement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be in mainstream healthcare services during their pregnancy in the Bundaberg and North Burnett region. She said there are many reasons mums are not engaging in their healthcare, “with barriers like lack of transport, a lack of understanding on the importance and not having confidence to speak up and advocate for themselves in a clinical situation.”

Ms McGrady works at the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre which runs a midwifery program, offering monthly antenatal check-ups, post-birth weigh-ins, and breastfeeding checks. To help engage mums-to-be in the midwifery program the team has but together care bags with donated products to help mums care for bubs and themselves. Ms McGrady said she wanted to provide these bags as a thank you to mums for engaging in the program and ensuring they had what they needed when going to hospital to give birth.

Read more here.

Lisa McGrady, IWC Indigenous health practitioner. Image source: Burnett Today.

Time in the gym changing lives for young men in Mount Isa

A combination of time on Country and time in the gym is guiding young Aboriginal men in Mount Isa away from crime, connecting them with culture, and improving their mental and physical health. Brodie Germaine’s idea to open the gym in 2022 came after the death of his best friend’s father.

“He would ring me up 24/7 in really bad times,” Mr Germaine said.

“For me, I didn’t want to watch another mate lost to suicide, I wanted to help one of my brothers out and so from there I built a gym in my shed.”

Now, in his own gym Mr Germaine is working with the Department of Youth Justice, Employment, Small Business and Training, targeting kids at high risk of engaging in crime.

“The feeling I get when I help these young fellas in the community, them just turning up to the gym, turning up on a Saturday morning, where we take them out bush for the day, that’s a win for me,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Image source: ABC North West Queensland.

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