NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AustraliaDay2019 or #InvasionDay1788 Debate : With Editorial from PM @ScottMorrisonMP, Jeff Kennett and Marion Scrymgour : On #SurvivalDay 2019 we recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

” Yesterday 25 January my family and I spent time with the Ngunnawal people — the first inhabitants of the Canberra region. We attended a smoking ceremony, an ancient cleansing ritual, in what I believe should become a prime ministerial tradition on the eve of Australia Day.

The timing, ahead of our national day, is entirely appropriate because the sacred custodianship of our indigenous people marked the first chapter in the story of our country.

Our First Australians walked here long before anyone else, loving and caring for these lands and waters. They still do. We honour their resilience and stewardship across 60,000 years. We pay respect to the world’s oldest continuous culture.

A culture that is alive; a culture that has survived. A culture that speaks to us no matter what our background as Australians because it is part of the living, breathing soul of our land.

Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia see full Text Published 26 January 2019 The Australian see Part 1 Below 

Watch video

 Minnie Tompkins ochreing the PM’s two Daughters at the event : Copyright Billy T.Tompkins

” We cannot celebrate 26 January when our children still face the devastating impacts of colonisation. Instead, on Survival Day we recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

If we are to celebrate the many great things about our nation, we need a new date that is inclusive of all Australians and ensures we can all participate in celebrations together.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 26 January and the colonisation of Australia is a reflection of the ongoing discrimination and violation of human rights that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children face today.”

SNAICC Press Release 26 January 2019 

It was with profound sadness that I read two stories in The Australian this week: first was the front-page piece “Conservative MPs push to protect January 26”, published on Thursday, and then yesterday, “Dutton puts pressure on PM with support for Australia Day law”. This second story was accompanied by a report on an “invasion day” rally planned for the steps of Parliament House today.

In my column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun this week, I presented the case for changing the date from January 26.

I am the first to admit the issue of the date on which we celebrate Australia Day is not the top priority for Australians. Nor is the recalibration of the way in which Australia recognises its First Peoples. But changing the date is a start in building the recognition and trust I believe is necessary in an educated country

Stop this insult to our First Peoples in the Australian 26 January 2019

Jeff Kennett was the Liberal premier of Victoria, 1992-99 see Part 2 Below

” How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation. Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.” 

Marion Scrymgour is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Tiwi Islands Regional Council. Prior to this she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Wurli-Wurliinjang Health Service and was Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory.

Part 4 Invasion Day rally 2019: where to find marches and protests across Australia

Part 1 January 26, 1788 marked the birth of today’s modern Australia Scott Morrison

Today we also remember the second chapter of our country’s history that began on January 26, 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet.

Wooden convict ships came carrying men and women who were sick, poor and destitute. Those men and women, who included my own ancestors, persevered, endured and won their freedom. They braved hardship and built lives and families. Indeed, the wonder of our country is that out of such hardship would emerge a nation as decent, as fair and as prosperous as ours.

For along with the cruelties of empire came the ideas of the Enlightenment, and Australia was the great project. Notions of liberty, enterprise and human dignity became the foundation for modern Australia.

And we embrace, too, all those who’ve come since — to make us the happy, thriving, multicultural democracy that we are. That’s the third chapter of our story: the one we’re still writing.

Across Australia, 16,212 men, women and children will become citizens today in more than 365 ceremonies. They will be endowed with the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities as every other Australian. Australia’s great bounty is that she is now made up of people from every nation on earth. Together, all these chapters make us who we are.

They’re not unblemished. We don’t have a perfect history. We’ve made mistakes, but no nation is perfect. But we have so much to be grateful for and so much to be proud of.

We’re a free nation, with an elected parliament, an independent judiciary and a free press. We believe in the equality of men and women — of all citizens no matter their creed, race, sexuality or gender. We’ve worked to create a nation that is harmonious, prosperous and safe — one where every individual matters.

That’s what today is about. Gratitude for all we have. Pride in who we’ve become together.

Australia Day is the day we come together. It’s the day we celebrate all Australians, all their stories, all their journeys. And we do this on January 26 because this is the day that Australia changed — forever — and set us on the course of the modern Australia we are today.

Our nation’s story is of a good-hearted and fair people always striving to be better. We have a go. We take risks. Occasionally we fall flat on our faces. But we get up. We always get up. After all, we know how to have a laugh. And we know how to help how mates when they’re down. Today we remember our history, we celebrate our achievements and we re-dedicate ourselves to the land and the people we love.

Happy Australia Day.

Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Part 2  Stop this insult to our First Peoples

It was with profound sadness that I read two stories in The Australian this week: first was the front-page piece “Conservative MPs push to protect January 26”, published on Thursday, and then yesterday, “Dutton puts pressure on PM with support for Australia Day law”. This second story was accompanied by a report on an “invasion day” rally planned for the steps of Parliament House today.

In my column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun this week, I presented the case for changing the date from January 26.

I am the first to admit the issue of the date on which we celebrate Australia Day is not the top priority for Australians. Nor is the recalibration of the way in which Australia recognises its First Peoples. But changing the date is a start in building the recognition and trust I believe is necessary in an educated country.

Let me start with the claims of “invasion day”. This is a term used by some in the indigenous community and by activists. It has gathered some mileage because its use has not been challenged regularly.

Australia was not invaded in 1788, it was settled. The country was occupied by a people from a different community and race to those who were already here, spread in tribes throughout the land.

As those settlers spread from Sydney Cove, the First Peoples were dispossessed of their lands and, yes, as that happened atrocities were committed.

Commodore Arthur Phillip did not arrive with a military force when he settled Port Jackson in 1788. There was no intent to wage a war against the local inhabitants. In fact, the opposite was true. Phillip was commissioned to work with the inhabitants of the country. Although that did not occur, nor did an invasion.

Let me turn to those so-called conservatives mentioned earlier. Probably the closest political grouping we have in Australia that claims to be conservative is the Nationals. Members of the Liberal Party are part of a broader church that I had always taken to mean economically conservative and socially generous.

Together in government the parties and their members discuss and find consensus on issues through policy development.

It is inconceivable to me that these so-called conservatives cannot see how celebrating Australia Day on January 26 every year reinforces a sense of loss among our First Peoples.

How can they not understand that passing legislation to enshrine January 26 as Australia Day would insult our First Peoples and defer any real hope of building the recognition they deserve?

Their action in pursuing such legislation indicates yet again how out of touch and inflexible some members of parliament have become. This is in the face of the demonstrated generosity of the community on social issues such as same-sex marriage and recognition of the challenges facing our disabled and their carers.

Why can’t they see that the same social generosity should be extended to our First Peoples?

Why do they argue that we should continue to discriminate against an important section of our community who are offended by January 26 as the date of national celebration?

The only reason these so-called conservatives are doing so is because some polls suggested that 75 per cent of Australians support January 26 as the day for the celebration.

This reasoning simply continues the cowardice of so many of our federal politicians over the past two decades.

They are elected to lead. Make bold decisions. Correct areas that cause pain to the community when bold action can easily resolve such pain.

Some in the community argue the government is not conservative enough. I disagree. The issues that were relevant in the 1960s and 70s have evolved through education and extraordinary advances in technology. There is a growing recognition of individual rights.

While I respect the right of all individuals in a broad church to hold differing views, I reserve the right to disagree with them, as I do on this issue. It is in my opinion a myopic view, outdated and based on wrong motives.

I will be interested in see which conservatives put their names to any motion to put back any real advance in the recognition of our First Peoples.

As for Peter Dutton. Leader of the band? Jumping on the so-called conservative bandwagon? He has already done considerable damage to his political reputation and must accept much of the blame for the position of the government, having been instigator of the events that led to the removal of Malcolm Turnbull.

Leadership is what is required, Peter, not weakness. Leadership is what the community respects.

By the way, happy Australia Day to all. I hope today provides an opportunity for people, including politicians, to reconsider their position so that we can continue to build the respect we should be showing to our First Peoples.

Part 3 Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

Marion Scrymgour first published 2018

The debate about whether Australia Day should be changed to a date other than the 26th of January has in recent times been focussed on the offensiveness to many Indigenous Australians of using the commemoration of the establishment of an English colony in New South Wales as the foundation narrative of our national identity. The objection articulated by advocates for change is that it ignores, marginalises or diminishes Indigenous history and culture, and fails to acknowledge past injustices (some still unresolved).

Personally I think the objection is valid, but I accept that there are differing views. However, it is not necessary to even get into that argument to be persuaded conclusively that there should be a change of date. Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

The 26th of January marks the beginning of what sort of enterprise? What sort of uplifting and inspirational human endeavour? The answer is that it was a penal settlement. A remote punishment farm to warehouse the overflow from Britain’s prisons. A place of brutality and despair conceived out of a desire to keep a problem out of sight and out of mind.

Modern Australia has its flaws. Some may want to argue the toss over Don Dale or Manus Island, but the reality is that we are a civilised, enlightened and fair people. We embrace those values in ourselves and in each other. We all recognise how lucky we are to live in a tolerant society where diversity and difference are accepted and mateship and hard work are encouraged. We cherish our autonomy and freedom. A national day should resonate with and reflect those values. The way it can do that is by reminding us of something in our past which either brought out the best in our national character, or else represented a step along the path to our unique Australian identity.

Potential examples are many, but might include these: Kokoda; the first Snowy River hydro scheme (with its harnessing of migrant workers from all over Europe coming to seek a better life after the second world war); the abolition of the white Australia policy in 1966; the passage of the Australia Act in 1986 (when Australia’s court system finally became fully independent).

One thing I know for sure is that when we look into history’s mirror for some event or occasion that allows us to see ourselves as we aspire to be, the last and most alien screen we would contemplate downloading and sharing as emblematic of ourselves as Australians would be Sydney Cove in 1788. You just have to pause and think about it for a moment to be able to reject the concept as ludicrous. And yet that is the status quo that has become entrenched in our national calendar, through a process which has been more recent and less considered than most would be aware of.

In my view it is a matter of historical logic that Australia’s national day cannot be one which commemorates something which happened before Australia itself was created. That happened in 1901 when the various colonies joined together in a single federation in which each of them was transformed into an entity called a “state”.

The new Australian states were modelling themselves on the American colonies which had joined together to become the United States of America. Many of those colonies already had a long prior history since they had been established by European settlers and in most cases they were much prouder of their origins than those new Australian states which had started off as penal settlements. But if anyone, then or since, had proposed that the national day for the USA should be some day commemorating the early history of some individual colony, they would have been howled down by Americans. The American national day celebrates the independence of the unified whole, not a way-station in the history of a pre-independence colony. It should be the same with us.

If any recent event should have served to underscore the lack of fit between the date on which our national day is currently celebrated and our contemporary political reality it is the disqualifying of Federal Parliamentarians who have belatedly discovered that they are British citizens.

Just think about that for a moment. The colony of New South Wales was established on behalf of the British Crown. Then when the country called Australia was created in 1901, its people were classed as British subjects. Stand-alone citizenship came later and things have been slowly and fundamentally changing. In 2018 Britain is a foreign country and if you are a citizen of that country you are excluded from being elected to our Australian parliament. That is because it is recognised that there are conflicting interests and allegiances.

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation. Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day. Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Marion Scrymgour


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SuicidePrevention Crisis : Five Indigenous teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age have taken their own lives in the past few days. Comments from @TracyWesterman @joewilliams_tew @cultureislife @GerryGeorgatos


” Five indigenous teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age have taken their own lives in the past nine days.

The most recent loss was of a 12-year-old Adelaide girl who died last Friday.

Three of the other cases occurred in Western Australia and one was in Queensland.

The spate of deaths, first reported by The Australian, is believed to have began on January 3, when a 15-year-old girl from Western Australia died in Townsville Hospital from injuries caused by self-harm. She had been visiting relatives in the beachside town.

A 12-year-old girl took her own life in South Headland, a mining town in WA, the next day.

On January 6, a 14-year-old also took her own life in Warnum, an Aboriginal community in the Kimberley.

Another 15-year-old indigenous girl is believed to have taken her own life in Perth’s south last Thursday, according to The Australian.

A 12-year-old boy is also on life support after what is believed to have been a suicide attempt. He remains in Brisbane Hospital where he was flown for treatment from Roma on Monday.

From see Part 1 Below

Graphic above NITV see Part 3 article below

– Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or NACCHO find an Aboriginal Medical Service here.

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Read over 128 Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years 

We have enormous amounts of funding injected into this critical area; yet, suicides continue to escalate. Our Indigenous youth are dying by suicide at EIGHT times the rate of non-Indigenous children and it is only right that we ask why this level of funding has had little to no impact.

There are actually two tragedies here; the continued loss of the beautiful young lives through suicide, and secondly, that all efforts to fund an adequate response capable of applying the science of what prevents suicide have failed.

I am as concerned that the primary focus is on encouraging people to simply ‘talk’ about suicide without the clinical and cultural best practice programs and therapies available to respond to this awareness raising, particularly in our remote areas.

Wasted opportunities for prevention are like an endless cycle in which money is thrown at band aid, crisis driven, reactive and ill-informed responses that disappear as fast as the latest headlines.

It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.” 

Dr Tracy Westerman is a proud Njamal woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology).


She is a recognised world leader in Aboriginal mental health, cultural competency and suicide prevention achieving national and international recognition for her work. This is despite coming from a background of disadvantage and one in which she had to undertake most of her tertiary entrance subjects by Distance Education. 2018 Western Australian of the Year

See Part 2 Below

” When a Suicide occurs; we are constantly telling people to ‘speak up’ when they aren’t well – it’s very easy to say that to people, but when you are hurting mentally, you can’t speak up, you don’t tell people yr not well and you pretend everything is ok whilst slowly dying inside!!

What’s stopping you from reaching in to help??

Don’t wait for people to speak up; start paying more attention to others; watch their behaviours, listen to how they respond.

If every person in the world pays attention to those close; family, kids, relatives, friends, work colleagues, team mates – then every person will be able to notice when someone isn’t well.

If we are not noticing, then I’m sorry, but we are not paying enough attention.

We are losing too many lives, every statistic is a person – don’t wait for others to reach out; reach in and help them when they feel silenced and it’s too hard for them to talk!!!

It starts with us – are we paying enough attention?

Joe Williams : Although forging a successful professional sporting career, Joe battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and Bi Polar Disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, Joe felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental illness. Joe is also an author having contributed to the book Transformation; Turning Tragedy Into Triumph & his very own autobiography titled Defying The Enemy Within – available in the shop section of this site.


In 2017 Joe was named as finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards for his work with suicide prevention and fighting for equality for Australia’s First Nations people and in 2018 Joe was conferred the highest honour of Australia’s most eminent Suicide Prevention organisation, Suicide Prevention Australia’s LiFE Award for his outstanding work in communities across Australia.

 “How can a child of 10 feel such ­despair that she would end her life? What must she have seen, heard and felt in such a short life to ­destroy all hope? What had she lived? How do her parents, her siblings, their communities live with the pain? How can they possibly endure the all-consuming grief of losing their child?

Now imagine if this were your child, your family, your close-knit community. Wouldn’t there be outrage, a wailing from the heart of overwhelming grief?

This is what is happening to ­indigenous children and young people in our country.”

See Part 4 Below : Love and hope can save young Aborigines in despair 

Published The Australian 17 January 

Download Press Release : culture is life press release 17 jan

Part 1 : Five indigenous girls take their own lives in nine-day period

“Suicides are predominantly borne of poverty and disparities,” said Gerry Georgatos, who heads up the federal government’s indigenous critical response team.

Writing in The Guardian, he described rural communities as being disparate from the rest of Australian society, where high incarceration rates infect communities, few complete schooling, employment is scant and “all hope is extinguished”.

He also said sexual abuse and self harm played a role in the suicides, with the recent spate taking the lives of young girls being “notable”.

The West Australian Government has advised that co-ordinators have been installed in every region of the state, alongside Aboriginal mental health programs.

These programs were introduced after a 2007 inquiry into 22 suicides across the Kimberley. The inquiry found the suicide rate was not due to mental illness such as “bipolar or schizophrenia” and that Aboriginal suicide was not for the most part attributable to individual mental illness.

It noted that the suicide rate, which had “doubled in five years”, was attributable to a governmental failure to respond to many reports.

Part 2 : It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs has recently shared that the Commonwealth Government has allocated $134M of funding into Indigenous suicide prevention. If you look at the current suicide statistics this crudely translates to $248,000 per suicide death annually – without adding State funding into the mix.

We have enormous amounts of funding injected into this critical area; yet, suicides continue to escalate. Our Indigenous youth are dying by suicide at EIGHT times the rate of non-Indigenous children and it is only right that we ask why this level of funding has had little to no impact.

I am not privy to how funding decisions are made and I have ZERO funding for my services, research or programs but the gaps are sadly too clear and have been for decades.

As a country facing this growing tragedy, we still have no nationally accepted evidence-based programs across the spectrum of early intervention and prevention activities. This needs to be our first priority.

Currently, and staggeringly, funding does not require that programs demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors in the communities in which they are delivered. This needs to be our second priority.

What this means is that we are not accumulating data or research evidence of ‘what works’. If we don’t evaluate programs and accumulate evidence, we have no hope of informing future practice to halt the intergenerational transmission of suicide risk. This needs to be a third priority.

Additionally, we are the only Indigenous culture in the world that has a virtual absence of mental health prevalence data. Until we have a widely accepted methodology for the screening of early stages of mental ill health and suicide risk, early intervention will remain elusive; evidence based programs cannot be determined and treatment efficacy not able to be monitored. This needs to be our fourth priority.

There are actually two tragedies here; the continued loss of the beautiful young lives through suicide, and secondly, that all efforts to fund an adequate response capable of applying the science of what prevents suicide have failed.

When suicide becomes entrenched, approaches need to be long term and sustainable. Report after report has pointed to the need for ‘evidence-based approaches’ but has anyone questioned why this continues to remain elusive?

When you have spent your life’s work working in Indigenous suicide prevention and self funding evidence based research, as I have, I can also tell you that despite extensive training the complex and devastating issue of suicide prevention challenges you at every level.

It challenges your core values about the right of people to choose death over life; it stretches you therapeutically despite your training in best practice; and it terrifies you that you have missed something long after you have left your at-risk client.

The nature of suicide risk is that it changes. Being able to predict and monitor suicide risk takes years and years of clinical and cultural expertise and well-honed clinical insight and judgement. Throw culture into the mix and this becomes a rare set of skills held by few in this country. Indeed, a senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.

Funding decisions that are unsupported by clinical and cultural expertise in suicide prevention must be challenged and redirected in the best way possible. Toward the evidence.

Instead we have inquiry after inquiry, consultation after consultation, statistics and mortality data quoted by media purely to satisfy the latest ‘click bait’ 24-hour news cycle headline. On top of that, there are continued calls from those who receive large amounts of funding that they need “more funding”.

I am as concerned that the primary focus is on encouraging people to simply ‘talk’ about suicide without the clinical and cultural best practice programs and therapies available to respond to this awareness raising, particularly in our remote areas.

Wasted opportunities for prevention are like an endless cycle in which money is thrown at band aid, crisis driven, reactive and ill-informed responses that disappear as fast as the latest headlines.

It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.

The time is now to make these changes and ask these questions. I am up for the challenge and have spent my life building and self-funding evidence of what can work to halt these tragic rates in Aboriginal communities and amongst our people. Will the decision makers join me in finding evidence-based ways to address this or continue to throw money at approaches and programs that are simply not working?

Aboriginal people deserve better, our future generations deserve better

Part 3 NITV  Indigenous youth suicide at crisis point

Originally published HERE 

Communities and families are mourning the loss of five young Aboriginal girls who took their own lives in separate incidents in Western Australia, Townsville and Adelaide this year.

In early January, a 15-year old girl from Western Australia died two-days after self-harming on a visit to Townsville.

Last Sunday, a 12-year old girl died in the Pilbara mining town of Port Hedland, followed by a 14-year old girl in the East Kimberley community of Warmun last Monday.

Another was a 15-year-old Noongar girl from Perth who died last Thursday and a fifth was a 12-year-old girl from a town near Adelaide who died last Friday.

Another 12-year-old boy is reportedly on life support at a hospital in Brisbane after what is suspected to be an attempted suicide. He was flown from Roma to Brisbane yesterday, The Australian reports.

The Director of Suicide Prevention Australia, Vanessa Lee, is calling on the federal government to support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention strategy tailored specifically to meet the needs of Indigenous people.

“When are we going to see change… when are we going to see a national Indigenous suicide prevention strategy supported by the COAG, delivering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Lee said.

“We need to remember that Indigenous people know the solutions. We know the answers. We didn’t write the Redfern Statement  for a joke… funding needs to be put into Indigenous organisations, into Indigenous hands.”

Aboriginal people know the answers

“We need to remember that Indigenous people know the solutions, we know the answers” – Vanessa Lee

National coordinator for the National Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Recovery Project, Gerry Georgatos, told NITV News the recently reported suicides have weighed heavily on the affected families and communities.

“These incidences… have impacted –psycho-socially– the family. Hurt them to the bone. There are no words for anyone’s loss,” he said.

“To lose a child impacts ways that no other loss does, and to lose a child is a haunting experience straight from the beginning and doesn’t go away.”

South-western Noongar woman, Grace Cockie, lost her 16-year old daughter to suicide last March in their home in Perth.

“It was a devastating experience, I don’t ever want to go through that again and I don’t want no one else to go through that,” Ms Cockie told NITV News.

“She went to school every day. She loved going to school, hanging out with her friends, playing football with her Aunties.

“Part of us is gone… No one is going to replace her,” she said.

Ms Cockie wants other parents to encourage their children to speak-out if they feel unwell and said there needs to be more mental health initiatives which offer culturally supportive help for Aboriginal youth.

“Keep an eye on them and talk to them all the time,” she said.

“There’s a lot of avenues for whitefella kids, you know, and with our Aboriginal kids they’re probably too scared… they probably think they (mental health workers) won’t help them,” she said.

The Kimberley region faces alarming suicide rates

The deaths come as WA waits on a final report from an inquest into 13 Indigenous youth suicides in the Kimberley region from 2012 to 2016.

The Kimberley region has the highest Indigenous suicide rates in Australia – not just for Aboriginal youth, but for the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

The inquest by state coroner Ros Fogliani is expected to table findings early this year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found last month that Indigenous children aged between five and 17 died from suicide-related deaths at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

This rate was 10.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017, compared with 2 deaths by suicide per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children.

One in four people who took their own life before turning 18 were Aboriginal children.

Mr Georgatos said nine out of 10 suicides in the Kimberley region have involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.

The inquiry found that the lack of culturally supportive services is leaving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing mental health services at a far lower rate than non-Indigenous people.

Mr Georgatos said that services aren’t accessible to the majority of people living in the Kimberley, saying that suicide prevention has come down to community support as opposed to accessible mental health professionals.

“Many of these communities [in the Kimberley region] have no services… It is forever community buy-in to support, to have a watchful eye …, but people become exhausted,” he said.

Mr Georgatos said he believes investing in local workforces that possess local cultural knowledge and training these workers to understand intense psychosocial support for young adults is the way forward.

Poverty the ‘driver’ towards suicide

Poverty and sexual abuse in the Kimberley region may be a leading factor for youth suicide, according to Mr Georgatos.

“Nearly 100 per cent of First Nations suicides… are of people living below the poverty line,” he said.

“Crushing poverty [in Kimberley and Pilbara] is the major driver of suicidal ideation, of distorted thinking, of unhappiness, of watching the world pass one by right from the beginning of life.

“One-eighth of First Nations people living in the Kimberley live in some form of homelessness… sixty per cent live below the poverty line.”

A Medical Journal of Australia report in 2016 showed seven per cent of all people living in the Kimberley were homeless.

Last year, forty per cent of youth suicides in Australia were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“It is a humanitarian crisis… one-third of those suicides is identified as children of sexual abuse, and we don’t have the early intervention to disable the trauma of child sexual abuse,” Mr Georgatos said.

“We don’t have the early intervention and the trauma recovery for them, we don’t have the outreaches for them but what we also don’t have is the talking up and calling out of sexual predation in communities.”

Mr Georgatos said he believes if we have education in communities about what young children should do if they were to ever be predated upon, it would reduce the child internalising their trauma which may lead to suicidal ramifications.

“What we need to do is we need to outreach more personal on the ground to outreach into these communities to support them into pathways where they can access education,” Mr Georgatos said.

“We need more psychosocial support, people just to spread the love… to keep people on a journey to a positive and strong pathway and to ordered thinking, not disordered thinking.”

“We need more psychosocial support, people just to spread the love” – Gerry Georgatos.

Government supported resources

Australian youth mental health organization, headspace, last week received a $47 million funding boost from the federal government.

Chief Executive Officer, Jason Trethowan, told SBS World News the organisation will be working closely with Indigenous communities thanks to the new funding.

“We know there are challenges around rural remoteness and often headspace hasn’t been there for them… that’s why we have a trial going on in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where there are actually headspace services without a headspace centre,” he said.

Indigenous health minister, Ken Wyatt, told NITV News the federal government will continue to invest $3.9 billion over the next three years (from 2018-22) in Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission regionally and culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services, particularly in the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions.

Currently the key active programs in these regions include the government’s $4 million Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial and the $2.2 million Pilbara headspace trial, which opened in April last year.

The Pilbara headspace trial was co-designed with local communities, including young people, service providers, community members and local Elders.

The Pilbara headspace team has staff located in Newman, Port Hedland and Karratha, with employees spending their time in schools, youth centres, Aboriginal Medical Services, community centres and other locations.

This allowing them to reach out to youth who may not typically engage with school or youth services, said Samara Clark, manager of headspace, Pilbara.

“It’s all about engagement first, building trust, building visibility,” she said.

“What we’re hoping for is positive help-seeking behaviour, where they feel safe and comfortable enough to come up to us,” she said.

Ms Clark encourages anyone who sees a headspace worker, who may be identified by their green t-shirts, to reach out to them for support.

“If a young person sees one of the team members around, even if a community member sees them, just go up and have a yarn … the team will talk to you then and there.”

– Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here.

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Part 4 Love and hope can save young Aborigines in despair 

Published The Australian 17 January 

How can a child of 10 feel such ­despair that she would end her life? What must she have seen, heard and felt in such a short life to ­destroy all hope? What had she lived? How do her parents, her siblings, their communities live with the pain? How can they possibly endure the all-consuming grief of losing their child?

Now imagine if this were your child, your family, your close-knit community. Wouldn’t there be outrage, a wailing from the heart of overwhelming grief?

This is what is happening to ­indigenous children and young people in our country. And to parents and communities as our young people are dragged into a vortex of suicide by despair.

In a week, five Aboriginal girls have taken their own lives — prompting a warning from one ­researcher that indigenous children and young people could soon comprise half of all youth suicides. Researcher Gerry Georgatos says poverty is a major issue in suicide among young indigenous Australians, but also that sexual predation is a factor in a third of cases. My heart breaks for these girls and their families and their unimaginable pain.

The organisation that I lead, Culture is Life, wants our country to treat this as the national emergency it is. We want every Australian to think about the devastating toll of indigenous youth suicide and to help us to stop it. Urgently.

Instead of expecting youth suicide, we must take a stand of ­defiance against it. Unfortunately, across Australia, suicide and self-harm are on the increase. This is being driven by a deep sense of hopelessness and despair, by a lack of belonging and connection, and in some cases by the abuse young people have experienced.

Indigenous young people today are living with the consequences of acts committed by other human beings in charge of policies and laws through more than two centuries of trauma and dispossession. This history haunts us. It lives within us. It’s there in our families’ experiences of stolen land, children and wages, of killings and cruelty and abuses of power. They see this history in their grandparents’ eyes, if they are still alive. They discover it in their family stories of exclusion and unfairness.

And when they, too, feel the slap and sting of racism and ignorance when it comes at them as abuse in the schoolyard, or they sense the awkwardness of others in understanding their Aboriginality, or someone’s eyes won’t meet theirs, this history becomes the present. It eats away at them — at their confidence, their self-belief and their self-love — every time they are the target of racism and discrimination or at the end of ignorance and apathy, and when they are directly affected by abuse.

The task of repair and healing requires a powerful counterforce to all that.

We can tackle this together. We can begin to repair these wounds through daily acts of love and hope in communities, schools, universities and workplaces. Daily acts that send a message to our young people that there is belonging, strength and pride in indigenous peoples and cultures.

We are asking all Australians to show our young people that there is cause for love and hope. Show them that you share a deep sense of pride in who they are, in our inspiring cultures and in our strength. Tell them they matter, by showing your pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Share it with #loveandhope and #cultureislife.

Because when our children have love and hope in their lives, it combats helplessness and reduces the risk of self-harm. It gives them the support and courage required to take the steps they need and want to take. And when the broader community shows our kids that they care, it deepens our connections as Australians. One of the things I love most about my people is our willingness to invite ­others to connect with us and to experience our culture. And the only reciprocal ask is to take up the invitation to connect. Once you take up the invitation, you will be an ally in rectifying some of the most haunting statistics for our country.

We know from the research, and from psychologists who work with young indigenous people, that such small gestures of affirmation can make a powerful difference to their safety. Tanja Hirvonen, an Aboriginal psychologist, says many people don’t know the power of “warm interactions and warm gestures” at just the right moment to avert disaster.

She hears time and again from young people that “there was someone there for them at a particularly tricky time in their life … a coach or a teacher or an aunt or a grandmother … someone has said something pivotal to them at a particular time. Those warm ­interactions matter.”

Culture and connection are powerful protective factors against indigenous youth suicide. That’s why the work of Aboriginal leaders across the country in ­cultural pride, revitalisation and renewal programs is so crucial. People such as Yuin elder Uncle Max Harrison, who is teaching young men the ways of the old people, their lore, their duties, their responsibilities. And, as he does so, he is building their pride, strength and resilience.

So that they walk taller, knowing who they are, that they are cared for and supported and connected to this land. It’s a model for us all to feel more connected as Australians.

We cannot fail to act when we are able to save children and young people from the agony and hopelessness and torment that leads to suicide. We can affirm them in who they are, and in so doing, we can save lives.

Belinda Duarte, a Wotjobaluk woman, is chief executive of Culture is Life.
For help: Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #chronicdisease @SandroDemaio How #obesity ups your chronic disease risk and what to do about it

” Almost two in every three Australian adults are now overweight or obese, as are one in four of our children.

This rising obesity burden is the outcome of a host of factors, many of which are beyond our individual control – and obesity is linked to a number of chronic diseases.”

Dr Sandro Demaio is an Aussie medical doctor and global expert on non-communicable diseases. Co-host of the ABC TV series ‘Ask the Doctor’, author of 30 scientific papers and ‘The Doctor’s Diet’ (a cookbook based on science) see Part 2 below 

This article was originally published HERE 

Part 1 NACCHO Policy

” The committee heard that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) run effective programs aimed at preventing and addressing the high prevalence of obesity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Ms Pat Turner, Chief Executive Officer of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), gave the example of the Deadly Choices program, which is about organised sports and activities for young people.

She explained that to participate in the program, prospective participants need to have a health check covered by Medicare, which is an opportunity to assess their current state of health and map out a treatment plan if necessary.

However, NACCHO is of the view that ACCHOs need to be better resourced to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity.

Access to healthy and fresh foods in remote Australia

Ms Turner also pointed out that ‘the supply of fresh foods to remote communities and regional communities is a constant problem’.

From NACCHO Submission Read here 

” Many community members in the NT who suffer from chronic illnesses would benefit immensely from using Health Care Homes.

Unfortunately, with limited English, this meant an increased risk of them being inadvertently excluded from the initiative.

First, Italk Alice Springs produced the English version of the story. Then using qualified interpreters, they produced Aboriginal language versions in eight languages: Anmatyerre, Alyawarr, Arrernte, East Side Kriol, West Side Kriol, Pitjatjantjara, Warlpiri and Yolngu Matha

Read Article HERE

Figure 2.22-1 Proportion of persons 15 years and over (age-standardised) by BMI category and Indigenous status, 2012–13
Proportion of persons 15 years and over (age-standardised)

Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2012–13 AATSIHS

Read over 60 Aboriginal Health and Obesity articles published by NACCHO over past 7 Years

What is chronic disease?

Chronic disease is a broad term, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers, certain lung conditions, mental illness and genetic disorders. They are often defined by having complex and multiple causes, and are long-term or persistent (‘chronic’ actually means long-term).

How is obesity linked to chronic disease?

Obesity increases the risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke), sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes and at least 13 types of cancer.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity:

Obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and even being slightly overweight increases this risk. Type 2 diabetes is characterised physiologically by decreased insulin secretion as well as increased insulin resistance due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Left uncontrolled, this can lead to a host of nasty outcomes like blindness, kidney problems, heart disease and even loss of feeling in our hands and feet.

Obstructive sleep apnoea and obesity:

This is another chronic disease often linked to obesity. Sleep apnoea is caused when our large air passage is partially or fully blocked by a combination of factors, including the weight of fat tissue sitting on our neck. It can cause us to jolt awake, gasping for oxygen. It leads to poor sleep, which adds physiological pressure to critical organs.

A woman preparing vegetables for a meal

Cancer and obesity:

This is a disease of altered gene expression. It originates from changes to the cell’s DNA caused by a range of factors, including inherited mutations, inflammation, hormones, and external factors including tobacco use, radiation from the sun, and carcinogenic agents in food. Strong evidence also links obesity to a number of cancers including throat cancer, bowel cancer, cancer of the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer and kidney cancer.

Obesity is also associated with high blood pressure and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

This might sound overwhelming, but it’s not all bad news. Here are a few things we can all start to do today to reduce our risk of obesity and associated chronic disease:

1. Eat more fruit and veg

Most dietary advice revolves around eating less. But if we can replace an unhealthy diet with an abundance of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables – at least two servings of fruit per day and five servings of vegetables – we can reduce our risk of obesity whilst still embracing our love for good food.

2. Limit our alcohol consumption

Forgo that glass of wine or beer after a long hard day at work and opt instead for something else that helps us relax. Pure alcohol is inherently full of energy – containing twice the energy per gram as sugar. This energy is surplus and non-essential to our nutritional needs, so contributes to our widening waistlines. And whether we’re out for drinks with mates or at a function, we can reduce our consumption by spacing out our drinks and holding off before reaching for another glass.

3. Get moving

While not everyone loves a morning sprint, there are many enjoyable ways to maintain a sufficient level of physical activity. Doing some form of exercise for at least 30 minutes each day is an effective way of keeping our waistlines in check. So, take a break to stretch out the muscles a few times during the workday, spend an afternoon at the local pool, get out into the garden or take some extra time to ride or walk to work. If none of these appeal, do some research to find the right exercise that will be fun and achievable.

Two women exercising in a park together

4. Buddy up

There’s nothing like a bit of peer pressure to get us healthy and active. Pick a friend who has the same goals and encourage each other to keep going. Sign up for exercise classes together, meet for a walk, have them over for a healthy meal, share tips and seek out support when feeling uninspired.

5. Prioritise sleep

Some argue that sleep is the healthy icing on the longevity cake. The benefits of a good night’s sleep are endless, with recent research suggesting it can even benefit our decision-making and self-discipline, making it easier to resist that ‘between-meal’ treat. Furthermore, lack of sleep can increase our appetite and see us lose the enthusiasm to stay active.

Above all, we need to foster patience and perseverance when it comes to achieving a healthy weight. It might not happen overnight, but it is within reach.

Let’s start today!

Co-host of the ABC TV series ‘Ask the Doctor’, author of 30 scientific papers and ‘The Doctor’s Diet’ (a cookbook based on science), Dr Sandro Demaio is an Aussie medical doctor and global expert on non-communicable diseases.

NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s and Bubs Health :#ClosetheGap #refreshtheCTGRefresh All-Aboriginal team at ACCHO helps mums raise healthier babies

If they have a healthy pregnancy then the bubba’s going to be healthy once bubba comes along, and they’re going to be healthy adults.

“That [will] be passed on intergenerationally as well, that’s where we’re really going to close the gap.”

Nurse Katarina Keeler said she wants her clients to leave the program feeling empowered to make good choices for themselves and their young families.

By Jacqueline Breen

Towards the end of our interview, in between giggles, Kirri McKenzie hinted at something that has been worrying her.

She is 26 weeks pregnant and woke up that morning feeling teary and short-tempered.

“All I was thinking is, ‘am I going to’?” she said, her big grin flickering off and on.

She has been watching, warily, for any possible signs of pre-natal depression — she presses her hand to her heart at the thought.

“But I guess it was just this morning, and now this morning’s over,” she said.

She laughed: “It’s past lunch now, so we’re getting there!”

Nurse Katarina Keeler sat next to Kirri on the couch watching on, and gently chipped in.

“Don’t forget about all those hormones changing as well,” she said.

Kirri nodded, put her smile back on, and launched in to an anecdote about her recent mood swings and cravings, and a meltdown triggered by the theft of a much-needed hash brown by a younger sibling.

She has Kat’s help on hand for the next two years, at least, although Kirri has already declared the young nurse a de facto aunty for her soon-to-be first-born.

The two are paired together as part of a nurse home visiting program for women having Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander babies, a program that will hit a milestone in 2019 of 10 years’ operation in Australia.

Four women stand holding dolls

‘We’ve already been there’

The program was imported from the United States where it was first created to help younger, poorer families raise healthier babies.

It was adapted for an Indigenous Australian context and extra funding from the Australian government in 2018 saw it expand to new sites, so it now operates in all states except Tasmania and Western Australia.

In Darwin, where the program has been running for 18 months, the team is all Aboriginal women, working from Danila Dilba Health Service’s northern suburbs clinic.

The shared cultural background helps nervous clients feel more comfortable, said nurse supervisor Colleen Voss.

“They know they’re not going to be judged by anybody,” she said.

“We know what they’re going through because we come from communities also, and we’ve already been there and done all that.”

Navigating the systems

Kat and the other nurse home visitors talk their clients through pregnancy to toddlerhood, covering everything from healthy eating and breastfeeding to the risks of smoking and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

But they also go above and beyond the strictly medical stuff, and trouble-shoot problems that could otherwise spiral.

Kirri needed help dealing with Centrelink (“the worst place on earth!”) when she was fired after ongoing morning sickness early in her pregnancy.

And Kat said many clients are living in over-crowded housing, where they have less control over the environment surrounding them and their baby.

“There’s a big wait-list, about five to six years, for [public] housing here in Darwin,” she said.

“That’s one of the biggest stressors that we always have a yarn about with our clients — we help put in the housing application forms, we help with the ID and stuff.

“We just help them navigate those systems a bit easier.”

A long-term vision

In 2017 the Northern Territory youth detention and child protection royal commission said in its final report, like others already had, that early, effective support for vulnerable families can make collisions with those systems less likely later on.

The report also recommended a Productivity Commission review of spending on child and family services in the Northern Territory to ensure that they are coordinated — the NT and Federal Governments are still yet to agree on an inquiry’s terms of reference.

Katarina Keeler said she wants her clients to leave the program feeling empowered to make good choices for themselves and their young families.

“If they have a healthy pregnancy then the bubba’s going to be healthy once bubba comes along, and they’re going to be healthy adults,” she said.

“That [will] be passed on intergenerationally as well, that’s where we’re really going to close the gap.”

.@NACCHOChair Season’s Greetings and a very Happy #ChooseHealth New Year from all the NACCHO mob : Make @DeadlyChoices a #sugarfree 2019 New Year #SugaryDrinksProperNoGood

Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

On behalf of NACCHO, the Board and our staff we wish you a safe, happy and healthy festive season.

Please note : Our Canberra Office Closes 20 December and Re Opens 4 January 2019

2018 has been a year of change, with many new members joining the NACCHO Board.

With change comes opportunity, 2019 will see many new and exciting developments as NACCHO continues to enhance better service for the sector.

We look forward to building strong relationships with you, maintain Aboriginal community control and work together in the new year to improve health and well-being outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I hope you all have good health, happiness and a safe holiday season

Ms Donnella Mills Chair NACCHO

Click on our 2018 year in review

If the NACCHO Christmas card isn’t playing, click here to view in a web browser.

”  This campaign is straightforward – sugary drinks are no good for our health.It’s calling on people to drink water instead of sugary drinks.’

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Cape York and throughout all our communities experience a disproportionate burden of chronic disease compared to other Australians.’

‘Regular consumption of sugary drinks is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. It is well established that obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and some cancers. Consumption of sugary drinks is also associated with poor dental health.

Water is the best drink for everyone – it doesn’t have any sugar and keeps our bodies healthy.’

Apunipima Public Health Advisor Dr Mark Wenitong

WATCH Apunipima Video HERE

“We tell ‘em kids drink more water; stop the sugar. It’s good for all us mob”

Read all 60 + NACCHO articles Health and Nutrition HERE

 ” Let’s be honest, most countries and communities (and especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders ) now face serious health challenges from obesity.

Even more concerning, so do our kids.

While no single mission will be the panacea to a complex problem, using 2017 to set a new healthy goal of giving sugar the kick would be a great start.

Understand sugar, be aware of it, minimise it and see it for what it is – a special treat for a rare occasion.

This New Year’s, make breaking up with sugar your planned resolution.

“Hey sugar – it’s not me, it’s you…”

Alessandro R Demaio  Global Health Doctor; Co-Founded NCDFREE & festival21; Assoc. Researcher, University of Copenhagen and NACCHO supporter ( First Published 2016 see in full below )

We recommend the Government establish obesity prevention as a national priority, with a national taskforce, sustained funding and evaluation of key measures including:

  • Laws to stop exposure of children to unhealthy food and drink marketing on free to air television until 9.30 pm
  • Mandatory healthy food star rating from July 2019 along with stronger food reformulation targets
  • A national activity strategy to promote walking, cycling and public transport use
  • A 20 per cent health levy on sugary drinks

Australia enjoys enviable health outcomes but that is unlikely to last if we continue to experience among the world’s highest levels of obesity.

 CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells

NACCHO Aboriginal #HealthStarRating and #Nutrition @KenWyattMP Free healthy choices food app will dial up good tucker

” Weight gain spikes sharply during the Christmas and New Year holiday period with more than half of the weight we gain during our lifetime explained just by the period between mid-November and mid-January.

Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA

 ” Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

The study used computer modelling to simulate daily activities like food and beverage shopping of the populations of three U.S. cities – Baltimore, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

It found that warning labels in locations that sell sugary drinks, including grocery and corner stores, reduced both obesity and overweight prevalence in the three cities, declines that the authors say were attributable to the reduced caloric intake.

The virtual warning labels contained messaging noting how added sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

The findings, which were published online December 14 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, demonstrates how warning labels can result in modest but statistically significant reductions in sugary drink consumption and obesity and overweight prevalence.”

Diabetes Queensland : Warning labels can help reduce sugary drinks consumption and obesity, new study suggests


Global recognition is building for the very real health concerns posed by large and increasing quantities of hidden sugar in our diets. This near-ubiquitous additive found in products from pasta sauces to mayonnaise has been in the headlines and in our discussions.

The seemingly innocuous sweet treat raises eyebrows from community groups to policy makers – and change is in the air.

Let’s review some of the sugar-coated headers from 2016 :

  • The global obesity epidemic continued to build while more than two-in-three Australian adults faced overweight or obesity – and almost one in four of our children.
  • Science around sugary drinks further solidified, with consumption now linked to obesitychildhood obesityheart diseasediabetes (type-2), dental caries and even lower fertility.
  • Australians were estimated to consume a staggering 76 litres of sugary drinks each since January alone, and new reports highlighted that as much as 15% of the crippling health costs associated with obesity could result from sugary drinks consumption.
  • Meanwhile around the planet, more countries took sound policy measures to reduce sugar consumption in their citizens. France, Belgium, Hungary, Finland, Chile, the UK, Ireland, South Africa and many parts of the United States implemented, continued or planned the implementation of pricing policies for sugary drinks.

In short, the over-consumption of sugar is now well recognised as a public health challenge everywhere.

With all this in mind and a New Year ahead, it’s time to put big words into local action. With resolutions brewing, here are seven helpful tips to breaking up with sugar in 2017.

1. Understand sugar

When it comes to sugar, things can get pretty confusing. Below, I shed some light on the common misunderstandings, but let’s recheck sugar itself – in simplest terms.

Sugar is a type of refined carbohydrate and a source of calories in our diet. Our body uses sugar and other sources of calories as energy, and any sugar that is not used is eventually stored as fat in our liver or on our bellies.

“Free sugars” are those added to products or concentrated in the products – either by us or by the manufacturer. They don’t include sugars in whole fruits and vegetables, but more on that later. For a range of health reasons, the World Health Organization recommends we get just 5% of our daily calories from free sugars. For a fully grown man or woman, this equates to a recommended limit to sugar consumption of roughly 25 grams – or 6 teaspoons. For women, it’s a little less again.

Consume more than this, and our risk of health problems rises.

2. Quit soft drinks

With 16 teaspoons of sugar in a single bottle serving – that’s more than 64 grams– there’s nothing “soft” about soft drinks. Including all carbonated drinks, flavoured milks and energy drinks with any added sugars, as well as fruit drinks and juices, sugary drinks are a great place to focus your efforts for a healthier 2018. Sugary drinks provide no nutritional value to our diets and yet are a major source of calories.


What’s more concerning, evidence suggests that when we drink calories in the form of sugary drinks, our brains don’t recognise these calories in the same way as with foods. They don’t make us feel “full” and could even make us hungrier – so we end up eating (and drinking) more. In this way, liquid calories can be seen as even more troubling than other forms of junk foods. Combine this with studies that suggest the pleasure (and sugar spike) provided by sugary drinks may make them hard to give up – and it’s not difficult to see why many of us are drinking higher amounts, more often and in larger servings. This also makes cutting down harder.

The outcome is that anything up to one-seventh of the entire public cost of obesity in Australia could now result from sugary drinks. In other words, cut out the sugary drinks and you’ll be doing your own health a favour – and the health of our federal and state budgets.

3. Eat fruit, not juice

When it’s wrapped in a peel or a skin, fruit sugars are not a challenge to our health. In fact, the sugars in fruit are nature’s way of encouraging us to eat the fruit to begin with. Fruits like oranges, apples and pears contain important fibres. The “roughage” in our foods, this fibre is healthy in many ways but there are three in particular I will focus on. First, it slows our eating down; it is easy to drink a glass of juice squeezed from 7 apples, but much harder to eat those seven pieces whole. Second, it makes us feel full or satiated. And third, it slows the release of the sugars contained in fruit into our blood streams, thus allowing our bodies to react and use the energy appropriately, reducing our chances of weight gain and possibly even diabetes.

Juice, on the other hand, involves the removal of most of those fibres and even the loss of some of the important vitamins. What we don’t lose though, is the 21 grams or more than five teaspoons of sugar in each glass.

In short, eat fruit as a snack with confidence. But enjoy whole fruit, not juice.

4. Sugar by any other name

High-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, malt sugar and molasses – they all mean one thing: sugar.

As the public awakens to the health challenges posed by sugar, the industry turns to new ways to confuse consumers and make ‘breaking up’ more difficult. One such way is to use the many alternative names for sugar – instead of the ‘s’ word itself. Be on the lookout for:

Evaporated cane juice, golden syrup, malt syrup, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, dextrose and more…

5. Eat whole foods where possible

Tomato sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressings, gravies, taco sauces, savoury biscuits and breakfast cereals – these are just some of the many foods now often packed with hidden, added sugars.

study found that 74% of packaged foods in an average American supermarket contain added sugars – and there is little evidence to suggest Australia would be dramatically different. Added to food to make it more enjoyable, and moreish, the next tip when avoiding such a ubiquitous additive is to eat whole foods.

It’s hard to hide sugar in plain flour, or a tomato, or frozen peas. Buying and cooking with mostly whole foods – not products – is a great way to ensure you and your family are not consuming added sugars unaware.

6. See beyond (un)healthy claims

Words like “wholesome”, “natural” and “healthy” are clad on many of our favourite ingredients. Sadly, they don’t mean much.

Even products that are full of sugar, like breakfast cereals and energy bars, often carry claims that aim to confuse and seduce us into purchase. Be wary – and be sure to turn the package over and read the ingredients and nutrition labelling where possible (and if time permits).

7. Be okay with sometimes

The final but crucial message in all of this is that eating or drinking sugar is not a sin. Sugar is still a part of our lives and something to enjoy in moderation. The occasional piece of cake, or late night chocolate – despite the popular narrative painted by industry to undermine efforts for true pricing on sugar – these occasional sweet treats are not the driving challenge for obesity. The problem is that sugary drinks, and sugar in our foods, have become every day occurrences.

With this in mind, let’s not demonise sugar but instead let’s see it for what it is. Enjoy some juice or bubbles from time to time but make water the default on an everyday basis. With the average can of cola containing 39 grams or 9 teaspoons of sugar, be OK with sometimes.

Bitter truth

Let’s be honest, We now face serious health challenges from obesity.

Even more concerning, so do our kids.

Learn more about our ACCHO making Deadly Choices

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SocialDeterminants #refreshtheCTGRefresh @TonyAbbottMHR Statement to parliament with 6 key recommendations on remote school attendance and performance

” Why don’t the objective outcomes for Aboriginal Australians match those of everyone else – and what can be done to close this gap?

Amidst all our glittering successes as a nation, this is the one question that’s haunted us, almost since the very first Australia Day; and it always will, until it’s fixed.”

The Hon Tony Abbott MP address to Parliament 6 December 

Download a copy of Improving education outcomes for Indigenous children

Watch speech HERE

Watch SkyNews Interview HERE

Back when prime minister, I used to observe, that to live in Australia is to have won the lottery of life – and that’s true – unless you happen to be, one-of-those whose ancestors had been here for tens of thousands of years.

That’s the Australian paradox. Vast numbers of people from around the world would literally risk death to be here, yet the first Australians often live in the conditions that people come to Australia to escape. We are the very best of countries; except for the people who were here first.

And this gnaws away, a standing reproach to idealists and patriots of all stripes. As long as many Aboriginal people have third world lives, and are on average poorer, sicker, and worse housed by-a-vast-margin than the rest of us, we can indeed be – as we boast – the most successful immigrant society on earth; except, ahem, for those who have been here the longest.

You can appreciate my reservations, then, when the Prime Minister asked me to be his “special envoy” on indigenous affairs. How could a backbench MP make a-difference-in-six-months to a problem that had been intractable for two hundred years? Yet perhaps someone who’s been wrestling with this for a quarter century, and may have spent more time in remote Australia than any other MP, except the few who actually live there – but isn’t dealing with every lobby and vested interest as the PM, the minister and the relevant local member invariably are – can bring fresh eyes to an old problem and perhaps distinguish the wood from the trees.

Amidst all the generally depressing indicators on indigenous Australia, this one stands out. Indigenous people who finish school and who complete a degree have much the same employment outcomes and life expectancies as other comparable Australians. And it stands to reason…that to have a decent life, you’ve got to have a job; and to have a job, you’ve got to have a reasonable education. As prime minister for indigenous affairs this, always, was my mantra: get the kids to school, get the adults to work, and make communities safe.

So the Prime Minister and I soon agreed: that as special envoy, my task was to promote better remote school attendance and performance because this is our biggest challenge.

Around the country, school attendance is about 93 per cent. That’s 93 per cent of all enrolled students, on average, are there on any given day. But for Aboriginal kids, school attendance is just 83 per cent. In very remote schools – where the pupils are mostly indigenous – attendance is only 75 per cent, and only 36 per cent of remote students are at school at-least-90-per-cent-of-the-time, which is what educators think is needed for schooling to be effective. Not surprisingly, in remote schools, only 60 per cent of pupils are meeting the national minimum standards for reading.

Now, it’s not lack of money that’s to blame. On average, spending on remote students is at least 50 per cent higher than in metropolitan schools. A key factor is the high turnover of teachers, who are often very inexperienced to start with. In the Northern Territory’s remote schools, for instance, most teachers have less than five years’ experience and the average length of stay in any one school is less than two years.

Of course, every teacher in every school is making a difference. Even a transient teacher in a poorly-attended school is better than leaving Aboriginal people without the means of becoming successful citizens in their own country. And even attending a struggling school is better than missing out on an education. Our challenge as a government, as a parliament, as a nation, is to-do-more-to-ensure that kids in remote schools are getting the best possible education, because it’s only once we’re doing our job that we can expect parents to do theirs and send their children to school.

Posing this simple question – how do we get every child to go to school every day – prompted one teacher, an elder, who’d been at Galiwinku School since the 1970s, to sigh that she’d been asked the same question for 40 years…. And pretty obviously, that’s because after-all-that-time the answer still eludes us.

And yes, if there were more local jobs and a stronger local economy; if housing wasn’t as overcrowded; if family trauma weren’t as prevalent, and sorry business so frequent; if the sly grogging and all night parties stopped; if there were more indigenous teachers and other successful role models; if pupils didn’t have hearing problems or foetal alcohol syndrome; and maybe if indigenous recognition had taken place; and land claims had been finalised….it might be easier.

In their own way, these all feed into the issue; but if we wait for everything to be addressed, little will ever be achieved. There are all sorts of reasons why a particular child might not be at school on any one day but there’s really nothing that can justify (as opposed, sometimes, to explain) the chronic non-attendance of so many remote indigenous children.

After this latest round of visits and discussions, I can readily understand the despondency people in this field sometimes wrestle with; but there are more grounds for optimism and less reason to be resigned-to-failure than ever before. Yes, some of the federal government’s remote school attendance teams are a glorified bus service; but others are deeply embedded in the school and in the community and can explain almost every absence. Yes, too many remote schools still have very high staff and principal turnover; but there are also hundreds of dedicated remote teachers who have made their work a calling or a mission, rather than just a job or even a career.

Yes, there’ve been plenty of policy flip-flops over-the-years as new governments and new ministers try to reinvent the wheel; but in most states and territories there are now ten-year strategies in place with a stress on staff continuity, on closely monitoring each pupil’s progress and movement, on back-to-basics teaching, on community involvement, and on getting mothers and their new babies straight into the school environment: strategies that have outlived changes of government and minister.

In other words, there’s finally broad agreement on what needs to be done – at least for schools – and a collective official determination to see-it-through for the long term, rather than be blown-off-course by each you-beaut-new-idea.

In all the remote schools that I’ve just visited, culture is respected – and in many of them teaching is bi-lingual, at least in the early years – while teachers still strive to enable proud indigenous people to flourish in the wider world, not just the community they’re born into.

Many fret that progress is stalled or even in reverse – because the world only changes for the better, person-by-person, school-by-school, and community-by-community; and, at this level, there can often be two steps back for every step forward. But while little ever improves as fast as we’d like, it was gratifying to see that the Opal fuel, I introduced as health minister, has all-but-eliminated petrol sniffing in remote Australia. And the larger communities of the APY Lands, with just one exception, now have what-they-all-lacked-a-decade-ago, the permanent police presence that I’d tried to achieve as the relevant federal minister. The Lands are still off-limits-without-a-permit to most Australians, but at least Pukatja now has a roadhouse!

And at least some remote community leaders haven’t shirked the “tough love” conversation that’s needed with their own people; and have accepted restrictions on how welfare can be spent, with the debit card in Kununurra, Ceduna and Kalgoorlie; and the Family Responsibilities Commission in many of the communities of Cape York.

On my recent swing through remote schools, all classrooms – every one of them – were free of the defeated teachers, the structure-less lessons and the distracted pupils that were all-too-prevalent some years back on my stints as a stand-in teacher’s aide; even if actual attendance rates still left much to be desired.

In all the bigger schools, there’s now the Clontarf “no-class-no-footy” programme for the boys and, increasingly, a comparable Girls Academy too. Who would have thought that Kununurra, Coen and Hope Vale schools would have concert bands that any school could be proud of! In Coober Pedy, I helped to wrap books as gifts for the children who regularly attended school; and in Aurukun, handed out satchels to the students going on excursion to the Gold Coast as a reward being at school all the time.

I’m much-more-confident-than-I-expected-to-be that, left to their own devices, the states and territories will manage steady if patchy progress towards better attendance and better performance. But what will be hard to overcome, I suspect, is communities’ propensity to find excuses for kids’ absences; and school systems’ reluctance to tailor-make credentials and incentives for remote teachers. This is where the federal government could come in: to back strong local indigenous leadership ready to make more effort to get their kids to school; and to back state and territory governments ready for further innovation to improve their remote schools.

While all states and territories provide incentives and special benefits for remote teachers, sometimes these work against long-term retention. In one state, for instance, the incentives cease once a teacher has been in a particular school for five years. In others, a remote teaching stint means preferential access to more sought-after placements, so teachers invariably leave after doing the bare minimum to qualify.

There should be special literacy and numeracy training (as well as cultural training) before teachers go to remote schools, where English is often a second or third language. And there should be substantially higher pay in recognition of these extra professional challenges. And because it can take so long to gain families’ trust, there should be substantial retention bonuses to keep teachers in particular remote locations.

We need to attract and retain better teachers to remote schools. And we need to empower remote community leadership that’s ready to take more responsibility for what happens there. The objective, is not to dictate to the states their decisions about teacher pay and staffing but to work with them so that whatever they do is more effective. It’s not to impose new rules on remote communities but to work in partnership with local leaders who want change for the better.

Where local leaders are prepared to accept measures that should create a better environment for school attendance, like the debit card or the Family Responsibilities Commission, the government should be ready to offer extra economic opportunity or better amenities. If local communities have a project, and would like federal government support, and are prepared to accept that with rights come responsibilities, they should make contact to explore what we might all do better.

For instance, at Borroloola, when I wanted to talk school attendance, locals only wanted to talk housing. And I well and truly got their point, once I’d seen the near-shanties that people were living in; and new houses, I’m pleased to say, are now on their way. On future visits, no one should have poor housing as an on-going reason for kids missing school; because if government wants communities to lift their game, we have to be ready to lift ours too.

As the national government, we should be prepared to make it easier for state and territory action to attract and retain better teachers; and we should reinforce the self-evident maxim that every kid should go to school every day: not by taking away the states’ and territories’ responsibility for managing schools; and not by imposing a “punishment agenda” but by making good policy and strong local leadership more effective.  After all, good government – certainly good, sensible small-c conservative government – means a clear objective, plus reasonable, do-able means of moving towards it.

As envoy, my job is to make recommendations rather than decisions: recommendations with a good chance of success because they’re consistent with the government’s values and its policy direction.

6 Major Recommendations 

First, the government should work with the states and territories (whose responsibility it is to pay teachers) to increase substantially the salary supplements and the retention bonuses (if any) currently paid to teachers working in very remote areas.

Second, and this is just a federal responsibility, the government should waive the HECS debt of teachers who, after two years’ experience in other schools, teach in a very remote school and stay for four years.

Third, communities ready to consider the debit card or arrangements akin to it, in order to boost local pupils’ capacity to attend school, should have fast-tracked Indigenous Advancement Strategy projects as a reciprocity measure – a form of mutual obligation, if you like, between government and communities.

Fourth, the Remote School Attendance Strategy should be funded for a further four years, but with some refinements to obtain more local school “buy-in” and better community “intelligence”, and to encourage engagement with local housing authorities and police, where needed.

Fifth, the Good-to-Great-Schools programme, that’s reintroduced phonics and disciplined learning to quite a few remote schools, should be funded for another year to enable further evaluation and emulation.

And sixth, the government should match the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation’s private and philanthropic funding on an on-going basis. Officialdom never likes selective schemes that send people to elite schools, but this one is undoubtedly working to lift people’s horizons, to open people’s hearts and to create an indigenous middle class with the kinds of networks that people in this parliament, for instance, can invariably take for granted.

These recommendations will now be considered through the government’s usual policy making processes and I look forward to ministers’ announcements in due course; and, in some cases, before Christmas.

In every state and territory, it’s compulsory for school age children to be enrolled and not to miss school without a good excuse. For a host of understandable reasons: such as schools’ reluctance to be policemen, the disruption that unwilling students can create in class, the difficulty of holding parents responsible for teenagers’ behaviour, and the cost to family budgets, these truancy laws are rarely enforced, even though there should be direct consequences for bad behaviour – not just the long-term cost to society of people who can’t readily prosper in the modern world.

Most jurisdictions are once-more ready to impose fines on consistently delinquent parents and guardians but fines are often ineffective when gaol is the only mechanism for making people pay. Hence my final recommendation is that all debts-to-government, including on-the-spot fines – and not just those to the Commonwealth – should be deductible from welfare payments.

Finally, I thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity he’s given me. I thank the Ministers for Indigenous Affairs and for Education (who’ve magnanimously put up with an intruder on their patch); and the Prime Minister and Cabinet staff I’ve been working with (in Canberra and in the regional networks) for the past three months. I thank the Northern Territory, South Australian and Western Australian education ministers and their officials, and Queensland officials for their discussions and for facilitating community visits. And I thank the schools and communities of Warruwi, Galiwinku, Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Borroloola, Koonibba, Yalata, Coober Pedy, Pukatja, Broome, Kununurra, Coen, Aurukun, Hope Vale, Palm Island and Cherbourg for making me welcome.

However long my public life lasts; in government, or out of it; in the parliament, or out of it; I intend to persevere in this cause. Some missions, once accepted, can never really cease. Of course, the future for Aboriginal people lies much more in their own hands than in mine; but getting more of them to school, and making their schooling more useful, is a duty that government must not shirk. An ex-PM has just one unique trait, and that’s a very big megaphone, that I will continue to use, to see this done. This is my first statement to parliament on remote school attendance and performance…but it certainly won’t be my last word on this absolutely vital subject.

NACCHO Aboriginal Childrens Health #PesterPower and #Nutrition # Obesity #Sugar : Our Biggest food and beverage companies slammed at Fame and Shame Awards : Our mob need to make @DeadlyChoices #healthyfoods

“ When around 40 per cent of the energy in the average Australian child’s diet comes from junk food, it’s time for the Government to stop leaving industry to make its own sham rules,”

 This type of unhealthy food marketing is undermining efforts by parents, schools and communities to encourage healthy habits.

We know marketing works; it directly impacts what children eat and what they pester their parents for.”

Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said the industry had no shame and would always put profits ahead of children.

Smoke and Mirrors award: Nestle for “Add more milk” Milo campaign

Digital Ninja: McDonald’s for its “Happy Land” app

Pester Power: Coles Little Shop

Foul Sport: PepsiCo for its Gatorade “The Game is Never Over” campaign

Parents’ Choice Award for Food: Former MasterChef contestant Alice Zaslavsky’s the “Phenomenom” campaign


Read over 60 NACCHO Aboriginal Health Nutrition Obesity and Sugar articles published over past 7 years 

Nestle has taken out the gong for a “misleading children’s campaign” at an annual awards event exposing the worst of junk food marketing.

Stealing the crown from last year’s “winner” Kellogg’s, the world’s largest food and beverage company took out the Smoke and Mirrors category at the 14th national Parents’ Voice Fame and Shame Awards in Victoria today.

Nestle was pulled up for its campaign calling on children to “add more to milk” with MILO, failing to mention it contained 9g of added sugar.

Nestlé nutritionist Megan Nader told Milo does contain some sugar, “although some is naturally occurring and it is not all added.”

“Its main role is to support kids’ meeting dairy and nutrient intakes by adding extra calcium, protein, iron and vitamin D to a glass of milk,” she said.

And, despite its huge popularity, it was the Coles Little Shop campaign that claimed the Pester Power award for featuring products that appeal to children such as Nutella, Tim Tam and Oak chocolate milk.

Nicole French, a parent member of Parents’ Voice, said that the level of pestering the Little Shop campaign encouraged in children was almost unprecedented.

“Through play with these products, our children learn unhealthy habits that may last a lifetime,” Ms French said.

Nestle was shamed for its ‘Add more milk’ campaign at the national Parents’ Voice Fame and Shame Awards.

Coles’ Little Shop campaign got the Pester Power award.

But Coles said it was “blown away with customer engagement and feedback to Little Shop”.

“They told us it made them excited to shop and it appealed to customers of all ages. Whether they were collecting for themselves, their family members, neighbours or work colleagues, “Little Shop brought people together and they had a lot of fun with it,” the spokeswoman said.

“We saw schools using them as teaching aids, they were being used as fun accessories, and we’re even hearing that customers will be using them as elves on shelves this Christmas.”

McDonald’s also copped flak at the awards that aim to promote a healthy lifestyle for children. The “Happy Land” app received the Digital Ninja award for being the digital media campaign “most obviously targeting children and driving unhealthy participation in the brand”.

Parents’ Voice campaigns manager Alice Pryor slammed the campaigns for not “contributing to healthier futures for our kids”.

In the drinks category, Gatorade copped the The Foul Sport award for its “The Game is Never Over” campaign featuring AFL’s Scott Pendlebury.

“Parents are fed up with sports drinks such as Gatorade marketing to kids via their sporting heroes,” Ms French said, explaining “nine teaspoons (36g) of added sugar per 600ml bottle — Gatorade is more likely to lead to weight gain than sporting prowess.”

McDonald’s Happyland app copped the Digital Ninja award.

Already, more than 70 per cent of Aussie children are not meeting the national physical activity recommendation — and junk food marketing isn’t helping, experts claim.

PepsiCo got the Foul Sport award for its Gatorade “The Game is Never Over” campaign

Parents’ Voice also commended those encouraging a healthier lifestyle.

Former MasterChef contestant Alice Zaslavsky was awarded the Parents’ Choice Award for Food, for her “The Phenomenom” campaign featuring springboard videos and interactive lessons for children.

The Parents’ Choice Award for Physical Activity went to VicHealth for the “This Girl Can” campaign for inspiring women and girls to embrace a variety of physical activities to get them moving every day.

“We continue to be shocked by the amount of junk food and drink ads aimed at children. 1 in 4 Australian kids are above a healthy weight. This targeting of Australian kids must end,” Ms Pryor said. has contacted McDonald’s and PepsiCo for comment.

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #refreshtheCTGRefresh #HOSW8 @fam_matters_au Download the #FamilyMatters Report 2018: The report 2018 urges that investment in #prevention is critical to stopping our national child removals crisis

 ” We call on all Australian Governments
 to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their representatives over the
 coming year and beyond to implement the evidence based strategies for change that this report shows are desperately needed. We hope that, as a result, next year’s report will show a changing story.

The choices that we make now go to the very heart of our shared obligation to heal our nation’s fractured past and secure our children’s future.”

– Natalie Lewis, Chair of Family Matters

At the launch of this Family Matters Report 2018, the campaign is calling upon the Council of Australian Governments to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations across the country, to develop a generational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy to eliminate over-representation in out-of-home care and address the causes of child removals.

Download the Report


The rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being removed from their families is an escalating national crisis.

The Family Matters Report 2018, which was released at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Conference in Sydney today, finds that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are now 10.1 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children. And the rate is projected to triple in the next twenty years if urgent action is not taken.

Fewer than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are placed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers, following a steep decline over the last 10 years. This places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are removed from their families at serious risk of being permanently disconnected from their families, communities and cultures.

The Family Matters Report 2018 points to a number of issues as the drivers of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system. Poverty is one – it was found that 25 per cent of clients accessing homelessness services were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and most disturbingly, of those clients, one in four was a child under the age of 10.

Family violence was also highlighted in the report, where in 2016-17, emotional abuse, which can include exposure to family violence, was the most common child protection concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Another driver of over-representation is intergenerational trauma. Direct descendants of the Stolen Generations are 30 per cent more likely to have poor mental health than other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All of these factors put our children at greater risk of entering the child protection system.

The report also notes with concern the strong trends in policy and legislative reform to increase the focus on permanent care and adoption. The recently released report from the Senate Inquiry into Local Adoption recommends pathways to open adoption for all children in out-of-home care, which will disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

As recognised in the ALP’s dissenting report this “willfully ignores the weight of evidence from submitters, it also flies in the face of human rights conventions”. Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is always the priority and this includes ensuring their connection to culture, community and kin, as recognised in the Family Matters Report.

This year’s report is solutions-focussed, highlighting the way forward for positive change. We must shift from being reactive to being proactive, invest heavily in solutions, and involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in decision-making about their own children.

Governments are only investing 17% of child protection funding in support services for children and their families, which are critical to preventing the situations that lead to child removals. The majority of child protection funding (83%) is spent on child protection services and out-of-home care – reacting to problems once they’ve already occurred.

There must be a significant boost in funding of culturally safe preventative and early intervention measures to urgently put a stop to these high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child removals.

But, the pace of investment and action in prevention and early intervention is slow. Efforts to address broader community and social issues that contribute to risk for our children across areas such as housing, justice, violence and poverty, remain vastly inadequate and lack coordination… This year’s Family Matters Report puts a spotlight on primary prevention measures in the early years of children’s lives – the years that matter most to changing the storyline for our families.”

– Natalie Lewis, Chair of Family Matters

Another way forward is putting greater focus on early years services to ensure that our children have the best possible start in life. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander five-year-olds are 2.5 times more likely to be developmentally delayed than non-Indigenous children. And yet they are accessing early childhood education and care at half the rate of non-Indigenous children. We must facilitate greater access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families to early years services.

The Family Matters Report 2018 also highlights the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander decision-making in child protection. So far only Victoria and Queensland have a statewide program to support Aboriginal families to participate in child protection decisions. Only the same two states have agreed on a comprehensive strategy to improve outcomes for children that is overseen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making in child protection must be rolled out nation-wide to ensure the best outcomes for our children.

Family Matters is Australia’s national campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture. The campaign is led by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children – the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Our goal is to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 2040.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #refreshtheCTGRefresh : Download the @AIHW National Key Performance Indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care: results for 2017 showing improvements in 16 out of a possible 23 measures

Between June and December 2017, improvements were seen in 16 out of a possible 23 measures for which comparable data for both periods were available (see Table S1 for details). Results for a further indicator remained stable between reporting periods.

The improvements were seen in 12 of the 15 process-of-care measures with comparable data. Improvements were also seen in 4 of the 8 outcome measures, while 1 outcome measure remained stable. The largest improvements (4 or 5 percentage points) were seen in the recording practices for the measuring of:

  • influenza immunisations for clients with type 2 diabetes, which rose from 31% to 36%
  • influenza immunisations for clients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which rose from 32% to 37%
  • influenza immunisations for clients aged 50 and over, which rose from 32% to 36%. ” 

 Extract from good news from AIHW Report

 Download full 158 page report HERE

aihw-ihw-200 (1)


This is the fifth national report on the Indigenous primary health care national Key Performance Indicators (nKPIs) data collection. It presents data on all 24 nKPI indicators for the first time.

Data for this collection are provided to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) by primary health care organisations that receive funding from the Australian Government Department of Health to provide services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Some primary health care organisations included in the collection receive additional funding from other sources, including state and territory health departments.

As of the June 2017 data collection, changes have been made to the data extraction method, with the Department of Health introducing a new direct load reporting process. This allowed Communicare, Medical Director, and Primary Care Information System (PCIS) clinical information systems (CISs) to generate nKPI data within their clinical system, and transmit directly to the OCHREStreams portal. Best Practice services were provided with an interim tool while MMEx has always had direct load capability.

61.9 % our ACCHO’s

The new process was introduced to provide a greater level of consistency between CISs, but the change in the extraction method means that data from June 2017 onwards are not comparable with earlier collections.

As the June 2017 collection represents a new baseline for the collection, this report only presents data for June and December 2017.

For 2 indicators (Kidney function tests recorded and Kidney function test results) only December 2017 results are presented due to unresolved data quality issues in June 2017.

See Chapter 2 for more information on the change in extraction method, data quality, and the impact  on the collection, and Appendix E for data improvement projects and the nKPI/Online Service Reporting (OSR) review under way.

Improvements were seen for most indicators between June and December 2017. Although data from these 2 reporting periods are not comparable with earlier reporting periods, an overall pattern of improvement is in keeping with the pattern of improvement previously reported for the period June 2012 to May 2015 (see AIHW 2017). This indicates that health organisations continue to show progress in service provision.

Things to work on

For the 3 process-of-care indicators that did not show improvements—glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) result recorded (6 months), cervical screening, and Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) health assessment for those aged 0–4—the changes were very small (0.5, 0.4, and 0.1 percentage points, respectively).

In the case of cervical screening, this might be due to changes to the cervical screening program, which took effect from 1 December 2017 (see Chapter 4 for details).

Three outcome measures that did not show improvements—HbA1c result of 7% or less, low birthweight, and smoking status of women who gave birth in the previous 12 months—saw changes of between 0.8 and 1.8 percentage points.


  • 1 Introduction
    • The nKPI collection
    • Structure of this report
  • 2 Data quality
    • Data quality issues
    • Additional considerations for interpreting nKPI data
  • 3 Maternal and child health indicators
    • Why are these indicators important?
    • 3.1 First antenatal visit
    • 3.2 Birthweight recorded
    • 3.3 MBS health assessment (item 715) for children aged 0-4
    • 3.4 Child immunisation
    • 3.5 Birthweight result
    • 3.6 Smoking status of females who gave birth within the previous 12 months
  • 4 Preventative health indicators
    • Why are these important?
    • 4.1 Smoking status recorded
    • 4.2 Alcohol consumption recorded
    • 4.3 MBS health assessment (item 715) for adults aged 25 and over
    • 4.4 Risk factors assessed to enable cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment
    • 4.5 Cervical screening
    • 4.6 Immunised against influenza-Indigenous regular clients aged 50 and over
    • 4.7 Smoking status result
    • 4.8 Body mass index classified as overweight or obese
    • 4.9 AUDIT-C result
    • 4.10 Cardiovascular disease risk assessment result
  • 5 Chronic disease management indicators
    • Why are these important?
    • 5.1 General Practitioner Management Plan-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.2 Team Care Arrangement-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.3 Blood pressure result recorded-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.4 HbA1c result recorded-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.5 Kidney function test recorded-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.6 Kidney function test recorded-clients with cardiovascular disease
    • 5.7 Immunised against influenza-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.8 Immunised against influenza-clients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • 5.9 Blood pressure result-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.10 HbA1c result-clients with type 2 diabetes
    • 5.11 Kidney function test result-clients with type 2 diabetes-eGFR
    • 5.12 Kidney function test result-clients with type 2 diabetes-ACR
    • 5.13 Kidney function test result-clients with cardiovascular disease-eGFR
  • 6 Discussion
    • Data improvements
  • Appendix A: Background to the nKPI collection and indicator technical specifications
  • Appendix B: Data completeness
  • Appendix C: Comparison of nKPI results
  • Appendix D: State and territory and remoteness variation figures
  • Appendix E: Data improvement projects
  • Appendix F: Guide to the figures
  • Glossary
  • References

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Download Progress reports : One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed?

We made an election promise to get young people back on the right path and away from a life of crime, and that is what we are doing. We want Territory kids that get into trouble to become better people, not better criminals.

The Royal Commission recommendations and the Territory Labor Government’s reform plans have resulted in the most comprehensive overhaul of the child protection and youth justice systems in NT history.

This stands in stark contrast to the chaotic former CLP Government who cut funding to youth justice and had no plans.

To create generational change, we have been coordinating a Whole-of-Government response in partnership with Aboriginal organisations, non-government organisations, and the wider community.

We have made substantial progress, but there is more to be done and the Federal Government needs to come to the table and help fund solutions, not just identify the problems. If they are genuine about improving the protection and detention of children they need to help fund the solutions.”

Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield see full Press Release Part 2

Read over 60 NACCHO Royal Commission / Don Dale Articles published last 2 years 

The lack of substantive progress in the year since the commission reported highlights the need for accountability and independent implementation monitoring. Scepticism over the degree to which the commission will represent a moment of change is understandable. It is now more than 25 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

For many, the lack of progress since that 1998 Royal Commission casts doubt over the potential for this royal commission to achieve meaningful change to the lives of young indigenous Australians in the NT.

The Northern Territory government has allocated $70 million for the construction of two new detention centres in Darwin and Alice springs. It is expected that these will be completed in mid-2020.

The royal commission established that the present situation is unacceptable. UNICEF’s report reaffirmed this on the international human rights stage. Change in this area cannot be slow and cannot be incremental. We have the evidence, the commission has laid out the road map and now action is needed.

We call on the NT government to act to better protect the rights of the children within its care “

One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed? From The Convesation see Part 2 Below 

Part 1 Nt Government Press Release

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT Final Report was handed down one year ago.

The Territory Labor Government accepted the intent and direction of all 227 recommendations, and in April this year announced a historic $229 million investment over five years to overhaul the child protection and youth justice systems and implement the recommendations. The Federal Government is yet to allocate one additional dollar to implement the recommendations.

This investment coincided with the release of the implementation plan Safe, Thriving & Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families.


Safe, Thriving and Connected – Implementation Plan (1)

Today, the Territory Labor Government released the first progress report outlining substantial progress seven months into the reform journey.

Of the 218 recommendations that relate to action by the Government, 33 are now complete, 47 are well progressed, 122 are underway, and 16 not yet started.

Key achievements include:

  • Legislative reform to amend the Youth Justice Act to give Territory Families legal responsibility for youth justice and improve the wellbeing of young people in detention by prohibiting the use of restraints and limiting the use of force, isolation and strip searches for young people in detention
  • Completion of $10.48 million significant ‘fix and make safe’ works at Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres, including new and separate education and female accommodation facilities at the Alice Springs Centre
  • Design tender released for the development of new, purpose-built youth justice centres in Darwin and Alice Springs
  • Increased participation and improved partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and families to increase local decision-making and Aboriginal involvement in the child protection and youth justice systems
  • Reforming and streamlining the child protection processes. This includes the One Child One Case approach for frontline child protection staff, which will increase efficiency so that they can spend more time with vulnerable children and their families. Central Intake Services has also been redesigned to better manage the high demand of notifications and provide a more timely service to the community
  • Construction of the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre is underway – the first of 11 new centres to be built across the Northern Territory over the next five years
  • Development of a multi-agency Crossover Family Working Group to increase information-sharing and co-ordination of service response provided to young people and their families in the child protection and youth justice systems
  • Additional funding of $2.5 million to increase the independent Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s capacity to monitor and audit the child protection and youth justice systems The next major milestones will be delivered by 30 June next year. They include:
  • Open the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre
  • Launch and implement the Signs of Safety practice framework in the NT
  • Renovate the Alice Springs Local Court to include a multi-purpose court for matters relating to children and young people
  • Finalise the design tender for development of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre
  • Establish two more Child and Family Centres
  • Release and begin implementation of the Aboriginal Out-of-Home Care strategy
  • Commence Aboriginal foster and kinship carer programs
  • Draft and introduce the next round of priority legislative amendments
  • Commence the Community Youth Support Grants program and expand access to youth diversion
  • Finalise three more Local Decision-Making agreements
  • Continue improvements in youth detention operations, practice and staff training


The Progress Report along with an overview document, and a table outlining the 33 completed recommendations is available at: (

PART 2 One year on from Royal Commission findings on Northern Territory child detention: what has changed?

A change of government in the Northern Territory has done little or nothing to address the underlying issues relating to abusive practices inflicted on young offenders in detention – captured in images that sent shockwaves around Australia, and the wider world, more than two years ago.

FROM The Conversation 

On July 25, 2016, the ABC Four Corners investigative programme aired Australia’s Shame, a documentary featuring disturbing imagery and footage of children being abused while held in the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre in Darwin.

The evidence of abuse included accounts of detained boys who had been exposed to tear gas and the use of spit hoods while being held in isolation. This shone a national spotlight onto the violence perpetrated within juvenile justice institutions against some of society’s most vulnerable.

After the documentary aired, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced plans for a Royal Commission into the Northern Territory’s juvenile detention system Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

The then NT chief minister, Adam Giles, of the Country Liberal Party whose federal representatives vote with the Nationals, responded to the Don Dale allegations, stating: “I was shocked and disgusted…A community is judged by the way it treats its children.”

Since the Don Dale allegations emerged, there has been a change of NT government, with Michael Gunner now chief minister of a Labor government. A question emerges though: what changes have occurred for children in detention?

Michael Gunner, chief minister of the Northern Territory, with Nunggubuyu woman Selena Uibo, minister for education and workforce training, photographed in June. Gregory Roberts/AAP

One Year on

We have just marked the one-year anniversary of the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

The royal commission confirmed that over the past decade, children detained in the NT had been mistreated, verbally abused, humiliated, isolated or left alone for long periods, among other human rights breaches.

At the sharp end of of rights breaches, the commission stated that many children held in detention had been assaulted by staff, who either wilfully ignored rules or were unaware of the rules. Either way, they clearly acted in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations and some domestic laws.

Read more: Why are so many Indigenous kids in detention in the NT in the first place?

The royal commission found that senior government members were aware of but chose to ignore these abusive practices. The report made substantial recommendations for reform.

One year on, Don Dale continues to be in operation despite the royal commission recommending it be closed as soon as possible. The ongoing use of the facility continues to arouse significant concerns among legal practitioners, human rights advocates and youth justice stakeholders. It raises a critical question of what has been achieved in the 12 months since the commission reported – and in over two years since the ABC exposed “Australia’s shame”.

What has been achieved?

The NT government asserts that “Territory Families (an NT government department) is undertaking extensive reform of youth detention”, with the development of “an operating model that better considers the needs of young people”.

It states that in 2017-2018 enhanced and specialised training has been completed, along with the hiring of 23 new recruits, the introduction of the ‘Australian Childhood Foundation’s Trauma Informed and Strength Based approach’ and Restorative Practice training.

These developments represent important progress but recent high-profile incidents at the Don Dale detention centre pose further serious questions about the extent to which the problems at the heart of the Royal Commission remain unaddressed.

The notorious Don Dale youth detention centre near Darwin pictured last week after a distubance. Glenn Campbell/AAP

Earlier this month, Don Dale dominated the media headlines again following reports of riots, fires within the detention centre and staff assaults. Reports stated that tear gas had been deployed. Other allegations reported include young women “showering and using the toilet under the watchful eye of security cameras which are recording and monitoring on site”.

These reports act as an unwelcome reminder of the continued broken state of NT’s juvenile justice system and the ongoing and urgent need for change to ensure better protections for young people held in detention.

The continued failure to protect children’s rights

It is nearly 30 years since Australia ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. Yet we still do not have a national strategy or measures to ensure the implementation of appropriate protection of children’s rights in Australia.

Serious concerns about the state of children’s rights in Australia were highlighted in the latest national coalition NGO report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Report, published by UNICEF on November 1, draws on 58 consultations with 527 children and young people in 30 locations around Australia. Its findings draw significant attention to Australia’s gross violations of the rights of children held in detention.

Read more: Abuse in youth detention is not restricted to the Northern Territory

The report makes a substantial number of recommendations  that build and give national standing to those previously made by the royal commission.

They include: that the government immediately review and amend youth justice legislation, policies and practices to ensure that all children are treated consistent with the UNCRC and the Beijing Rules. It also recommended that governments prioritise detention centres where children are placed as requiring immediate action as part of the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Another recommendation was that all governments prohibit the use of solitary confinement other than as a last resort; prohibit the use of restraints against children and routine strip searches, unless all other options have been exhausted. Importantly, the report also recommends that governments ensure the existence of child specific, independent inspectorates and complaint mechanisms.

The Children’s Report explicitly calls for governments to be held accountable to the children and young people affected by state failings in the provision of juvenile justice, and calls out the failure to implement the recommendations of the royal commission.