NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #SuicidePrevention : @ozprodcom issues paper on #MentalHealth in Australia is now available. It asks a range of questions which they seek information and feedback on. Submissions or comments are due by Friday 5 April.

 ” Many Australians experience difficulties with their mental health. Mental illness is the single largest contributor to years lived in ill-health and is the third largest contributor (after cancer and cardiovascular conditions) to a reduction in the total years of healthy life for Australians (AIHW 2016).

Almost half of all Australian adults have met the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety, mood or substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and around 20% will meet the criteria in a given year (ABS 2008). This is similar to the average experience of developed countries (OECD 2012, 2014).”

Download the PC issues paper HERE mental-health-issues

See Productivity Commission Website for More info 

“Clearly Australia’s mental health system is failing Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal communities devastated by high rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes. Poor mental health in Aboriginal communities often stems from historic dispossession, racism and a poor sense of connection to self and community. 

It is compounded by people’s lack of access to meaningful and ongoing education and employment. Drug and alcohol related conditions are also commonly identified in persons with poor mental health.

NACCHO Chairperson, Matthew Cooke 2015 Read in full Here 

Read over 200 Aboriginal Mental Health Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO over the past 7 years 

Despite a plethora of past reviews and inquiries into mental health in Australia, and positive reforms in services and their delivery, many people are still not getting the support they need to maintain good mental health or recover from episodes of mental ill‑health. Mental health in Australia is characterised by:

  • more than 3 100 deaths from suicide in 2017, an average of almost 9 deaths per day, and a suicide rate for Indigenous Australians that is much higher than for other Australians (ABS 2018)
  • for those living with a mental illness, lower average life expectancy than the general population with significant comorbidity issues — most early deaths of psychiatric patients are due to physical health conditions
  • gaps in services and supports for particular demographic groups, such as youth, elderly people in aged care facilities, Indigenous Australians, individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds, and carers of people with a mental illness
  • a lack of continuity in care across services and for those with episodic conditions who may need services and supports on an irregular or non-continuous basis
  • a variety of programs and supports that have been successfully trialled or undertaken for small populations but have been discontinued or proved difficult to scale up for broader benefits
  • significant stigma and discrimination around mental ill-health, particularly compared with physical illness.

The Productivity Commission has been asked to undertake an inquiry into the role of mental health in supporting social and economic participation, and enhancing productivity and economic growth (these terms are defined, for the purpose of this inquiry, in box 1).

By examining mental health from a participation and contribution perspective, this inquiry will essentially be asking how people can be enabled to reach their potential in life, have purpose and meaning, and contribute to the lives of others. That is good for individuals and for the whole community.


In 2014-15, four million Australians reported having experienced a common mental disorder.

Mental health is a key driver of economic participation and productivity in Australia, and hence has the potential to impact incomes and living standards and social engagement and connectedness. Improved population mental health could also help to reduce costs to the economy over the long term.

Australian governments devote significant resources to promoting the best possible mental health and wellbeing outcomes. This includes the delivery of acute, recovery and rehabilitation health services, trauma informed care, preventative and early intervention programs, funding non-government organisations and privately delivered services, and providing income support, education, employment, housing and justice. It is important that policy settings are sustainable, efficient and effective in achieving their goals.

Employers, not-for-profit organisations and carers also play key roles in the mental health of Australians. Many businesses are developing initiatives to support and maintain positive mental health outcomes for their employees as well as helping employees with mental illhealth continue to participate in, or return to, work.

Scope of the inquiry

The Commission should consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation, enhancing productivity and economic growth. It should make recommendations, as necessary, to improve population mental health, so as to realise economic and social participation and productivity benefits over the long term.

Without limiting related matters on which the Commission may report, the Commission should:

  • examine the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy;
  • examine how sectors beyond health, including education, employment, social services, housing and justice, can contribute to improving mental health and economic participation and productivity;
  • examine the effectiveness of current programs and Initiatives across all jurisdictions to improve mental health, suicide prevention and participation, including by governments, employers and professional groups;
  • assess whether the current investment in mental health is delivering value for money and the best outcomes for individuals, their families, society and the economy;
  • draw on domestic and international policies and experience, where appropriate; and
  • develop a framework to measure and report the outcomes of mental health policies and investment on participation, productivity and economic growth over the long term.

The Commission should have regard to recent and current reviews, including the 2014 Review of National Mental Health Programmes and Services undertaken by the National Mental Health Commission and the Commission’s reviews into disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Issues Paper
The Commission has released this issues paper to assist individuals and organisations to participate in the inquiry. It contains and outlines:

  • the scope of the inquiry
  • matters about which we are seeking comment and information
  • how to share your views on the terms of reference and the matters raised.

Participants should not feel that they are restricted to comment only on matters raised in the issues paper. We want to receive information and comment on any issues that participants consider relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Key inquiry dates

Receipt of terms of reference 23 November 2018
Initial consultations November 2018 to April 2019
Initial submissions due 5 April 2019
Release of draft report Timing to be advised
Post draft report public hearings Timing to be advised
Submissions on the draft report due Timing to be advised
Consultations on the draft report November 2019 to February 2020
Final report to Government 23 May 2020

Submissions and brief comments can be lodged

Online (preferred):
By post: Mental Health Inquiry
Productivity Commission
GPO Box 1428, Canberra City, ACT 2601


Inquiry matters: Tracey Horsfall Ph: 02 6240 3261
Freecall number: Ph: 1800 020 083

Subscribe for inquiry updates

To receive emails updating you on the inquiry consultations and releases, subscribe to the inquiry at:


 Definition of key terms
Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental illness or mental disorder is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria.

Mental health problem refers to some combination of diminished cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social abilities, but not to the extent of meeting the criteria for a mental illness/disorder.

Mental ill-health refers to diminished mental health from either a mental illness/disorder or a mental health problem.

Social and economic participation refers to a range of ways in which people contribute to and have the resources, opportunities and capability to learn, work, engage with and have a voice in the community. Social participation can include social engagement, participation in decision making, volunteering, and working with community organisations. Economic participation can include paid employment (including self-employment), training and education.

Productivity measures how much people produce from a given amount of effort and resources. The greater their productivity, the higher their incomes and living standards will tend to be.

Economic growth is an increase in the total value of goods and services produced in an economy. This can be achieved, for example, by raising workforce participation and/or productivity.

Sources: AIHW (2018b); DOHA (2013); Gordon et al. (2015); PC (2013, 2016, 2017c); SCRGSP (2018); WHO (2001).

An improvement in an individual’s mental health can provide flow-on benefits in terms of increased social and economic participation, engagement and connectedness, and productivity in employment (figure 1).

This can in turn enhance the wellbeing of the wider community, including through more rewarding relationships for family and friends; a lower burden on informal carers; a greater contribution to society through volunteering and working in community groups; increased output for the community from a more productive workforce; and an associated expansion in national income and living standards. These raise the capacity of the community to invest in interventions to improve mental health, thereby completing a positive reinforcing loop.

The inquiry’s terms of reference (provided at the front of this paper) were developed by the Australian Government in consultation with State and Territory Governments. The terms of reference ask the Commission to make recommendations to improve population mental health so as to realise higher social and economic participation and contribution benefits over the long term.

Assessing the consequences of mental ill-health

The costs of mental ill-health for both individuals and the wider community will be assessed, as well as how these costs could be reduced through changes to the way governments and others deliver programs and supports to facilitate good mental health.

The Commission will consider the types of costs summarised in figure 4. These will be assessed through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis, drawing on available data and cost estimates, and consultations with inquiry participants and topic experts. We welcome the views of inquiry participants on other costs that we should take into account.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From see Part 1 Below

Graphic above NITV see Part 3 article below

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

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

See Part 2 Below

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

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

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

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

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

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

It starts with us – are we paying enough attention?

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


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

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

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

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

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

Published The Australian 17 January 

Download Press Release : culture is life press release 17 jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal people deserve better, our future generations deserve better

Part 3 NITV  Indigenous youth suicide at crisis point

Originally published HERE 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal people know the answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kimberley region faces alarming suicide rates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty the ‘driver’ towards suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government supported resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Part 4 Love and hope can save young Aborigines in despair 

Published The Australian 17 January 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health :  The Indigenous Marathon Project @IndigMaraProjct annual search for 12 young Indigenous Australians who are passionate about making a difference : February and March the national Try-Out Tour, visiting remote communities and big cities

“2019 is IMP’s 10th year and its impact has been massive. Running a marathon is hard, doing it in just six months with no running experience demonstrates the incredible strength and resilience of our Indigenous people. It’s an amazing experience – don’t miss it.”

Founded in 2010 by world marathon champion Rob de Castella, IMP is a core program of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation – a health promotion charity that addresses chronic disease in remote communities. IMP now has 86 graduates across Australia, each who have gone on to make their mark on the world

Download the the IMP poster to promote imp a3poster 12-18 (1)

Applications can be made at:

Do you have what it takes to cross the finish line of the world’s biggest marathon?

The Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) has begun its annual search for 12 young Indigenous Australians who are passionate about making a difference.

Each year, IMP selects, educates and trains a squad of inspirational Indigenous men and women to compete in the world’s biggest marathon – the New York City Marathon.

Open to all Indigenous Australians aged 18 to 30, IMP is not looking for the fastest runner. Instead, those who are passionate about becoming positive role models in their communities, who want to drive change and promote healthy lifestyles, are encouraged to apply.

IMP isn’t a sports program; it’s a social change program that uses running as a vehicle to promote the benefits of active and healthy lifestyles, while celebrating Indigenous resilience and achievement.

IMP Head Coach and 2014 graduate of the program, Adrian Dodson-Shaw, said that IMP’s reach was growing every year.

“It’s great to see the number of applications increase year after year, as IMP grows bigger and bigger and more people understand what the project is about,” Mr Dodson-Shaw said. “This isn’t about completing a marathon – it’s about changing your life.”

Mr Dodson-Shaw will set off around Australia in February and March on the national Try-Out Tour, visiting remote communities and big cities, testing the endurance of applicants with a trial run and an interview.

The successful 2019 squad will have to complete four national camps in the lead-up to the NYC Marathon, as well as taking part in the project’s education component, which will see them graduate with a Certificate IV in Sport and Recreation.

Applications can be made at:



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #findyour30 #getactive #lovesport #sport2030 @senbmckenzie launches #MoveitAUS a $28.9m grants program to achieve a goal of reducing inactivity amongst our population by 15% over the next 12 years :applications close 18 February 2019

 ” The Move It AUS – Participation Grant Program provides support to help organisations get Australians moving and to support the aspiration to make Australia the world’s most active and healthy nation.

If successful, applicants will receive grants up to $1 million to implement community-based activities that align to the outcomes of Sport 2030. ” 

How to apply for funding HERE

Photo above : Check out the very active Deadly Choices mob 

Or view HERE

“The nation’s first-ever sports plan – Sport 2030 – sets a goal to ensure Australia is the world’s most active, healthy nation and the Sports Participation Grants Program is part of our ongoing commitment to achieving this goal,

Our goal is to get more Australians more active more often.

We have set the aspiration, put out a call to action and are supporting this with a significant investment to unlock ideas and passion through our partners and communities.

We know that through increased participation, we have a larger pool from which the new elite athletes of the future will come from.

We want Australians to heed advice from the health experts – adults should “Move It’ 30 minutes a day and children 60 minutes a day.”

Minister for Sport Senator Bridget McKenzie has today 7 January 2019 launched a $28.9m grants program which will enable sport and physical activity providers to get Australia’s population moving. 

The government Move It AUS – Participation Grants Program, to be managed by Sport Australia, aims to help Australians reach the goal set in the government’s Sport 2030 report to reduce inactivity amongst the population by 15% over the next twelve years.

The four year program is part of the 2018-19 government Budget investment of over $230 million in a range of physical activity initiatives.

  • Get inactive people moving in their local community
  • Build awareness and understanding of the importance of physical activity across all stages of life
  • Improve the system of sport and physical activity by targeting populations at risk of inactivity, across all life stages
  • Delivering ongoing impact through the development of sector capability (Stream 2 only)

What types of programs are we looking for?

Programs that:

  • Activates available research (through delivery) which results in the development of positive physical activity experience for one or more of the targeted population groups.
  • Engages Australians that are currently inactive to increase physical activity levels in local communities. This includes women and girls, early years (age 3-7) – focus on the development of Physical Literacy, youth (ages 13-17), people from rural and remote communities, people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, low-medium income households or low socio economic status (SES).
  • Employs behaviour change principles and practices in their implementation and delivery.
  • Addresses common barriers to participation (cost, time, access, delivery method) and employs common drivers (eg: product design, market insights, communication, workforce and delivery method)
  • Activates the “Move it AUS” campaign within target population groups.
  • Directly addresses priority initiatives in Sport 2030.

The Department of Health’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines advise adults aged 18-64 should accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity each week. Children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.

National, State and Local Government sports organisations and physical activity providers are encouraged to apply for the grants, with key targets including inactive communities, increasing activity for women and girls and addressing the barriers related to participation in rural, remote and low socio-economic locations.

The Sports Participation Grants Program follow the launch of the Better Ageing Grants, aimed at Australians over 65, and the Community Sporting Infrastructure Grants, all aimed at helping Australians ‘Move It’ for life – and have the opportunity and facilities to ensure that happens.

Applications for the Sports Participation Grants Program open on Monday 7th January 2019 and close on the 18th of February 2019. Guidelines and details on the application process will be available on Monday 7th January at


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

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

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

The Hon Tony Abbott MP address to Parliament 6 December 

Download a copy of Improving education outcomes for Indigenous children

Watch speech HERE

Watch SkyNews Interview HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Major Recommendations 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Natalie Lewis, Chair of Family Matters

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

Download the Report


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Natalie Lewis, Chair of Family Matters

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

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

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


NACCHO Aboriginal Youth Health : AMSANT calls for urgent response to Don Dale crisis and a stronger focus on Aboriginal-led programs : Incarceration is not a road to rehabilitation.

We are calling for better and more effective engagement with Aboriginal leadership in dealing with this crisis

AMSANT’s offer to partner in brokering solutions still stands and we urge Territory Families to engage with us and other Aboriginal leaders more closely.

Moving to a youth development approach within these facilities, as recommended by the Royal Commission, is not being approached with the urgency required.

More should be occurring by this stage down the track, such as the establishment of an elders visiting and mentoring program, which is an obvious gap at present

We need the government to work in partnership with us.

Ultimately, a stronger focus on Aboriginal-led programs that support children and their families in communities, so they don’t end up in detention in the first place, is where we need to be

AMSANT CEO, John Paterson

Full Press Release AMSANT-Media-release-Urgent-action-required-over-Don-Dale

 ” It has been twelve months since the Royal Commission handed down its report into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory.

This week’s disturbing events are further proof that locking children and young people up in places like Don Dale does not prepare them for life as a responsible adult.

Incarceration is not a road to rehabilitation.

Aboriginal children and young people represent upwards of 95% of detainees in NT youth detention facilities. In recent times Aboriginal children and young people made up 100% of detainees in Don Dale.”

Making Justice Work Press Release Download read in full

Making Justice Work

“The Royal Commission final report recommendations aligns with the path of reform that we have undertaken since coming to Government, including sweeping alcohol reforms announced yesterday.”

 217 of the recommendations relate to action by the Northern Territory Government, which have been mapped into a framework of 17 work programs.

There are another 10 recommendations which we accept the intent and direction of, however they require actions by the Commonwealth Government and other organisations.

“We need coordinated effort to make effective, meaningful and generational change to our youth justice and child protection systems. Now more than ever, we need the support of the Commonwealth Government working in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government and the Aboriginal-controlled and non-government sector.”

March 2018 Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield announced that the Territory Labor Government will accept the intent and direction of all 227 Royal Commission recommendations, delivered in its final report late last year.

Download 35 Page NACCHO PDF

Download NT Government responses to 227 NTRC recommendations

Part 1 Media Coverage background from the Guardian

Another violent incident at the Don Dale detention centre has sparked widespread criticism of the Northern Territory government for continuing to operate the maligned facility, a year after the royal commission called for its closure.

The NT government said on Wednesday it couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be a repeat of the previous night, after young detainees allegedly attacked a staff member, stole keys and burned down the facility’s school room.

It was the second time in three weeks that young detainees had stolen keys and caused damage, and was the latest in a long line of violence at the centre in recent years.

All 25 young people are now being held in the Darwin police watch house, and their lawyers are applying for immediate bail, saying it is an unsafe environment, the ABC reported.

Reports that the centre has been closed indefinitely were incorrect, Guardian Australia has confirmed, and it’s understood police are likely to return the unburned majority of the centre to the control of Territory Families once inspections are completed.

Part 2 AMSANT Press Release continued 

Download full Press Release HERE


AMSANT today called for urgent change to the Northern Territory Government’s approach to youth justice reform following another serious incident at the Don Dale Detention Centre.

“AMSANT is extremely concerned about the welfare of the children and staff currently held or working in the detention facilities”, said AMSANT CEO, John Paterson.

“The fact that police were called and tear gas was used and that the children are now languishing in the Darwin Watch House indicates that what is currently being done at Don Dale is not working.

“At present there are serious questions over whether the Northern Territory Government has in place the capacity to manage the change processes required for these reforms.

“There remain significant issues around the training and numbers of staff, and an ongoing situation of children being subject to long periods of lock-down.

“It’s a pressure cooker situation that will keep resulting in serious incidents such as occurred this week .

“Of the children in detention at least half are in the child protection system and many are on remand.

“We call for urgent action for the release of young people held on remand (not yet sentenced) with non-serious offences to be returned to community and families as a matter of priority.

“Moving to a youth development approach within these facilities, as recommended by the Royal Commission, is not being approached with the urgency required.

“More should be occurring by this stage down the track, such as the establishment of an elders visiting and mentoring program, which is an obvious gap at present.

“With new facilities not due to open till 2021, this is too long to wait for the changes needed.

“AMSANT is also concerned that the government has decided to plan for only two, expensive, urban based facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs.

We have advocated for smaller, regionally based facilities that will enable the engagement of families in the development of their children.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #IDW2018 #NACCHOagm2018 Report 5 of 5 @Mayi_Kuwayu Landmark study to examine health benefits of Indigenous connection to country launched at #NACCHOagm2018

We are trying to plug gaps in data and change the mistaken narrative that being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is the cause of ill health,

It is important because past policies likely contribute to intergenerational health and wellbeing outcomes for our mob.”

“Governments and statistical agencies are very reluctant to collect and report information on that.”

Professor Ray Lovett said the main reason for the study was to highlight how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, cultural participation and knowledge was linked to better health outcomes.

” From Thursday, 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be mailed a copy of the survey, and a further 180,000 will have one by the end of January.

All Indigenous people over 16 who are registered with Medicare will receive a copy, or will be eligible to fill it out online.

Known as Mayi Kuwayu (from the Ngiyampaa-Wongaibon language, meaning to follow people over time), the study will follow the respondents for up to 50 years.”

See Guardian article Part 2 below 

Mayi Kuwayu biggest ever study of health and wellbeing among Indigenous adults was launched at our National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Members’ Conference. in Brisbane last week

Among the data to be collected by researchers is the impact of historical policy decisions such as the Stolen Generations and exposure to racism, as well as how culture is linked to wellbeing.

It is spearheaded by Australian National University Associate Professor and Wongaibon man Ray Lovett and is the first of its kind.

Hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are expected to participate.

Watch Video HERE 

Professor Lovett said the main reason for the study was to highlight how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, cultural participation and knowledge was linked to better health outcomes.

“For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people this concept is intuitive,” he said.

“We know if we maintain a connection to our country, to our languages, to strong family and kinship networks then that it is good for us, but we need the data.”

Associate Professor Lovett’s own grandmother was a member of the Stolen Generation, which has impacted on his own family.

“I’m a product of the Stolen Generations — my grandmother was taken,” he said. “This has had traumatic impacts within my own extended family.”

He said he hoped in the future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing policy focussed on connecting and reconnecting people to their country and cultural knowledge.

The study has been more than three years in the planning.

People can tell their story online at or call 1800 531 600

Part 2 From the Guardian

The health benefits of connections to identity, culture and land for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are to be measured in a study, beginning on Thursday, that will follow them for up to 50 years.

Published HERE 

It has taken the Australian National University research team four and a half years, including two and a half years of consultation with dozens of Indigenous communities, to decide how to measure such long-held anecdotal beliefs in a statistically useful way.

“For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, this concept is intuitive,” said the study leader, Assoc Prof Ray Lovett. “We know if we maintain a connection to our country, to our languages, to strong family and kinship networks, that it is good for us, but we need the data.”

Lovett said pilot studies in Victoria and central Australia had already demonstrated that better connections to country vastly improved the mental health of its Aboriginal participants. “Those two studies are showing the same thing in two totally different areas,” he said.

The survey also seeks to measure how racism, discrimination and past policies of forced removals have affected Aboriginal people’s physical and mental health.

“It’s personal for me, that question,” Lovett said. “Growing up, my grandmother was from the stolen generations, and that legacy lasted through my mother’s generation.

“In my own family there was a constant concern I sensed as a child, that they were quite worried about being monitored, about being under surveillance.

“There’s a constant level of stress we experience, from subtle or overt racism, and that level of distress is a real thing for many Aboriginal families. The intergenerational effects are profound.

“People confuse indigeneity with ill health and poor outcomes. A big part of our study is looking at how, when people are connected to culture, they are better off, and how those things really matter and should be part of our national health policy.”

The survey was launched at the annual conference of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the peak body representing Aboriginal health agencies.

Talking about Culture

Our team have listened to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people speaking about what culture means to them. The following quotes are from the Mayi Kuwayu focus groups held around the country in 2017.

Torres Strait

There’s three tiers that we look at in culture. Our physical connection, our emotional connection and the spiritual. That’s the number one important factor – all of our belief system and our connectivity bases on spirituality.


Every generation stands on the shoulders of the last generation. So you and me stand up on shoulders of giants. That’s why we’re here. We as Indigenous people come from the mind set of survival, not economics. We’re built on survival, which is each other.


Culture is our traditions, dance, and languages. Campfire yarns, sharing from elders, talking, family, preserving our identity so it doesn’t die out – and sharing all these things.


Culture is so important. We provide the knowledge to our young ones so that they have something that they can carry on.


As a kid you weren’t allowed to go talking languages. You weren’t allowed to go doing any – you were also told that you didn’t know what you were talking about. And the best thing today is the fact that we now get the chance to teach our own culture and teach our language.


Our culture has been suppressed through Government policies. The more time goes on, the more policies that are implemented to prevent us from celebrating our own cultures.


The other thing that’s the main thing, is connection to country, and knowing where you come from.


If you don’t know where you come from, how do you know where you’re going?


I can see a change now with strengthening culture. I can see that happening as more young people think about their culture. I just think language, when you speak it, it’s like a song when you’re speaking it. It’s real rhythmical, the language.


I’ve grown up with positive role models with my aunties and my uncles. I’ve grown up spiritually strong. And Mum, with what happened with her, I just think that affected her spirit. I think that’s a lot of Aboriginal people, their spirit has been affected. And our culture is spiritual. That’s the basis of our culture.


My mother, when she did the Census, she never, ever said she was Aboriginal and she definitely is. But she would never say because she thought they’d come back on her and take the kids away, you know? Just fear of something happening. And I’m sure a lot of people didn’t do the Census. That’s why we haven’t got good statistics.


Culture for me is respecting our elders. They are our first teachers, they’re our guidance. They are our backbone of our family.


I always start with elders because they’re our teachers and they help us connect back into country. They teach us knowledge, history, storylines, song-lines. Laws. Caring and sharing with family. That family kinship connection that keeps us strong.


Our law is the law of our land and that’s what makes us strong.

CLC Ranger Group

Knowing where the story is and how the story is being involved in your country – is pretty strong.


When we go out on our traditional land, we do get some positive energy and it builds our strength. And drinking water from waterholes and eating tucker from out bush, all that. That’s what builds our people’s strength up.


You’ve got to start at the beginning where you’re made. Your belonging, you know. Where you’re from. Where you’re connected through not only country, but also how you fit in with family members in that area. Regrouping or grouping each other in cultural, but it starts off with ceremonies to know where you stand as a person for being involved in culture.


When we go up on country, it’s about taking the kids through the landscape, talking to them about special significant sites and what happened and showing them the fish traps and ground ovens and all those sorts of things. So sharing that understanding is not just having a connection to your land but actually understanding their lands is really important.


You can flow between two cultures, but as soon as you’re a mob together, you just go for it. It just connects you. And it feels good, you know. And so for someone that’s not getting any of that in their life, there’s got to be an impact.


For me, that cultural wellbeing the biggest, the most ultimate thing is being able to go home at some time, in some way, shape or form. This is what we’ve actually done with our clients that nobody ever bothered to do.

And the Government wouldn’t fund it and things like that, but we found a way to do it. And the difference it’s made in those peoples’ lives is significant.

It’s just phenomenal, the difference once they’ve been able to go back to their country, sit on that dirt and be surrounded by the people they haven’t seen for many years. The biggest thing for me is that cultural wellbeing.

South Australia

Yeah, that’s our main concern. And culture and how it affects wellbeing. If we don’t have culture, we don’t always have wellbeing.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NACCHOagm2018 Report 4 of 5 : Minister @KenWyattMP full text keynote speech launching @AIHW  report report solely focusing on the health and wellbeing of young Indigenous people aged 10–24

” Culturally-appropriate care and safety has a vast role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of our people. In this respect, I want to make special mention of the proven record of the Aboriginal Community Health Organisations in increasing the health and wellbeing of First Peoples by delivering culturally competent care.

I’m pleased to be here at this conference, which aims to make a difference with a simple but sentinel theme of investing in what works, surely a guiding principle for all that we do

Providing strong pointers for this is a new youth report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Equipped with this information, we can connect the dots – what is working well and where we need to focus our energies, invest our expertise, so our young people can reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing “

Minister Ken Wyatt launching AIHW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 report at NACCHO Conference 31 October attended by over 500 ACCHO delegates 

In Noongar language I say, kaya wangju. I acknowledge the traditional custodians on the land on which we meet and join together in acknowledging this fellowship and sharing of ideas.

I acknowledge Elders, past and present and I also want to acknowledge some individuals who have done an outstanding job in the work that you all do and I thank you for the impact that you have at the local community level: John Singer, chair of NACCHO; Pat Turner AM, CEO of NACCHO; Donnella Mills; Dr Dawn Casey; Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman; Professor Sandra Eades; Donna Ah Chee; LaVerne Bellear; Chris Bin Kali; Adrian Carson – and I’m sorry to hear that Adrian’s not with us because of a family loss – Kieran Chilcott; Raylene Foster; Rod Jackson; Vicki Holmes; John Mitchell; Scott Monaghan; Lesley Nelson; Julie Tongs; Olga Havnen.

All of you I have known over a long period of time and the work and commitment that you have made to the pathways that you have taken has been outstanding. I’d also like to acknowledge Dr Tim Howle, Prajali Dangol, and Helen Johnstone, the report authors.

I’m pleased to be here at this conference, which aims to make a difference with a simple but sentinel theme of investing in what works, surely a guiding principle for all that we do.

Providing strong pointers for this is a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

I understand this is the very first study by the Institute that focuses solely on First Nations people aged 10 to 24.

Download a copy of report aihw-ihw-198

As such, it is a critical document.

Firstly because it puts at your fingertips high quality, targeted research about our young people.

Secondly, it gives us a clear understanding of where they are doing well, but also the challenges young people still face.

And thirdly, equipped with this information, we can connect the dots – what is working well and where we need to focus our energies, invest our expertise, so our young people can reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing.

I’m always passionate about all young people having the best start in life and marshalling the human resources necessary so that this care extends right through to early adulthood, laying strong foundations for the rest of their lives.

I want to run through some of the key findings of this report and then talk about Closing the Gap Refresh in our Government’s commitment to and support for our young people. I’m pleased some real positives have been identified.

The report found a majority of the 242,000 young First Australians, or 63 per cent, assessed their health as either excellent or very good. Further, 61 per cent of young people had a connection to country and 69 per cent were involved in cultural events in the previous 12 months.

As the oldest continuous culture, we know that maintaining our connections to country and our cultural traditions is a key to our health and wellbeing. Education is another important factor in our ability to live well and reach our full potential.

In the 20 to 24 age group, the number of young people who have completed Year 12 or the equivalent has increased from 47 per cent in 2006 to 65 per cent in 2016. Smoking rates have declined and there is also an increase in the number of young people who have never taken up smoking in the first place.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents reported they had access to a GP and between 2010 and 2016, the proportion of young people aged 15 to 24 who had an Indigenous health check – that’s the MBS Item 715 – almost quadrupled from 6 per cent to 22 per cent. These are some of the encouraging results, but challenges remain.

In 2016, 42 per cent of young First Australians were not engaged in education, employment or training. Although there has been a decline in smoking rates for young people, one in three aged between 15 and 24 was still smoking daily.

Sixty-two per cent of our young people aged 10 to 24 had a longer-term health challenge such as respiratory disease, eye and vision problems, or mental health conditions. These statistics inform us, and, critically in the work we are doing, point to an evidence-based pathway forward.

I know you’ll be interested to know that the Prime Minister has now confirmed the refresh of the Closing the Gap will be considered at the next COAG meeting on 12 December.

Closing the Gap requires us to raise our sights from a focus on problems and deficits to actively supporting the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the social and economic life of the nation. There is a need to focus on the long term and on future generations to strengthen prevention and early intervention initiatives that help build strong families and communities.

The Government has hosted 29 national roundtables from November 2017 to August 2018 in each state and territory capital city and major regional centres. We’ve also met with a significant number of stakeholders. In total, we reached more than 1200 participants. More than 170 written submissions were also received on the public discussion paper about Refresh.

The Refresh is expected to settle on 10 to 15 targets. These targets are aimed at building our strengths and successes to support intergenerational change. Existing targets on life expectancy, Year 12 enrolment, and early childhood will continue.

Action plans will set out the concrete steps each government will take to achieve the new Closing the Gap targets, and we have to hold state and territory governments to account. The plans to be developed in the first half of 2019 will be informed by the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, community leaders, service providers, and peak bodies.

Dedicated and continuous dialogue along with meaningful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is fundamental to ensuring the refreshed agenda and revised targets meets the expectations and aspirations of First Australians and the nation as a whole.

These actions will be backed by positive policy changes in both prevention and treatment, such as the introduction from tomorrow of the new Medicare Benefits Schedule item to fund delivery of remote kidney dialysis by nurses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners, further improving access to dialysis on country.

The COAG health ministers in Alice Springs just recently on 3 August met with Indigenous leaders and asked for their views on a range of issues, and all of the leaders in attendance had an incredible impact on each state and territory Minister.

I know that because I attended the Ministers’ dinner later in which the discussion came to the very issues that were raised by our leaders from all over the nation.

And COAG, the next morning, made the decision that Aboriginal health will be a priority on the COAG agenda for all future meetings, and that whoever the Minister for Indigenous Health is will be ex officio on the Health Ministers’ Forum to inform and to engage in a dialogue around the key issues that were identified, not only by the leadership, but by the evidence of the work that we do; and there are six national priorities now that COAG will turn its mind to, the COAG health ministers.

Over the next decade, the Australian Government has committed $10 billion to improve the health of First Australians.

This is a substantial sum of money, but we are only going to achieve better health and wellbeing outcomes if we work and walk together. We have to build mutual trust and respect in all that we do, and I include in this every state and territory system.

We have to increase cultural capability and responsibility in all health settings and services. We must support and encourage the development of local and family-based approaches for health. As I’ve said before, we need every one of our men and women to take the lead and perpetuate our proud traditions that have kept us healthy for 65,000 years.

Culturally-appropriate care and safety has a vast role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of our people. In this respect, I want to make special mention of the proven record of the Aboriginal Community Health Organisations in increasing the health and wellbeing of First Peoples by delivering culturally competent care.

And while they’re widely canvassing the importance of supporting the growth and potential of children and young adults, I would like to make special mention of the support required for our senior people as well, our Elders.

We must ensure that all older First Nations Australians who are eligible for age or disability support can access the care they deserve; either through the My Aged Care System or the National Disability Insurance Scheme. With a holistic grassroots approach of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, I believe ACCHOs should work to ensure that our older, Indigenous leaders receive assessments and support options that are available.

In August, as I indicated, I met with Indigenous leaders as part of the COAG Health Council Roundtable. Coming out of this was not only a resolution to make First Peoples health a continuing council priority, but a commitment to develop a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce plan. I see this as being more about Aboriginal doctors, nurses and health workers working on country and in our towns and cities. It’s also about building capacity of health professionals across the entire health system to provide culturally safe services.

I was talking with Shelly Strickland some time ago, and she asked me a couple of questions, and I said to her: watch the movie Hidden Figures.

And at the time, I know she left me thinking what the hell is he talking about and why would you recommend a movie? When you look at that movie, it was about Afro-American women who put man on the moon.

The movie is based on the work of the women who gave the scientists the solutions to putting a rocket into space, landing man on the moon, and bringing them back; it was an untold story. And there are multiple layers when you look at that movie of overt racism. They were not allowed to use the same toilets as their white counterparts, they had to run two car parks away in any condition to use a toilet.

When something went wrong, people looked at them and saw them as the fault. But what they did very superbly was take their knowledge, apply science, apply the thinking that was needed, and demonstrated mathematically that man could land on the moon.

Not one NASA, non-Indigenous or non-American Afro-American had reached that solution. Those four women – I think it was four – provided the solution, but their story was never told. And they were the true leaders of space adventure and discovery. If they had not done the thinking and the tackling of the issue, then the solution would never have been reached. There are parallels in Aboriginal health.

We think of GP super clinics – they were modelled on our AMSs, about a holistic approach. There are other elements of what you do, and what we as a people do, that health systems have taken note of. But what we have to be better at is sharing where we have leadership.

I look at the work that Donna Murray is doing with Allied Health Staff – the outcomes that she achieves, they are stunning.

The work which she puts into helping make the journey a positive journey achieves outcomes that are disproportional to the work that we do as a government in many other areas in mainstream.

And we do lead – and if you haven’t seen that movie, you have to look at it and think of the parallels that our people went through. But, I think the other most salient point is, is that it was the Afro-American women who were the backbone of the space and science discovery program of America.

And I would like to acknowledge our women as well. I think the NAIDOC theme is one of the best themes I have seen in a long time; and I’ve been around a while. And I see it in health where our women play a very pivotal role and are the backbone of the frontline services that are delivered. Men always gravitate to the top; we tend to do that.

But, I do see that the actual hands-on work is done by our women, and so I thank you for that, because the progress we’ve made is because of the way in which you, like those Afro-American women, have helped shape the destiny and future. And I think of some of the people that I’ve known over the years who would be in a similar category.

And certainly, I’ll single out one because she was a great friend and taught me a lot, was Naomi Myers, whose leadership and dedication was parallel to that of the women in that movie Hidden Figures.

While the Medical Health Workforce Plan will be positive for Aboriginal Torres Islander jobs across Australia, it has particular potential for tackling chronic disease and improving the lives of our people in remote communities.

We are all well aware of the importance of health and wellbeing of our young children. There is ample evidence that investment in child and family health supports the health and development of children in the first five years; setting strong foundations for life.

And Kerry Arabena’s work certainly epitomises that along with many others. Good health and learning behaviours set in the early years continue throughout a young person’s life. Young people are more likely to remain engaged in education and make healthy choices when they’re happy, healthy and resilient, and supported by strong families and communities that have access to services and support their needs.

Connected Beginnings program is using a collective impact placed based approach to prepare children for the transition to school so they are able to learn and thrive. The program is providing children and their families with access to cohesive and coordinated support and services in their communities.

The Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program targets mothers from early pregnancy through to the child’s second birthday, and aims to improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women engage in good preventive health practices, supporting parents to improve their child’s health and development, and helping parents develop a vision for their own child’s future; including continuing education and work. Increasingly, research is also highlighting the long term value of investing in youth.

This investment benefits young people now as they become adults, and as they then have children of their own.

So I want to focus on some of the things that we are doing that is important, the take up of MBS 175, access to MBS items.

We’re improving the Practice Incentives Program, Indigenous Health Incentive which promotes best practice and culturally safe chronic disease care. We are reducing preventable chronic disease caused by poor nutrition through the EON Thriving Community programs in remote communities.

We’re tackling smoking rates through the Tackling Indigenous Smoking Program; and encouragingly, youth had the biggest drop. And we’re prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health in the first round of funding under the Million Minds Research Mission.

More broadly, for our First Australians and the wider population, we are investing in services for the one in four who experience mental illness each year.

And this also includes through Minister Hunt funding to headspace Centres, Orygen, beyondblue’s new school-based initiative BU, Digital Mental Health child, and youth mental health research and working alongside Greg has been a tremendous opportunity, because I’ve been able to get into his ear about the need for him also to consider our people in key initiatives that he launches, and he’s been a great ally.

And our work on the 10-year National Action Plan for Children’s Health continues. I want to continue setting strong foundations for making sure our people have access to culturally safe and appropriate health services.

Let me also just go quickly to the report. I had a look at the report online, and I was impressed with the way in which the writers – and FAD were in AIHW and have pulled together this one and have taken elements out of the two major better health reports.

And it was great to see our profiling, in some cases being better, in some cases being challenging. But this is a good guide for all of us to use and I commend everybody who’s been involved, and it gives me great pleasure to launch the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 report.

So, congratulations to all of those involved and congratulations to each and every one of you who have contributed to this report in the data that you provide, the work that you do but your commitment to our people. Thank you.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NACCHOagm2018 Report 1 of 5 : NACCHO welcomes the launch by @KenWyattMP of the first @AIHW report solely focusing on the health and wellbeing of young Indigenous people aged 10–24

 ” As the oldest continuous culture on Earth, we know that maintaining our connection to country and our cultural traditions is a key to our health and wellbeing.

The report also raises some of the challenges faced by young First Australians including 42 per cent who were not engaged in education, employment or training.

Although there has been a decline in smoking rates for young First Australians, one in three people aged between 15–24 was still a daily smoker in 2014-15 and 62 per cent of those aged 10-24 had longer-term health challenges such as respiratory or vision problems or mental health conditions.

Clearly there is much work to do to strengthen prevention and early intervention initiatives that will help build strong families and communities.’

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release See Part 3 Below : Noting we will publish the Ministers full launch speech later this week 

We thank both the Minister and the AIHW for choosing our sell out NACCHO Members’ Conference attended by over 500 members and stakeholders to launch the first AIHW report that solely focuses on the health and wellbeing of our young Indigenous people aged 10–24.

By providing insights into their health and wellbeing including areas where they are doing well and challenges they face, the report aims to contribute to better outcomes for Indigenous young people today, as they move into adulthood, and for future generations of Indigenous Australians.”

Mr John Singer, Chairperson and Donnella Mills Deputy Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation last week welcomed the launching by Minister for Indigenous Ken Wyatt at NACCHO Members’ Conference and AGM , the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW’s) report Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018


  1. Young Indigenous population
  2. Wellbeing of young Indigenous people
  3. Health of young Indigenous people
  4. Social and economic determinants
  5. Health risk factors
  6. Health services
  7. How do young Indigenous people compare

Download Copy of Report 


 ” NACCHO Youth Health Conference – future ACCHO “ leaders of tomorrow “

 ” Last Tuesday I welcomed seventy-five young people from around Australia to our inaugural NACCHO Youth Health Conference: Future leaders of Tomorrow where they discussed their health and public policy issues affecting our youth. I was inspired by these future ACCHO “ leaders of tomorrow “ with their positive and innovative report back to the plenary session”

John Singer NACCHO Chair: Noting a full NACCHO Youth report will be published later this week 

Mr Singer observed that this snapshot-style report has been designed to provide an easy overview of the key issues, suitable for a wide audience including his 145 NACCHO members operating 302 urban, regional and remote ACCHO plus other policymakers, researchers and service providers.

Youth is a key transition period in a person’s life. It is a time when decisions are made about relationships, education and career paths, employment and finances. The social, economic, environmental and technological changes that have occurred in recent decades mean that young people now face issues that previous generations may not have experienced.

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may face additional obstacles in making a successful transition to adulthood. The effect of inter-generational trauma, racism and prejudice, and socioeconomic disadvantage are all relevant in understanding the experiences of young Indigenous people today

The report provides data on 65 indicators. The indicators are grouped according to their focus on health and wellbeing outcomes, social determinants and risk factors or the use of health services.

The report brings together data from a variety of sources, and includes information on health outcomes, determinants and service use for Indigenous youth with data disaggregated by age group, sex, state and territory and remoteness areas.

Part 2 Key findings:

  • In 2016, there were around 242,000 Indigenous people aged 10–24 in Australia. About 1 in 20 young people in Australia was Indigenous.
  • In 2014–15, a majority of young Indigenous people aged 10–24 assessed their health as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ (63%).
  • 61% of young Indigenous people aged 10 to 24 recognised their traditional homelands or traditional country, and 69% were involved in cultural events in the previous 12 months.
  • There was an increase in the proportion of young Indigenous people aged 20–24 who had Year 12 or equivalent attainment from 47% in 2006 to 65% in 2016.
  • Young Indigenous people aged 15–24 who smoked daily declined from 45% in 2002 to 31% in 2014–15. There was also an increase in young people who never smoked from 44% in 2002 to 56% in 2014–15.
  • The mortality rate for young Indigenous people has declined, from 70 per 100,000 in 2005 to 67 per 100,000 in 2015. There were an estimated 490 avoidable deaths for young Indigenous people aged 15–24, representing 83% of Indigenous deaths for this age group.
  • In 2012–13, most young Indigenous people aged 10–24 had access to a GP in their local area (83%).
  • Between 2010 and 2016, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 who had an Indigenous health check (MBS item 715) rose from 6% to 22%.

There remains key challenges to be addressed:

  • In 2016, 42% of young Indigenous people were not engaged in education, employment or training.
  • Although there has been a decline in smoking rates for young Indigenous people, 1 in 3 Indigenous youth aged 15–24 were still daily smokers in 2014–15.
  • 62% of young Indigenous people aged 10–24 had a long-term condition, most prevalent was respiratory disease (36%) and eye and vision problems (20%) and mental health conditions (10%).
  • In 2011, the leading contributors to the disease burden for Indigenous 10 to 24-year-olds were suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13%), anxiety disorders (8%), alcohol use disorders (7%) and road traffic accidents (6%).
  • In 2015-16, the leading causes of hospitalisations for young Indigenous people aged 10–24 were injury and poisoning (37 per 1,000) and mental and behavioural disorders (20 per 1,000).

Part 3 Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release

The health and wellbeing of First Australian teenagers and young adults is the focus of a unique new report released today.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 report reveals specific, national data on 10-24 year olds for the first time.

The positive outcomes highlighted in this Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) research show where concerted and targeted efforts by First Nations families, communities, government and health care organisations are getting results.

Sixty-three per cent of First Australians aged 10–24 assessed their health as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’.

The number of First Australians aged 15-24 who smoked daily declined from 45 per cent in 2002 to 31 per cent in 2014-15. There was also an increase in young people who never smoked, up from 44 per cent in 2002 to 56 per cent in 2014 15.

In 2012-13, 83 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 10-24 had access to a GP in their local area.

Between 2010 and 2016, the proportion of young people aged 15–24 who had an Indigenous health check (MBS item 715) almost quadrupled, from 6 per cent to 22 per cent.

It is also pleasing to see 61 per cent of our young people reported having a connection to country and 69 per cent were involved in cultural events in the previous 12 months.

As the oldest continuous culture on Earth, we know that maintaining our connection to country and our cultural traditions is a key to our health and wellbeing.

The report also raises some of the challenges faced by young First Australians including 42 per cent who were not engaged in education, employment or training.

Although there has been a decline in smoking rates for young First Australians, one in three people aged between15–24 was still a daily smoker in 2014-15 and 62 per cent of those aged 10-24 had longer-term health challenges such as respiratory or vision problems or mental health conditions.

Clearly there is much work to do to strengthen prevention and early intervention initiatives that will help build strong families and communities.

While the health of babies and younger children creates a crucial foundation for healthier and longer lives, data like this is vital in ensuring a good start continues into adulthood.

It will inform the Closing the Gap refresh and help us to understand what is working well and where we need to focus our energies, so all young First Australians can reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing.

Our Government has committed to spending approximately $10 billion to improve First People’s health over the next decade.

I thank the AIHW and Professor Sandra Eades, Chair of the AIHW Expert Advisory Group and the team of experts for their work on this important and timely report.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 can be found on the AIHW website.