NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #prisons #JustJustice : Terms of references released Over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in our prisons

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 ” It is acknowledged that while laws and legal frameworks are an important factor contributing to over‑representation, there are many other social, economic, and historic factors that also contribute.

It is also acknowledged that while the rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their contact with the criminal justice system – both as offenders and as victims – significantly exceeds that of non‑Indigenous Australians, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit criminal offences.”

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia,

Refering to the Australian Law Reform Commission, an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons:

Senator Siewert Greens Senator moved the following motion in the Senate

(a) notes that the adult incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples increased by 77.4 per cent from 2000 to 2015;

(b) acknowledges the growing incarceration rates of our First Peoples is shameful;

(c) notes the Redfern Statement, which was released in 2016 by over 55 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations and peak bodies, sets out a plan for addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage;

(d) notes that the Redfern Statement calls for justice targets to help focus the effort to reduce Aboriginal incarceration; and

(e) calls on the Government to listen to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and adopt justice targets as a matter of urgency.

NACCHO NOTE :

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will tomorrow deliver the ninth Closing the Gap address to Parliament.

The annual report card tracks progress against targets in a range of areas, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and life expectancy.

But it does not include any targets around incarceration rates — despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making up a quarter of Australia’s prison population

ALRC inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) welcomes the appointment by Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, of His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM as an ALRC Commissioner.

Judge Myers will lead the new ALRC Inquiry into the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, announced by the Attorney-General in October 2016.

Judge Myers was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2012. He is a member of the Board of Family and Relationship Services Australia, the CatholicCare Advisory Council (Broken Bay Dioceses), Law Society of New South Wales Indigenous Issues Committee, Federal Circuit Court of Australia Indigenous Access to Justice Committee, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Family Law Pathways Network, member of the Central Coast Family Law Pathways Network Steering Committee, member of the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, member of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council,  member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and member of the Honoured Friends of the Salvation Army.

Judge Myers said “I am honoured by this appointment and the opportunity to build on the valuable work of past Commissions, Inquiries and successful community initiatives. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children are significantly over represented in the Australian criminal justice system. This is something that cannot and should not be acceptable to any Australian. I look forward to undertaking a broad consultation across the country, working closely with stakeholders and the community to develop meaningful and practical solutions through law reform.”

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM said, “We are delighted by this appointment and welcome Judge Myers to lead this very important Inquiry. To echo the Attorney-General, the over representation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system is a national tragedy. This Inquiry, with the expertise and leadership of Judge Myers, is an important step in developing much needed law reform in this area.”

The Attorney-General’s Department released draft Terms of Reference for Inquiry into the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for community consultation, in December 2016.

The consultation included Indigenous communities and organisations and state and territory governments.

Scope of the reference

  1. In developing its law reform recommendations, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) should have regard to:
    1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody, specifically in relation to:
      1. the nature of offences resulting in incarceration,
      2. cautioning,
      3. protective custody,
      4. arrest,
      5. remand and bail,
      6. diversion,
      7. sentencing, including mandatory sentencing, and
      8. parole, parole conditions and community reintegration.
    2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering (1)(a)(i-viii), including:
      1. community safety,
      2. availability of alternatives to incarceration,
      3. the degree of discretion available to decision-makers,
      4. incarceration as a last resort, and
      5. incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment.
    3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
    4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
    5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
    6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  2.  In conducting its Inquiry, the ALRC should have regard to existing data and research[1] in relation to:
    1. best practice laws, legal frameworks that reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration,
    2. pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the criminal justice system, including most frequent offences, relative rates of bail and diversion and progression from juvenile to adult offending,
    3. alternatives to custody in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and/or offending, including rehabilitation, therapeutic alternatives and culturally appropriate community led solutions,
    4. the impacts of incarceration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in relation to employment, housing, health, education and families, and
    5. the broader contextual factors contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration including:
      1. the characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population,
      2. the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration and inter‑generational trauma, loss of culture, poverty, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, experience of violence, including family violence, child abuse and neglect, contact with child protection and welfare systems, educational access and performance, cognitive and psychological factors, housing circumstances and employment, and
      3. the availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration.
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  3. In undertaking this Inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consider other reports, inquiries and action plans including but not limited to:
    1. the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,
    2. the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (due to report 1 August 2017),
    3. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services,
    4. Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric impairment in Australia,
    5. Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Harmful Use of Alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,
    6. reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    7. the ALRC’s inquiries into Family violence and Family violence and Commonwealth laws, and
    8. the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

  1. In conducting its inquiry the ALRC should also have regard to relevant international human rights standards and instruments.

Consultation

  1. In undertaking this inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consult with relevant stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their organisations, state and territory governments, relevant policy and research organisations, law enforcement agencies, legal assistance service providers and the broader legal profession, community service providers and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Timeframe

  1. The ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 22 December 2017.

[1] It is not the intention that the Australian Law Reform Commission will undertake independent research or evaluation of existing programs, noting that this falls outside its legislative responsibilities and expertise.

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NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Human Rights : Nomination open 2017 National Indigenous #HumanRights Awards

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 ” The National Indigenous Human Rights Awards recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who have made significant contribution to the advancement of human rights and social justice for their people.”

The awards were established in 2014, and will held annually. The inaugural awards were held at NSW Parliament House, and were welcomed by the Hon Linda Burney, MP and included key note speakers Dr Yalmay Yunupingu, Ms Gail Mabo, and Mr Anthony Mundine. A number of other distinguished guests such as political representatives, indigenous leaders and others in the fields of human rights and social justice also attended.

The Awards were presented by leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders, and leading Indigenous figures in Indigenous Social Justice and Human Rights. All recipients of the National Human Rights Award will be persons of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage.

To nominate someone for one of the three awards, please go to https://shaoquett.wufoo.com/forms/z4qw7zc1i3yvw6/
 
For further information, please also check out the Awards Guide at https://www.scribd.com/document/336434563/2017-National-Indigenous-Human-Rights-Awards-Guide

AWARD CATEGORIES:

 

DR YUNUPINGU AWARD – FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
 
To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Human Rights for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Dr Yunupingu is the first Aboriginal from Arnhem Land to achieve a university degree. In 1986 Dr Yunupingu formed Yothu Yindi in 1986, combining Aboriginal (Yolngu) and non-Aboriginal (balanda) musicians and instrumentation.

In 1990 was appointed as Principal of Yirrkala Community School, Australia’s first Aboriginal Principal. Also in that year he established the Yothu Yindi Foundation to promote Yolngu cultural development, including Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures Dr Yumupingu was named 1992 Australian of the Year for his work in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Australia.

THE EDDIE MABO AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENTS IN SOCIAL JUSTICE

In memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), this award recognises an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Social Justice for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Eddie Koiki Mabo was a Torres Straits Islander, most notable in Australian history for his role in campaigning for indigenous land rights.

From 1982 to 1991 Eddie campaigned for the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have their land rights recognised. Sadly, he died of cancer at the age of 56, five months before the High Court handed down its landmark land rights decision overturning Terra Nullius. He was 56 when he passed away.

THE ANTHONY MUNDINE AWARD FOR COURAGE

 

To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of sports among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Anthony Mundine is an Australian professional boxer and former rugby league player. He is a former, two-time WBA Super Middleweight Champion, a IBO Middleweight Champion, and an interim WBA Light Middleweight Champion boxer and a New South Wales State of Origin representative footballer. Before his move to boxing he was the highest paid player in the NRL.

In 2000 Anthony was named the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person of the Year in 2000. He has also won the Deadly Award as Male Sportsperson of the Year in 2003, 2006 and 2007 amongst others.

He has a proud history of standing up for Indigenous peoples, telling a journalist from the Canberra Times: “I’m an Aboriginal man that speaks out and if I see something, I speak the truth.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health debate #changethedate #australiaday : #InvasionDay, #SurvivalDay, or Day of Mourning?

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“Many of our people call it Invasion Day … to many Indigenous Australians, in fact, most Indigenous Australians, it really reflects the day in which our world came crashing down,” the prominent Indigenous leader and academic said.

The idea that it’s not appropriate to hold a national celebration on the date the first fleet arrived in Sydney cove in 1788 to begin the process of Indigenous dispossession wasn’t new. It wasn’t even the first time an Australian of the Year had said so. Lowitja O’Donoghue pleaded for a date change after she was honoured in 1984. It’s even more widespread now.

Mick Dodson explained succinctly why he thought Australia’s national day is celebrated on the wrong date after accepting his Australian of the Year award in 2009. See article 3 below from the Guardian

“It is critical that more Australians understand why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples often feel that 26 January is an inappropriate day for celebration.

Australia Day has diverse meaning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians; some see it as a day of invasion, a day of mourning and of assertion of sovereignty; some see it as a day of survival.

Considering these meanings, it must be recognised that holding Australia Day on 26 January does not make for inclusion and celebration of our nation and all its peoples possible.”

Reconciliation Australia believes Australia Day must be inclusive, unifying, and be supported by all Australians. It should be a day when we come together as a unified people – a day when all Australian’s rights, histories and cultures are valued as part of a shared national identity

Justin Mohamed, CEO of Reconciliation Australia (former Chair of NACCHO ) Article 2 below

 ” Every year on the 26th of January I wonder a bit about how I am going to refer to the day, Invasion Day, Survival Day or Day of Mourning? Over the years I have referred to it as all of these, and I think the choice I make reflects a bit about the mood I am in at that time, where I am at in life, and where Australia is in general.

Photo above NITV : Each of the names captures an important part of what this date represents.

Invasion Day, for me, reflects an honest truth that needs to be expressed. It speaks of the power of protest. It speaks of a history that has never been reconciled, of justice denied. It reminds how one simple word, ‘invasion’, seems to bewilderingly upset those connected to the invaders more than those who descend from the invaded. It comes largely from the 1988 protests which also brought the slogan “White Australia Has A Black History” to our national consciousness. At the same time, there is a part of me that felt it gives too much energy away and not enough to ourselves. I often think about whether or not we spend too much responding to the moves of others rather than making our own, but at the same time the power of the above slogan always resonates with me and speaks to a battle that is still underway about how we relate to Australian history. I believe we still need to speak these words, and we still need people to attend these events.

 White Australia Has A Black History

Survival.

It speaks to me of celebration and commemoration. It speaks of amazing resilience and resistance of cultures, communities, families and individuals. At the same time, it feels too comforting for white Australia. It does not feel ‘in their face’ enough. Perhaps this is more to do with how the name has been coopted than what it was originally intended for, I don’t know, but it has never quite sat right with me. So many lives have been needlessly lost in our history, and every day; those who didn’t survive. I am not comfortable about a day that can so easily be misrepresented to gloss over this tragic reality. Still, I believe we still need to speak these words, and we still need people to attend these events.

Mourning.

It speaks to commemorating and acknowledging all we have to mourn since invasion took place. Not just the loss of life, but for all of the loss of culture, loss of land, loss of language. It is one of the oldest names we have for this day, and the significance of the 1938 protests should always be remembered and commemorated. Like the other two days though I have at times felt this lacked the fire of Invasion Day, and the positive outlook of Survival Day. But I know the power and the importance of grieving for people and things lost, and I believe we still need to speak these words, and we still need people to attend these events.

 Aborigines day of mourning, Sydney, 26 January 1938

Aborigines day of mourning, Sydney, 26 January 1938 (State Library of NSW)

It is only in recent years that I have stopped the internal debate each year about which camp I should sit in and come to realise that all three days are important, all three are still needed for different people at different times in their life. All three come are essential pieces of the whole that are needed to fully recognise the significance of this date.

There are times we need to protest. Other times we need to breathe, and to celebrate that we are still here despite the obstacles we have overcome and those we still face. And at other times we just need to mourn, and to heal.

Like many debates in our communities this is one where I believe we do not need to debate but instead we need to support each other regardless of the camp we need to sit in, and respect the reasons why we need to be there. We should be able to freely move between each and let others do the same.

There are times we need to protest. Other times we need to breathe, and to celebrate that we are still here despite the obstacles we have overcome and those we still face. And at other times we just need to mourn, and to heal. I know many people who plan to attend an Invasion Day march in the morning, attend a Survival Day concert in the morning, and then spend a reflective evening commemorating the Day of Mourning.

I have at times heard people opposed to changing the date of Australia Day argue that doing so would be to ignore or try to erase the history of this date. I disagree. January the 26th will always be an important date in our national calendar. It will always be Invasion Day. It will always be Survival Day. It will always be a Day of Mourning. We will never forget what this day represents. The only name I think the 26th of January should not have is ‘Australia Day’. It is not a day that was ever intended for Aboriginal people to celebrate. Even as far back as 1888, when Henry Parkes was the Premier of NSW and was preparing to celebrate the 100 year anniversary, he was asked if he was planning anything for Aboriginal people on this day, to which he replied, “And remind them that we have robbed them?”.

Australia Day, for me, is a day that was only ever intended to be a day for white Australians to come together to celebrate white Australia, and the recent attempts to make it a more inclusive day just feel like an effort to make it a day where all Australians regardless of their race, colour, or religion can come together to celebrate white Australia.

I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of an Australia Day that would allow us all to celebrate together, on the condition that we eventually learn to see the difference between inclusion and assimilation, but I am not entirely sure if there is a date in Australian history that could adequately encapsulate that ideal. That, to me, is the most interesting element about the whole ‘change the date’ conversation. Not the push to see that date changed, but the conversation about what day, if any, best encapsulates the Australia the Australia that we would like to imagine ourselves as.

Is our national identity best commemorated on the day that NSW became a British colony, or the date that Australians stopped being British subjects? Is it the day that the White Australia Policy was enacted, or is it the day it was repealed? Is it perhaps the day, if it ever comes, that we become a republic? Or is it some future day that we can’t even imagine at the moment, some future event that could serve to help ‘bring us together to celebrate all that is great about being Australians’?

But whether the date of Australia Day ever changes or not, the 26th of January will always be an important day. It will always be Invasion Day. It will always be Survival Day. It will always be a Day of Mourning.

So whatever you call it, whatever events you choose to go to or whether you just do your own thing, we do not need to debate what we should call this day so long as we can agree on one simple thing – Australia always was, and always will be Aboriginal land.

#AlwaysWillBe

Article 2 : Australia Day should be a source of unity, pride and celebration that reflects the identities, histories and cultures of all Australians.

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Justin Mohamed, CEO of Reconciliation Australia said today at a breakfast honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia Day finalists,

“We must find a day on which we can all participate equally, and can celebrate with pride our common Australian identity. I believe that it is critical to reconciliation for all Australians to acknowledge and understand different views around the date of Australia Day. And to ask the critical question: can our national day be truly inclusive if it is celebrated on a day that represents the beginning of physical and cultural dispossession for First Australians?”

Reconciliation Australia  hosted a celebratory breakfast for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian of the Year Awards finalists, and finalists who work with Indigenous communities.
The work of the finalists champions #reconciliation and brings Australia closer to becoming a just, equitable and reconciled nation.

Finalists Andrew Forrest, Arthur Alla, Andrea Mason, Tejinder pal Singh, Sister Anne Gardiner AM and Lois Peeler AM, Reconciliation Australia Co-Chair Professor Tom Calma AO, finalists June Oscar AO and Patricia Buckskin PSM, and Reconciliation Australia CEO Justin Mohamed

Article 3 Editorial the Guardian Australia agrees.

This is not a date that unifies Australians.

In fact it’s hard to think of a worse date for a party that is supposed to include us all.

The National Australia Day Council itself acknowledges the problem.

“We recognise that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and some non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians may have mixed feelings about celebrating this day. January 26 has multiple meanings: it is Australia Day and it is also, for some, Survival Day or Invasion Day. The NADC acknowledges that the date brings a mixture of celebration and mourning and we believe that the programs presented by the NADC should play a powerful and positive role in advancing reconciliation.”

The national strategy that followed the initial decade-long process to achieve reconciliation recommended the date be changed.

“Governments, organisations and communities negotiate to establish and promote symbols of reconciliation,” it said. “This would include changing the date of Australia Day to a date that includes all Australians.”

But, despite the obvious historical arguments and the growing acknowledgement the date is a problem, there is still deep resistance to the idea that 26 January is inappropriate.

Fremantle council tried to hold this year’s main citizenship ceremony at a more inclusive 28 January event, but eventually bowed to pressure from the federal government. The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, insisted Australia would be “sticking with” 26 January.

Back in 2009 the then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s reply to Mick Dodson’s suggestion was even more brusque. “To our Indigenous leaders, and those who call for a change to our national day, let me say a simple, respectful, but straightforward no,” he said.

Some – like the Indigenous leader Noel Pearson – have suggested changing our understanding of exactly what we are celebrating on 26 January.

He sees three defining moments in Australia’s history: “Firstly, 53,000-plus years ago, when the first Australians crossed the Torres Strait land bridge to this continent; secondly, the landing of the first fleet in 1788; thirdly, the abolition of the White Australia policy between 1973 and 1975.”

“I believe the celebration of Australia Day will always be equivocal as long as it is about only one of these three parts,” he said at the National Press Club last year. “If we brought these three parts of the nation together and the day defining Australia spoke to these three parts then less offence and hurt would attach to 26 January. It can’t just be about what was destroyed. It must also be about what we have built.”

When he became Australian of the Year in 2014, the footballer Adam Goodes also suggested broadening what Australia Day is about. “There was a lot of anger, a lot of sorrow, for this day and very much the feeling of Invasion Day,” he said.

“But in the last five years, I’ve really changed my perception of what is Australia Day, of what it is to be Australian and for me, it’s about celebrating the positives, that we are still here as Indigenous people, our culture is one of the longest surviving cultures in the world, over 40,000 years.

“That is something we need to celebrate and all Australians need to celebrate … It’s a day we celebrate over 225 years of European settlement and right now, that’s who we are as a nation but we also need to acknowledge our fantastic Aboriginal history of over 40,000 years and just know that some Aboriginal people out there today are feeling a little bit angry, a little bit soft in the heart today because of that, and that’s OK as well.”

Even these measured comments prompted wild attacks by conservative commentators and were later cited as one of the reasons fans from opposing teams booed Goodes the following year.

But for many Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, the only viable solution remains to #changethedate and public discussion of a new date is growing. The national youth broadcaster, Triple J, declined to shift its much-loved Hottest 100 this year, but given the public pressure the ABC says the date remains “under review”. Indigenous musicians A.B. Original and Dan Sultan released a track advocating for a date change last year, and this week a collection of hip hop artists released another.

The Saturday Paper has argued that boycotting Australia Day celebrations is the best way to try to force a shift.

Guardian Australia also argues for change but we will be covering 26 January.

We’ll reflect the deep concerns about the date in our live blog – which will cover the Invasion Day marches and Indigenous cultural celebrations such as Sydney’s Yabun festival and also the events on 26 January that reflect the best of us, the wonderful citizenship ceremonies around the country, as well as concerts and the Hottest 100.

There are many reasons for Australians to feel proud. We agree 26 January is the wrong day for national festivities, but we think respectful debate – about changing the date or the meaning of the celebration – is the best way to a solution that will allow all Australians to join the party.

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NACCHO Aboriginal Health : A call to acknowledge the harmful history of nursing for Aboriginal people

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 ” While we ourselves did not work there, the societal beliefs interwoven with the professional theories practised at that time are a legacy we have inherited. Those attitudes and practices remain present within our professional space.

Have we done sufficient work to decolonise ourselves?

Decolonising is a conscious practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses. It involves recognising the impact of the beliefs and practices of the coloniser on ourselves at a personal and professional level, then disavowing ourselves from them.

We talk about this in CATSINaM with our Members. We invite our non-Indigenous colleagues to engage in this self-reflective conversation through many aspects of our work.

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Janine Mohamed (right), CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), argues we should.

Is it time for the nursing and midwifery professions to reflect on our historical involvement in the subjugation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and consider whether we owe a statement of regret for our failures as part of the wider healthcare system to respond to the needs of Aboriginal Australians?

Do formal apologies mean anything?

We welcome your input on this fundamental issue for Australians – and especially input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

Editorial Nurse Uncut Conversations

In September 2016, the Australian Psychological Society issued a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for their past failure as a profession to respond to the needs of Aboriginal patients.

In the past, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association and the ANMF more broadly have issued statements of apology for our professions’ involvement in the practices associated with the forced adoption of babies from the 1950s to 1980s.

In doing so we recognised that while those nurses and midwives were working under direction, it was often they who took the babies away from mothers who had been forced, pressured and coerced into relinquishing their children and we apologised for and acknowledged the pain these mothers, fathers and children had experienced in their lives as a result.

Following the recent commendable move by the Australian Psychological Society, is it now time for the nursing and midwifery professions to reflect on our historical involvement as healthcare providers in the subjugation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and consider whether we owe a similar statement of regret for our failures as part of the wider healthcare system to respond to the needs of Aboriginal Australians?

But firstly, do such apologies mean anything?

Professor Alan Rosen AO (a non-indigenous psychiatrist) makes a cogent argument for an apology by the Australian mental health professions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

The recent apology by the Australian Psychological Society to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of profound national and international significance.

The APS is believed to be the first mental health professional representative body in the world to endorse and adopt such a specific apology to indigenous peoples for what was done to them by the profession as part of, or in the name of, mental health/psychological assessment, treatment and care.

The APS Board also substantially adopted the recommendation of its Indigenous Psychologists’ Advisory Group (IPAG), whose Indigenous and non-Indigenous members crafted this apology together. This sets a fine precedent.

As some other Australian mental health professional bodies are still considering whether to make such an apology, it is to be hoped that the APS has set a new trend. The APS has provided a robust example of how to do it well and in a way that it is more likely to be considered to be sincere and acceptable by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have suffered much more incarceration, inappropriate diagnoses and treatments and more control than care in the hands of mental health professionals, facilities and institutions.

This is also true for all First Nations peoples, globally.

Professor Rosen argues that such apologies demonstrate concern for possible historical wrongs, either deliberate or unwitting, by professionals and institutions and the enduring mental health effects of colonialism. The Croakey.org article goes on to describe the purposes and goals of an apology, why they are worth doing and proposes a template.

So, just as we have recognised and apologised for the role our professions played in forced adoptions, is it now time to examine and take responsibility for our professions’ historical contribution to undermining Indigenous Australians’ social and emotional health and wellbeing?

Janine Mohamed (right), CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), argues we should.

Between 1908 and 1919, hundreds of Aboriginal patients were incarcerated in the Lock Hospitals off the coast of Carnarvon, with more than 150 people dying there. The West Australian government established the hospitals for the treatment of Aboriginal people with sexually transmitted infections, but there remains considerable doubt as to the accuracy of such diagnoses – many of which were made by police officers.

The Fantome Island Lock Hospital operated in Queensland from 1928-45 under similar arrangements, detaining Aboriginal people with suspected sexually transmitted infections. There was also a lazaret on Fantome Island (1939-73) for segregated treatment of Aboriginal people with Hansen’s disease.

Aboriginal people taken to the hospitals were often forcibly removed from their families and communities and transported in traumatic conditions, in chains and under police guard. There is also evidence of medical experimentation and abuse.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association has embarked on the process of developing a Reconciliation Action Plan. As a first step, over coming months we will be working on developing a more thorough understanding of how historical practices have affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our care.

We welcome feedback, especially from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Invasion Day #changethedate debate : New Australia Day ad has no mention of it? Strewth

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” The latest Meat and Livestock Association’s (MLA) annual Australia Day ad is out. It’s the first not to mention ‘Australia Day’, but it doesn’t need to. It features a “beach party” scene imitating all textbook illustrations of the arrival of European colonization.

The only thing I can hope for when I watch that ad is that this will be the last Australia Day held on the 26th of January, and that any future attempts to profit from patriotism will not need to try so damn hard to make Australian history, or contemporary Australian society, appear much more inclusive than it actually is. “

By Luke Pearson  Source:  NITV

” An Australia Day ad without actually mentioning Australia Day? Strewth, that’s un-Australian!

But that’s exactly what Meat & Livestock Australia has done, with its annual Australia Day ad failing to actually name the national celebration.

Labelled the MLA’s “January campaign”, the ad instead focuses on the controversy surrounding the negative meaning on Australia Day for indigenous Australians.

Referred to by many as “Invasion Day”, January 26th is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet from Great Britain “

Australia Day ad has no mention of it? Strewth! The Australian

The ad perhaps is a fitting theme for Australia Day: forget about or completely misrepresent Australian history and contemporary society, and buy stuff instead.

Enjoy your paid day off, buy a flag cape, buy some alcohol and get drunk, buy some lamb and have a BBQ, and complain about whoever you think isn’t ‘Australian enough’ or about those who choose not to celebrate ‘Australia Day’ and call the day Survival Day, Invasion Day, or a Day of Mourning.

Apart from a brief reference to Aboriginal people having been here “since forever”, the ad crams tens of thousands of years into a quick sound bite. The ad revels in the last 200 years, because apparently, that’s when pretty much anything worth talking about happened.

The attempt to include ‘boat people’ at the end, with the response: “aren’t we all boat people?”, does nothing to redeem the caricatures we’ve just witnessed.

 2017 lamb ad features a beach party hosted by Indigenous Australians.

Using sarcasm to say “we’re not racist” is probably the point.

An ad like this can’t lose from a marketing perspective. People who love it will share it and sing its praises, people who hate it will share it and point out its flaws, commentators like myself will comment on it guaranteeing that anyone who reads this and hasn’t seen the ad will watch it, if only so they can make sense of what I am saying. I’m okay with that thought because, for my part at least, I’m not trying to get anyone to boycott lamb or trying to stop anyone from watching the ad.

Love it or hate it, it is still worth a watch.

My goal is trying to get the date of Australia Day changed, and the blind patriotism that goes along with it reduced, not merely extended so that everyone else can be just as blindly patriotic to the notion of ‘Australianity’, or mateship, or ‘One Nation’ or whatever we are calling it these days.

I do however appreciate that all ads are trying to sell something, that is what they’re meant to do, but I think the MLA are trying too hard to tack on their newly discovered ‘sense of inclusivity’ to their core desire to sell more meat.

The idea of a group of marketing executives sitting a room thinking, “Hmmm, how can we make the controversy over Australia Day equal more profits for us?”, just turns me off my lunch.

I can picture the creative team patting each other on the back after coming up with the line, “we’re all boat people” and feeling particularly clever about co-opting a concept that many people have used for years now, albeit for more altruistic motives, namely to combat the term being used to denigrate asylum seekers.

The construct of ‘Australia Day’ is problematic enough for the Australia Day Council given the date that Australia chooses to hold its national day, but to take it one step further to try to sanitise the history of migration to Australian shores is outright impossible.

Justifying the existence of Australia Day being on the 26th of January in order to sell lamb to a more diverse customer base is just too convoluted a plan for my taste.

The only thing I can hope for when I watch that ad is that this will be the last Australia Day held on the 26th of January, and that any future attempts to profit from patriotism will not need to try so damn hard to make Australian history, or contemporary Australian society, appear much more inclusive than it actually is.

I’m sure many people will consider this ad to be a great step forward for representation in Australian media, but personally, I still remember their racist ads of recent years, and I am not buying that this attempted shift of focus has anything other to do with trying to sell more lamb, which I am also not buying.

Maybe I’d have been a bit kinder to this latest attempt if it was a standalone, and not just the next chapter of a series I already don’t like, written for an company I already don’t like, tied to a day that I do not like…

Just change the damn date already.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #history : Cabinet papers 1992-93: Aboriginal deaths in custody inquiry prompted $400m package

deaths_in_custody_graphic_-_all_states

“ The trend will ­inevitably continue unless there is decisive intervention now” and it considered measures costing $570 million across five years to ­address “the underlying causes, ­including lack of employment ­opportunity, a low level of economic development, inadequate education, welfare dependency, appalling health and cultural deprivation”.

Too many face a bleak future as a result of poor living conditions, locational disadvantage and discrimination, substance abuse and lack of ­opportunity for constructive ­activity as major causes of Aboriginal young people’s conflict with the law and justice systems”.

From the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, delivered in 1991 after four years of work, was described in a March 1992 cabinet briefing as “the most searching analysis of Aboriginal society ever undertaken and one of the most significant social documents of con­temporary Australia”.

Image above  : See Background facts and timeline

Article originally published 2 Jan 2017 The Australian

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Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Patrick Dodson, centre, with Prime Minister Paul Keating and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Robert Tickner, February 1992. Picture: National Archives of Australia
2 of 17 see article 2 below

The commission inquired into 99 deaths, the circumstances that gave rise to them and their underlying causes, and came back with 339 recommendations, two-thirds about changes needed across the criminal justice system.

The urgency was underscored by the 25 deaths since the report was concluded, and a 25 per cent increase in indigenous imprisonment rates over four years.

The centrepiece was an expansion of the federal Community Development Employment Projects scheme, which “provides not only employment but a basis for communities’ economic and social development. Its emphasis on self- management and self-reliance provides hope and boosts morale for communities that have little or no access to the labour market”.

The government’s comprehensive response to the commission was to be tailored to youth, with more than 40 per cent of all indigenous Australians aged under 15, and 50 per cent younger than 20.

“Too many face a bleak future as a result of poor living conditions, locational disadvantage and discrimination,” cabinet was told, with the commission identifying “substance abuse and lack of ­opportunity for constructive ­activity as major causes of Aboriginal young people’s conflict with the law and justice systems”.

Indigenous affairs minister Robert Tickner — also then minister assisting the prime minister for Aboriginal reconciliation — and Brian Howe, assistant social justice minister, also sought funding for land acquisition.

This was the hardest element of the package to sell and was eventually ruled out in the $400m deal that was struck — although Mr Tickner says now that it was not the key element and came to fruition in a different way with the passage the following year of the Native Title Act.

The Departments of Finance and Treasury objected to the ­proposal.

Robert Tickner calls on PM to take control of relationship with Indigenous people

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Article 2

Australia’s longest-serving indigenous affairs minister has called for Malcolm Turnbull to seize control of a moribund relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, describing the state of indigenous disadvantage as “truly a national embarrassment of successive governments”.

Robert Tickner, who held the portfolio for six years in the Hawke and Keating governments and was instrumental in both the 1992 response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1993 native title legislation following the High Court’s Mabo ruling, said the matter was “not a job for an indigenous affairs minister”.

Instead it must be tackled, he said, by “a prime minister who can command the authority of the

nation and his own agencies to engender a whole-of- government response”.

Mr Tickner called on the Prime Minister to establish an immediate audit of any progress on the royal commission’s 339 recommendations, which he said “overwhelmingly … have not been implemented, either by the national government or by successive state and territory governments; worse still, governments of all political persuasions (have) covered up that failure”.

He said Mr Turnbull should use the 50th anniversary of the referendum which gave the Commonwealth power in indigenous affairs, on May 27, to “capture the moment … to announce major policy commitments to address these issues”.

“I desperately hope he seizes the moment on this … but he needs to do so in a way that enjoys strong support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as the opposition, as the

referendum did almost 50 years ago,” he said, in remarks unveiling select cabinet papers from the 1992-93 Keating government.

“Keating did it on Mabo, someone’s got to do it now,” he said, describing indigenous affairs policy as “ineffectual, half-hearted and (without) the full resources of the Commonwealth behind it, which was envisaged by the ’67 referendum”.

He called for bipartisan support, saying he believed Mr Turnbull was “a good and decent person who wants to do the right thing in Aboriginal affairs — but good intentions are not enough without the necessary leadership to generate real change” and said the issue was “above party politics, and one where Mr Turnbull and (Bill) Shorten could stand together”.

A key shift, he said had to be moving away from “the old paternalistic way” of dealing with indigenous people and organisations, with the royal commission noting in 1991 that “unless those underlying issues were addressed there would be no change; it’s about the marginalisation of Aboriginal people which contributed to that incarceration”.

He said Mr Keating had “showed great political courage to deliver a just outcome for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people after 204 years of the legal system denying their rights with that pernicious doctrine of terra nullius”. The former prime minister’s “diligence and dedication” over the 18 months following the High Court’s 1992 Mabo ruling establishing native title in the face of “the non-stop, torrid and at times vitriolic public attacks” had defined a critical time in Australian history, he said.

“It’s fair to say the reconciliation process has helped shape modern Australia,” Mr Tickner said. “Most important, Keating was the one who put meat on the bones of the reconciliation process through the Mabo response.”

GALLERY: 1992-93 cabinet papers

He said the Keating government had welcomed the High Court’s decision because it “removed a great barrier to reconciliation,” but that it knew from the outset “the huge challenge that lay ahead, with state and territory governments having traditional responsibility for and management of (the) issues, and an Australian community which did not yet understand the implications of the high court decision”.

Six months on from Mabo, he said, Mr Keating’s famous Redfern Park speech acknowledging responsibility for the dispossession of indigenous Australians “set the bar very high for the government to respond in a principled way to the judgment, and to meet the expectations of the reconciliation process”.

The cabinet papers reveal details of the complexity introduced with the Wik claim in June 1993, with the cabinet by then having considered nine distinct approaches to legislation. “We considered but rejected options relating to extinguishment of native title (it would lead to deep domestic divisions and strong international condemnation) and entrenchment (amending the constitution to put land under native title beyond the control of parliament raises very major issues,” they reveal.

In the end the decision was made to “feel the way forward” but Mr Tickner said many younger Australians now “would have no real appreciation of the vitriol, intolerance and scaremongering that was perpetuated in the debate”, some of which “makes Donald trump’s election campaign look like the free-flowing milk of human kindness”.

He said that during the cabinet process it “very often … got very lonely for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Minister, as some of my other colleagues were fierce advocates either for the interests represented in their portfolios or in some cases for a state Labor government. I frequently clashed both with those ministers and public servants who held similar views. They were wrong on both history and principles”.

He said Mr Keating had “cemented his place in history” by seeking to reach “a negotiated outcome with Aboriginal leadership” rather than pushing for a deal with the states that failed to meet Aboriginal aspirations.

“This was the first time since 1788 when the Aboriginal people of the land were in face-to-face, genuine negotiation with a leader of a state or territory government,” he said, singling out then-

ATSIC chair Lowitja O’Donoghue for being “magnificent as a leader” who “set a cracking pace for the younger members of the negotiating team”.

The result, he said, was an outcome “that both respected the high court decision and gave important additional rights and interests, while making sure that the rights of non-indigenous Australians were protected”, before finally being “painstakingly negotiated through the senate” as the Native Title Act on December 21, 1993.

However it came at considerable personal cost, he said, including being sent a dead rat in the mail, having his electorate office partly destroyed in an arson attack and receiving repeated death threats.

He also revealed a tightly guarded secret: during the tumult of negotiations in early 1993 he was for the first time “reunited with my birth mother on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, and began a journey as transformative for me as the public journey was as Australia travelled the Mabo response”.

He described John Howard’s 1998 amendments to the native title act, in response to the Wik

decision and which put restrictions on claims, as “regrettable”, saying he was “sorry for John because I think he did some other important things, like gun control, but I don’t think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs was where he left a mark politically, and I’m sad about that”.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health , Racism and #18C : Sen. Patrick Dodson speech ” It’s interesting that bigotry is back in favour “

 

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 ” We talk of all sorts people who make up the Australian nation; Chinese and Indians and Lebanese, all sorts of people, Africans who are part of Australian population who bring with their cultures a richness to this nation, and instead of us moving to accept and appropriate the better things of their cultures, we seek to continuously divide and create ways to sustain divisions and sustain the denigration of our fellow Australians.

Nothing wrong with freedom, particularly if you’re from the ruling class. There’s a hell of a lot wrong with freedom if you’ve got to battle to experience if, if you’ve got to fight for it.

I was born before the 1967 referendum and we weren’t even counted in the census of this country as Aboriginal People.

When this government didn’t have any power to make laws for Aboriginal people because it was excluded by crafters of our constitution in 1901.

 The whole battle for recognition for freedom to enjoy the basics of being a citizen in this nation had to be fought for by black and white Australians … Jessie Street and Faith Bandler and many others and what I see today is the ideological creep back to bigotry and to racism.

Senator Patrick Dodson Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Watch the full speech here

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION LAW AMENDMENT

(FREE SPEECH) BILL

It’s interesting that bigotry is back in favour. Back in 2014 when Abbott Government sought to repeal 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act to allow for all sorts of things to travel under the guise of free speech, it was defeated and Labor would be opposed to this particular amendment that’s being proposed by Senator Leyonhjelm and others.

At least Senator Leyonhjelm as a libertarian appears to be committing himself to a push because of principle, but I’m not sure whether that’s the case in relation to the Turnbull Government. To me it represents some weakness. The bill put forward by the members goes even further than the Abbott Government ever did in trying to repeal part IIA of the RDA in its entirety.

As I say this is something Labor Party could never support. We created this part of the Act and we’re proud of it and we will continue to defend it.

Labor opposed the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act in 2014 and again we will oppose them in 2016. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with the communities across this country which is something people on the other side seem to forget.

This is about human beings – people of different cultures who are Australians, who have all sorts of different ways of interpreting English. English has its own form of tyranny – and that tyranny is what causes wars, assaults, arguments and violence and the speakers who grow up with English have to understand that’s not the only frame of reference through which world is interpreted because there’s no clear definition; it seems to me, of what constitutes whiteness and the culture of whiteness.

It’s fine if you sit in some leafy suburb and never rub shoulders with people who battling to interpret and navigate their way through modernity in this land of Australia with its highly sophisticated culture and its complexity of protocols and procedures and social ethos.

We have to understand that today is not the day to be changing this section of the Racial Discrimination Act. It’s not the day. We see every night on the news the bigotry and the racism, the hatred the killings that take place in Middle East borne out by different interpretations that people extract from words.

You only have to look to Indonesia just recently the President was coming here to Australia he had to curtail his trip because of the alleged words used by one of the Governors that offended sections of the community and that matter is still afoot.

So words do matters and how we use words is critical in the way we go about our business and the way we go about communication and have no doubts that racism is something that isn’t growing wild out there in the fields, it’s actually tendered in a flower box sitting on the window sills of flats and houses and that matter is something we as all Australians should be working to get rid of so that freedom that was spoken about by Senator Leyonhjelm can in fact be enjoyed by all citizens.

If you watched news last night our colleague the Honourable Anne Aly, in the other place, receiving death threats because of stupidity of language used by one of our Ministers to excite some lunatic in our society to threaten violence and death to her and her family.

This is what words do. It’s all very well in a debating class in a university there’s no freedom out there in the mainstream when you don’t understand and comprehend the difference between debate and prejudice, when you don’t understand difference between being subjugated to racist taunts and to denigration.

As I said we don’t debate the definition of whiteness or the culture of whiteness and nor should we. But there is something we need to pull ourselves up on and that is the age old reality of what’s it like to talk in the shoes of someone else who is different, diverse and has a richness of their own culture, when we talk about them, when we write about them and when we print things in relation to them.

Freedom is a very treasured thing and it starts with defending as has been said in an ideological sense, the rights of people, but with rights comes responsibilities and in a complex multi-cultural society lets stress also the responsibilities to note that other Australians do not see things entirely the way we might from a Eurocentric position or from an Anglo Celtic background or sense of tradition and culture and polity so it’s important when we’re debating these matters to understand that many Australians are not sitting in the chamber, they’re listening to this chamber and they’re taking the leadership of this chamber as the litmus test of what this nation stands for and if this nation cannot stand up for the weakest and the poorest and those who are most vulnerable because of their race, their ethnicity, or their beliefs then we have become a very sad replication of what democracy is all about.

There’s no need for this particular amendment. There’s been over a 20 year period where this has operated substantially to the benefit of our nation.

The defences available under18D are clear and are there not only to facilitate the freedom of speech that people which to exercise and the freedom of expression but also to give an indication of what is not permissible and how it might be mitigated or adjudicated by a court if it has to go to a court and can’t be dealt with in an arbitration.

Madam acting deputy speaker Labor is not going to be supporting this amendment and certainly any future amendment to this particular section of Racial Discrimination Act. Thank you.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Justice : Clintons walking journey for hope and justice

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The road to justice is a long one fraught with difficulties and obstacles that only the most determined and committed can overcome to achieve the justice, human rights and respect deserved.

But he needs the support and help of Australians, in particular, Indigenous Australians, to reinforce this message to the federal government and invite positive action to help, not hurt, our nation’s First Peoples.

Deep within Clinton Pryor’s heart lies an overwhelming commitment to justice, hope and peace in his country for the First Nation Peoples.”

Wajuk man Clinton Pryor has embarked on a Walk For Justice across Australia to discuss the impacts government decisions are having on local indigenous communities in Western Australia.

NACCHO calls on all its members to assist Clinton on his journey to Canberra

Anyone interested in supporting Clinton Pryor’s Walk for Justice can visit his Facebook page , Twitter profile or website

clinton-walk

Article page 20 NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper out Wednesday 16 November , 24 Page lift out Koori Mail : or download

naccho-newspaper-nov-2016 PDF file size 9 MB

Written by Emma Meconi

But he needs the support and help of Australians, in particular, Indigenous Australians, to reinforce this message to the federal government and invite positive action to help, not hurt, our nation’s First Peoples.

“The government is going to close communities and I need your help to make a stand against the government,” he said on his website.

“As a young indigenous man and my people, it is our duty to look after the planet.

“Our elders fought so hard to get this community built. That community is very important to us.”

Mr Pryor does not want to see his community shut down because of funding cuts to vital services.

He is embarking on this walk so he can raise awareness nationwide and let the Prime Minister know closing communities is not right.

He wants to save his people from losing their home and country.

He began his journey in Perth in September this year and will complete it in Canberra in May next year.

He will travel thousands of kilometres on foot to deliver his very important message directly to the Prime Minister.

His message is one of hope and justice for Aboriginal Australia and it all began with a life changing moment in Mr Pryor’s life when he was a teenager.

“The hardest part of my life [was] when my father passed away when I was 16 years old. It was the day my life changed forever.

“I put my hand on his head and promised him three things and that was to help my people, look after my family and keep our people’s culture alive,” he explained.

Pryor is from the Mulan community in the east Kimberley region in far North-Eastern Western Australia.

His family moved to Perth when he was seven and this is where he grew up and he now still lives in Perth, in the suburb of Rivervale.

Up until his father’s passing, Mr Pryor had enjoyed a fairly fulfilling high school journey.

He said that the best part of his life was when he was in high school and played footy, had a girlfriend and a job and spent his weekends surfing at the beach.

Like most young men, he dreams of a life where he will be a Dad and have his own family and fulfil his childhood dream of making a change in the world.

But the rhythm of life with its constant changes brings moments of light and darkness, happiness and sadness, hope and despair, harmony and challenges.

Pryor experienced a period of homelessness not long after his father passed away.

“I lost my job, my girlfriend left me and I left home to live on the street for two years before I got myself together and back on track again because I knew if I didn’t move on with my life and not believe in myself I was not going nowhere with life,” he said on his website.

Pryor said the disconnection from others and not having a home was the hardest part of being homeless.

“The hardest thing when I was homeless was not having no money, no home and no-one caring for me or asking me how I being. It was like no-one cared about me and it feels like I was alone.”

Connection to country and growing up in a remote community reinforces why this walk is so vital.

“Community life is very important because it keeps my people out of town or out of the city because in town and in the city there is drugs, alcohol and violence.”

He said that community life is controlled by the elders who lead in a traditional way in accordance with their own law and this law which they have followed for 60,000 years keeps them calm and harmonised.

He strongly believes in his people’s spirituality and feels very connected to living life around him and the Great Spirit in the air, everywhere.

“I can tell what is right and what is not right. It is a sense in my heart that I can tell something is good or something is bad and tell by the animal around me if it is going to be a great day or not.”

He gains his strength from this force in the land around him and in return he loves and cares for the land, looks after her and protects her.

He stated that one threat to this harmony with country and land was mining companies because of the damage caused to the land wounds the culture and heart of indigenous people and damages their spiritual home.

“My people, we believe that when we die we come back and be a part of the tree, animal, rock, river, the air and the land itself. That is why I am very connected to the land because I know that those who pass on before me are always with me and around me. The great energy of life.”

He does not want to see what he cares most about in this world, his family, friends and culture, destroyed by corporate greed.

Similarly, he does not want to see the forced closure of remote communities and the resulting homelessness because of government spending cuts.

He said he had been involved in protests and rallies and was not prepared to give up on the belief that together he will win the fight for First Nation people of the land we all stand on.

“The most things I worry about is seeing a lot of my people living homeless, watching the land being destroyed and my culture dying out.”

This was a critical aspect of this walk because closing a community is not just taking people away from their home and leading to homelessness and feeling lost, it is also disconnecting them from their spiritual home and their identity.

“If community are closing down the sacred site, cave art and the song lines are under threat and can be lost forever without the young generation knowing their culture and about their people and how we live on the land,” Pryor said.

He wants to give his people hope and make sure they do not give up and that they keep fighting no matter what happens.

His message to the Prime Minister will be to ask the government to give the elders full control of their communities without interference by government.

More broadly, Pryor wants to emphasise the importance of a treaty in moving forward in an independent, harmonious and accepting way so Indigenous Australians can live the way they always have.

By undertaking this walk, Pryor will also be honouring the past, which is an important element in the Indigenous ritual where young men go walkabout to learn survival skills and spiritual awakening.

Pryor will have a lot of time for reflection and contemplation about the significance this walk will hold for indigenous Australians and also our nation as a whole and how things should change for the better.

“This walk is about bringing people from different cultures back together and showing that if there is any hope for this country we must work together.”

Songlines form the essence of spirituality and connection to land in indigenous culture and as Mr Pryor travels across Australia he will take some roads that follow songlines and some that don’t.

But all the while he wants to learn about his people and culture and what is happening to them now.

His aim is to “know the truth about how my people are living and understand the different law and dreamtime story.”

He said that something needs to be done and he hopes to meet and speak with many people along the way and create a force for good across the nation that he hopes the Prime Minster will be interested in hearing about.

He has a large social network of family, friends, his people and elders who are all supporting him and have encouraged him to do what he believes in.

He is not sure what he will say to the Prime Minister specifically but local elders have told him he will know what to say after he has done his walk.

The experience of walking over this vast land should serve to empower, embolden and strengthen Mr Pryor as he gets closer to achieving his goal.

Deep within Clinton Pryor’s heart lies an overwhelming commitment to justice, hope and peace in his country for the First Nation Peoples.

This commitment is ignited by a spiritual connection to country and culture that commands the nation’s respect, acceptance, appreciation, understanding and encouragement.

Time will tell if the Prime Minister shares an interest and affinity with the peaceful continuation of one of our nation and planet’s oldest and enriching cultures and civilisation.

The Prime Minister, increasingly seen as representing the big end of town and disconnected from the realities confronted by Indigenous Australians, did not respond to requests for comment on Mr Pryor’s Walk for Justice.

Anyone interested in supporting Clinton Pryor’s Walk for Justice can visit his Facebook page and Twitter profile.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health ” What Works Part 9 ” ; Hon Linda Burney’s Menzies Research Oration ” Community led programs “

 

Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney makes her maiden speech in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

” Paternalism is symptomatic of a view of Aboriginal Australia which sees Indigenous people purely as the problem.

It speaks to that old lie – that Aboriginal people have inflicted this deprivation on themselves, and that governments must save them from themselves.

Despite my pessimism about the current direction of government approaches to the Aboriginal community I do see some cause for optimism.

The communities which are doing best are those which have found ways to support their own initiatives despite failing Government approaches.

I take heart from organisations like Tharawal in Sydney’s South-Western Suburbs – an Indigenous health services ( and NACCHO Member  ) which does not just focus on treating illness when it occurs.

They target what Sir Michael Marmot calls “the social determinants of health” and what the Menzies School of Health Research has worked so hard to identify. Stable housing, early education and social support.

And they are seeing excellent results. You know it is about providing this information to the organisations that already work in communities – it is not a lack of ideas, we know the programs that work and they are community led. ”

Hon Linda Burney MP : ” Truth telling and generosity – Healing the Heart of the nation  : Oration Menzies School of Health Research Darwin 18 Nov 2016

Photo above : the first elected Aboriginal woman in the House of Representatives Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney makes her maiden speech at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

I open by acknowledging the Larrakia people on whose land we meet today.

I pay my respects to their elders past and present. I also take this opportunity to acknowledge their long struggle for equality, for land rights and for self determination.

I pay tribute to the Larrakia peoples’ determination in the face of denial and I mourn with them the loss of so many elders before their 23 year struggle for land rights could be resolved.

In acknowledging country I do not just pay tribute and respect –

I am acknowledging the fundamental truth that this land has played host to thousands of years of lived human experience.

Cultures evolving and changing since the first sunrise.

I want to thank the school for hosting me today. The world class socio-medical research published by the Menzies School of Health Research will lead to very real improvement in the standard of living for many Aboriginal people.

I also acknowledge today the special guests in the audience;

 Commissioner Mick Gooda, of the Royal Commission in into Juvenile Detention

 Tony McAvoy SC, the first Aboriginal Senior Council

And of course my colleagues;

 Senator Malarndirri McCarthy

 Luke Gosling MP

 Various Northern Territory administrator and MPs.

It is an honour to be invited to deliver the Menzies’ School of Health Research Oration for 2016.

If I can I’d like to offer my thoughts on 4 things –

  1. Truth telling and forgiveness, as I did for the Lingiari Oration in 2007 I want to remind you all of the importance of narrative and the need for truth as the bedrock of our reconciliation process;
  2. Recognition of First Peoples in our constitution – our next great project in truth telling and the one to which we must turn our attention to now;
  3. The perilous state of our Governments’ Indigenous Affairs policy today. and;
  4. The way, as I see it, forward from here.

But I want to start by appealing to your optimism – the facts of our condition can be dispiriting but I am reminded of the lessons taught to me by the late Faith Bandler.

I had the extraordinary honour of being invited by Faith’s daughter, Lilon, to speak at her memorial service in the Great Hall at Sydney University.

Faith more than anyone understood that we are playing the long game – it require understanding and devotion but most of all it requires patience.

The memory of Faith is an appropriate one – it was the work of Faith, along with so many others like Jessie Street and Alan Duncan that convinced the Menzies and Holt Government to hold the 1967 Referendum.

That 10 year campaign saw the revitalisation of the fight for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and began the journey of truth telling.

In my first speech to the Australian Parliament I told the story of an older non- Aboriginal woman making her way to the voting booth late on Election Day.

It was cold and dark and her daughter urged her just to give up and go home as she slowly made her way across the park to the local public school– but she insisted.

She said that her opportunity to vote for an Aboriginal woman “was history”. She saw that she had a stake in that election that transcended “bread and butter political issues”, she didn’t need to be an Aboriginal person to understand that.

She knew that the election of an Aboriginal woman was not just a victory for Aboriginal people; it was a part of our shared national history.

Not so long ago that would not have been the case – we had two distinct historical narratives.

A white one and a black one.

“White” Australia (as it was then) had no interest in Indigenous history, and “Black” Australia had no stake in engaging with a “White” future.

That old woman proved to me that we are changing this.

For the 1988 bicentenary campaign our signature poster was “white Australia has a black history.” –

That campaign, led by Kevin Cooke and Reverend Harris (with a young Linda Burney too) sums up the feeling.

I can think of few venues in which it is be more appropriate to discuss the reconciliation movement –

A school of health research; which, along with education, is one of the greatest areas of need for Aboriginal people and,

One named for our 12th Prime Minister; who governed in an era which saw the revitalisation and renewed push for equality and self-determination for our people.

His reign marked a turning point – the beginning of the end for the Australia which was nestled firmly in the bosom of the British Empire.

It was a time of national coming of age.

I am no political fan of Menzies but I think it is true to say that without him there could have been no Whitlam or Keating or Hawke.

Their fiercely independent and inclusive model of Australian identity was born of a rebellion against the era of Menzies.

So in this sense we owe him a debt of sorts.

When I was only 4 years old in 1961, Sir Robert Menzies hosted a delegation of Aboriginal people from mainland states.

They had already been fighting for years to see a referendum held which would grant Aboriginal people equal rights.

There was considerable excitement amongst the attendees, a meeting with Prime Minister was in itself a victory for a community almost completely excluded from the political process at that point.

Menzies served his guests alcoholic drinks.

Our Prime Minister was shocked when informed by one of the attendees that that act was illegal under state law.

Such was the denial of truth and the refusal to see discrimination in our country at that time – the sitting prime minister was, himself, unaware of this discrimination.

It was paternalism in its worst form.

Menzies resigned when I was 9 years old – he had been a constant on the radio and on TV for those who had them, for much longer than that.

This explains to some extent the reverence with which so many look back on this time. To them it was stable and prosperous.

But even looking back through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia – we cannot help but catch glimpses of the rampant discrimination of that era in the corners of our eyes.

Forced removal; captured so hauntingly in Archie Roaches’ “Took the Children Away, Government or church run reserves dictating the terms on which Aboriginal people could live, and; Government decrees which saw indigenous languages banned or even outlawed.

This was an era in which the Indigenous people of this continent were still considered biologically inferior, in which the White Australia policy still enjoyed bipartisan support.

It was a time in which the voices of women, non-white Australians and marginalised groups were systematically silenced.

So, while I pay my respects to Robert Menzies I cannot deny this truth. Nostalgia and reverence aside, this was an age of acute racism and a total denial of history.

We still considered ourselves an outpost of the British Empire, the millennia of Aboriginal history on this continent not only ignored, it was actively being hidden and destroyed.

I don’t know what Sir Robert Menzies would think of me delivering an oration named for him;

A woman;

An Aboriginal person, and;

A Labor member of Parliament.

Things have certainly changed.

If he didn’t accuse me of being a communist first, he might ask whether we had any political views in common and he might be surprised to hear where things stand today.

The fact is, regardless of political stripe, Menzies and I share some core political beliefs.

Sir Robert Menzies believed that government intervention could be a tool for good; he believed that the role of government was to empower the “forgotten” Australians and; He did saw economic growth as a means to an end not an end unto itself.

In his 1961 election address he noted that “a growing nation must be a healthy one”, and while it would be up to Whitlam to introduce a nationwide health scheme,

Menzies invested significantly in the area.

He was amongst the first leaders in Australia to recognise that the health of the community was a valuable measure of its prosperity.

And while his view of the 1967 Referendum was in some ways conflicted (Menzies himself having campaigned against some proposals) he also oversaw the passage of the 1963 Commonwealth Electoral Act which granted universal suffrage to Aboriginal people regardless of the state in which they were born.

Like the story of all governments when it comes to First Peoples’, Menzies legacy is mixed.

Menzies to some extent defined his generation but he was still a captive of the more exclusionary views of his day.

Truth Telling and Reconciliation

When it comes to the reconciliation process to date, truth telling is important.

Truth telling has been a theme of my public life to date.

In my view the path to reconciliation must be grounded in a fundamental commitment to truthfulness – it is one of the cornerstones of reconciliation.

As Dr Alex Boraine, deputy chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, noted at the Melbourne Reconciliation convention in 1997;

“Reconciliation… must be grounded in reality. There are 3 anchors which can keep us on the ground…. The first of these anchors is the experience of truth… of telling, of coming to terms with the truth of our past and the truth understood in this way transcends lies… it rejects denial to come clean in order to build, to heal.”

I told you earlier how surprised Menzies was to hear that the law prohibited serving his Aboriginal guests alcohol.

If not deliberately, then subconsciously, he had chosen not to see this discrimination.

As has much of the Australian community for the majority of our post-colonial history.

We cannot afford to do that.

In the last 30 years we have started to lay the anchor of truth –

We have a curriculum which teaches the truth of our history, we have a political system which now includes a record number of First Peoples and we have almost reached a national consensus about the imperative for action on closing the gap.

This kind of truth telling is not purely symbolic.

Children in our schools now understand that the history of Australia, or at least the

Australian continent, extends far beyond 228 years of colonisation.

And that is important. We won’t really be able to treat the malaise which afflicts

Aboriginal communities until the broader community understands the impact of generational disadvantage and cyclical poverty.

When Kevin Rudd delivered the apology to the stolen generation in the federal parliament he undertook a momentous act of truth-telling.

When that speech concluded two older Aboriginal women handed the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader a coolomon – it was an astounding act of generosity.

For that generosity we owe considerable gratitude, but it also demonstrates in part why the apology was so important.

That act of truth telling opened the door to forgiveness – and without it we cannot see old enmities consigned to the past.

After The Apology, as I walked into the marble foyer of the parliament I ran into Aunty May Robinson, an elder from South Western Sydney.

She held in her hands a black and white photo – and her only words to me when we saw each other were;

“Linda! I bought mum.”

We fell into each other’s arms crying.

Recognition

It is my hope that the Recognition of First Peoples in our constitution will be another of these great moments of truth telling, and that it will pave the way for a greater depth of understanding.

As it stands we have a Constitution which tells the story of western democracy; the Westminster system of government and a thousand years of its development.

But it says nothing of the more than 40,000 years of lived experience on this continent that preceded European arrival.

Our Constitution, the document on which the Parliament I sit in is founded, does not tell the truth. It is a fundamental failing and one that we cannot continue to ignore.

This is a part of the reconciliation process that Dr Boraine talked about almost 20 years ago and it is a fundamental part of our nation building project.

The symbolism of recognition belies powerful consequences.

I saw the feeling of relief on the faces of those old women in the Parliament after the apology and felt the relief of the broader Australian community at finally having acknowledged the truth.

More than anything else Recognition will add another thread to the tapestry of our national identity – a history and a story that we can all share.

I do not concede to any argument that suggests this act will be divisive. The true act of division would be a continued denial of the truth of settlement and invasion.

Recognition and Paternalism

I am also hopeful that Recognition will pave the way to a more consistent and effective approach to Government policy in the area.

For all the talk of “Prime Ministers for Indigenous Affairs” and a bipartisan commitment to closing the gap, we are yet to see the progress we need.

Life expectancy for First Australians is almost 10 years shorter than the rest of the community – the number blows out considerably further for those in rural or remote communities.

Our young people are locked up at ever increasing rates – almost 48% of those in the juvenile justice system are Aboriginal.

Our birthweights are consistently lower, as are our educational outcomes and our average earnings.

We are making slow progress – but it is not enough.

For every year that passes without dramatic improvement in our condition we draw closer to a point at which we will have failed yet another generation.

In the last week of Parliament I attended the launch of a report on the National Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Strategy.

How can it be that for Aboriginal people attending the funerals of young people is so commonplace?

One of the women who attended, Norma Ashwin, a mother who has lost her child, summed up the feeling of her community –

“We have nothing. Our kids have no hope, nothing, just a sense of no belonging… [we have] Lost everything…”

It is easy to see how in the face of this despair, Governments can turn to lazy policy options and to the comfort of the past.

Perhaps in frustration at slow progress Conservatives have done what they usually insist they will not – let the government pick and choose winning initiatives while ignoring community voices.

Conservative forces have continued to drive us back towards the paternalism of the past – from the “10 point plan” on native title and the destruction of ATSIC in the late 1990s — through to the very recent cuts to legal services, defunding of advocacy organisations and of course the denial of support for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

Half a billion dollars has been pulled out of the Indigenous affairs budget.

The trend is clear.

A concerted effort to silence the voices of Aboriginal leaders and a refusal to accept what we already know to be true —- solutions to our problems need to be found with communities, not imposed upon them.

Don Dale provides a perfect example – the Koori media had reported this story months before any mainstream news agency did and members of the local community will tell you – they had raised these issues before.

Indeed we know now that the both the Federal and State Governments’ were well aware of the issue.

But the story received scant political attention. Key advocacy organisation which could have raised the issues more loudly, either didn’t have the resources or didn’t exist anymore.

Paternalism isn’t just a failed policy approach because it pacifies communities and because it deprives individuals of their rights to self-determination –

It necessarily makes communication one way, from top to bottom.

Inflicting policy decisions on Aboriginal communities and then arriving later for a photo op and twitter post is not a substitute for consultation.

In the 1886 Corranderk petition to the Victorian government William Barak wrote on behalf of his people;

“Could we get our freedom back…to come home when we wish and also to go for our good health when we need it…”

It troubles me that today that I am increasingly asked by our community those same questions today – “can WE offer a solution?”… “can WE provide the services?” … “can WE our own choices?”

Command and control policy from Canberra will not help – at best it might make politicians and public servants in Canberra feel better at not having to hear cries for help

Paternalism is symptomatic of a view of Aboriginal Australia which sees Indigenous people purely as the problem.

It speaks to that old lie – that Aboriginal people have inflicted this deprivation on themselves, and that governments must save them from themselves.

Optimism and a Way Forward

Despite my pessimism about the current direction of government approaches to the Aboriginal community I do see some cause for optimism.

The communities which are doing best are those which have found ways to support their own initiatives despite failing Government approaches.

I take heart from organisations like Tharawal in Sydney’s South-Western Suburbs – an Indigenous health services which does not just focus on treating illness when it occurs.

They target what Sir Michael Marmot calls “the social determinants of health” and what the Menzies School of Health Research has worked so hard to identify. Stable housing, early education and social support.

And they are seeing excellent results.

I also see innovative new approaches, like the University of Melbourne’s first thousand days campaign – recognising that supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in that vital period bears real long term fruit.

Increasing birthweight, providing drug and alcohol support for expectant and new mothers – along with a whole range of other early interventions.

I am optimistic because we know that many of the solutions we need already exist – they are not prohibitively expensive or impossible to institute.

Here at the Menzies School of Health Research for example, you’ve done the research.

You know it is about providing this information to the organisations that already work in communities – it is not a lack of ideas, we know the programs that work and they are community led.

They just require political bravery – and with a record number of First Australians inside our parliament and an increasingly active and determined community outside it, I am confident we can find that will.

I am confident that you can find it on my side of the chamber – I have never had more faith in my party’s commitment to Indigenous Affairs.

I am optimistic because for the first time since colonisation we have a parliament that is beginning to represent the community and we will soon have a constitution that tells the truth.

I talked earlier about Faith Bandler and her long game.

She saw better than most that the campaign for the 1967 referendum was much longer than 10 years – it was a starting point for the project we are still running today.

Martin Luther King Jr said that “The arc of the moral universe [was] long but [that it] bends towards justice”

I think Faith agreed, I know I do.

But Faith more than most saw that it was up to us to shape that arc – and I am confident that we can.

We will have set backs, and we’ve taken some steps backwards but those aberrations do not define the trend.

This is a process of national healing, it is a long journey and it does take time.

To do it we need to tell the truth; and we are starting to do that.

We need generosity; and believe that the First Peoples have that in spades.

And most of all we need to accept that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a part of the solution not just the problem.

Most of all I take my optimism from the determination of Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal communities across Australia.

In her first speech to the Federal Parliament not so long ago your Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy said in reference to her people’s struggle for land rights;

“[We are] battle fatigued, perhaps we are better to acquiesce? But we are here still, and we are not going away.”

I think the sentiment applies far more broadly – now more than ever I believe in our communities’ commitment to addressing these issues.

We are not going anywhere.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health tribute to Australia’s first Aboriginal male university graduate : Charles Perkins #50back50forward #healthyfutures

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” Fifty years ago Charles Perkins did something no Aboriginal man had ever done.

Donning cap and gown and before family and friends and hundreds of other students and their families, he strode up the steps in the Great Hall to greet the Chancellor of the University of Sydney to receive his degree. Graduating with a bachelor of arts, he became the first Aboriginal man in Australia to graduate with a university degree.

In 2015 more than 16,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were studying at Australian universities.”

Given the known potential of education to help people overcome other disadvantage, 50 years on it’s worth reflecting, taking stock and thinking about the future. “

Professor Shane Houston is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) at the University of Sydney

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Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” Charles Perkins

Importantly Aboriginal people should be aware of this false economy which forms the basis of Aboriginal affairs in this country.  The economic lifeline is maintained only at the discretion of politicians and a fickle public.

We must therefore develop and consolidate a viable economy for our various communities and organisations that will sustain us into the future.

We must create short and long-term economic strategies now and thus create a more independent and secure base for ourselves and our children.

The reality is that Aboriginal people under utilise, to put it kindly, their current economic and personnel resources. The potential for economic viability for our people is available now if only we could awake to the opportunity and not be blinded largely by employment survival economics

Unless the approaches to Aboriginal health are broadened to include greater attention to the health problems of adults, and are matched by broad ranging strategies aimed at redressing Aboriginal social and economic disadvantages, it is likely that overall mortality will remain high.”

Dr Charles Perkins opening the Australia’s First International Indigenous and Economic Conference (NIBEC 1993) Alice Springs.  1993 ; Read full speech posted by NACCHO March 2014

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The Dr Charles Perkins AO Memorial Oration and Memorial Prize 2016, was held at the University of Sydney on Thursday 27 October : Titled ’50 years back – 50 years forward’, a panel of Aboriginal politicians and community leaders discussed the alignment of anniversaries and debates in the context of 100 years in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Reflection involves serious thinking about what we have done and left undone, what we have learnt, what still confounds us and why. Reflecting reminds us that Charles’ graduation anniversary coincides with other significant events in Aboriginal life.

It is 50 years almost since the 1967 Constitutional Referendum, since the Freedom Rides in NSW, since the Gurindji walked off Wave Hill Station. It has been about 40 years since the Racial Discrimination Act was passed, since the Northern Territory Lands Rights Act, and since the Electoral Act guaranteed Aboriginal rights to vote in all state and territory elections.

It has been 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and almost a quarter of a century since the Mabo decision. It’s been 20 years since the Bringing Them Home Report, since the Native Title Act and the Wik Judgment.

And it’s been 10 years since the Northern Territory Intervention and just under 10 years since the National Apology. And let’s not forget it is 70 years since the Pilbara strike by Aboriginal pastoral workers, Australia’s longest strike. All of these big moments helped us think about how Australian society saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And as these moments unfolded they illuminated the opportunity for Aboriginal people to see themselves in Australian society. Seeing and being seen are inseparable features of recognition.

The Aboriginal Freedom Riders in Casino, NSW in February 1965, with Charles Perkins (right).
The Aboriginal Freedom Riders in Casino, NSW in February 1965, with Charles Perkins (right). Photo: Ted Golding

This 50th anniversary gives us reason to take stock, to assess how we are travelling. Typically, we take stock before we make big decisions, and our nation faces some big decisions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.

Celebrating Charles’ graduation reminds us that a university degree is a passport to a better social and economic life. For students like Aboriginal students, who might not form the usual student cohort, a degree can deliver an even bigger positive impact.

Charles graduated and went on to a life of leadership, advocacy, service and commitment that contributed much to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

He was also at times a provocateur, poking us in order to get us to think more deeply. Charles certainly did this during his time as a student at the University of Sydney, challenging society for example when he and 28 other University of Sydney students exposed racism in rural NSW through the 1965 Freedom Ride.

According to the latest data, more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are entering higher education.

In 2015 more than 16,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were studying at Australian universities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student numbers have increased 50 per cent since 2009. This increase is greater than the increase seen more broadly in Australian university enrolments. Access is improving.

But is improved access enough? Do increasing enrolments translate into effective participation in higher education and increasing completions? It seems clear that in both cases the answer is mixed.

In 2015 about 74 per cent of Aboriginal students nationally passed their university exams and these results varied widely. When taking stock we must ask why are the results so mixed and what do we do next?

Charles struggled at university then, and struggle seems to be part of the university experience now. What is it about university that causes Aboriginal students to struggle and why is it that fewer go on to complete their degrees?

It is lazy to just write off Aboriginal students as simply less capable. There is evidence for example from the University of Sydney that tells us this. Aboriginal students who come to this institution do equally as well as other students, where we put in place programs that emphasise the right of Aboriginal students to be proud, confident and engaged cultural beings, that secure opportunity and build the capability of the university to offer a student experience, and that respond to the complex questions of inclusion and diversity.

As much of what has been written about education since Charles graduated tells us, there is no one silver bullet. The Sydney experience tells us there is no substitute for a comprehensive, embedded strategy backed up by real commitment and the hard work that follows in implementation.

So what does the future hold? The Sydney Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics estimates there will be 1.325 million Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia in 2150. What will the future hold for my great, great, great, great grandchildren?

We should be no less committed to the future than Charles and the many great leaders that preceded him and travelled with him. Unlike then, we now have five Aboriginal people in the Federal Parliament, the epicentre of national decision making. How will we grab this anniversary, this moment, this opportunity to springboard into a future, and what treasures and gifts will we leave future generations of Aboriginal families?

Universities around Australia, most definitely the University of Sydney, have a crucial role. Knowledge and the benefits it brings straddle the generations, and universities have a unique role in generating, sharing, improving knowledge, and protecting this gift. We also carry the awesome responsibility of equipping current and future generations to steward and use it wisely.