NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SocialDeterminants “Poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity; it is an issue of poverty” – Dr Paul Torzillo

Aboriginal health, more specifically, is often characterised as wicked.

But when it comes to the link between housing and Indigenous health at least, Dr Paul Torzillo says emphatically,

“This is not some issue about cultural dissonance. This is not a wicked problem.”

Dr Paul Torzillo is a founding director of Healthabitat. A non-profit company that has been working for more than three decades to identify a quantifiable link between housing and health in remote Aboriginal communities, and to offer solutions to clearly articulated, fixable problems.

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

This article by Habititat and Tracey Clement

“It’s going to get too hard for ngurraritja to live in the desert soon. I might shift somewhere when the desert dries up – up north, down south.”

Without action to stop climate change, people may be forced to leave their country,”

Climate change is a clear and present threat to the survival of our people and their culture,”

Living in “unbearable concrete hot boxes” doesn’t help.

People resort to sleeping outside, or cramming everybody into the coolest room, with all the well-known consequences for the spread of diseases.

It’s also common for people to sleep in shifts, with young people roaming the streets at night where they get into trouble, and sleeping during the day when they should beat school.

You can sometimes see people in communities hosing the outside of their Besser brick walls with garden hoses to keep cool despite the water shortages – that’s how desperate they are.”

” Too hot for our mob ” From Central Land Council’s Head of Policy, Josie Douglas

Download Land Rights News 

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Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Housing Articles HERE

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Social Determinant Articles HERE

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

The company applies a scientific approach to what some have seen as a social and cultural problem.

Some problems are so complex we label them ‘wicked.’ As the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) explains, “The term ‘wicked’ in this context is used, not in the sense of evil, but rather as an issue highly resistant to resolution.”

In a document titled, ‘Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective,’ the APS, a policy unit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, cites climate change, obesity, land degradation and Indigenous disadvantage as examples.

In 1985, Torzillo was working as a medical officer for the Nganampa Health Council at the Pukatja (Ernabella) health clinic in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. There he met architect Paul Pholeros (1953–2016) and anthropologist Stephan Rainow.

They began working together at the invitation of elder Yami Lester, who could see that people in the community were still getting sick, despite improved health services. In 1987, the trio released a report known as the Uwankara Palyanku Kanyintjaku (UPK) – a plan to “stop people getting sick”, in the local Pitjantjatjara language.

In the UPK, Torzillo, Pholeros and Rainow – who would become the founding directors of Healthabitat – identified a clear link between deficiencies in the built environment and the poor health of community members.

The report outlined nine Healthy Living Practices: washing people, washing clothes and bedding, removing wastewater safely, improving nutrition through the ability to store prepare and cook food, reducing the negative impact of over-crowding; reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin; reducing the impact of dust; controlling temperature in the living environment; and reducing hazards that cause physical trauma.

These practices are still at the core of what Healthabitat does today.

Healthabitat primarily works on projects that focus on improving health by fixing what Dr Fred Hollows (1929–1993) called “health hardware,” in this case the physical infrastructure in a home that enables occupants to undertake the nine Healthy Living Practices. Since 1985, licensed contractors overseen by Healthabitat have completed some 287,919 repair jobs, mostly in remote Indigenous communities. But recently they also conducted projects in densely populated urban areas in both Australia and the USA. “And those projects have provided data to support the important thesis that poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity,” Torzillo says, “it is an issue of poverty.”

While a common misconception persists that occupants in remote Aboriginal communities have destroyed their own homes, Healthabitat’s extensive collection of data has demonstrated that vandalism (or even unsuccessful repair work) accounts for only seven percent of damaged health hardware.

Overwhelmingly, poor design, poor material choices, shoddy or incomplete initial construction (19%), and lack of routine maintenance (74%) are the factors that lead to substandard infrastructure in the homes that they have worked on.

As Torzillo puts it, “We have found that you can improve health hardware in these communities for an affordable cost. And we have also shown that the key reasons that these houses aren’t performing are not reasons which are philosophical, or race related, or even occupant dependent. They are issues that are fixable.”

Small teams of local people undertake Survey-Fix work as part of Healthabitat’s “yellow caps” house repair program.

This all seems fairly straightforward. After all, the link between sanitation and health has been widely accepted since at least the Victorian era. A functioning toilet, kitchen and shower should be standard in all homes, and yet the problem of healthy housing in Indigenous communities is ongoing.

Which is not to say that Healthabitat has not had some success. “I think what we have done is we have unequivocally changed the language and the rhetoric around housing in Australia. So at every housing conference somebody talks about the nine Healthy Living Practices, and at every conference people talk about housing for health, and most bureaucratic statements include language that would suggest that they are adopting the principles,” Torzillo explains. “The difficulty is in the implementation.”

Despite clearly defined solutions and quantifiable evidence that its projects work, Healthabitat’s methodology has yet to be meaningfully translated into Federal and State government policy within Australia. When asked why, Torzillo admits that there is no easy answer. For him, “the hard question”, as he puts it, is why do those in authority insist on labelling the problem as ‘wicked’?

Tackling this question is one of the reasons Healthabitat became an industry partner on a Housing for Health Incubator, led by Professor Tess Lea and facilitated by the Henry Halloran Trust. Beyond the big, complex ‘why’ questions, Lea and her team are also examining the interactions between politics and bureaucracy and probing the ‘how.’

They are asking questions, Torzillo says, such as: “How is it that we are still building houses that don’t perform? How is it that we are losing housing stock because we don’t have sustainable maintenance systems? How does that happen?” Their research, which will conclude later this year, also addresses another apparently wicked problem: climate change.

As Torzillo explains, “Our work started with me thinking predominantly about child health, predominantly about infectious disease and the impact of washing and waste disposal in the 1980s. Most of that still stands, but now there is a whole other set of issues.” Climate change is perhaps the issue of our times, and it is already hitting hard in the communities Healthabitat works with. “Lots of remote communities now have temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s centigrade. And they are not going to have the money to afford the energy to control temperature. So communities are going to be threatened by that,” Torzillo says. “This is a big issue right now. So we want to bring that into the centre of what we’re doing.”

With this in mind, the Henry Halloran Trust Incubator is looking at updating, modernising, and refocusing Healthabitat’s work with an emphasis on the impact of the climate crisis on housing for poor people.

As Torzillo points out. “It’s not a future issue, it’s a here-and-now issue.”

Tracey Clement is an artist and writer based in Sydney, Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #LearnOurTruth campaign and survey : First Nations’ history must not be silenced if we are to #closethegap @WVAnews @inmyblooditruns

“We’re concerned that the full impact of colonisation is not covered in many classrooms around the country, and we need to dig deeper to find the answers.

We are calling on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to share their experience of learning history through the Learn Our Truth survey that will be the foundation of a campaign to change this and bring communities together.

We want schools to become more culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and that begins with a greater shared understanding of our nation’s history. Teachers need more support.

We want to raise awareness of the lack of First Nations perspectives and content in the national curriculum and understand if successive national, state and territory reviews have made a difference to students.

A key objective of the Learn Our Truth coalition is to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have more say in their education, but if we are to have a community-led approach to education overall, then that starts with building shared understanding of the history of First Nations communities. “

World Vision NSW Young Mob Project Manager Sophia Romano.

A coalition of organisations has launched a new campaign to #LearnOurTruth and together build stronger communities grounded in a clearer understanding of our shared past.

The #LearnOurTruth campaign and survey was created by the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC) in collaboration with In My Blood It Runs documentary, BE. Collective Culture, and Young Mob – a part of the Australia First Nations Program at World Vision.

Read our NACCHO In my blood it runs article HERE

It was designed to ensure the cultural safety, and emotional and mental wellbeing of First Nations respondents.

World Vision works in partnership with urban and remote Aboriginal communities across NSW, Victoria, Kimberley, Pilbara and Central Australia regions to support place-based, community-led early childhood initiatives, and is concerned that Aboriginal communities don’t have control over the education of their own children.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 2.5 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable at the age of five when they start school which creates barriers to quality early learning opportunities,” WVA Australia First Nations Program advocate and advisor Paul Newman said.

Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”.

Mr Newman said that it was imperative to have community-led early learning opportunities from an early age that integrate both-ways learning, meaning education and play are conducted in both the traditional language and English and also include the involvement of Elders guiding learning about culture and country.

“Quality community-led education is imperative, in the early years before starting school, but also as children reach primary and secondary school age,” Mr Newman concluded.

For more information on the #LearnOurTruth campaign visit https://learnourtruth.com/.

  • Sophia Romano is the Project Manager for Young Mob in NSW and is a proud Meriam woman from Murray Island in the Torres
  • Paul Newman is World Vision’s Australia First Nations Program Business Development Advisor and advocate and a proud Wiradjuri Gadigal

For more information on the impact documentary In My Blood It Runs, visit

www.inmyblooditruns.com

World Vision Australia is an Impact Partner for the documentary and a key objective of the film is to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have more say in their education. World Vision Australia is committed to working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families, communities and organisations to support them in achieving their aspirations for the improved wellbeing of their children and young people.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health @DeadlyChoices News : The health importance of the #Indigenous mens and womens Rugby League #NRLAllStars : Plus both #Maori sides

 “ The game itself should be once again an exciting, fast-paced battle with an emphasis on attacking footy, which highlights the natural ability of the Indigenous and Maori talent.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t necessarily matter who wins.

Both sides will give it their all, but the immense respect that will be shown by the two cultures is what makes it worthwhile.

The coming together of Maori and First Nations Australia and the positivity that will be taken into the communities in the lead-up to game is a reason why it’s an important date on the calendar.

I’ll be tuning in on Saturday wearing my Deadly Choice Indigenous jersey, taking a moment to be thankful to the medical services that have helped me with my health.

I’ll take a moment to think about my great grandmother, an Indigenous elder that raised me as a child when nobody else would. I’ll think about my roots to Wiradjuri and my family and elders that have paved the way for me to be where I am now.

It’s more than a pre-season trial game for me. It’s a game that pays respect to a part of me that might seem little to some, but is a big part of my identity.” 

Jaydem Martin: Whose great grandmother Aunty Joyce Williams has contributed a lot to Aboriginal Health, she’s a Wiradjuri elder and was the founder of the Wellington Aboriginal Health Service in NSW.

Originally published in ROAR

Wiray Ngiyang Wiray Mayiny.” That’s the Wiradjuri translation of “no language, no people”.

This Saturday at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, the NRL will feature another edition of the All Stars match when the Indigenous All Stars take on the Maori All Stars, returning to the ground where the modern concept began in 2010.

It’s the second year the two teams will be competing against each other, although they’ve met at various times in the past under different formats, with the Maori All Stars looking for revenge after losing to the Indigenous side last year in Melbourne 34-14.

Each year, unfortunately, a lot of people get caught up in the politics and debate of issues that the All Stars game bring up, but for those that think it’s nothing but a glorified trial game, it’s a lot more than that.

I was raised by my great grandmother, a Wiradjuri elder and Aboriginal activist, and grew up in Wellington, New South Wales, a town with a rich Indigenous history and a strong connection to the Wiradjuri nation.

What the All Stars game represents to me is a showcase of that tribe and the many different countries that make up Aboriginal Australia.

 

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the culture, the land, the language, the diversity of the traditional custodians, while also promoting positive initiatives such as Deadly Choices.

The Indigenous All Stars is a continuation of a legacy that dates back to 1973 when the first Australian Aboriginal team formed and won seven of nine matches in ten days, but it goes back even before that with the long history of the Redfern All Blacks.

Read about the Indigenous All Stars Team of the decade HERE

Wearing the Indigenous jersey is more than wearing a strip for a modern concept, it’s wearing a symbol of pride and acknowledging the history that Aboriginal men and women have contributed to rugby league throughout the decades.

It’s also representing one of the oldest continuous cultures.

NACCHO #WeStandwithQuadenBayles #saynotobullying

It’s celebrating the greats such as Arthur Beetson and Johnathan Thurston, players like Matty Bowen, John ‘Chicka’ Ferguson, David Peachey and Preston Campbell, the man responsible for the revival of the side, among many more. It’s also showing appreciation to the lesser known names.

Those that have dedicated their lives to country rugby league, like my great uncle, who was the chairman of the Wellington Cowboys up until his death.

It’s a thank you to all in administration that go out of their way to make the Koori Knockout and the Murri Carnival a success.

 

It’s a thank you to the nurses, the doctors and everyone involved in the Aboriginal medical centres that continue to work on improving the overall health of our people.

Most importantly it’s a game of hope.

For some of the players in the line-up this Saturday, their paths in life could’ve gone very differently.

Rugby league gave them a way to escape the negativity that can come from small town Australia and because of that, these players have become role models and examples to other Indigenous kids that aspire to play in the NRL.

I remember myself being a kid in Wellington with the dream of being like Preston Campbell, but the dream seemed too impossible, something I could never achieve.

Now there are kids growing up in the same town, and despite the issues that plague it, there’s a real sense of hope because they’ve seen people like Blake Ferguson, Brent Naden and Kotoni Staggs set their minds towards a goal and work hard to achieve it. They prove that the dream is possible.

Many people in Wellington will be tuning in and cheering on their hometown hero, Blake Ferguson, but also Tyrone Peachey, Josh Addo-Carr and Jack Wighton, three men that have strong ties to the town.

The game itself should be once again an exciting, fast-paced battle with an emphasis on attacking footy, which highlights the natural ability of the Indigenous and Maori talent.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t necessarily matter who wins. Both sides will give it their all, but the immense respect that will be shown by the two cultures is what makes it worthwhile. The coming together of Maori and First Nations Australia and the positivity that will be taken into the communities in the lead-up to game is a reason why it’s an important date on the calendar.

I’ll be tuning in on Saturday wearing my Deadly Choice Indigenous jersey, taking a moment to be thankful to the medical services that have helped me with my health.

I’ll take a moment to think about my great grandmother, an Indigenous elder that raised me as a child when nobody else would. I’ll think about my roots to Wiradjuri and my family and elders that have paved the way for me to be where I am now.

It’s more than a pre-season trial game for me. It’s a game that pays respect to a part of me that might seem little to some, but is a big part of my identity.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert  : How you can watch and support new documentary @InMyBloodItRuns in Australian cinemas Feb 20. Follow ten-year-old Dujuan as he discovers the resilience and resistance of many generations

” Werte. That means “hello” in my first language, Arrernte.

My name is Dujuan, I am 12 years old. I am from Arrernte and Garrwa Country. I came here to speak with you because our government is not listening. Adults never listen to kids – especially kids like me. But we have important things to say.

I grew up at Sandy Bore outstation and at Hidden Valley Town Camp in Alice Springs. Now I live in Borroloola.

Something special about me is that I am an Angangkere, which means I am a traditional healer. It is my job to look after my family with my healing powers.

I am the star in a new documentary, In My Blood It Runs. “

Dujuan Hoosan : From speech given to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva on 11 September : See Part 1 below : 

Meet ten-year-old Dujuan, a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages, as he discovers the resilience and resistance of many generations of his people and faces the history that runs straight into him.

Check out the In My Blood It Runs Website 

How you can share promote In My Blood it Runs  : See Part 3 below

From director Maya Newell (Gayby Baby), in collaboration with Arrernte and Garrwa families onscreen, you won’t want to miss this essential story about the strength and resilience of First Nations communities.

Where can you see the film national from February 20

” We begin to realize that Dujuan’s world does not exist in a vacuum, but is a microcosm of a much larger political and historical battle being waged in Australia. This event offers a stark insight into a potential future for Dujuan. How will his family and community rise above?

In My Blood It Runs looks beyond the ‘problem’ to see the people. Instead of seeing this Aboriginal boy as a ‘criminal’, we see a child who has experienced systematic abuse; instead of ‘bad parents’, we see a family who has been systematically stripped of all agency yet undeniably love their kids; instead of a ‘failure’ at school, we see a child whose talents have been completely overlooked.

And crucially, this child observes the inequality of the world he is presented with.”

Read full synopsis Part 2 below

Our children have to leave their identity at the school gate”

Felicity Hayes, Senior Traditional Owner of Mparntwe, Alice Springs and Executive Producer

Part 1 : Edited speech given to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva on 11 September

It was filmed when I was 10 years old. It shows what it feels like to be an Aboriginal kid in Australia and how we are treated every day.

Many things happen to me in this film.

In school, they told me Captain Cook was a hero and discovered Australia. It made me confused. It’s not true because before cars, buildings and houses there were just Aboriginal people.

I want Australia to tell the truth that Aboriginal people were the first people who had the land.

My school report cards said that I was a failure.

Every mark was in the worst box.

I thought “is there something wrong with me?”.

I felt like a problem.

The film shows me working to learn Arrernte and about being an Angangkere.

I say, “If you go out bush each week you learn how to control your anger and control your life.”

I feel strong when I am learning my culture from my Elders and my land.

I think schools should be run by Aboriginal people.

Let our families choose what is best for us.

Let us speak our languages in school.

I think this would have helped me from getting in trouble.

The film shows Aboriginal kids tortured in juvenile detention. I know lots of kids that have been locked up. Police is cruel to kids like me. They treat us like they treat their enemies. I am cheeky, but no kid should be in jail.

I want adults to stop being cruel to 10-year-old kids in jail.

Welfare also needs to be changed. My great-grandmother was taken from her family in the stolen generation. My other great-grandmother was hidden away. That story runs through my blood pipes all the way up to my brain.

But I was lucky because of my family. They know I am smart. They love me.

They found a way to keep me safe. I am alright now, but lots of kids aren’t so lucky.

I think they should stop taking Aboriginal kids away from their parents – that’s wrong.

What I want is a normal life of just being me. I want to be allowed to be an Aboriginal person, living on my land with my family and having a good life.

My film is for all Aboriginal kids. It is about our dreams, our hopes and our rights.

I hope you think of me when you are telling the Australian government how to treat us better.

Thank you for listening to my story.

Baddiwa – that’s goodbye in my other language, Garrwa.

Dujuan Hoosan is 12 years old. This is an edited speech given to the Human Rights Council at the United Nationsin Geneva on 11 September

Part 2 Synopsis

Ten-year-old Dujuan is a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages. As he shares his wisdom of history and the complex world around him we see his spark and intelligence. Yet Dujuan is ‘failing’ in school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police.

As he travels perilously close to incarceration, his family fight to give him a strong Arrernte education alongside his western education lest he becomes another statistic. We walk with him as he grapples with these pressures, shares his truths and somewhere in-between finds space to dream, imagine and hope for his future self.

Director Maya Newell’s first feature Gayby Baby (Hot Docs, Good Pitch Aus, London BFI), sparked a national debate in Australia when it was banned in schools. Told through the lens of four children in same-sex families during the fight for Marriage Equality, the film offered the voice of those being ignored. Made in collaboration with Dujuan and his family My Blood It Runs tackles another heated topic, First Nations education and juvenile justice and places the missing voice of children front and centre.

Filmed candidly and intimately, we experience this world on the fringes of Alice Springs through Dujuan’s eyes. Dujuan’s family light candles when the power card runs out, often rely on extended family to drop around food and live alongside the ingrained effects of colonization and dispossession.

Every day in the classroom, Dujuan’s strength as a child-healer and Arrernte language speaker goes unnoticed. While he likes school, his report card shows a stream of ‘E’s, which make him feel stupid. Education is universally understood as a ticket to success, but school becomes a site of displacement and Dujuan starts running away from the classroom.

In stark contrast to his school behaviour, on his ancestral homeland surrounded by is family, Dujuan is focused, engaged and learning.

We begin to see Country as a classroom and a place where the resilience can grow and revolution is alive.

But the pressures on Dujuan in Alice Springs are ever encroaching – educational failure, domestic violence, child removal and police. In May 2016, images of children being tortured at the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre are leaked and spike global uproar. In fact, 100% of children detained in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.

We begin to realize that Dujuan’s world does not exist in a vacuum, but is a microcosm of a much larger political and historical battle being waged in Australia. This event offers a stark insight into a potential future for Dujuan. How will his family and community rise above?

In My Blood It Runs looks beyond the ‘problem’ to see the people. Instead of seeing this Aboriginal boy as a ‘criminal’, we see a child who has experienced systematic abuse; instead of ‘bad parents’, we see a family who has been systematically stripped of all agency yet undeniably love their kids; instead of a ‘failure’ at school, we see a child whose talents have been completely overlooked. And crucially, this child observes the inequality of the world he is presented with.

In the end, when Dujuan cannot run nor fight alone, he faces the history that runs straight into him and realises that not only has he inherited the trauma and dispossession of his land, but also the strength, resilience and resistance of many generations of his people which holds the key to his future.

Part 3 How you can share promote In My Blood it Runs

Here are links to some assets below and sample copy that you can use – but please tweak as you see fit for your audience.

SAMPLE SOCIAL COPY

In My Blood It Runs hits Australian cinemas Feb 20!

Meet ten-year-old Dujuan, a child-healer, a good hunter and speaks three languages, as he discovers the resilience and resistance of many generations of his people and faces the history that runs straight into him. From director Maya Newell (Gayby Baby), in collaboration with Arrernte and Garrwa families onscreen, you won’t want to miss this essential story about the strength and resilience of First Nations communities.

In My Blood It Runs: a personal and moving film that should inspire us all.

Book your tickets now >>https://bit.ly/39TpM2j

Please don’t forget to follow/tag  on socials @inmyblooditruns

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Referendum #UluruStatement #Voice News Alert : Minister @KenWyattMP announces Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians by mid-2021

“It is getting tight but we’ve set a timeline and by the end of this year I hope to be in a position to go forward.

(The) very critical and important issue of constitutional recognition needs its own oxygen and its own space.

It’s extremely important because if there is a division amongst indigenous Australians then an opportunity will be lost. We are going to have some strong opponents (to constitutional recognition).

 We do not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians “

Australians will vote on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians by June next year at the latest, according to a timeline developed by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.

Mr Wyatt confirmed on Wednesday the Morrison government intended to hold a referendum by mid-2021 on the question of whether to alter the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mr Wyatt told The Australian he wanted to present the required bill to the Australian parliament by the end of this year.

Once a bill to alter the Constitution has passed through both houses of parliament, a referendum must be held not less than two and no more than six months later. Asked if the referendum would be held in the first half of next year, Mr Wyatt replied: “At the latest.”

He wants to ensure the issue of constitutional recognition does not become confused with the indigenous voice to government.

Indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of a senior advisory group that is due to propose models for the voice at a national, regional and local level by June. After consultation, Mr Wyatt intends to legislate the voice. After that, he intends to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition.

Mr Wyatt said it was important to make progress on the voice, and then to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition, well ahead of the next federal election due by September 2022.

Mr Wyatt conceded that key supporters of the Uluru Statement from the Heart reject the constitutional recognition he proposes as merely symbolism.

The landmark 2017 Uluru statement called for an indigenous voice to be constitutionally enshrined, which the Morrison government rejected.

Mr Wyatt said there was a risk Uluru backers might campaign against a “yes” campaign on the grounds the referendum does not include a question about an indigenous voice.

However, he and others see a legislated voice as pragmatic and hope that by the end of this year there will be “a tangible outcome from the voice process” that could win over Australians who are deeply disappointed by the decision not to enshrine an indigenous voice in the Constitution.

“Reconciliation Australia when they were doing their barometers, showed that there was a 10 per cent rusted-on group who will never support recognition in any form. Then you have got those who sit on the verge of that who say as long as it doesn’t advantage a particular group over another, and then we’ve got this significant group of Australians who have got an open mind and the group that I am seeing it strongest in are young Australians under the age of 35.”

Mr Wyatt said he did not intend to diminish the Uluru statement but the referendum was about what was reasonable to most Australians

“Indigenous Australians want their voices heard at all levels of Government and want to help shape the policies and programs that affect their lives.

This group will work on options to have Indigenous voices heard on the national stage and take a model to Indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders around the country to refine.

They will complement the work of the soon to be announced Local & Regional Co-Design Group to bring about real and lasting change for not just Indigenous Australians, but for our entire nation.

The journey towards an Indigenous voice has taken another step today with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, announcing the membership of the National Co-design Group.

The Group will be co-chaired by senior Indigenous leader Dr Donna Odegaard AM who will be joined by 15 members to develop models for a national voice to government.

The National Co-design Group will also be co-chaired by a senior official from the National Indigenous Australians Agency to coordinate intersections with existing work and ensure any proposed models will work within established structures.

The group will be assisted by the Senior Advisory Group, co-chaired by Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO, who will continue to advise and guide the process and keep it moving forward.

See Part 2 below for details of the Senior Advisory Group

“Dr Odegaard is a welcome addition to this process and brings extensive experience in both the private and public sectors as well as a valuable network and a lifelong commitment to campaigning for the benefit of Indigenous people to advance this work,” Minister Wyatt said.

Co-Chair Dr Odegaard said, “we have an unprecedented opportunity through the formation of the Morrison Government’s Co-Design process to bring together the many voices of our people to express who we are, what we want, what we need and the direction we choose for the future for the benefit of all our people and the Nation”.

“We cannot expect to succeed in changing our future as Indigenous Australians if we do not bring each other along. Working together towards the same goal, within the same framework that we establish, gives us greater chance of success but we must expect hard work, determination and dedication.”

“We can do it, we just have to be genuinely committed. I have been committed to this for most of my life and I’m certain most of us are”.

The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:

  • Dr Donna Odegaard AM
  • Mr Jamie Lowe
  • Mr Rodney Dillon
  • Prof Gracelyn Smallwood AM
  • Mr Richard Weston
  • Prof Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
  • The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
  • Mr Damian Griffis
  • Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
  • Ms Fiona McLeod SC
  • Mr Marcus Stewart
  • Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
  • The Hon Fred Chaney AO
  • Mr Joseph Elu AO
  • Ms Zell Dodd

Part 2 Senior Advisory Group

Read NACCHO Report Here

A Senior Advisory Group will assist, guide and oversee the co-design process for both a national voice and options to enhance local and regional decision making.

Members of the Senior Advisory Group have been appointed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, with the advice and input of the Group co-chairs, Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM and Professor Tom Calma AO.

Professor Dr Langton is a previous member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians (2012) and has been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Calma is the Chancellor of the University of Canberra and has previously served as the Race Discrimination Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

The Senior Advisory Group will help establish the two co-design groups who will develop the models to be tested.

Senior Advisory Group members

  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
  • Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
  • Ms Josephine Cashman (suspended )
  • Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
  • Ms Joanne Farrell
  • Mr Mick Gooda
  • Mr Chris Kenny
  • Cr Vonda Malone
  • Ms June Oscar AO
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson
  • Mr Benson Saulo
  • Ms Pat Turner AM
  • Professor Maggie Walter
  • Mr Tony Wurramarrba
  • Mr Peter Yu
  • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

Minister Wyatt media release 8 November 2019 – Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Group

More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website, www.niaa.gov.au/indigenous-voice.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AustraliaDay or #InvasionDay #ChangetheDate Debate : Editorial from @KenWyattMP @LindaBurneyMP and Marion Scrymgour

“We can have anger at the past, the pain and the hurt … but at some point we’ve got to give our children a better future.

It’s not about Captain Arthur Phillip landing in Sydney. It’s about the way we’ve grown firstly into a federation, but … a country of incredible people.

The colour of our skin did matter once, but it doesn’t anymore.

It’s about a society that has many hues of colour.”

Strongly supporting the date of the national day remaining as it is,  Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Australia’s history was marked with events “that none of us on reflection like”. See full SMH Article Part 1 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 a former CEO of Wurli Wurlinjang Aboriginal Corporation and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory. Currently CEO Tiwi Islands Regional Government, and formerly a senior Minister in the NT Cabinet : see in full Part 2 Below

 ” As another Australia Day comes around, calls get louder to change the date, or the name. To Indigenous Australians, January 26 marks an invasion. But as international law expert Rowan Nicholson explains today, it does to international law as well.

He writes that while we don’t need European law, which was tainted by racism and colonialism, to validate the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the landing of the British on Australian soil counts as an invasion based on their legal definitions at the time.

So if it was an invasion according to the Indigenous peoples and the colonisers, perhaps the term shouldn’t be so contentious after all.”

Read The Conversation HERE 

Pay the Rent.  “It is the theme of this year’s Invasion Day rally in Melbourne.

Pay The Rent is not a new concept.

It’s something that our old people came up with over 40 years ago. It was developed and fully endorsed by the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO) in the 1970s. NAIHO (a uniquely grassroots, representative organisation of Aboriginal people from all over Australia) was how our people grew the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health movement from the first Aboriginal health services in Redfern and Fitzroy to a nation-wide network of over 80 services within 10 years.

It was a remarkably successful large-scale self-help movement. We are reviving it to help ourselves.”

From The Big Smoke

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict “

Linda Burney ALP Sydney Member for Barton  : See in full Part 3 below

Part 1 : Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt says Australia Day should remain on January 26 and commemorations around the country instead mark both the “good and the bad” of the nation’s history since 1788.

In an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Wyatt said Australia’s “dark beginnings” must be recognised in communities across the country but not overshadow celebrations of the “remarkable” multicultural country it has become.

Cautious about engaging in the culture war that has increasingly plagued the occasion, Mr Wyatt said the day was an opportunity for Australians of all backgrounds to bond as a nation but also acknowledge that many First Nations people found it difficult.

He said “first and foremost” it was a day to celebrate “the good things in life” with family, friends and community and respect each other’s contribution to the nation.

“Forget the date. Let’s celebrate what we have. Let’s celebrate our place as Indigenous Australians in Australian society. And let’s celebrate our achievements, our resilience, and the contribution that we are now making to broader Australian society,” he said.

Mr Wyatt, who is the first Indigenous man to be Minister for Indigenous Australians, said instead of rallying to move the date, Australians must engage in a new generation of “truth telling”.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt wants more recognition for indigenous Australians.

He said monuments such as the one erected at Myall Creek marking one of the darkest events in Australia’s colonial history were a positive step forward.

“Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people came together, acknowledged their past history of an event that left a deep scar.”

He said if that could be replicated across our nation, including the dual naming of towns and regions, it would be “an incredible step forward”.

“There is much to celebrate, there is much to remember, [but] let’s take the positive aspects of life,” Mr Wyatt said.

He said he knew some Indigenous leaders would be “disappointed” with his “optimism”.

“I think it is more important that if we want to change the future, that we have to be at the forefront of wanting those changes, because we see the benefits that will be derived from it,” he said.

“What I love about the generation of young people coming through now is that they are optimistic. They see an incredible future ahead of themselves.”

Mr Wyatt said First Australians were entitled to be angry at the past and conceded the 1950s Australia he grew up in was not a place he liked.

“What I like now is the Australia that I see today,” he said.

“We’ve merged so many cultures and so many practices and different ways. What I like also is the way in which Indigenous culture and our history is being accepted readily into the Australian psyche.”

Part 2  : Reasons for changing the date

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.

Part 3 : It is that time of the year again when opinions are offered about the suitability of 26 January as our national day. Linda Burney MP

There are some who oppose it and some who support it.

We appear to be at an impasse on this.

But I believe we are mature enough as a nation to face a proper discussion about it.

The National Australia Day Council recognises this discussion has become a big part of the day and it is encouraging Australians to ‘reflect, respect, celebrate’ on 26 January.

  • Reflect on ‘what it means to be Australian’;
  • Respect ‘differing views’ on Australia Day; and
  • Celebrate ‘contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history’.

But it is important for all of us engaged in this debate to understand the challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand – right or wrong – is that many Australians are simply unaware of the historical and political context of the date.

On the other, if we understand the history of Australia Day we can understand why it is such a painful day for Indigenous Australians – this is the notion of ‘truth-telling’.

Australia Day means many things.

It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at what became known as Sydney Cove.

And yet the date and name of Australia Day itself was only relatively recently settled – at one point, it was set in July.

It is a day to celebrate our achievements and those who have contributed to our country.

For some, it is simply a public holiday to rest and relax with friends and family.

I represent the electorate of Barton. It is one of the most multicultural electorates in the nation with many residents from migrant backgrounds.

And while many of them tell me that they understand why 26 January is a complex day, it is also a day for them to reflect on how grateful for the life they have been able to build for themselves and their family here in Australia.

For others – especially for our retail and hospitality workers – it can be a day to earn penalty rates and take home a bit of extra pay to meet bills and other expenses.

But it needs to be understood that, for First Nations people like me, 26 January is a reminder, not only of the dispossession and injustice, but also our strength and survival as a people and as a culture.

Surely it is possible for us to learn, not only about the view from the boats that arrived, but the view from those on shore whose way of life changed forever.

The opportunity for proponents of changing the date is in understanding different perspectives – not condemning people for not being aware of the discussion, or for not picking a side.

Change and progress means bringing people with you.

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict.

Why not start your Australia Day with the Wugulora Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo? You can also head over to the Yabun Festival – a wonderful festival embracing of all and celebrating survival – at Victoria Park in Camperdown which begins later in the morning for some great performances, food and other activities.

As for me, I will begin the day by attending a citizenship ceremony hosted by Bayside Council; followed by an Australia Day event at the Marrickville Library; and of course wrapping things up at Yabun.

By all means, celebrate Australia Day, but let’s use it as a day of reflection as well.

This opinion piece was originally published in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on Sunday, 26 January 2020

LINDA BURNEY

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #UluruStatement : Tom Calma and @marcialangton face a challenging task : the design of an #Indigenous #voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

I try to see and understand other points of view,” 

There is danger in just always consulting people with the same views … You might not agree with them but their views might represent an entire group of people and if that is the case you have to hear them.

It’s a very complex task that we have. It’s got to be recognised that it’s not simple and there are multiple layers to this. What we have got to do is look at mechanisms that are going to work and are going to have some longevity.

I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture. “

Tom Calma was a crucial voice in the volatile days after the Cronulla race riots, through the Northern Territory intervention and during the tumultuous demise of the Aborig­inal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

From the Australian 20 December 

As Australia’s race discrimination commissioner from 2004 to 2009, he used skills honed as a social worker and later as a senior diplomat in India and Japan.

Now 65, Calma faces what may be his most challenging task yet: the design of an indigenous voice that has divided Australians before they even know what it is.

Calma, an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan and Iwaidja tribal groups in the Northern Territory, knows there is not much time.

He is co-chairman of a 19-member senior advisory group that has until October next year to present Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt with a new way forward in indigenous affairs. Wyatt’s advisory group met last month for the first time. The second meeting is in February, when work begins with two new co-design groups

He is working side by side with distinguished indigenous academic Marcia Langton. The first associate provost at the University of Melbourne also has been a formidable advocate on almost every major issue affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since the 1970s, from land rights and deaths in custody to violence against women and children.

A member of the Gillard government’s Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indig­enous Australians, Langton has clear thoughts about what she considers a broken federal system that fails the most vulnerable indigenous people. “We are consistently excluded, government after government, from our citizenship entitlements,” she says. “Plain and simple citizenship entitlements.”

Langton cites indigenous communities where residents cannot safely drink the water. At Buttah Windee, 760km northeast of Perth, residents sold art and crowd-funded last year to fix water found to contain more than twice the safe level of uranium.

“This is why we have these intransigent gaps,” Langton says. “We have this recurring problem of our federal system being unable to deliver citizenship entitlements to Aboriginal citizens. It is a separate problem from constitutional recognition.”

States refusing to pay

States have to do their part, Langton argues. “It’s not about (the states) doing more,” she adds. “The problem is they have always done less than they should do.

“They have taken the view, contrary to our Constitution, that they don’t have to provide any services to indigenous people and they have flicked it to the commonwealth. Aboriginal people are the victims in this endless political football game.”

Langton, a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations of Queensland, says the “core issue” dates back to 1901.

“The commonwealth has ended up paying for what the states should have been paying for all along,” she says. “You end up with the states refusing to pay for these responsibilities that they are constitutionally required to fund, so they under-invest in indigenous education, indigenous housing.

“It goes right back to the colonial times when the writers of the Constitution were trying to invent the commonwealth and come up with this arrangement that en­abled NSW and Victoria — the two states with the biggest white populations — to commandeer most of the taxes.

“And the way that they did that was by making it unconstitutional to count Aboriginal people because the remaining Aboriginal populations were in the states such as Queensland, NT and Western Australia.

“We still have that problem from Federation of the states trying to avoid using taxes collected by the commonwealth being distributed to services intended for Aboriginal people.”

Calma, Langton and the rest of the advisory group in February will meet the members of two new groups appointed to help them figure out how the multiple layers of the voice can work, from remote communities and small towns to Canberra.

Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove
Senior indigenous figures Noel Pearson, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Marcia Langton at the Garma Festival in August. Picture: Melanie Faith Dove

 

A local voice

It will be the job of one of those groups to advise how to give a voice to indigenous people at a local and regional level. The other will focus on national representation.

Already, Langton and Calma agree that the multi-layered structure that becomes the voice should work with, not against, existing indigenous organisations that function well. And they understand that indigenous people favour elected representatives.

The voice is one of three key reforms set out in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. That document was the culmination of 13 dialogues with indigenous people around Australia and it called for voice, treaty, truth.

It was the end of a process that many consider was started in 2007 when John Howard, the prime minister at the time, promised a referendum seeking to amend the Constitution to “recognise the special status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first peoples of our nation”.

He lost office soon after but the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians led to the popular Recognise campaign. In 2015, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten established the Referendum Council to ask the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about constitutional recognition.

Uluru grumbles

After consultations with 1200 indigenous people, the answer came in the form of the Uluru statement.

It was not exactly what the government wanted to hear. There were grumbles — some quiet and some not so quiet — that the Referendum Council had wandered outside its brief. There, in black and white, was a formal call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.

Turnbull quickly rejected this because, he said, it would become a third chamber of parliament and “neither desirable nor capable of winning acceptance at referendum”.

But there was significant support, including from some inside government. Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto got on board. Woolworths — Australia’s biggest employer — and two former High Court chief justices backed the Uluru statement.

On Australia Day this year, Wyatt — who was then indigenous health minister — wore a T-shirt printed with the words “We support the Uluru Statement” at a celebration of indigenous music in Perth’s Supreme Court gardens. The mission-born Noongar man posed, smiling, for a photo with Fraser government indigenous affairs minister Fred Chaney and their friend David Collard, a Noongar man.

Wyatt’s show of support for Uluru might have been considered defiant — even provocative — except that he was widely believed to be on his way out of politics. He had told journalists he would like to be the indigenous affairs minister if the Coalition was returned at the May election and if he held his very marginal seat. This declaration was met with polite silence because very few believed either of those things was likely.

But the Coalition won. And Wyatt, who had worked hard in his electorate despite his responsibilities in the portfolios of aged care and indigenous health, did better than cling on to his key seat of Hasluck. He was returned with a 3.3 per cent swing towards him and within weeks he was Australia’s first indigenous minister for indigenous affairs. He changed the job title to Minister for Indigenous Australians.

Wyatt must have felt the weight of expectation immediately. He was cheered when he announced that the Morrison government had committed to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians in this term of government. He was jeered when it became clear the Morrison government had no intention of including a second question about whether the voice should be in the Constitution too.

Wyatt has said he is being practical about what is likely to succeed and what is not. Repeatedly, he has stressed that Australians are conservative when it comes to changing the nation’s “birth certificate”. Of the 88 nationwide referendums held since Federation, only eight have succeeded.

“Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting constitutional recognition. We must be pragmatic,” he said in August.

Key players

So what becomes of the voice? The Morrison government clearly still wants one, just not in the Constitution. It has committed $7.3m to what Wyatt calls a “co-design” process.

Wyatt’s handpicked senior advisory group includes some of the most recognisable names in indigenous affairs — Cape York leader Noel Pearson, Gumatj clan leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Yawuru leader Peter Yu from the Kimberley and current and former social justice commissioners June Oscar and Mick Gooda.

Not all appointments to the group were expected and not everyone is on the friendliest of terms. Chris Kenny, Sky News broadcaster and columnist for The Australian, was surprised and pleased to be invited.

He has written that the description of the voice as a “third chamber” has been particularly damaging and was never a justifiable way to describe an advisory body. In that sense, Kenny is in agreement with many of his fellow advisory group members. Group members whose politics do not align are committed to co-designing the voice, The Australian has been told.

Langton and Calma believe the group can work well together.

Langton has strong ideas, but she also stresses she does not want to be prescriptive or rule anything out because others on the group may have different ideas.

“A great deal of damage can be caused to indigenous people if we don’t get this right,” Langton says.

Calma is not apprehensive about encountering opposing views. He describes it as “an opportunity to bring them onside or modify your own views maybe”.

“You look at what we have built with Reconciliation Australia as an example,” he said.

“The more people become informed, the more they understand the issues, the more likely they are to come on board.”

“I can say with confidence that the majority of Australians want to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they have a greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.”

ATSIC’s shadow

Wyatt has previously said the voice should not be a resurrection of ATSIC, the representative body killed off by the Howard ­government in 2005 after a corruption scandal at the top of the organisation.

Langton agrees ATSIC was flawed, but not for the reasons most people might think. “There is a lot of resistance to anything that looks or smells like ATSIC,” she says. “There is a misinformed view. It’s a shame that this still persists 14 years after the demise of ATSIC.

“The problem of the alleged corruption of two commissioners that the then prime minister made so much of was not the problem … The problem was ATSIC did not do the job that it was intended to do from the beginning because there were flaws in its design and its implementation.

“It was an early experiment. Back then there were high hopes ATSIC would be the answer so there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and rightly so, and it deserved a better chance than it got. I really believe that.”

Langton has not given up hope that, once defined, the voice could still be constitutionally enshrined. Asked if she felt other Australians would want that too, she says: “I do. If they understand the problem and it’s put to them in a way that makes sense to them, yes.”

NACCHO Announcement 2020

After 2,832 Aboriginal Health Alerts over 7 and half years from www.nacchocommunique.com NACCHO media will cease publishing from this site as from 31 December 2019 and resume mid January 2020 with posts from www.naccho.org.au

For historical and research purposes all posts 2012-2019 will remain on www.nacchocommunique.com

Your current email subscription will be automatically transferred to our new Aboriginal Health News Alerts Subscriber service that will offer you the options of Daily , Weekly or Monthly alerts

For further info contact Colin Cowell NACCHO Social Media Media Editor

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #CashlessWelfareCard : @TheBigSmokeAU The complete timeline of Indigenous welfare mistakes up to the cashless welfare card Plus Video comment @Malarndirri19

The management of Australians through welfare is nothing new.

Today’s cashless card is merely the result of what was already tested on our Indigenous population.

To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain under the guise of philanthropy.

The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights.

We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has.

Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years’ time “

Originally published HERE 

See all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card articles HERE

Income management isn’t new in Australia. What is new is the current government’s ideological push to enforce neoliberal policies on an unsuspecting populace. In 2007, Professor Helen Hughes wrote Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait “homelands” in transition.

A few months before it was published, Hughes gave it to the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC). The Minister for Indigenous Affairs was Mal Brough.

The book was published by the conservative think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, and its final chapter reads like a blueprint for what occurred in the Northern Territory in June 2007

. It calls for the closure of Indigenous communities in the NT, a health audit of all children, the appointment of administrators, private homeownership and the abolition of communal title customary law, the permit system and Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).

The book was also highly critical of policies relating to self-determination and land rights, branding them failed socialist experiments.

The use of a book, research or reports produced by a think tank or foundation for government policies isn’t a new tactic. The Ronald Reagan policies from the 1980s were mostly from the Heritage Foundation, which has been heavily financed for years by the conservative elite and the likes of the Koch brothers.

Before we go any further, I need to provide some background and a timeline of events. The Howard government received many detailed reports about the escalating violence in Indigenous communities, but they were never actioned.

With thanks to Chris Graham, Crikey and Michael Brull, for their succinct research over the last decade relating to the Intervention.

Video and Quote added by NACCHO Media 

In the Senate this week :

John Paterson, @AMSANTaus CEO quoted

“This feels like the Howard era Intervention all over again,” he told NITV News.

“The last time the government intervened in the NT, and did things to us instead of with us, it failed at great cost to families and communities.”

“Aboriginal people in the NT will be most affected by this new form of top-down control and deserve the chance to give evidence. Without due consideration, this proposal makes a mockery of government rhetoric around Aboriginal-controlled decision making.”

So many reports, not enough action

Indigenous academic, Boni Robertson, completed many detailed reports throughout the 1990s. In 1999, a shocking report about Indigenous violence was released by Doctor Paul Memmott. The report was suppressed by the media and the public by the Justice Minister, Amanda Vanstone, for 18 months. By the time that the media got wind of it, it was old news and nobody really cared.

All of these reports and inquiries warned of the numerous problems in Indigenous communities. The causes of family violence stem from a failure of government to provide adequate services, education and housing infrastructure. It is also a failure from both sides of the political spectrum to acknowledge Indigenous culture and the relationship our Indigenous peoples have with the land. Neo-colonialism is still a problem in Australia, despite the fact that Indigenous Australians are the oldest known civilisation on earth. They’ve hundreds of languages and their map of Australia is made up of many nations, not a handful of states. Wanting them to assimilate into a monolingual, mono-cultural society is one thing; the reality is another.

The Intervention relied heavily on shock tactics. The NTER was a $587 million package of measures, and laws regarding human rights had to be changed or suspended to get the new legislation through.

In 2002, the Central Aboriginal Congress prepared a paper showing how the number of Indigenous women being treated for domestic assault had more than doubled since 1999. A year later Howard staged a “roundtable summit” of Indigenous leaders to address family violence. This achieved nothing.

An election was approaching in 2006, and for the government and the media, Indigenous violence was a popular topic. At one point, ABC Lateline had filed 17 stories about it in just eight nights. Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers was on the show in May that year and spoke of her experience with violence against children, including sexual violence in remote communities. What Rogers spoke about was exactly what Dr Memmott had detailed in his suppressed report, seven years earlier.

The media heats up

Minister Brough appeared on Lateline the next day and told the host, Tony Jones: “Everybody in those communities knows who runs the paedophile rings.”

Jones’ response: “You just said something that astonishes me. You said paedophile rings. What evidence is there of that?”

Brough said that there was “considerable evidence” but provided none. Claire Martin, the NT’s Labor Chief Minister, called on him to provide evidence of the allegation; still, he said nothing. Five weeks later on June the 21st 2006, Lateline had an anonymous male, former youth worker on their program. He backed up what Brough said: “It’s true. I’ve been told by a number of people of men getting young girls and keeping them as sex slaves.”

The youth worker claimed that he was once based in Mutitjulu, working in a joint community project for the NT and federal governments.

The Mutitjulu community are the legal custodians of Uluru.

His identity was hidden with his face shadowed and his voice digitised, and he cried as he detailed how he’d made repeated statements and reports to police about sexual violence in Mutitjulu. He said that he’d withdrawn the reports after being threatened by men in the community, and that he feared for his life. He also said that young Indigenous children were being held against their will and that other kids were being given petrol to sniff in exchange for sex with senior indigenous men.

The next day, Martin announced that her NT government would hold a major inquiry into violence against children in Indigenous communities. Also on that day, Brough finally responded to calls for evidence of his accusations. He released a press statement, saying that information had been passed onto NT police, and that he’d been advised that “for legal and confidentiality reasons, I am unable to disclose detail.”

Questions asked too late, the damage is done

A few weeks later, the National Indigenous Times reported that the youth worker crying about his experience in Mutitjulu on Lateline wasn’t a youth worker at all. He was actually Gregory Andrews, an assistant secretary at the OIPC, and an adviser to Brough. He advised Brough about violence and sexual abuse in remote communities. Later it was revealed in parliament that Andrews had never made a single report to the police about women or children. He also misled a federal senate inquiry into petrol sniffing in 2006 and lied about living in Mutitjulu – he had never even set foot there.

All of Andrews’ allegations were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by the NT police, and the Australian Crime Commission spent 18 months and millions of dollars and also concluded that there was no organised paedophilia in Indigenous communities.

Martin’s inquiry reported back to her in August 2006. The inquiry’s final reportLittle Children are Sacred, was handed to the NT government, in April 2007. It was impressive and was more than 300-pages-long, with 91 recommendations. The authors, Pat Anderson and Rex Wild, didn’t have an easy job, but they said that they were: “…impressed with the willingness of people to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse, even though it was acknowledged as a difficult subject to talk about. At many meetings, both men and women expressed a desire to continue discussions about this issue and what they could do in their community about it. It was a frequent comment that up until now, nobody had come to sit down and talk to them about these types of issues. It would seem both timely and appropriate to build on this goodwill, enthusiasm and energy by a continued engagement in dialogue and assisting communities to develop their own child safety and protection plans.”

But before the Martin government could respond to the report and without any consultation with her, or even his own cabinet, Howard, along with Brough, used the report as a catalyst to launch the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), or the Intervention.

The Intervention

The Intervention relied heavily on shock tactics. Naomi Klein has covered these extensively in her book about disaster capitalism. A multi-pronged, speedy attack is favoured as this helps to create a cover to introduce unsavoury or neoliberal policies. The Intervention ticks all of the boxes.

The NT and the Australian Federal Police were sent into remote Indigenous communities, and the army and business managers were installed into Indigenous communities. Signs were put up declaring bans on pornography and alcohol in towns. It was framed as a “national emergency” and while everyone was distracted, and with a Senate majority, the federal government was free to pursue its agenda. The NTER was a $587 million package of measures, and laws regarding human rights had to be changed or suspended to get the new legislation through. These included the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, Native Title Act 1993(Cth), Northern Territory Self-Government Act and related legislation, Social Security Act 1991 and the Income Tax Assessment Act 1993.

As a result of the new legislation, regulations were introduced to ban access to alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material and gambling services. The land was compulsorily acquired by the government in 70 Indigenous communities to ensure that there were no interruptions by traditional owners, and an income management scheme was introduced – the BasicsCard, which was actually born out of an Indigenous innovation.

The FOODCard was introduced by the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) in 2004, the idea came about after community consultations. The main differences between the two cards are that one had community consultations, while the other did not. The terms and conditions for the FOODCard are available in Yolngu Matha and English, for example, while the BasicsCard is in English only.

The other key difference is that the ALPA one is voluntary and you can set for yourself how much money to quarantine, whereas the government one is compulsory, and quarantines 50%-80% of income. The FOODCard was rolled out in 2007, but by then the BasicsCard had taken over.

Neoliberal ideology

The government waited a month until it introduced its last measure, abolishing the CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects) program, one of the programs that were working. It allowed communities to pool all of their unemployment benefits together; this was then paid out as a direct wage for local jobs within the community, or within the CDEP organisations.

Participants were counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as employed, even though the funds originated from unemployment benefits. A form of self-government, and a good solution for unemployment that empowered many communities, especially remote ones.

Communities were also sent pamphlets from Centrelink, explaining that they now had to do something in return for their Centrelink money. The pamphlet also said that they had to call them with their contact details, or their payments might be stopped.

The BasicsCard can also make life harder for those already living in poverty, in that you’re restricted from buying second-hand items with cash… It also means that things like how you pay your electricity bills are decided by Centrelink, so no more payment plans. That’s what income management is, it’s not about just being put on a card as such.

Dr David Scrimgeour told the Public Health Association of Australia conference in September of that year: “Most of the recommendations (…) have been implemented by the Commonwealth Government in the NT under the guise of protecting children, despite the fact that the recommendations are not based on evidence, but on neo-liberal ideology.”

He also said that the Centre for Independent Studies, the think tank that published Helen Hughes’ book, received “significant support from large corporations, particularly mining companies, and has close links with the Government and the media, particularly the Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian.”

Reports ignored or used as political tools

So what does income management look like in the NT ten years after the Intervention? The authors of the Little Children are Sacred report have both said that the report’s recommendations were ignored and that it was used as a political tool to push for an Intervention. Wild said this year that:

“One of the threshold items of the report is that community consultation is needed to be able to best implement the report and that clearly didn’t happen.”

Since the Intervention, report after report gets written about socio-economic disadvantage and the negative aspects felt by those on income management, only to be ignored. They all have a common theme, that there is no evidence of value behind income management programs, and that they didn’t change behaviours. Is it the government’s place to modify human behaviour with financial measures?

There is one report though that has been listened to; commissioned by the Abbott government and reviewed by mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest, it was released in 2014: Creating Parity – The Forrest Review. Forrest and his Minderoo Foundation want a new card called the “Healthy Welfare Card” to replace the BasicsCard. It would apply to all working-age Australians – around 2.5 million Australians, if you exempt pensioners and veterans. This is consistent with Abbott’s view in his book, Battlelines.

Following the BasicsCard money

The BasicsCard started out as store cards from merchants such as Coles and Woolworths, by direct deduction of funds set up by a merchant, or by Centrelink making a credit card or cheque payment. This was too cumbersome, so in 2008 the federal government started the process of procurement for an open tender of the card. Five tender applications were received and the winner was Indue Ltd.

Indue started out as Creditlink; it changed its name in 2006 a year after former Liberal National Party MP, Larry Anthony, became chairman of its board. Anthony was the chairman of Indue until 2013, and he’s been the Federal President of the National Party since 2015. Indue’s win was publicly announced in December 2009. The original contract was worth just over $11 million for three years. It ballooned out to over $25 million.

I’ve gone through the tenders and contracts relating to the card. There are 13 in total to date. Out of those, seven of the contracts are limited, so none of the finer details are available for the public.

Open Tender, Contract Total: $31,138,574.50 million

Limited Tender, Contract Total: $29,064,436.16 million

Total: $60,203,010.66

Cashless welfare card cost blow-out

The “cashless welfare card” trials were originally slated to cost taxpayers $18.9 million.

According to the government tender, the original contract for Indue was worth $7,859,509 (media reports round it up to $8 million). It’s now at $13,035,581.16 million.

That’s just the Indue part. If we add the remaining $10.9 million for the other contracts involved in the income management program, we get a total of $23,935,581.16.

There are 1,850 participants in the trial which began last year, so the cost of the card works out to be $12,938.15 per person.

Using the maximum Newstart allowance of a single person as an example, which is $535.60 per fortnight, they would receive $13,925.60 for the year. Add the Indue layer and the total is $26,863.75 per person.

A lot of money provided by taxpayers for behaviour change, and of course a nice profit for Indue, especially if it rolls out to millions of Australians. The millions of dollars flying about without any oversight, and the political connections, are a grave cause for concern.

Income management rolls out nationally

In 2012, the Gillard government extended income management nationally, and for another 10 years. In the House of Representatives during the debate about the “Stronger Futures Legislation”, Senator Nigel Scullion, Country Liberal Party member, said this:

“There is a fundamental thread through most of the feedback we get when we talk about consultation. When we get to most communities any observer would say that Aboriginal people more generally hate the Intervention. They do not like it, it invades their rights and they feel discriminated against.”

He still voted with the Gillard government. NTER was renamed Stronger Futures. He went on to become the leader of the Nationals in the Senate and Minister for Indigenous Affairs in 2013, and he still holds these positions.

Since the Intervention, the model has expanded from remote communities in the NT to the Kimberley region and Perth in WA, Cape York, all of the NT and selected areas of “disadvantage”. The areas that are deemed as disadvantaged are Logan in Queensland, Bankstown in New South Wales, Shepparton in Victoria and Playford in South Australia.

Trial sites, and another report

The three-part Orima Report is being used by the government, to not only extend draconian, income management measures but also to quantify its success. Social and political researcher, Eva Cox, sums up the report perfectly in a Facebook post on The Say NO Seven page:

“The whole data set of interviews, quantitative and qualitative, are very poorly designed and not likely to be valid data collection instruments. I’d fail any of my research students that produced such dubious instruments.”

The reports include a lot of spin, asking respondents for their “perceptions” at times, and includes retrospective responses for questionnaires. The Say No Seven page has been following all three of the reports closely, and crunched the numbers at the start of this month, when the final Orima report was released. An example can be found on page 46:

“At Wave 2, as was the case in Wave 1, around four-in-ten non-participants (on average across the two Trial sites) perceived that there had been a reduction in drinking in their community since the CDCT commenced.”

This approach means that the reader focuses on the minority of responses, rather than the majority of responses. Six-in-ten not perceiving any reduction in drinking around town. It reads a lot differently than the latter.

Other places rumoured to be put on the card trial are Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in Queensland. One peaceful rally against the card in Hervey Bay involved armed police, with protest organiser Kathryn Wilkes saying: “There were eight of us women aged between 40 and 60 … We were very peaceful. They’re afraid of a bunch of sick women on the (disability support pension). If you pushed me over I’d end up in the hospital. Most of us couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag.”

This heavy-handed approach is all too familiar.

Star chambers and regrets

Which leads me to the anonymous, paid community panels that determine whether those put on income management should be able to access more cash from their bank accounts. Meddling in communities like this isn’t new, it’s been happening in Indigenous ones for years. Turning communities against one another is surely not the role of the government. It also allows them to neatly deflect any accountability for the program.

The BasicsCard can also make life harder for those already living in poverty, in that you’re restricted from buying second-hand items with cash, or something cheap online. It also means that things like how you pay your electricity bills, for example, are decided by Centrelink, so no more payment plans. That’s what income management is, it’s not about just being put on a card as such.

Two sites were chosen to trial the BasicsCard card for one year in 2016: one in Ceduna South Australia, and one in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. The trials were extended indefinitely this year, before the trials had even finished, and before the final Orima report was released just this month.

Punishing those looking for work as though they’re criminals, with drug-testing, isn’t Australian. Work-for-the-dole is pointless when there aren’t any jobs to be found in the first place. All these measures are creating is a subclass of stigmatised Australians. At a time when many countries are talking about universal-basic-income or UBI, we’re still caught up in “dole-bludger” discussions.

One of four Indigenous leaders from WA that originally supported the scheme has since withdrawn his support for the card. Lawford Benning, chair of the MG Corporation, says he feels “used” by the Human Services minister, Alan Tudge. He met regularly with Tudge ahead of the introduction of the card, and helped drum up support for it. He said that services that were promised in return were not provided until seven months later and that what was finally offered was no good.

“I’m not running away from the fact that I was supporting this. But now I’m disappointed and I owe it to my people to speak up,” Benning said. “Every person I’ve spoken with said they don’t want this thing here.”

When Benning heard that the card was going to be permanent and about the rollout of the card at other sites:

“I said ‘hang on, it sounds like you’re trying to get a rubber stamp on something already underway, in an attempt to legitimise something the community doesn’t support.’”

“I said to him ‘your minister isn’t showing respect to us’. Prior to introducing the card, Tudge was flying here every second weekend to meet with us. As soon as we signed up, we’ve never seen him again.”

Take a drug-test or no welfare for new recipients

The latest legislation currently before the parliament involves a two-year drug-testing trial for 5,000 people in Bankstown (NSW), Logan (Queensland) and Mandurah (Western Australia). If it passes, new recipients of the Newstart and Youth Allowance have to agree to be tested in order to receive their allowances. If they refuse a random drug test, their payments will be cancelled. If they test positive they will be placed on the BasicsCard program, with 20% of their allowance made available in cash. 25 days later they get tested again and if they test positively again, they will be referred to a privately-contracted medical professional.

There is no evidence that mandatory drug-testing will work on civilians despite what Social Services minister, Christian Porter says. This ABC fact-check puts that to rest.

“Experts say that, rather than lots of evidence, there is no evidence, here or overseas, to show that mandatory testing will help unemployed drug addicts receive treatment and find jobs.”

The City of Mandurah has accused the Turnbull government of using dodgy data to justify being chosen for the drug-testing trial. City chief executive, Mark Newman wrote:

“One statistic used is that there has been an increase in people having temporary incapacity exemptions due to a drug dependency diagnosis rose by 300% from June 2015 to 2016… The number of people concerned was a rise from 5 to 20 out of a total number of 4,199 people in Mandurah on either Newstart or Youth Allowance benefits as at March 2017.”

The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept

To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain under the guise of philanthropy.

The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights.

We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has.

Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years’ time.

Statistics-wise, Indigenous incarceration is sky-high, Indigenous youth suicide rates have risen by 500% since 2007-2011.

All that these measures are creating is a subclass of stigmatised Australians. At a time when many countries are talking about universal-basic-income or UBI, we’re still caught up in “dole-bludger” discussions. The reality is there is less paid work out there, and that this trend will continue.

Punishing our most vulnerable and those looking for work as though they’re criminals, with drug-testing, just isn’t Australian. We don’t need to follow America with a welfare system that’s littered with “food stamp” programs, and other neo-liberal ideologies. I believe the abolished CDEP is also a model worth looking at again, and not just for Indigenous employment. Work-for-the-dole is just labour exploitation, and most of it is pointless when there aren’t any jobs to be found in the first place.

And on a final note, remember the fake youth worker? He’s still been around as a public servant, and even landed a cushy job with the Abbott government in 2014 as the country’s first “Threatened Species Commissioner”.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #VOICE #ClosingtheGap : Read Minister @KenWyattMP ‘LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK’ – 19TH ANNUAL VINCENT LINGIARI MEMORIAL LECTURE Darwin 15 August 

” What are you going to do tomorrow, in three months’ time and in a year’s time? – good will, while important, will not allow us to complete this journey and positively shift the pendulum.

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

And, how can we make sure their voices are heard as loudly as those who come from Canberra and in the media?

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

“Let us live happily together as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… We want to live in a better way together, Aboriginals and white men, let us not fight over anything, let us be mates.”

Minister Ken Wyatt ‘LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK’ – 19TH ANNUAL VINCENT LINGIARI MEMORIAL LECTURE Darwin 15 August

The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP

Kaya wangju – hello and welcome, in Noongar.

As a Noongar, Wongi and Yamatji man standing before you, I thank Bilawara for her warm welcome this evening.

I formally acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand, the Larrakia people, and pay, my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Good evening to all of you who have joined us this evening and in particular, I want to acknowledge my brothers and sisters who, many that I’ve walked, the challenges of change with.

The words of a song that was sung by the much-loved Slim Dusty of Looking Back and Looking Forward was the basis for what I wanted to cover tonight because of several reasons but Slim in particular was loved by Indigenous Australians – Slim was a storyteller.

Since the beginning of our time our nation’s sacred knowledge and identity has been kept and shared in song and in transmission through our stories.

Song is important to our culture, and to Australian culture. Music and the stories presented through songs are understood and loved by all Australians.

In Slim’s case, his songs were heard drifting throughout Australia’s living rooms, pubs, town halls, on the old wireless radio and through the records we played.

Through his songs and storytelling, Slim brought Indigenous Australia into suburbia, into the minds and hearts of the nation and the wider Australian culture.

The words you would’ve heard in his song ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’ – are very poignant – and help paint an image of modern-day Australia.

I won’t sing it to you, because that’ll sort of distract from the quality of the music, but as Slim says:

Looking Forward, Looking Back.

We’ve come a long way down the track.

We’ve got a long way left to go.

Indigenous Australians, in everything we do, draw on the insights of our journey, the knowledge and wisdom of the past, and use that to embrace our future generations.

As we look back, we see the tracks of those who’ve walked before us.

For each of us, looking back evokes different memories and experiences, but I want us to be able to Look Forward – together – with a united purpose and determination for our children and grandchildren. And whilst for us as well – we have lived our time.

That’s why I’m here, with you, at the 19th annual Lingiari Lecture.

Tonight I will outline how I see us walking together, to advance:

  • Local truth-telling;
  • Constitution Recognition of Indigenous Australians;
  • Giving voice to local communities; and
  • Addressing disadvantage in Indigenous Australia.

So why did I start with Slim?

I’m told that, back in the day, there were juke-boxes here in the Territory that had nothing but Slim Dusty records on them. And as a Slim Dusty and Country Western music fan, I can certainly understand that sentiment.

But the thing that I really admired about him was that he sang about the land, about country, about people and our Australian way of life.

He sang about us, and to us, travelling in the old purple with his caravan to many remote communities and country towns across Australia.

Slim once said the most valuable performance fee he ever received in his entire career was the fee paid by a young girl called Miriam from Daly River here in the Territory.

Miriam and the children of the Daly River Mission wanted to see Slim perform but they couldn’t travel to Darwin to see him.

So together they saved up some money and wrote to Slim offering him an attractive performance fee if he came to their town.

The performance fee they offered was five dollars. But that was good enough for Slim.

He came to Daly, accepted the fee, and put on a show.

Over the course of his life, he visited that community many times. He’d go out to the mustering camp for dinner and share their black tea and bully beef sandwiches.

He’d watch and learn as the women and children showed him how to look for minnamindi.

He learnt how to cook with the honey-bag the kids brought back from the wild bees.

He fished with them; he went shooting with them.

He was invited to corroborees and learned how to make ochre paint.

Knowing us – and really knowing us – meant he could sing about us. He could share our stories in ways we didn’t have the means to and he could tell us stories of other places and people that helped us to understand our neighbours around us.

He sang of Trumby the ringer who couldn’t read or write…he sang of The Tall Dark Man in the Saddle…and of the painter Albert Namatjira.

He sang of a man called Bundawaal, “a King without subjects or crown”; a tribal elder reflecting on past struggles and glories, who couldn’t stop “an alien race without pity or grace” eradicating his people.

The song was based on a story that the local Aboriginal people told Slim while he was on tour.

He was singing about this when hardly anyone else in Australia was talking about us in the same way that he sang.

Slim opened the door for Indigenous people themselves to share the stage in the Australian country music industry, some of these early Indigenous pioneers in the Country Music Industry were people like Auriel Andrew, Jimmy Little and Gus Williams, just to name a few.

Picture a time in Australia, and this is for all the young ones out there, because for many of us here tonight know what it’s like to be told:

Where we could – and could not – sit.

Where we could – and could not – go.

You couldn’t sit on a seat at the cinema – you had to sit on a milk crate at the front of the auditorium or the old chairs.

You couldn’t enter a pub.

But Slim Dusty’s concerts were open to all, and we could sit wherever we liked.

People like Slim helped shift the pendulum.

Throughout our history, advancements in Indigenous affairs have swung like a pendulum.

This pendulum has shifted, back and forth, sometimes bringing meaningful advancement for Indigenous Australians, through events and actions of our own people, such as:

  • Albert Namatjira becoming the first Indigenous Australian to be given restricted citizenship,
  • Charlie Perkins Freedom Ride,
  • The election of Neville Bonner in 1971 to our nation’s Parliament, the first Indigenous Australian to serve in the Australian parliament. If you ever get the opportunity, go to the old museum at the parliament, the Old Parliament, and read his diary entry. He has a pillow on display and the diary entry says “I was never invited to any event, any function. At the end of a day, I would leave my office, go home to my trusted friend, my pillow, and would lay my head down to rest.”
  • Eddie Mabo’s fight and victory for Native Title and land rights, and of course
  • Vincent Lingiari’s Wave Hill walk-off and a strike which led to the Native Land Rights Act in 1976.

These significant achievements shifted the pendulum positively, however this hasn’t always meant the pendulum stayed that way.

While we have succeeded in some areas, in others we have not.

Looking forward, we must address where we have failed.

Where we have failed to permanently shift the pendulum on fundamental disadvantage with Indigenous Australia, on factors such as;

  • The basic right to an education,
  • The value of a full-time job,
  • Access uniformly to health care – and the need to address alarming rates of suicide and mental illness in our community,
  • And much, much more.

As I stand here tonight, looking forward, I am optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead for us – and equally as realistic about the challenges we must overcome.

LOCAL TRUTH-TELLING

As we embark on this journey – I am above all else wanting to have and encourage conversations across this nation – through these conversations we become more comfortable with each other, our shared past, present and future.

Truth-telling to me is not a contest of histories; it’s an understanding of history. It’s an acceptance that there can be shared stories around events in our nation’s history.

I recently spoke with an elderly woman who expressed her dismay that her childhood and education hadn’t featured the stories or history of Indigenous Australians.

In particular, she spoke about learning of massacres later in life and used the words to say that she had been lied to as a child.

I responded by saying that she wasn’t lied to, but she didn’t hear or have the opportunity to hear about our history through our eyes.

This is why we share and we need to share our history because it is important that the history of this nation is paralleled to the events that have occurred.

It is not about guilt. It is about acknowledging that there were events that occurred.

And we need to acknowledge that people will come to this debate from various angles, and perceptions of history – none of this is wrong, or should be dismissed or discouraged.

We cannot simply tell our truth through yelling.

It must be done through conversation.

For me, one of the most indelible moments that sparked a national conversation was that in December 1992 when the then Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered, what is now known as the Redfern Speech.

I had the fortune of being there.

The crowd was electrified and noisy, charged with energy and emotion.

I remember a bunch of balloons in the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags bobbed on the roof above Keating’s head, and children dressed in red as they sat on the grass at the foot of the stage, trying to keep still but mostly failing.

Keating’s words that day have entered the history books, so has that speech.

The words most often quoted are his accounting of the deeds of non-Aboriginal Australians. He said:

We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders.”

But it was the next line that caused the strongest reaction from the audience. You couldn’t miss it.

We took the children from their mothers.

Those seven words drew a loud outburst from the crowd.

It was raw emotion.

Yet, it was both positive and negative – but most of all it was a significant moment of truth-telling, by none other than our nation’s Prime Minister of the day.

That shifted the pendulum – and from that shift, in 2008 we saw Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issue an apology on behalf of the Commonwealth Government to the Stolen Generations.

And any one of us here tonight could probably remember where we were, who we were with and the way in which we watched that speech being delivered. But the reactions that were portrayed on the screens, the tears running down the faces of those who were most affected, and the sense of relief became a glaringly obvious moment based on the fact: the truth of the past had been acknowledged.

Whilst this was regarded by some as merely a symbolic gesture, as of 2015 the fact is that there are an estimated 13,800 surviving Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over who had been removed from their families and communities and considered part of the Stolen Generation.

The healing that resulted from this act of truth-telling cannot be quantified.

And while this took time, it does demonstrate that truth-telling today can lead to significant moments of reconciliation in the future.

If we walk together and acknowledge our shared history we can achieve permanent positive change.

Truth-telling is not best served by a national commission or similar interrogation of truth.

We all should know detailed stories of the areas in which we lived. All Australians – sharing the one history.

I personally would rather see an organic and evolving truth-telling, in which we share our stories, our acknowledgement of the events of the past, but the way in which we as a nation of people are melding together for a better future.

There has to be local storytelling of the history of the past. And it must be local, otherwise we gloss over those very elements that are important in country, within region, and we will only tend to focus on national stories.

Every story to do with our country is as equally important as the national stories.

Around kitchen tables, over the BBQ and in the backyard, down at the local football and netball clubs and in pubs – this is where permanent change will come from – not from loud voices in Canberra and the media.

The 2018 Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition heard this first hand, and reported the following:

“A large number of stakeholders agreed that truth-telling is best implemented at local and regional levels.”

A key component of this local truth-telling is the fact that we must be comfortable having these conversations.

And comfortability is a two way street – for Indigenous Australians it means having the ability to speak our truth and have it heard; and for those seeking to understand, we must allow them to ask questions and contribute to the rigour of the conversation – whilst at all times maintaining respect for one another.

Until this happens, we won’t see the shift in the pendulum that we want to see and achieve.

Importantly, truth-telling is also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Indigenous Australians – we must stand proud and celebrate the progress we’ve made.

Too often the pictures painted are that of setback and failure, which simply reinforces the negative elements of our history.

I want us to lead in a positive manner – I want all of us to lead in a positive manner. And, I want to celebrate our successes and champion those who achieve and do great things. In sport we do that exceptionally well – we acknowledge Ash Barty, we acknowledge Cathy Freeman, and many of our high-level achieving sports men and women.

But we also need to do it for the things that we achieve personally, those matters that we achieve as a community, but as equally important is the success of a child at each stage of schooling. And I’m not talking about achieving significant reform here, which is certainly important.

What I’m referring to is the kid who didn’t finish school getting their first job, and keeping it, and finding themselves contributing member to their community.

We need to celebrate every child who goes to school and receives an education, the foundation of a more meaningful and purposeful life.

These quiet achievements are as much about what defines Indigenous Australia in 2019 as the differences, we all too often allow those differences to divide us.

CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS

Looking forward to our opportunity to shift the pendulum – let’s talk about Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Whilst the Constitution belongs to all Australians, it is important for the purpose of the conversations that I’ve spoken about tonight are so critical in achieving what we set out to do.

As I’ve said before – this is too important to rush, and it’s too important to get wrong.

On eight occasions, the Australian people have voted to change our founding document.

The Constitution is like the rule book for sport; it is the rule book of our nation.

On 36 other occasions they’ve been lost – and there 36 issues that have not come back to the Australian people to consider again in a referendum.

The most recent example of this being the 1999 Republic and Preamble Referendum – a campaign that saw a rift in our nation’s fabric – and result where not a single State carried a Yes vote – and often forgotten, is the fact that the vote on the Preamble was rejected by a greater margin than the question of the Republic.

This is not to say we can’t achieve Constitutional Recognition within the term of this Parliament.

But it is important that we learn from the 1999 Referendum, and reflect on how challenging it can be to translate good will into a positive outcome.

Looking back to 1967, and the Referendum put forward by the Coalition Holt Government, 90.77% of Australians voted to embrace our people as part of Australia.

Key to this was bi-partisan support, the simplicity of the question and a clear purpose for holding the Referendum.

I want to be very clear – the question we put to the Australian people will not result in what some desire, and that is a enshrined voice to the Parliament – on these two matters, whilst related, need to be treated separately.

This is about recognising Indigenous Australians on our Birth Certificate.

And I’ll talk about voice later on.

When I was elected in 2010, I was appointed to the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians – we held public conversations in 84 urban, regional and remote locations and in every capital city – as well as the hundreds of meetings and around 3,500 submissions were received.

From this, the Panel reported to government in 2012, and subsequently we had three more reports to government on the same matter.

Each of these reports have looked at a set of words to put to the Australian people.

The words are there in those documents.

Our challenge now is finding a way forward that will result in the majority of Australians, in the majority of states, overwhelmingly supporting Constitutional Recognition. We must be pragmatic.

The Constitution belongs to all Australians, from those in Slim’s home town of Kempsey to those in my childhood town of Corrigin, no one of us can lay claim to the Constitution.

It belongs to us collectively, and it belongs to those who came before us, and most importantly, it will belong to our children and our grandchildren.

I’m not thinking about what I can achieve for myself, or concerned about my legacy, I’m focused on realising recognition for my children, your children and generations to come.

Let me challenge the loudest voices in this debate – now is our opportunity to do this, and it will require understanding and tolerance of all views.

If we don’t seize the opportunity now, it may be lost for all of time – we must not allow this to happen – so I invite you to walk with all Australians on this journey.

It’s not about walking with me, or walking the path of any one individual – it’s about walking in the footsteps of those who’ve come before us, to create a new path for all Australians.

This is not an issue that can be viewed through the prism of political ideologies and all Australian politics have a way to go.

I ask my colleagues, from all sides, to remember what is your first duty as a Member of Parliament – and that is to listen to and represent the views of your community.

There is a lot of work to do on this journey – we haven’t had a referendum since 1999 – and we must educate a new generation on the importance of the Constitution and the significance of the change we are asking for.

This will require all of us to lay the foundation through education and conversation – that is the first step.

I had a young Australian ask me the other day when to expect their ballot to arrive in the mail to post back and wanted to be part of this change.

I had to explain to her the difference between the recent postal plebiscite to recognise same-sex Marriage and the difference between what a referendum is and how it works.

Having these conversations are as important as the conversations we have about why we need to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution and demonstrates the steps we need to consider to achieve this.

Let’s start these conversations, which may seem very basic to us, but are very important to realising success.

The pendulum will shift – but it’s up to us to determine which way.

VOICE

Let me now turn to voice and being heard.

Having your voice heard is going to look very different to how your neighbour sees their voice being heard.

In Australia today, there are almost 800,000 Indigenous voices – all of equal importance and relevance.

Therein lies the complexity of defining ‘a voice’.

The voice is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

I see rooted in our elders, who are the basis for our knowledge, culture and lore, and rooted in our communities, and extending through the ways in which all levels of government, service providers and corporations engage and work with our people.

Too often I visit communities and I’m told that their voice isn’t being heard because needs are not being met on the ground and we certainly heard that at Garma for those who were in attendance.

And others, who say that they want their local member of parliament to hear their voice.

How we give voice to these Australians is through conversation and understanding.

Knowing what is happening, knowing what needs to happen – and work with leaders and individuals within our communities to develop the practical solutions that see a shift in the pendulum at the most local of levels.

Having these voices heard is not only a matter for the Commonwealth government – it’s a matter for State and Territories, local governments and service providers.

That’s why I’ve tasked the National Indigenous Australians Agency with changing the way they engage – to ensure that the priority is meeting the needs of local communities first.

I’m often asked about the commitment of the Morrison Government but let me assure you that the Morrison Government is committed to a co-design process so we ensure we have the best possible framework in place to hear those voices at the local, regional and national level.

More will be said in the months to come, and much like Constitutional Recognition, it’s too important to rush, or to get wrong.

This is about ensuring Indigenous voices are heard as loudly as any other Australian voice is.

Again – this is a journey for all Australians to walk, and through conversations we must respect, understand and address all perspectives on this matter.

Giving voice to Indigenous Australians, and realising Constitutional Recognition are the greatest opportunities in our lifetime, but they are not mutually-exclusive.

This must be remembered if we are to shift the pendulum.

SHIFTING THE PENDULUM

But what about shifting the pendulum tomorrow?

There are things that we can be doing, as individuals, as parts of organisations and as members of communities to positively shift the pendulum.

Don’t think that any one action you can take won’t lead to meaningful change – the individual actions of those here tonight, let alone all those across this nation, has the potential to improve lives and outcomes for our people.

We can all shift the pendulum.

And that’s what I’m focused on every single day.

I will be judged as equally on my ability and this government’s ability to create jobs, improve access to healthcare, have young people attend school and succeed, and reduce suicide rates as I will be on delivering Constitutional Recognition.

And this is what drives me.

Every Indigenous Australian who finds a job, every young person that gets to school in the morning, every prevented suicide and instances of Otitis Media for example being treated is what I will celebrate.

And that’s something you should celebrate too. It’s something you can have a direct impact upon.

How do you play a role in shifting the pendulum? Consider that proposition tonight and leave here motivated to shift the pendulum for one person, one family, one community or more.

Many of you will be doing that already, so the question becomes, how can we grow and share that? How can we celebrate that?

We must look at what we do and the good we have the potential for – and to then share these successes as loudly and widely as possible.

By celebrating success, we’re not blinding ourselves to the challenges at hand, or dismissing the levels of disadvantage within Australian Indigenous communities.

We know that people are dying earlier.

We know that our people are committing suicide.

We know that children are being born into a lifetime of poverty.

And, that’s on us as well.

I don’t discount or diminish this in any way.

We owe it to our children, and to future generations to come to create an environment and culture of opportunity and of positivity so that when an Indigenous Australian children is born, they see a world where their dreams can be realised, and where each day is filled with hope and optimism.

Where the face they see in the mirror, doesn’t limit their aspirations.

Where the face they see in the mirror is the face they see reading the 5 o’clock news, the face they see exploring space or one day the face they see leading our nation.

To achieve this future, we must change how we look at ourselves – and we must have others view Indigenous Australians through our successes and not our failings.

Just as disadvantage should not be viewed through colour – success should not be limited by colour.

I asked what we can do tomorrow to shift the pendulum – well, start by celebrating success, by sharing success and by ensuring that one person’s success today is the hope for someone else’s success tomorrow.

But to emphasise the importance of acting and listening at a local level, I want to take us back to the 1967 referendum.

As the referendum votes were being tallied and the nation’s ‘Yes’ vote was starting to emerge, Vincent Lingiari, a Gurindji man and his stockmen were several months into their famous Wave Hill walk-off and strike.

The strike although initially an employee rights action had soon become a national issue as the relationship between Indigenous Australians and the wider community and our national idioms were once again being challenged.

The strike lasted 8 years and that eventually led to the Native Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

This shifted the pendulum, legislating the right for Indigenous people of the Northern Territory to negotiate over any developments on their lands.

LINGIARI

Lingiari’s actions at a local level, culminated in the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s pouring the red dirt of our land through the hands of Vincent.

While this act was symbolic, it put in train a series of events that defines the land rights movement to this day.

The courage shown by Lingiari was not only for him, but for future generations, as recognised by what Whitlam said. And I won’t repeat what Sue shared with us earlier but it was a sign of possession of our lands for our children forever.

I am truly humbled to be here in front of you, delivering the 19th annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture – and I thank Charles Darwin University for the opportunity to contribute to this series of lectures, which has helped in its own way, be a form of truth-telling and spark the conversations that we’ve needed since 1996.

To be in the company of such distinguished voices truly is an honour.

And, I don’t want tonight to be about me, but if I could take one moment to say that the significance of being appointed the first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians is not lost on me.

And I thanks the Gurindji people for their faith and for their commitment and I will certainly walk with you to deliver on the things that are important to our people but I will walk with our people across this nation and other Australians.

For young Indigenous Australians out there, across this great nation, dreaming of a career in politics, I hope that my journey can give you hope.

Many of you here know my journey, but just let me share it again for that young person who’s hearing from me for the first time tonight.

I was born in 1952 and raised in Roelands Mission near Bunbury in Western Australia, and the oldest of 10 kids.

My father was a railway ganger. My mother was a member of the Stolen Generations.

And, we lived in a tiny place called Nannine, just west of Meekatharra.

My schooling at first was by correspondence – working a radio with a foot pedal, like an old sewing machine, for two hours at a time.

Soon afterwards, my parents moved to Corrigin.

Education was my turning point, and by going to school, my drive for knowledge and desire to learn is something that I retain and value today.

I have a few other fragments of memory from when I was a skinny-ankled kid running around Corrigin.

There was the time that some people in our town started circulating a petition to get the Aboriginal family that had just moved in kicked out.

The petition failed. The townspeople wanted us to stay and have a fair go.

I also remember a time when I was about ten years old and somebody said to me: you might end up being a politician one day.

And I thought “not in this country will I ever have that opportunity”.

As I grew into a teenager in the mid-60s, I became enterprising.

I worked on farms, I’d catch rabbits, sell the meat to the butcher (certainly not the ones I bruised; I’d cook those) and I’d sell the skins as well.

I used to work on farms too. I’d earn money by chopping wood, doing the fencing, driving tractors during harvesting.

But, it gave me money for myself. I’d keep half my earnings and buy a few things and put some away in the bank. The other half I’d give to mother to help put food on the table for all of us.

This is not a sob story.

To me it sort of felt like freedom.

It gave me a sense of personal responsibility and an attitude of enterprising thinking.

Those experiences living in a country town probably shaped me.

While I was busy skinning rabbits and making a buck, Australia was growing and changing.

I hope collectively we can fulfil the expectation I feel each day, to continue to grow and shape a better future for all Indigenous Australians, and continue the healing of our nation.

I know I don’t walk alone – but I also acknowledge there are many expectations placed on me. And I feel the weight of expectation.

But, I want to take this weight – and turn it into an optimism for what we can achieve – together when we swing the pendulum.

CONCLUSION

And, I’ll repeat again – everything I have spoken about tonight, from truth-telling to Constitutional Recognition is too important to rush, and too important to get wrong.

I need everyone in this room, and all of those out there who want us to succeed to ask yourselves – what can I do to help us realise our goals?

What are you going to do to shift that pendulum?

What are you going to do tomorrow, in three months’ time and in a year’s time? – good will, while important, will not allow us to complete this journey and positively shift the pendulum.

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

And, how can we make sure their voices are heard as loudly as those who come from Canberra and in the media?

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

“Let us live happily together as mates, let us not make it hard for each other… We want to live in a better way together, Aboriginals and white men, let us not fight over anything, let us be mates.”

Let this be the basis for conversations we have. And, remember these important words of Vincent Lingiari.

Take stock every so often and ask yourself – are your actions working for or against shifting the pendulum – on any of the measures we’ve discussed tonight, or on any other significant measures through which we define success and progress.

Let’s remember the importance of learning, listening and understanding when we look back – and through this, we will be able to look forward.

Look forward and work towards realising

  • Local truth-telling;
  • Constitution Recognition of Indigenous Australians;
  • Giving voice to our local communities; and
  • Addressing disadvantage in Indigenous Australia.

Together we can shift the pendulum, help every child out there realise their dreams, and leave a more unified, understanding and tolerant Australia for the generations to come.

Success for me, will be to look back, after all is said and done, and be able to say, as Slim once sang:

We’ve done us proud.

To come this far,

Down through the years,

To where we are,

Side by side,

Hand in hand,

We’ve lived and died for this great land,

We’ve done us proud.

Let us walk together.

Let us shift the pendulum together.

I thank you for the privilege of being here with you this evening.

Thank you.

[ENDS]

AUTHORISED BY KEN WYATT, LIBERAL PARTY, CANBERRA.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read Barb Shaw AMSANT Chair keynote speeches at the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference #NILCIHJC2019 Darwin 13 Aug and #AMSANT25Conf Alice Springs 7 Aug

” The conference represents the coming together of two strands of community endeavour—health and justice—that I think naturally belong together, and about which I have had a close association with, and passion for, since I was young.

From my sector’s perspective—the primary health care sector—you simply cannot talk about health without invoking the principles of justice.

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

Even more so when we are talking about Aboriginal community controlled primary health care services.

For our services are—first and foremost—acts of self-determination. There is no stronger expression of our community’s desire and hunger for justice than the pursuit of our rights as First Nations peoples to be self-determining.

To have our people making the decisions about what we need and how we should do things.

And to have our people governing and being employed in the organisations that deliver programs and services to our communities.

And yet we have never accepted, and we will never accept, this imposed status quo.

Aboriginal community controlled health services embody this determination and resolve.” 

Barb Shaw keynote address delivered 13 August to the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference held in Darwin in conjunction with the National Indigenous Legal Conference.

Read in full Part 1 Below

” AMSANT provides a strong and respected voice nationally, which is evidenced by the high regard that we are afforded by the politicians we seek to influence, the bureaucrats we spar with on a daily basis, and by our peers who we work with at the national level, including our national peak body, NACCHO. AMSANT has been a consistent and significant contributor to NACCHO.

I will finish by sounding a note of concern that we can’t take our achievements or position for granted. We need to be forever vigilant, for despite all our efforts, the system has not fundamentally changed and is still configured to marginalise and disempower Aboriginal people. We have to work harder and smarter.

And we know we can because AMSANT is all of us. When we work together, when we combine our voices, and when we share a vision, then nothing is going to stop us.

May the next 25 years of AMSANT be as wonderful as the first.

AMSANT Chair Barb Shaw Keynote address for AMSANT 25th Anniversary Conference
Alice Springs Convention Centre, 7th August 2019 

At the #AMSANT25Conf Dinner 25 years of Aboriginal health leadership cutting the 25 year celebratory cake Our Barb Shaw Chair and John Paterson CEO , Pat Anderson , June Oscar and Donna Ah Chee 

Read and or download 25 Anniversary address here 

Barb Shaw – Keynote address for AMSANT 25th Anniversary Conference_FINAL (2)

Good morning everyone.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we’re meeting, the Larrakia people, and particularly their elders, past, present and emerging, and to thank James Parfitt for his warm welcome to country.

My name is Barb Shaw.

I am the Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT—or AMSANT—and also the Chief Executive Officer of Anyinginyi Health Service.

I would like especially thank David Woodroffe for his insightful words of introduction, and particularly his highlighting of the importance of the words hope, optimism and resilience. These are qualities that have always been strong in our communities.

I am very grateful to the Winkiku [Win-kee-koo] Rrumbangi NT Indigenous Lawyers Association for their invitation to AMSANT to partner with them in holding the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference, being held in parallel with this year’s National Indigenous Legal Conference.

The conference represents the coming together of two strands of community endeavour—health and justice—that I think naturally belong together, and about which I have had a close association with, and passion for, since I was young.

From my sector’s perspective—the primary health care sector—you simply cannot talk about health without invoking the principles of justice.

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

Even more so when we are talking about Aboriginal community controlled primary health care services.

For our services are—first and foremost—acts of self-determination. There is no stronger expression of our community’s desire and hunger for justice than the pursuit of our rights as First Nations peoples to be self-determining.

To have our people making the decisions about what we need and how we should do things.

And to have our people governing and being employed in the organisations that deliver programs and services to our communities.

When we take a long, hard look at the many, many injustices our people face today, we can trace the path of injustice back to the persistent and variously callous, arrogant, or ignorant denials of our rights to self-determination that is our lived experience as First Nations peoples in this country.

And yet we have never accepted, and we will never accept, this imposed status quo.

Aboriginal community controlled health services embody this determination and resolve.

In the NT, we have been around more than 45 years, since Congress was first established in Alice Springs in 1974.

It was a time when one out of every four of our babies died before their first birthday! Just think about that.

It was a time when the life expectancy for Aboriginal males was just 52 years and for Aboriginal females, 54 years.

The community rallied—literally. It was a turning point and a movement was born.

Other communities followed and new community controlled services emerged—Urapuntja in 1977, Wurli Wurlinjang in the early 1980s, Pintupi and Anyinginyi in 1984, with more joining over the years.

As a sector, we didn’t sit back and wait for the government to do to us—we actively drove the agenda, took a leadership role, and did the hard work to advocate and lobby—and importantly—to provide the evidence and substance to what we were asking for.

Last week AMSANT held our 25th Anniversary celebrations in Alice Springs. One of our strong and amazing leaders, Pat Anderson, reminded us of our sector’s leadership in the early years, including in the international arena.

When primary health care leaders from around the world met in Russia in 1978, to set out a vision for primary health care, resulting in the historic Alma Ata Declaration—we were there—making our contribution to the Declaration’s drafting.

And in 1996, when the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations was drafting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—UNDRIP—we were there, advocating for community control.

Back in Australia, we led the campaign to remove health from ATSIC’s responsibilities—where it was chronically underfunded—and transfer it to the Commonwealth Department of Health, where Commonwealth bureaucrats were made accountable for our people’s health.

Importantly, this meant we were finally able to begin to access the mainstream resources and services due to us, that we were not receiving.

This brought significantly increased funding to our sector and transformed the Aboriginal health landscape.

Today, our services provide over 60% of all primary health care to our people in the Northern Territory.

And we do it better. In 2010, a major study concluded that when ACCHSs deliver health programs there is fifty percent more health gain or benefit than if those programs were delivered by mainstream primary care services.

The important point here is that this didn’t come from government. It came from us.

This history also illustrates two fundamental principles that our two disciplines, justice and health, also hold in common—Truth and Evidence.

For our sector, our truth existed in the history of disadvantage, neglect, exclusion and institutional racism that our communities were facing.

But in order to get action from government we needed to provide the evidence to support our case.

The battles we were fighting were, in fact, situated within a much longer history of struggle to establish and protect human rights.

Advances in public health achieved during the 19th century laid the foundations for a set of rights as citizens and communities that we now regard as standard entitlements and the responsibility of good government—if not to provide—then at least to regulate.

These advances depended on evidence.

For example, discovery of the causes of infectious diseases, such as cholera, provided crucial evidence for the need for public infrastructure for clean water supply and sewage disposal.

Evidence of the impacts on health caused by poor and overcrowded housing contributed to establishing a role for government in the provision of public housing and building standards—the concept of shelter as a basic human right.

Such advances in our knowledge of health determinants underpin the rights and laws that have developed around these issues, which we largely take for granted.

In stating this, it is also apparent to all of us here that these rights have not become automatic and universally available, and that those who most often lack them, come from the poorest and most marginalised sections of our society.

Here in the Northern Territory, particularly in remote communities, the lack of adequate housing, water and sewerage are major issues of concern.

For our people, connection to country and the ability to live on our ancestral lands are fundamental to our identity, to our cultural and spiritual wellbeing, and to our right to maintain our relationships and communities.

However, we cannot achieve this without basic infrastructure and services that are routinely provided in cities and towns, but which in many of our communities, are either inadequately provided or don’t exist.

Poor quality and inadequate sources of potable water have become issues of public health concern which in some cases are threatening community viability.

The significant shortfall in housing and high levels of overcrowding and homelessness experienced in Aboriginal communities are unacceptable in themselves, but all the more so, because the evidence tells us that inadequate housing and homelessness are determinants of poor health and wellbeing.

This includes transmitted diseases such as rheumatic heart disease, communicable diseases, effects on stress and wellbeing, family violence and even school attendance.

Whichever way you look at it, Indigenous housing is an area of significant government failure.

In a large part this is because government made a series of ill-considered decisions to cut us out of any significant or meaningful governance and decision-making role in housing.

Our Indigenous Community Housing Organisations were abolished.

The Commonwealth’s Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program or SIHIP, and National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing or NPARIH, burned through some $1.7 billion over 10 years without much troubling to get our input.

And the NT Intervention saw the Commonwealth take over responsibility for remote community leases and housing, with housing transferred to the NT Government.

The latter has been its own disaster, with evidence of incompetent management of residential tenancy leases and rents and an inadequate system for responding to repairs and maintenance, leading to significant hardship for residents.

Despite evidence of its own failures, it is perhaps unsurprising that the government is not happy that communities have recently exercised their rights to adequate housing by launching a class action against the NT Government in relation to rents and repairs.

This is a good example of a health justice partnership—the community partnering with a group of lawyers who provided the expertise to document and launch an action at the direction of the community.

It is hard to look at this example as anything other than a spectacular own goal by government.

They should have listened to us, perhaps!

In saying this, it needs to be acknowledged that there are encouraging developments in government policy on housing at both the NT and Commonwealth levels.

The NT Government’s Local Decision Making policy extends to Aboriginal housing and the new National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous housing struck between the NT and the Commonwealth, includes the four Northern Territory Land Councils in a significant role.

However, this falls well short of self-determination in Aboriginal housing.

Here, the leadership has once again come from the Aboriginal community. Four years’ work—supported by the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, or APO NT—has resulted in the development of a new Northern Territory Aboriginal peak housing body, Aboriginal Housing NT, or AHNT.

This was our initiative and our hard work—not government’s.

With in-principle agreement to support the new body, it is now a matter of negotiation about what formal role the new peak body will be afforded.

Occasionally an issue emerges that cuts like a knife through the national consciousness, requiring immediate and strong action.

Such was the situation when the 4-Corners program revealed the appalling abuse that was occurring inside the Don Dale youth detention centre. The revelations prompted the immediate establishment of the Royal Commission into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory.

This issue blew wide open the systemic failures that exist in the treatment of our young people, mostly Indigenous children, and provided a huge opportunity for reform.

Our sector’s response, alongside our APO NT partners, provided leadership to ensure an evidence-based, therapeutic, public health response was considered by the Royal Commission.

We also advocated for a new Tripartite Forum with an oversight role in relation to reforms in child protection and youth justice. AMSANT is represented on the Forum as one of three APO NT representatives.

The NT Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Royal Commission is commendable, however progress on the reforms is concerning and the lack of a commitment of funding from the Commonwealth is disappointing.

It is also disappointing to see the Northern Territory Government waver in the face of a recent campaign to water down the reforms.

We know only too well the politics that have long played out in the Northern Territory to scapegoat and demonise our people as problems to be managed, and punished.

We have seen the law and order and mandatory sentencing campaigns that have directly contributed to outcomes such as Don Dale.  We have suffered under the NT Intervention.

The low road of political opportunism dressed up as community concern.

Anything but focus on the neglect and structural racism that are key underlying determinants of the situation.

We can and must do better as a community.

This brings me to two other moments of national consciousness pricking that bring us—I believe—to a watershed moment in this nation’s history.

The first is Closing the Gap—a policy that was well-intentioned but also typically forged without our consent or input and delivered as a top-down initiative.

What could possibly go wrong?

Burdened with annual, very public demonstrations of its failure according to its own indices—only two of 10 targets achieving reasonable improvement—the Prime Minister sensibly called for a re-fresh of the policy.

Perhaps not so sensibly, the re-fresh consultations were centrally controlled and once again failed to engage us meaningfully.

However, this time, faced with concern expressed by a national Coalition of Peak Indigenous organisations, the Prime Minister asked for our solution.

The result is a formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap with the Coalition of Peaks, and the establishment of a Joint Council on Closing the Gap with the Coalition of Peaks represented as a member—the first time that a non-governmental body has been represented within a COAG structure.

APO NT is a member of the Coalition of Peaks and the NACCHO CEO, our very own Pat Turner, is leading the Coalition.

Importantly, the central ask of the Coalition of Peaks, is not around the new indicators—although these are important tools to get right—but for a fundamental change in the way governments work with our people and the full involvement of our people in shared decision-making at all levels.

This includes the need for a commitment to building, strengthening and expanding the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled sector to deliver Closing the Gap services and programs.

The second watershed moment was the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

That this considered and heart-felt gesture from our communities was summarily dismissed by the Prime Minister of the day—and that it continues to be undermined by baseless scaremongering—represents a moment of national shame.

But we have taken great heart from the many, many non-Indigenous organisations and individuals who have taken the Statement to their hearts.

This includes the AMA and the Australian Law Society.

And what did we ask for? We asked for:

  • a process of treaty-making to lay a firm basis for the future relationship of First Nations and those who came to this country later;
  • a process of truth telling about our shared past; and
  • a constitutionally enshrined voice to Parliament to ensure ongoing structures for our input into policy making and the life of the nation.

If we were to try to pinpoint the essence of what justice for our people means and what it will take to address the health disadvantage we face, then we would probably find it contained within the pregnant potential of these two initiatives—Closing the Gap and the Uluru Statement.

We are not going anywhere.

And we will not give up on our dreams.

All we ask is to be afforded the responsibility to make our own decisions about our own lives.

To have the opportunity to participate in decision-making over the policies that affect us; and to have our organisations and our people serve our communities.

To be afforded respect as equals, side-by-side, safe and secure in our cultures and identity.

To have the courage and the decency to face the truth of this nation.

Over the next two days, these and many other issues will be discussed and I know it will be done with passion and with goodwill.

I commend this conference to you.

Thank you.