NACCHO Aboriginal Health Media Alerts : 1.Today 18 Nov watch @HealthJusticeAu Webinar features our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills 2. Listen to our CEO Pat Turner 2019 review interview @abcspeakingout 3.Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture


1.Health Justice Partnerships webinar today 18 November features our NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills 

Monday 18 November – 2:30pm – 4:00pm AEDT 

A quiet revolution is taking place across Australia and it’s transforming the way some of the most vulnerable in our community access legal services. In a practitioner-led movement, community lawyers have been moving out of their offices and into the most unlikely of places – hospitals and community health settings – to collaborate with health services and their patients to address unmet, health-harming legal need.

Known as health justice partnerships (HJPs), these collaborations work by embedding legal help into healthcare services and teams.

Health Justice Partnerships will explore the growing body of evidence that shows there are groups of people who are vulnerable to intersecting legal and health problems, but who are unlikely to turn to legal services for solutions.

Facilitated by Jason Rostant, a panel examines what takes a HJP partnership beyond ‘status quo’ services in terms of purpose, structure, activity and resourcing.

Panellists include:

  • Donnella Mills, Lawyer, Lawright and Chair, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (NACCHO
  • Tessa Boyd Caine, CEO, Health Justice Australia
  • Jane Cipants, Director Client Service, Legal Aid
  • Sandra Gates, Director Allied Health and Clinical Support, The Royal Women’s Hospital

*Panelists subject to change

Get to know

  • Legal problems that affect health
  • The definition of a health justice partnership
  • Evidence supporting the HJP model
  • Create partnerships with existing local social resource providers and expand capacity to address social needs
  • The development and sustainability of the community service sector

Register here to watch the Webinar 

2.Our CEO Pat Turner interviewed by  Larissa Behrendt on Speaking Out 16 Nov


Pat Turners 2019 Year in Review Features include

1.Closing the gap / Have Your Say consultations

2. Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has urged the senior advisory group co-designing an Indigenous Voice to Government to take hold of the “moment in time” before them to change the lives of Indigenous Australians.

3. Yuendumu police shooting: Indigenous groups demand action

4.New $90 Million funding for our ACCHO’s

Listen here to Interview

3. Leading filmmaker Rachel Perkins echoes the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the first of her ABC Boyer Lectures:

Watch on IView

I am reminded of the distinguished poet and stateswoman, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, when she wrote:

“Let no-one say the past is dead.

“The past is all about us and within.”

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of people who have died.

Watch the full speech see link below

Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture on ABC iview

For Indigenous people have not lost from our minds the history of our nation, not only its deep past of thousands of years, but also the events on April 29, 250 years ago, when James Cook ordered his men to fire upon the two men on the shore.

It is likely they were Gweagal warriors, who stood before him in defence of their family behind them on the beach. Cook’s action signalled the Crown’s intentions; the transfer of a continent, from one people to another, by force if necessary, a phenomenon we politely call colonisation.

Our generation wasn’t standing on the deck of the Endeavour or on the shores of Kamay Botany Bay in 1770, just as we weren’t present during the massacres as the colonial frontier progressed from south to north.

However, as my father Charles Perkins, the Indigenous leader who came to prominence in the 1960s for leading the Freedom Ride, said:

“We cannot live in the past, but the past lives in us.”

The past has made us. We are its inheritors, for better or worse, and this is now our time.

How we move forward from this moment will set the course of relationships between Indigenous people and their fellow Australians into the future.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NATSIHP : Download Report Card on the Implementation Plan for The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013 to 2023, showing 12 of the 20 goals named in the Plan are on track to be achieved by 2023.

“A significant number of Indigenous Australian health outcomes are on track to be achieved within four years, an annual Report Card has revealed.

The annual Report Card on the Implementation Plan for The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013 to 2023, shows 12 of the 20 goals named in the Plan are on track to be achieved by 2023.

The immunisation target for five-year-old children has been exceeded, with 97 per cent of Indigenous five-year-olds fully immunised, compared to 95 per cent of other children.

All three goals in the maternal health and parenting domain, plus the target for immunisation of two-year-olds, are on track to be achieved by 2023, while all goals related to smoking are expected to be accomplished by the Plan’s completion.

The IHRF is the first national research program led by Indigenous people at all levels, and conducted with close engagement with Indigenous communities,“We have set other clear goals to end avoidable Indigenous blindness by 2025, end avoidable Indigenous deafness, and eliminate rheumatic heart disease over the course of this decade.

These are top priorities within the Morrison Government’s new $160 million, 10-year Indigenous Health Research Fund (IHRF), funded through the Medical Research Future Fund.”

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, thanked the members of the Implementation Plan Advisory Group, the National Health Leadership Forum and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, communities and stakeholders, for their involvement in the development of the Report Card.

The Report Card outlines the progress made to date against the Implementation Plan, with improvements across a range of health and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some key achievements include:

  • all three goals in the maternal health and parenting domain are on track to be achieved by 2023;
  • the 88 percent immunisation target for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 1-year-olds is on track to be met by 2023;
  • as at 31 December 2018 nationally, 97 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years were fully immunised, compared with 95 per cent of other children; and
  • all goals relating to smoking are on track to be achieved by 2023, and this is expected to have an impact on the burden of disease over time.

The Report Card acknowledges that while many health outcomes are improving for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, there is more work needed to close the gap in health inequality.

The Department of Health would like to thank members of the Implementation Plan Advisory Group for their ongoing expertise and contributions to finalising the Report Card, as well as guiding progress towards the next Implementation Plan.

PDF version: Report Card for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 – PDF 3228 KB
Word version: Report Card for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 – Word 11758 KB

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, welcomed the announcement, saying the progress was a result of “strong collaboration between the Government and Australia’s Indigenous community.”

“Our focus is on practical outcomes and empowering local communities to have their say when it comes to the decision-making of Government,” Minister Wyatt said.

“That’s why we’re working with Indigenous communities and governments throughout Australia to improve health outcomes and help close the gap through co-design.”

The Morrison Government is committed to improving the eight goals currently unmeasurable or behind predicted figures.

Over four years from 2019-20, the Government will invest $4.1 billion in dedicated health programs for Indigenous Australians.

These investments are only possible because of our strong economic management


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #IYIL2019 and Early Childhood Development #ClosingTheGap : @theALNF shines on the world stage for its innovative use of technology to help solve the literacy challenges facing our Indigenous communities


“Language gives us a sense of identity and, for many Indigenous peoples globally, storytelling is the way our culture and history is shared through the generations. With the loss of language therefore comes the loss of identity.

The importance of First Language, particularly to early childhood development, has been recognised by the United Nations and it’s especially exciting for us to win this award during the International Year of Indigenous Languages ‘

Professor Tom Calma AO, Co-Chair of ALNF and Reconciliation Australia 

“ Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.

Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.

Our Language empowers us.

It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums “

Minister Ken Wyatt sharing Australia’s story on preserving and revitalising #IndigenousLanguages at @UNHumanRights Council

Read full speech Here 

Australian technology innovation shone on the world stage today when the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) won the MIT Solve Challenge for ‘Early Childhood Development’ in New York.

The Australian charity was selected out of 1400 entrants, and was one of 61 finalists for the global accolade which recognises innovative technology solutions for global challenges.

ALNF was awarded for its ground-breaking ‘Living First Language Platform’ (LFLP), a highly accessible, cross- platform multi-media app that preserves and revitalises Indigenous First Languages, empowering speakers with best-practice literacy tools to learn to read, write and teach in their mother tongue

The award recognises ALNF’s innovative use of technology to help solve the literacy challenges facing Indigenous communities and will see MIT Solve deploy its global community of private, public, and non-profit leaders to help ALNF build the partnerships needed to scale their work nationally and internationally.

ALNF seeks to address the lack of linguistically inclusive early education, which is recognised by communities and leaders as a major factor in low levels of attainment and engagement of Indigenous children and families in early education.

In remote areas of Australia, around two-thirds of Indigenous children speak some words of an Indigenous language, and in some communities, almost 100% of children encounter English for  the first time when they enter school. Globally, around 221 million children do not have access to education in their First Language.

See a demonstration of the ‘Living First Language Platform’ in action here

Importantly, the platform also aims to stem the rapid and ever-increasing loss of Indigenous languages. There are more than 4,000 Indigenous languages in the world and devastatingly, one is lost approximately every 14 days.

The support from the MIT Solve network will help us to continue to develop and grow the platform’s capability, ensuring a robust Early Childhood Development resource. Additional funding received from investors and donors will go directly to ALNF to enable us to work with more communities in Australia to record our own Indigenous languages and improve literacy levels.”

ALNF is currently working with five Australian Indigenous language groups on the platform, in some instances recording ancient languages for the first time.

One of these languages, Erub Mer from the Torres Strait, has only a few fluent speakers remaining. Thanks to the Living First Language Platform, more than 2000 Erub Mer words have been added to ALNF’s teaching tool by an enthusiastic community, passionate about passing their language on to the next generation.

Photos from Erub Mer workshop Kenny Bedford 

The six global challenges in the MIT Solve Challenge were determined via consultation with more than 500 leaders and experts and workshops with communities around the world. ALNF was among 61 global finalists invited to New York city to pitch their technology solution to the MIT Solve Challenge Leadership Group — a judging panel of cross-sector leaders and MIT faculty —during U.N. General Assembly Week.

In addition to today’s MIT Solve win, the ‘Living First Language Platform also won in its category of ‘Innovation in Connecting People’ at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Innovation Awards in Austin, Texas earlier this year.

For more information or to donate go to

Have your say about what is needed to make real change in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people #HaveYourSay about #closingthegap

There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.

The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.

To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here

The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here:

NACCHO Aboriginal #Environmental Health ClosingtheGap #HaveYourSay : Our CEO Pat Turner’s speech to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference in Perth this week

” In mainstream settings, there is no battle for recognition or resources for environmental health from finance departments. There is nothing more to prove and a fully resourced framework is in place. 

But Aboriginal environmental health is something else again.

Aboriginal environmental health combines deep cultural knowledge of how things work in Aboriginal communities with these hard scientific facts about disease.

Aboriginal environmental health must forge high-trust partnerships with community. 

Aboriginal environmental health is a community asset.

And Aboriginal environmental health is needed now more than ever.   Why is this so?

Public housing and public utilities have largely been taken out of Aboriginal control. In some locations, funding for the Aboriginal Environmental Health workforce has evaporated.\

Sometimes, the power to make the simplest decision on the ground has been ripped away from local communities. 

Instead, this power is with someone far away who doesn’t even know us.

This is nowhere more manifest than in Aboriginal housing. 

Effective Aboriginal environmental health programs must be in Aboriginal hands. 

Community controlled organisations must drive the necessary knowledge exchange between those who hold technical expertise and those who have been denied it.

The very nature of this work means that Aboriginal communities must retain the reins – and retain the knowledge

Selected extracts NACCHO CEO Pat Turner addressing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference in Perth this week

As an Aboriginal woman of Gudanji-Arrernte heritage, I wish to acknowledge the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation as traditional owners of the land where we meet today.

I also acknowledge our continuing and vibrant First Nations cultures.  I am grateful for the contributions of our past, present and emerging leaders.

Our cultures, our leaders and our country give us collective strength and resilience as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Just a note for about language conventions in Western Australia. I tend to use the term Aboriginal in recognition that Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants here. This is not out of any disrespect to Torres Strait Islander colleagues and communities.

I have discovered that the first NATSIEH conference was held in 1998. Every second year or so since, the aim of these national conferences is to increase the understanding and awareness of environmental health issues in our communities.

This year, your theme is ONE GOAL: MANY PATHS.  There must be a huge diversity of backgrounds, professions and experiences in the room.   I am delighted to be here.  I hope I have something for everyone in my address to you today.

I will begin with recent CHANGES in the way governments must now work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Then I’ll cover some CHALLENGES that we can no longer ignore.

And finally, I’ll explain how Aboriginal LEADERSHIP will show the right path that we must take together.

How has our political landscape changed?

Please cast your minds back to 2008 when the original Closing the Gap policy was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments – known as COAG.

There was never full ownership of Closing the Gap from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. CLOSING the Gap was always considered to be an initiative of Governments.  Frankly, it was governments talking to other governments ABOUT us.  WITHOUT us.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies supported Closing the Gap in good faith, particularly with new funding given to specific issues including housing, health and education.

But was Closing the Gap ever going to work with its genesis in the bureaucratic backrooms of Canberra?

Our people were always going to be configured as ‘the problem’.  Not as allies, not as experts, not as partners, not as equals.  It was not surprising to Aboriginal people to see that progress was patchy.

As Prof Marcia Langton, a leading Aboriginal academic of Yiman and Bidjara heritage, said in February this year at the Australian and New Zealand School of Government Indigenous conference:

“You can’t have administration of very complex matters from the Canberra bubble. It’s not working and lives are being lost. 

… We must push for policies that give formal powers to the Indigenous sector and remove incompetent, bureaucratic bungling.”

Marcia made a specific request of those who were listening:

“Please do not feel personally offended by what I have to say to you” she said.

I also ask this of you today.  And as Marcia continued to say:

‘… we must all take responsibility and be courageous enough to take action, to put an end to the policies and programs that disempower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just causing a decline in their living standards, but accelerating them into permanent poverty.

Especially the vulnerable. The children and youth are victims of a failed view of the Indigenous world and Indigenous people. This is a dystopian nightmare. We must imagine a future in which Indigenous people thrive and we must do whatever it takes to reach that future. This is urgent.”

It is not surprising then, that after 10 years, not much progress against the Closing the Gap targets had been made.

As the Closing the Gap targets were expiring, COAG announced a “Refresh” of Closing the Gap.  This “refresh” kicked in during 2017.  As various conversations took place however, it became clear that governments were still not listening properly or engaging in a genuine way, and they only wanted to talk about new targets.

Many Aboriginal Peak bodies wanted more time to test the options being put before us in these conversations. Most importantly, Peak bodies needed to be sure that THEIR voices were truly being heard. There was a real concern – AGAIN – that governments had already decided what they wanted to do. That governments were now negotiating behind closed doors to decide new priorities and targets without our input.

As Aboriginal peak bodies, we had to call this out before the country made another momentous mistake. We were very insistent.  We formed a Coalition.  The Prime Minister and his COAG colleagues had to adopt a better way of working.  Without a radical change in approach, the next ten years would be more of the same lack luster approach.

To his credit, Prime Minister Morrison listened.

He opened the door to a new way of working, giving his personal authority to change.

An historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed this year in March between COAG and the Coalition of Peaks.  This means that now, for the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their peak body representatives, will share decision making with governments on Closing the Gap.

How is this to be done?

This Partnership Agreement has created a high-level COAG Joint Council.  This Joint Council is made up of 22 members.  That means a Minister from the Commonwealth Government, a Minister from each State and Territory Governments, and a representative for local government. This makes up ten members.

But significant success was realized when the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Bodies ensured TWELVE Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representatives were on the Joint Council.  Chosen by us, in the majority, working for our mobs.

The Joint Council is co-chaired by the current Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Australians and a representative of the Coalition of Peaks chosen by the Peaks. Currently, that representative is me.

The Partnership Agreement embodies the belief of all signatories that:

  • When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy: the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and
  • COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from the decision making.

So to those public servants in the audience, whether you work in Commonwealth, state, territory or local government institutions, I say this.

If the Director-General, Secretary or CEO of your department or agency is not enabling you to do your work differently and act in accordance with the Partnership Agreement, Principles, then you need to join the movement and shake the tree.

I encourage you to:

  • Initiate co-design that looks entirely different to the way your department worked two years ago.
  • Give power of veto to communities on priorities. Listen to what THEY say.
  • Double the number of Indigenous people on your committees.
  • Forget ‘one size fits all’ … because it doesn’t.
  • Immerse yourself in this unprecedented opportunity for true equity in our country.

Trust me, your change of practice will be noticed, commended and supported.

Within the Joint Council, we will continue to lead the structural reform that will make your change of practice easier.  At our recent meeting in Adelaide, the Joint Council significantly agreed to develop a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap centred on three reform priorities.

The reform priorities seek to change the way Australian Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, and accelerate life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, these are:

  1. Establishing shared formal decision making between Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the State/Territory, regional and local level to embed ownership, responsibility and expertise on Closing the Gap.
  2. Building and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to deliver services and programs in priority areas.
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the next two months to ensure others can have a say on the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks want to hear views from across the country on what is needed to make the reform priorities a success.


I encourage you all to contribute and have your say.

You can find out more on the NACCHO website. Step up and join in!

I know these priorities, especially the first two, are critical to our success as Aboriginal  people. And I know this from a lifetime of advocacy and service for my people, including my current role as CEO of NACCHO.

NACCHO is the living embodiment of the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our struggle for self-determination.  NACCHO is the national peak body representing 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services or “ACCHOs” across the country.   NACCHO has a history stretching back to a meeting in Albury in 1974 in country New South Wales.

For those who don’t know, an “ACCHO” is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate health care to the community which controls it, through a locally elected Board of Management.

As a sector, we are especially proud that ACCHOs are the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the country.  Not even the mining sector compares. We also have evidence that ACCHOs are demonstrably better than mainstream in providing culturally responsive, clinically effective primary health care.

At this year’s AMSANT conference, Donna Ah Chee, a Bundgalung woman from NSW and CEO of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, said precisely what community control means in this context.

Read full speech HERE

It means:

  • The right to set the agenda and determine what the issues are
  • The right to determine which programs or approaches are best suited to tackle the problems in the community
  • The right to determine how a program is run, its size and resources
  • The right to determine when a program operates, its pace and timing
  • The right to say where a program will operate, its geographic coverage and its target groups
  • The right to determine who will deliver the program its staff and advisers.

This commitment to equal partnership through COAG has brought us to the table.  There’s no going back.

I’d now like to cover some CHALLENGES in environmental health. 

Environmental health is a science-based, technical practice.  Environmental health takes scientific knowledge to people. It focuses on disease risk and finds the way to limit disease in modern society. Environmental Health Practitioners draw the connection between environmental factors and health outcomes.

Environmental health practitioners take this science and fix environmental hazards to prevent risk. They nip outbreaks in the bud.

They influence and draft legislation, and monitor compliance with public health laws and the regulations to protect people’s health.

Of course, in mainstream Australia, hardly anyone recognizes the role that environmental health plays.  For the majority of the population, environmental health is silently present. Water, sanitation, rubbish, housing standards, food safety, everything … it is all taken for granted.

In mainstream settings, there is no battle for recognition or resources for environmental health from finance departments. There is nothing more to prove and a fully resourced framework is in place.

But ABORIGINAL environmental health is something else again.

Aboriginal environmental health combines deep cultural knowledge of how things work in Aboriginal communities with these hard scientific facts about disease. Aboriginal environmental health must forge high-trust partnerships with community.

Aboriginal environmental health is a community asset.

And Aboriginal environmental health is needed now more than ever.   Why is this so?

Public housing and public utilities have largely been taken out of Aboriginal control. In some locations, funding for the Aboriginal Environmental Health workforce has evaporated. Sometimes, the power to make the simplest decision on the ground has been ripped away from local communities.  Instead, this power is with someone far away who doesn’t even know us.

This is nowhere more manifest than in Aboriginal housing.

First, the evidence.  A recent systematic review of the scientific literature has summarized the known causal links between the home environment and health.  Here are some examples:

  • Skin-related diseases are associated with crowding
  • Viral conditions such as influenza are also associated with crowding.
  • Ear infections are associated with crowding, lack of functioning facilities for washing people, bedding and sewerage outflow.
  • Gastro infections are associated with poorly maintained housing and the state of food preparation and storage.

These are not hypothetical claims yet to be proved.  These have academic weight and the verdict is in.

In mainstream Australia, these causal links between the housing and health have been actioned.  In mainstream Australia, sustained progress in the social and environmental determinants of health has permanently reduced the rates of preventable infectious diseases.  One look at the disease burden tells us that.

BUT … because of the state of OUR environmental conditions, Aboriginal people are denied the health outcomes that non-Indigenous people now enjoy.

The challenge is huge.

  • Let’s consider clinic presentations for Aboriginal children for their first year of life. Did you know that research has found that the median number of clinic presentations per child in the first year of life was 21.  Twenty-one! Per child!   Children in this NT study would typically have six clinic presentations for diarrhea in any one year!  SIX! An infectious ear disease known as Otitis Media and skin infections were also high on the list of most frequent reasons for Aboriginal children coming to the clinic in their first year of life. These infectious diseases are NOT caused by bad parents.  They are caused by poor living conditions, overcrowding and poverty imposed on our people.
  • In the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley here in Western Australia, 70% of Aboriginal children have been admitted to hospital at least once before they turn seven years of age. A closer look at the reasons why is shocking.  The researchers concluded that most of these admissions would not have happened at all if household disadvantage, poor quality housing and access to primary health care had been addressed.
  • Another example comes from the Western Desert region here in Western Australia. This looked at clinic presentations of all children aged 0 to 5 years of age.  These children had on average more than 30 clinic visits each per year to their clinic. ………  Think about what that means to the morale of the parents, the attitudes of the clinicians, the health budget bottom line. Infectious diseases explained half of these presentations:
    • Ear infections were 15%
    • Upper respiratory tract infections, 13%
    • Skin sores were 12% of the total.
    • And 25% needed treatment for scabies.
  • These statistics aren’t just confined to remote communities. Aboriginal children in Western Sydney in homes with 3 or more housing problems were two and a half times more likely than others to have recurrent gastro-enteritis. For every additional housing problem, the odds of infectious disease significantly increased.

But is this all NEWS?  What about the year of your first NATSIEH conference in 1998?

1998 was the year a study was published showing that admissions to hospital for skin disease of Aboriginal children under five years of age was ten times higher than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts.

It was also the year that deaths among Aboriginal men from infectious diseases were calculated to be some 15 times higher than deaths among non-Indigenous men.

1998 was also the year a study measured the precise “wear and tear” on washing machines installed in seven remote communities.

1998 was a year AFTER a study had already been published showing that over one-third of Aboriginal remote communities had water supply or sanitation problems. Seventy percent had housing problems.  In the words of the researchers, overcrowding and substandard housing were “commonplace”.

So there we have it.   Even this brief snapshot shows we have a disconnect between data and decisions.

From your first conference in 1998 to this one in 2019 …

….  Aboriginal people, their children and now their children’s children have NOT been afforded their DUE HUMAN RIGHTS in response to these “repeat plays” of research data.

Should we have mobilised a more strategic response at the time these research studies were published?

Perhaps data sovereignty is another challenge we need to face.

I regret thinking of the number of children growing up since 1998 who should have been safe from preventable infections IF THERE HAD BEEN ACTION.  I think of how many children need not have gone to hospital.  Who should NOT have ended up with permanent damage for life from rheumatic heart disease or deafness …

… and would NOT have ended up with these conditions if their houses had been safe, healthy and affordable.

I have been told even mental health problems – including suicide – get worse in overcrowded houses not fit for social purpose.

And please don’t tell me we can’t find the money.  My colleagues in the Kimberley estimate that one third of the entire cost of hospital admissions of Aboriginal children is DIRECTLY due to the environmental conditions in which these children live.  Let me repeat that. One third of the entire cost.

In one year alone, $16.9 million is the estimated cost for hospitalisations of Aboriginal people directly due to the environment. And that was just the Kimberley.

Maybe all those departments of housing really don’t have the money BUT their colleagues in health departments are spending it hand over fist.

The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute affirms that Aboriginal people have the right to:

  • Exercise control of the data “ecosystem” including creation, development, stewardship, analysis, dissemination and infrastructure.

We also have the right to:

  • Data structures that are accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their governance structures.

And the right to

  • Data that is protective and respects our individual and collective interests.


  • Data that is relevant and empowers sustainable self-determination and effective self-governance.

In my view, Aboriginal people must more clearly set the agenda for the health data story.

As Aboriginal people, WE are vested in the outcomes.  WE are accountable to each other, our families and communities.  These research studies represent OUR families, OUR loved ones, OUR LOST ones.

I believe the character and foresight of Aboriginal leadership will show the right path. 

Should you need convincing, I can think of no better example in environmental health than Yami Lester and the Nganampa Health Council in the APY lands.

Decades ago, these leaders knew that health improvement required medical services AND a healthy living environment.  In 1986, they initiated a collaborative project between local Anangu people and technical experts to ‘stop people getting sick’. Some of you may recognise this as the UKP project.

These Aboriginal leaders engaged Paul Pholeros and Dr Paul Torzillo to work together to develop a codified schedule for home assessments and repairs.  When assessments were finished, simple repairs to health hardware that could be fixed, WERE fixed.  Immediately, over 75% of these assessment and repair teams were local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people trained and assisted by skilled managers and team leaders.

Any requirements for major repairs that were the responsibility of the landlord were submitted, logged and monitored. As this program expanded, data from different locations showed that the reasons for poor housing conditions were shoddy building materials in the first place (22%); inadequate maintenance schedules by the landlord (70%) and less than 8% was due to damage by occupants.

As relevant today, Yami Lester and his Council knew the importance of sharing with their people knowledge about disease transmission and supporting households to adopt new habits to sustain health in circumstances none of us would find easy.

And they succeeded.

Their legacy is the framework of nine Healthy Living Practices about washing, clothes, wastewater, nutrition, crowding, animals, dust, temperature and safety against injury.

Today, housing audits and home hardware assessments conceived by Aboriginal leaders in this UKP project MUST be permanently funded everywhere and combined with culturally responsive support directed by communities to re-build THEIR knowledge about disease transmission.

Every home is different.  Every environmental risk assessment is unique.  In one, there might be an issue with food-borne diseases. In another, passive smoking that affects the children’s ears, lungs and eyes.  In another, it could be …

– a blocked toilet,

– a shower dislodged from a poorly laid wet floor, or

– a washing machine that has collapsed under the pressure from multiple loads and hard water every single day.

Resources enable Aboriginal environmental health workers and families to work together over time to build the household’s confidence and knowledge.  The shared goal is self-management in healthy habits ….. AND an assertiveness as tenants to report poor quality building materials, housing problems and urgent repairs to the respective housing landlord.

Effective Aboriginal environmental health programs must be in Aboriginal hands.  Community controlled organisations must drive the necessary knowledge exchange between those who hold technical expertise and those who have been denied it. The very nature of this work means that Aboriginal communities must retain the reins – and retain the knowledge.

What Yami Lester envisaged is our unrealized obligation.

Housing programmes will have limited impact UNLESS they are controlled in their design and delivery by Aboriginal organisations with sustained visibility, authority and relationships in the community.  Communities have ideas on how to manage overcrowding, maintain housing stock and build new housing through local entrepreneurship. It is time once again for Aboriginal leaders to be heard.

You may know about extensive consultations conducted across the country in 2017 known as “My Life My Lead”.

The purpose of these consultations was to provide an opportunity to shape the next update of the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan released originally in 2013.

At these consultations, Aboriginal people spoke up about the fundamental significance of social, economic and environmental determinants affecting their health and wellbeing.

Environmental health was identified as one of seven top priorities for the next Implementation Plan.

I quote:

Addressing the underlying environmental health conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities will lead to long-term improved health, education and employment outcomes. 

This is why I hope my message to you today is clear. We will get better health by improving housing and environmental health programs. Regaining control over decisions about housing will also lead to better health.  Returning authority for decision-making to communities about resources and program design reinvigorates empowerment, autonomy and more equitable power arrangements.  Self-determination promotes health.

With a decent investment in Aboriginal housing alongside genuine shifts in who makes decisions about resource allocation, I am prepared to guarantee to you today that the impact on Aboriginal health outcomes will be large, positive and permanent.

If those estimates of the costs from hospital admissions hold true nationally, I am also prepared to guarantee a significant reduction in healthcare budgets.

Our Prime Minister is inclined to miracles … so I think this would be the next miracle he’d very much like to see!

If we believe in public health and preventing the preventable …

If we believe in equity and social justice …

If we believe in community control …

… then we have everything we need to turn this around.

To governments I say let Aboriginal leaders sit down with you and – together in partnership – analyse the current state of environmental health and housing in your jurisdictions.

Let’s establish the level of investment that will reduce the cost of hospitalisations of Aboriginal children, adults and elders due to poor housing and living conditions.

Let’s develop national standards for a safe house. Let’s agree to strict criteria for urgent and priority housing repairs.  Let’s audit repair performance.  Let’s publish the data.

Let’s get more accountability from public housing for proactive home maintenance schedules and repairs.

Let’s invest in environmental and building programs that will cut the demand in primary health care clinics by a quarter and let these busy staff focus on other priorities.

Let’s grow knowledge in our communities as experts in healthy living.

Let’s train, credential and employ young Aboriginal people as environmental health workers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters to keep houses safe, healthy and ready for climate change ahead.

Let’s ensure a sustainable on-the-ground workforce for effective environmental health employed by Aboriginal organisations.

Here at this conference, let’s create the cross-sectoral approach involving communities, environmental health, primary health care and governments IN PARTNERSHIP to get this moving.

In closing, I’d like to quote Senator Patrick Dodson, a Yawuru man from Broome who, in February this year, asked a very important question:

“Who actually closes the gap?”

He answered this by saying:

“It’s the people working at the grassroots, led by First Nations peoples, with a deep understanding and lived experience of the needs of their communities.”

It is in that spirit that I thank each and every Aboriginal Environmental Health Practitioner at this conference whether it is your 1st or your 12th.

I know you work hard. I know you care deeply about your communities.  I know you lead by example.

I respect your hard-earned skills and your expertise to provide a huge scope of professional services ranging from dog control to vector management.

I admire your precise and up-to-date knowledge of disease transmission routes, hazardous chemicals, sanitation and practical engineering.

I am sincerely impressed by the care you take to work with families whose circumstances are complex … and that you find THEIR strengths and work with their capacities.

You respect cultural protocols.  You deliver with few resources, a lot of ingenuity and teamwork.

It is enabling YOU to do an even better job for YOUR communities that motivates me to do mine.  And I will keep on working just as hard as you do.

It’s been a pleasure sharing my reflections with you all.

Thank you for this opportunity to kick off the second day of your 12th NATSIEH conference here in Perth.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap #UNDRIP : Minister @KenWyattMP announces he will represent Australia at the #UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week to promote his Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower our mob

Australia’s support of the Declaration reflects our intent to promote and protect the economic, social, cultural and political rights of indigenous people

The Declaration was drafted in partnership with the world’s Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the Morrison Government remains committed to observing these rights through our policies and programs

We are changing the way we work in partnership with Indigenous Australians and this is a message we can take to the world.

Our national framework for action to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians, the Closing the Gap strategy, is a priority for the Australian Government and demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous communities.

 I will be discussing our experiences with UN experts and other countries to harness global thinking and research to improve our framework.

Through our advocacy with the United Nations and our recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we can improve the lives of all Indigenous peoples.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, said since Australia supported the Declaration in 2009, our nation’s human rights obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been clear.

Friday marked the 12th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which established a universal set of rights for the dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Minister Wyatt  announced he will represent Australia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, from 16 to 20 September, to promote the Australian Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

“This year is our second as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, following the Coalition Government’s successful campaign to secure Australia a seat for the first time. It is in Australia’s national interest to shape the work of the Human Rights Council and uphold the international rules-based order.

“I will be pleased to promote Australia’s pragmatic and constructive approach to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights and freedoms both at home and abroad. Advancing Indigenous rights globally is a pillar of our membership of the Human Rights Council and an objective we pursue through a range of other UN mechanisms.

“I intend to build stronger relationships with like-minded countries by meeting with experts and leaders from around the world to discuss good practices in Indigenous policy, to share Australia’s experiences and learn from other countries’ strategies.

“As one of the largest donors to the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Australia will continue to play a constructive role in ensuring Indigenous voices are heard in UN meetings and bodies.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap Download @AIHW Australia’s Welfare Report 2019 : Our mobs welfare is closely linked to health and is influenced by #socialdeterminants such as education, employment, housing, access to services, and community safety.

Indigenous wellbeing is shaped by the wellbeing of the community. In recent years there have been improvements in a range of areas of wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Indigenous home ownership has risen over the past decade, from 34% in 2006 to 38% in 2016, household overcrowding has decreased, and fewer Indigenous Australians rely on government payments.

Education remains important in helping to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.

The employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians narrows as education levels increase.

There is no gap in the employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with a university degree.

Despite these improvements, some Indigenous Australians experience widespread social and economic disadvantage.

One in 5 Indigenous Australians live in remote areas and fare worse than those in non-remote areas. They had lower rates of school attendance and employment, and were more likely to live in overcrowded conditions and in social housing.

Members of the Stolen Generations are another particularly disadvantaged group.

They were more likely than other Indigenous Australians to have been incarcerated, receive government payments as their main source of income, experience actual or threatened physical violence or experience homelessness.”

AIHW spokesperson Mr. Dinesh Indraharan.

” Many factors contribute to the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Welfare is closely linked to health and is influenced by social determinants such as education, employment, housing, access to services, and community safety. Contextual and historical factors are particularly important for understanding the welfare of Indigenous Australians.”

” Home ownership has an opportunity to formulate the next wave of transformative success for indigenous people.

Home ownership is a key pillar on the journey to economic independence for indigenous Australians, providing not only stable housing but also an anchor from which to build an asset base for current and future generations and equity for other investment and business opportunities.”

Dagoman-Wardaman man and chairman of Indigenous Business Australia Eddie Fry oversees a home loan program that is helping increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into home ownership. See Part 2 Below

The latest two-yearly snapshot of national wellbeing uses high-quality data to show how Australians are faring in key areas, including housing, education and skills, employment, social support and justice and safety.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Australia’s welfare 2019 was launched today in Canberra by Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services.

The report shows that record employment and an increase in education levels are contributing to Australia’s wellbeing but challenges facing the nation include housing stress among low-income earners.

Download the Report and Snapshot



‘Australia’s welfare 2019 demonstrates the value in continuing to build an evidence base that supports the community, policy makers and services providers to better understand the varying and diverse needs of Australians,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr. Dinesh Indraharan.

‘Australia is in the top third of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for a range of measures, including life satisfaction and social connectedness.

‘In 2018, 74% of people aged 15–64 were employed—the highest annual employment rate recorded in Australia. In July 2019 the female and total employment rates remain at record levels.’

The proportion of Australians working very long hours (50 or more per week) declined from 16% to 14% and more Australians are using part-time work to balance work with other activities including caring responsibilities.

However, in December 2018, about 9% of workers were underemployed, or unable to find as many hours of work as they would like. One in 9 families with children had no one in the family who was employed.

Generally, the higher a person’s level of education, the more opportunities they have in their working life.

‘Between 2008 and 2018 the proportion of students staying in school until Year 12 rose from 69% to 81% for males and from 80% to 89% for females,’ Mr Indraharan said.

‘In 2018, 65% of Australians aged 25–64 had a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above. This is up from 55% in 2009.’

Australia has high levels of civic engagement with 97% of eligible people enrolled to vote in 2019—up from 90% in 2010 and strong rates of volunteering (contributing 743 million hours a year). But an estimated 1 in 4 Australians are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness – with people who live alone, young adults, males and people with children more likely to feel lonely.

Finding affordable housing remains a challenge for many Australians, with more people spending a higher proportion of their incomes on housing than in the past and fewer younger people owning their own homes.

‘More than 1 million low-income households were in housing stress in 2017-18, where they spent more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage repayments,’ Mr Indraharan said.

There has been little change in income inequality since the mid-2000s—though it is higher now than it was in the 1980s—and wealth is more unequally distributed than income.

Most crime rates have fallen in recent years but Australia ranked in the bottom third of countries for people feeling safe walking alone at night.

‘Survey data shows rates of partner and sexual violence have remained relatively stable since 2005, while rates of total violence have fallen. However, the number and rate of sexual assault victims recorded by police has risen each year since 2011,’ Mr. Indraharan said.

Welfare services and support for people in need

Australian governments spent nearly $161 billion on welfare services and support in 2017-18, including $102 billion on cash payments to specific populations, $48 billion on welfare services and $10 billion on unemployment benefits. Per person spending on welfare increased an average of 1.3% a year—from $5,287 per person in 2001–02 to $6,482 in 2017–18.

Over the past 2 decades, there has been a notable fall in the number of people aged 18–64 receiving income support—down from 2.6 million in 1999 to 2.3 million in 2018. Put another way, in 1999, 22% of Australians aged 18–64 received income support, but this fell to 15% in 2018.

In 2017-18:

  • 1.2 million people (or 3 in 10 older people) received aged care services
  • 803,900 people were in social housing
  • 288,800 people were supported by Specialist Homeless Services
  • 280,000 people used specialist disability support services under the National Disability Agreement
  • 172,000 people were active participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (at June 2018)
  • 159,000 (or 1 in 35) children aged 0–17 received child protection services.

incarcerated, receive government payments as their main source of income, experience actual or threatened physical violence or experience homelessness.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey #HaveYourSay :

Pat Turner Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks invites community to share their voice on #ClosingtheGap

Part 2 From today’s Australian

More indigenous Australians than ever are homeowners, fewer live in overcrowded accommodation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who rent are slowly shifting away from social housing in favour of private properties.

Figures to be published on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show almost two in five indigenous Australians were homeowners at the last census — of those, 12 per cent owned their home outright and 26 per cent had a mortgage. The number of indigenous households where the home is paid off or mortgaged has reached an estimated 263,000.

The rate of home ownership among indigenous Australians has gradually increased since 2006, while the home ownership rate among non-indigenous Australians has decreased slightly over the same period.

In 2006, 34 per cent of indigenous Australians owned their home or were paying it off.

By 2011 that figure had climbed to 36 per cent and at the 2016 census, 38 per cent of indigenous Australians either owned their homes outright or were paying off a mortgage.

In contrast, the percentage of non-indigenous Australians who either owned their home or were paying it off declined from 68 per cent in 2006 to 66 per cent in 2016.

Dagoman-Wardaman man and chairman of Indigenous Business Australia Eddie Fry oversees a home loan program that is helping increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into home ownership.

IBA approved more than $1bn in home loans to indigenous Australians over the past five years.

In 2014-15, IBA approved 517 home loans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2017-18, the number of home loans approved by IBA was a record 917.

“Home ownership has an opportunity to formulate the next wave of transformative success for indigenous people,” Mr Fry said.

“Home ownership is a key pillar on the journey to economic independence for indigenous Australians, providing not only stable housing but also an anchor from which to build an asset base for current and future generations and equity for other investment and business opportunities.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report used census data to show that, between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of indigenous households living in social housing fell from 29 per cent to 21 per cent.

The proportion of indigenous Australians renting privately increased from 27 per cent to 32 per ce

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #ClosingTheGap : @SNAICC Chair @MbamblettMuriel Over 1200 #SNAICC2019 delegates support a call for a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s strategy

” While many other reforms are needed to support the best futures for our children, getting these things right will set us on the path to Closing the Gap in outcomes, and giving all of our children access to their fundamental rights.

We need your action now” 

SNAICC Chair Muriel Bamblett

With more than 1200 delegates meeting on the land of the Kaurna people in Adelaide, the past three days have been a truly exhilarating experience for us. We have been able to share our knowledge and experiences in raising happy, healthy and confident children in our cultures and communities.

Dusty Feet Mob performed on Day 2 of the 8th SNAICC National Conference, 2-5 Sept. 2019. From Port Augusta, S.A. Dusty Feet Mob are an Aboriginal dance group that builds a connection to culture, language, community and country through dance.

We have heard from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and practitioners who are proving that they are leading change. Where state and territory governments have invested in and committed to self-determination for our communities, we see greater outcomes for our children and families.

Our challenge going forward will be to address the disparities in funding between states, territories and the Commonwealth and varying levels of commitment.

As one voice, we call for urgent action to be taken to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have every opportunity to grow up safe and cared for in their family, community, and culture, and on country.

Our agreement on the Closing the Gap Refresh is to support the Coalition of Peaks, and pursue the three reform priorities for action to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children in the areas of child protection and in the early years.

Our key calls for action are:

1. The establishment of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner

We have been inspired by the brilliance and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO and South Australian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, April Lawrie.

Commissioner Oscar’s commitment to focusing on early intervention and wellbeing was highlighted yesterday. She said,

Just 17% of funding for child protection went to child and family support and prevention services while 83% has been invested in child protection services. This needs to change.”

A National Commissioner for our children must be independent, properly resourced, and have strong powers to investigate the systems that are failing our children.

2. A comprehensive National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Strategy that includes generational targets to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children ends next year and has failed to improve outcomes for our children. The soaring rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care are a national crisis. We must start work now so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can co-design with governments a dedicated strategy that focuses on prevention and targets the drivers of child protection intervention.

We heard strong calls from Victoria Tauli-Corpuz’s, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that Australia must adhere to international standards. The strategy must give effect to the internationally recognised human rights of our children. It must be based on our knowledge of what will work to change outcomes and seek to achieve the four building blocks of the Family Matters Campaign.

3. A dedicated funding program for integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years services, and an exemption to the child care ‘Activity Test’ for our families

We need a long term program to invest in integrated community-controlled early education, maternal and child health and family support services, with clear targets to increase coverage in areas of high Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and high levels of disadvantage.

There should be an exemption to the Activity Test in the New Child Care Package, because that test limits participation for children in early education and undermines their fundamental rights. This will seriously impact the futures of our children.

4. An end to legal orders for permanent care and adoption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, replaced by a focus on supporting the permanence of their identity in connection with their kin and culture

We need to stop focusing on permanent legal orders, and invest in programs that support reunification and cultural connection for children in care. Our children need continuity and to know where they are from, and their place in relation to family, mob, community, land and culture.

This too is a significant human rights issue.

While many other reforms are needed to support the best futures for our children, getting these things right will set us on the path to Closing the Gap in outcomes, and giving all of our children access to their fundamental rights. We need your action now

NACCHO Aboriginal #EyeHealth : @FredHollows Foundation launches new Five Year Country strategy investing at least $40 million to close the eye health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

While we have made significant progress over the last decade, we still have much more to do to achieve full eye health equity.

Fred was passionate about partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and involving them in health programs that affected them.

This is a huge focus for us over the next five years, to empower Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services by giving them the support and tools they need to provide their own quality eye health services.

Last year, The Fred Hollows Foundation contributed to more than 1,000 cataract surgeries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and doubled the number of cataract surgeries in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory.

We thank the Australian Government and our partners for supporting our work and we ask that they join in our efforts to close the gap on eye health for good.”

Launching the strategy on The Foundation’s 27th Anniversary, Indigenous Australia Program Manager Shaun Tatipata pictured above said Australia’s First Peoples are three times more likely to go blind than other Australians and 12 times more likely to have cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness

The launch was held at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Sydney’s Redfern, to which Fred donated resources when it was first established.

Read over 50 Aboriginal Eye Health articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years

See the Indigenous Australia Program Five Year Country Strategy here: Or Download


The Fred Hollows Foundation pledges its biggest ever investment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health

The Fred Hollows Foundation today committed its biggest ever investment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health with the launch of its new Indigenous Australia Program Five Year Country Strategy.

The strategy will see The Foundation invest at least $40 million over the next five years to closing the eye health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Dignitaries present included Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney and Gabi Hollows AO, Founding Director of The Foundation.

The Foundation’s CEO Ian Wishart said Fred’s pioneering spirit was very much alive in the new Country Strategy, which seeks to identify and test better ways to address challenges.

“Empowerment is at the heart of what we do, and today is about empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples by giving their eye health an ambitious way forward,” Mr Wishart said.

See the Indigenous Australia Program Five Year Country Strategy here: [link]

For more resources, including The Foundation’s Spring Appeal video featuring Sally from Katherine, see:

Highlights of the new Indigenous Australia Program Five Year Country Strategy:

The Fred Hollows Foundation’s new Indigenous Australia Program Five Year Country Strategy is underpinned by five goals and five objectives.

Our initiatives align with the Strong Eyes, Strong Communities plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health, developed by members of Vision 2020 Australia.


  • Goal 1: Effective cataract treatment is accessible to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
  • Goal 2: Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, is eliminated from Australia.
  • Goal 3: Effective refractive error prevention and treatment is accessible to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
  • Goal 4: Effective and timely treatment for diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions is accessible to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


  • Strengthen regional eye health services.
  • Train and strengthen the eye health workforce.
  • Strengthen eye care in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
  • Finally eliminate trachoma.
  • Ensure governments adopt The Strong Eyes, Strong communities

Extra Resources and Save a date Webinar from Healthinfonet

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, in collaboration with The Fred Hollows Foundation, has launched a series of knowledge exchange tools about eye screening and care.

These new resources provide a broad overview of the screening services available for eye health and outline the roles of various professionals such as regional eye health coordinators, optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Each product has been designed as a useful tool for health workers and practitioners working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to assist in understanding the eye care journey.

This series of knowledge exchange products includes:

  • fact sheet for a comprehensive summary of eye screening and care (four pages)
  • an in brief fact sheet for quick, easy-to-digest bites of information (one page)
  • a short animated video offering educational information in an audio-visual format.

To complement the release of these eye health resources, the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet and The Fred Hollows Foundation will host a webinar featuring a special guest presenter Dr. Kristopher Rallah-Baker, Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist.

The webinar, titled ‘Eye screening and care: treatment pathways and professional roles along that pathway’, will take place on at 12:00pm AEST on Wednesday 25 September 2019 and will include a Q & A session with Dr Rallah-Baker.

Participants are invited to register their interest prior to the event with the webinar organiser

Webinar Organiser
Tamara Swann
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
Ph: (08) 6304 6158

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #COAG #ClosingtheGap : Pat Turner ” Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks “

Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks with the agreement that we will work towards a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to guide efforts over the next ten years.

The conversation on Closing the Gap is changing because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are now at the negotiating table with governments.

The proposed priority reforms are based on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been saying for a long time is needed to close the gap and we now have a formal structure in place to put those solutions to governments.

If we are to close the gap it will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations leading the way on service delivery. We already know that community-controlled organisations achieve better results because we understand what works best for our peoples.

It is a critical step for the Joint Council to formally recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must share in decision-making on policies that affect their lives.

The Coalition of Peaks are looking forward to engaging with communities around Australia to build support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the priority reforms and to ensure that their views on what is needed to make them a success is captured in the new National Agreement.” 

Pat Turner, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council speaking after a meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August

The Joint Council agreed on a communiqué, which is attached.


See Closing the Gap Website

Joint Council makes progress towards new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

A meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August , between representatives of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and a Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies (Coalition of Peaks).

In its second ever meeting, the Joint Council today agreed to work towards a new National Agreement Closing the Gap.

Importantly, it also agreed in principle to the following three priority reforms to underpin the new agreement and accelerate progress on Closing the Gap:

  1. Developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap;
  2. Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas; and
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The priority reforms will form the basis of engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives of communities and organisations across Australia and will focus on building support and what is needed to make them a success.

In another first, the engagements will be led by the Coalition of Peaks, with the support of Australian Governments.

A Welcome to Country for the second meeting of the Joint Council on #ClosingtheGap in Adelaide , co-chaired by the Minister Ken Wyatt and Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks. 

Additional text AAP

Friday’s agreement follows the release in December last year of a set of draft targets by the Council of Australian Governments in a range of areas including health, education, economic development and justice.

They include a desire to have 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, a bid to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031 and efforts to ensure 65 per cent of indigenous youth aged between 15 and 24 are in employment, education or training by 2028.

The targets also seek to cut the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island young people in detention by up to 19 per cent and the adult incarceration by at least five per cent by 2028.

The refreshed closing the gap agenda will also commit to targets that all governments will be accountable to the community for achieving.

About the Joint Council

The Joint Council was established under the historic Partnership Agreement, announced in March. The agreement represents the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies will have an equal say in the design, refresh, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Closing the Gap framework.

The council is comprised of 12 representatives elected by the Coalition of Peaks, a Minister nominated by the Commonwealth and each state and territory governments and one representative from the Australian Government Association.

See full list in Communique 


The Joint Council will meet at least twice a year, and will develop a workplan to refresh the Closing the Gap framework and monitor its implementation over the next ten years.

For more information on The Joint Council, The Partnership Agreement, The Coalition of Peaks and to sign up for our mailing list, go to: programmes/coalition-of-peaks/


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

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

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

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

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

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


The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP

Kaya wangju – hello and welcome, in Noongar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward, Looking Back.

We’ve come a long way down the track.

We’ve got a long way left to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why did I start with Slim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He fished with them; he went shooting with them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where we could – and could not – sit.

Where we could – and could not – go.

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

You couldn’t enter a pub.

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

People like Slim helped shift the pendulum.

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward, we must address where we have failed.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We cannot simply tell our truth through yelling.

It must be done through conversation.

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

I had the fortune of being there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We took the children from their mothers.

Those seven words drew a loud outburst from the crowd.

It was raw emotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is about recognising Indigenous Australians on our Birth Certificate.

And I’ll talk about voice later on.

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

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

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

The words are there in those documents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let me now turn to voice and being heard.

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

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

Therein lies the complexity of defining ‘a voice’.

The voice is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


But what about shifting the pendulum tomorrow?

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

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

We can all shift the pendulum.

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

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

And this is what drives me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We know that people are dying earlier.

We know that our people are committing suicide.

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

And, that’s on us as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon afterwards, my parents moved to Corrigin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not a sob story.

To me it sort of felt like freedom.

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

Those experiences living in a country town probably shaped me.

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

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

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

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


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

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

What are you going to do to shift that pendulum?

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

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

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

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

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

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

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

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

Look forward and work towards realising

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

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

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

We’ve done us proud.

To come this far,

Down through the years,

To where we are,

Side by side,

Hand in hand,

We’ve lived and died for this great land,

We’ve done us proud.

Let us walk together.

Let us shift the pendulum together.

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

Thank you.