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

aihw-aus-227

Australias-welfare-snapshots-2019

‘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

Indigenous-Australia-Strategy-2020-2024

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: https://www.hollows.org/au/spring-appeal

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.

Goals

  • 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.

Objectives

  • 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
Email: t.swann@ecu.edu.au

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.

ctg-joint-council-communique-20190823

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 

ctg-joint-council-communique-20190823

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: https://www.naccho.org.au/ 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.”

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

The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP

Kaya wangju – hello and welcome, in Noongar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward, Looking Back.

We’ve come a long way down the track.

We’ve got a long way left to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why did I start with Slim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He fished with them; he went shooting with them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where we could – and could not – sit.

Where we could – and could not – go.

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

You couldn’t enter a pub.

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

People like Slim helped shift the pendulum.

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward, we must address where we have failed.

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

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

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

LOCAL TRUTH-TELLING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We cannot simply tell our truth through yelling.

It must be done through conversation.

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

I had the fortune of being there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We took the children from their mothers.

Those seven words drew a loud outburst from the crowd.

It was raw emotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSTITUTIONAL RECOGNITION OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is about recognising Indigenous Australians on our Birth Certificate.

And I’ll talk about voice later on.

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

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

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

The words are there in those documents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOICE

Let me now turn to voice and being heard.

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

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

Therein lies the complexity of defining ‘a voice’.

The voice is multi-layered and multi-dimensional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHIFTING THE PENDULUM

But what about shifting the pendulum tomorrow?

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

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

We can all shift the pendulum.

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

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

And this is what drives me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We know that people are dying earlier.

We know that our people are committing suicide.

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

And, that’s on us as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINGIARI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soon afterwards, my parents moved to Corrigin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not a sob story.

To me it sort of felt like freedom.

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

Those experiences living in a country town probably shaped me.

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

What are you going to do to shift that pendulum?

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

How can we elevate our successes?

How can we give voice to those who feel voiceless?

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

I want you to remember these words from Vincent Lingiari:

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

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

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

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

Look forward and work towards realising

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

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

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

We’ve done us proud.

To come this far,

Down through the years,

To where we are,

Side by side,

Hand in hand,

We’ve lived and died for this great land,

We’ve done us proud.

Let us walk together.

Let us shift the pendulum together.

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

Thank you.

[ENDS]

AUTHORISED BY KEN WYATT, LIBERAL PARTY, CANBERRA.

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

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

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

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read in full Part 1 Below

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read and or download 25 Anniversary address here 

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

Good morning everyone.

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

My name is Barb Shaw.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal community controlled health services embody this determination and resolve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These advances depended on evidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Indigenous Community Housing Organisations were abolished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They should have listened to us, perhaps!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can and must do better as a community.

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

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

What could possibly go wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This includes the AMA and the Australian Law Society.

And what did we ask for? We asked for:

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

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

We are not going anywhere.

And we will not give up on our dreams.

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

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

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

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

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

I commend this conference to you.

Thank you.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AMSANT25Conf Speeches : Donna Ah Chee CEO Congress ACCHO : Aboriginal communities, determining the what, which, how, when, where and who of programs to address our health and wellbeing.

 ” Aboriginal Community control means at least:

  • the right to set the agenda, to 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 geographical coverage and its target groups
  • the right to determine who will deliver the program, its staff and advisers.

In my view, this is still a great definition of what community control is about.

It is about us, as Aboriginal communities, determining the what, which, how, when, where and who of programs to address our health and wellbeing.”

Donna Ah Chee CEO Congress ACCHO Alice Springs keynote address to AMSANT 25 Anniversary Conference 7 August 

So what is community control ? To answer that question, let me take you back almost thirty years to 1991, to before AMSANT existed

Good morning brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen,

I begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the Arrernte people, traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today, and to their Elders past, present and emerging. I also extend my appreciation to Kumalie (Rosalie) Riley for the very warm welcome to her country.

My name is Donna Ah Chee. I am a Bundjalung woman from the far north coast of New South Wales, but I have lived on beautiful Arrernte country for over thirty years.

And let me say right at the start, that I am passionate about community-control .Ever since I first worked for the Institute for Aboriginal Development here in Alice Springs back in the early nineties, I haven’t looked back. Later, I moved over the back fence of the IAD premises to begin work at Congress.

Since then I have spent many years in leadership positions at Congress, and within AMSANT.

Given this experience, it is a great pleasure to be here at AMSANT’s 25th anniversary conference. And I sincerely thank the Chair, Board and CEO of AMSANT for the invitation to speak to you today.

I want to use this opportunity to go back to basics: to discuss the strengths and achievements of this model we all share, the model of Aboriginal community-control.

I want to reiterate the role of Aboriginal community-control as an act of self-determination by our diverse peoples.

I want to describe what we Aboriginal people can achieve through Aboriginal community control – and in particular, what we can deliver that no other service model can.

Of course, we all know this.

We all have lived it in our lives and through the community controlled services we are part of.

But it’s worth stepping back sometimes and reminding ourselves about what our sector stands for and what we have achieved.

So what is community control?

To answer that question, let me take you back almost thirty years to 1991, to before AMSANT existed.

The Public Health Association of Australia, responding to advocacy from our sector here in Central Australia, was holding its annual conference in Alice Springs, not far from here, on the health of indigenous peoples.

Congress and Anyinginyi gave a landmark address to the conference called Primary Health Care and Community Control.

In this address, they described what community control meant to them.

They said that:

[Aboriginal] Community control means at least:

  • the right to set the agenda, to 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 geographical coverage and its target groups
  • the right to determine who will deliver the program, its staff and advisers.

In my view, this is still a great definition of what community control is about.

It is about us, as Aboriginal communities, determining the what, which, how, when, where and who of programs to address our health and wellbeing.

Given the process of colonisation in this country, and the effects on our health and wellbeing, these matters are for us to decide – not for some outside agency however well- intentioned; not for government; not for the non-Aboriginal experts.

While we work with all these groups in a spirt of good will and collaboration, in the end it is the Aboriginal community who decides how best to address our health and wellbeing.

That is what community control means. It’s an act of self-determination.

And crucial for the exercise of this act of self-determination are our Boards.

It is our Boards, the directly elected representatives of our peoples, who are at the heart of community control.

They are the ones who ultimately set the direction of our organisations, they employ the CEOs, they make the key strategic decisions for the organisation.

I know it is often a heavy burden of responsibility to carry, but without them the community-controlled model can’t exist.

So to all the members of our community-controlled Boards here today I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ from my heart: because without you, there is no community control.

So, that’s what our model is.

But what does it do?

How is it better than government run services, or those run by Non-Indigenous NGOs (or NINGOs we call them)?

Well, again, I am sure the AMSANT members here will have strong views on how their service is better than those other, non-Aboriginal controlled models.

You will know this from your own experience, your own detailed knowledge of the communities you serve.

But I would like to reiterate those strengths of the model, as I see them, because we have to keep fighting for community control.

Despite our history of amazing achievements, funding for Aboriginal health keeps being given to NINGO’s and other private providers.

Funding is not being allocated according to need, to the best practice community controlled model, and this is a serious threat to the health of our communities.

The first strengths of our model I want to talk about is what the academics call the ‘control factor’.

It has been shown that the less control people have over their lives and environment, the more likely they are to suffer ill health [1]: powerlessness is a risk factor for ill-health and poor social and emotional wellbeing [2].

So, the very fact that the community-controlled model empowers our communities contributes to health and wellbeing in itself.

Our model empowers our mob by guaranteeing their input into decision-making, and embedding Aboriginal employment and leadership across our services.

Of course, within our services we have genuine partnerships with non-Aboriginal people, including our independent Board members, staff and advisers.

We need their skills.

And we appreciate their commitment to working with us, under the leadership and direction of Aboriginal people.

Because despite the rhetoric about Aboriginal input we often hear from government, no other way of governing services guarantees Aboriginal empowerment and control.

Our model is fundamentally different from those services which include Aboriginal community members but only in an advisory role, and where the organisation can ignore that advice if they please.

Organisations led by unelected boards with a majority of non- Aboriginal directors are not Aboriginal community-controlled organisations – it is that simple.

Each year AIHW reports annually on services receiving Commonwealth funding to address Aboriginal health.

Their data shows that ACCHSs have Boards composed fully or of a majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

By contrast 75% of non-ACCHS organisations have no Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander formal community input into decision making at all, either having no Board, or no Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation on a Board.

These structures of community control have whole range of benefits in themselves, because the sense of control and empowerment itself is a big boost to health and wellbeing.

For example, in Canada it has been shown that First Nation communities that took steps to preserve their culture, and worked to control their futures through Indigenous-led organisations had much lower rates of youth suicide [4].

The second big advantage of the Aboriginal controlled health service is our reach into the community.

Simply put, our communities trust us and the services we provide.

In 2017-18, Aboriginal community controlled health services had 400,00 clients nationally – that’s 60% of the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population across the country [5].

Of course, it is important that Aboriginal people have choice about which services to access, just as it is for any person.

But it is clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a clear preference for the use of Aboriginal community- controlled health services, leading to greater access to care and better treatment outcomes [6, 7].

Our ability to deliver culturally safe care is fundamental to this preference, which in turn is founded upon those processes of community control I just described.

On this point, we often hear this figure bandied about that “most Aboriginal people don’t access or want to access Aboriginal Medical Services”.

I think we have to call out this statistic whenever we hear it.

It’s based on one single survey, and the way the question is asked is clearly confusing – for example, the same question showed that a quarter of Aboriginal people in very remote areas supposedly ‘prefer’ to receive their health care in a hospital! [8]

That’s clearly not right.

That figure also reflects that in many areas of Australia, our people don’t have access to Aboriginal community controlled health services, so our sector may not be ‘on the radar’ when it comes to where people prefer to get their care.

And it ignores the fact that our comprehensive model of care goes beyond the treatment of individual clients and is quite different to that offered by most mainstream services.

We treat those who are sick, but we also have prevention programs and we act to address the social determinants of health.

Overwhelmingly the evidence points to our sector as highly cost effective, with a major study concluding that:

up to fifty percent more health gain or benefit can be achieved if health programs are delivered to the Aboriginal population via ACCHSs, compared to if the same programs are delivered via mainstream primary care services [6].

So whenever you hear that statistic about most Aboriginal people not wanting to use our services, I urge you to call it out for the nonsense that it is.

Our people need choice – but given a genuine choice they will overwhelmingly choose Aboriginal-community controlled health.

We see that here in Central Australia at the moment.

Many remote communities with government clinics are coming to Congress and asking us to run their health services for them.

They are tired of not having a say in the running of the under- resourced Government-run clinics in their communities.

This is not a criticism of the individual government-employed staff in these places, many of whom are dedicated and caring people.

But government is simply not able to duplicate the high levels of community input and cultural safety that our sector delivers.

This brings me to the third strength I would identify about our health services: we employ our own mob and train them up.

Our services are much more effective in employing Aboriginal people than government or mainstream NGOs.

In those organisations funded by the Commonwealth specifically to deliver health services to our people, Aboriginal community controlled health services have 57% Indigenous staff; compared to only 38% in non-ACCHS organisations.

Particularly significant is the much greater commitment of ACCHS organisations to employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in training positions, and in leadership roles such as CEOs, managers or supervisors.

Nationally, our sector employs almost 3,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, making it the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia [7].

This employment of our own people in our organisations – not just in front-line positions but as decision-makers and leaders

– is crucial to our record of delivering culturally safe services.

So again, I would like to say thank you to all those Aboriginal staff of our services who are here today – truly our sector could not do it without you.

The last strength of our sector I want to highlight is our ability to hold Governments accountable.

We are able to speak up on behalf of our communities, to make sure that policies set by Governments don’t ignore our needs, and to make sure that our communities get an equitable share of funding and resources compared to those needs.

Back in the days before Aboriginal community controlled health services, government did whatever they wanted to do to address the health of our peoples, which was generally nothing or worse than nothing.

Just how badly the mainstream health system was failing our peoples is sometimes forgotten, so it’s worth revisiting some historical statistics.

For example, according to government figures based on the reports of concerned health professionals, the mortality rate for Aboriginal infants in Central Australia in the mid-1960s was estimated at 250 per 1,000 births [9].

In other words, fifty years ago, well within the lifetime of many of us in this room, a quarter of Aboriginal children died before their first birthday.

Even in the mid-1970s, the rate was 60 to 70 per 1,000: worse than all but the most disadvantaged developing countries today.

Today the rate has fallen to around 10 deaths per 1,000 live births as our health services have dramatically improved access to primary, secondary and tertiary health care.

It was to address the suffering behind these numbers that community-controlled health services were established by our communities across Australia, often initially with volunteers.

But our community-controlled services were also able to speak out about the needs of our mob.

We were able to argue and shame the government into action.

This is where the establishment of AMSANT in 1994 was so crucial.

It brought together all the Aboriginal community controlled services in the Northern Territory so we could speak with a strong, collective voice to government.

And government was forced to listen.

I think Pat Anderson, who played an important role in AMSANT’s early years, will speak later this morning about that time and the important role that AMSANT played in the Northern Territory, at the national level, and even internationally.

And that role – a collective voice for our sector, our Boards, our communities – holding government to account is something that AMSANT has continued to do over the years.

It is hard work.

A lot of it is not very exciting.

It means sitting in meetings, continuing to argue for the rights and needs of our sector and of our communities.

But it is important work, and it produces results.

I can give one example from a few years ago when the NTPHN was given the role by the Commonwealth government of distributing funds for tackling Alcohol and Other Drugs and Social and Emotional Wellbeing in Aboriginal communities.

I was on the NTPHN Board and argued strongly that our sector needed to get a fair share of those funds.

And even though I wasn’t there as a representative of AMSANT, I knew that AMSANT was backing me.

And the rest of the NTPHN Board knew that too.

So in they end they made the right decision and worked through the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum, where AMSANT sits, to develop a way to allocate these funds according to need.

This included the acceptance of the 3 streams of care integrated AOD / mental health service model that AMSANT has championed for many years.

It also included a visionary decision to pool the separate AOD and mental health funds into a single funds pool to achieve this integrated model – no other PHN did this.

Once this work was done the NTPHN was then able to use its commissioning framework to directly tender funds to where they were most needed, either our sector or, where there was not an Aboriginal health service, the NT Department of Health.

Rather than competition, collaboration was the key to this successful process.

As a result of this, a lot of our services were able to get funding for alcohol and other dugs and SEWB positions.

And that means vital services for our community members in the communities where they live.

And this was made possible because of the power and influence of AMSANT in holding the non-Aboriginal system to account, and as the collective voice of all our services, our Boards and our communities.

So I have talked about what community control is for me.

And I have talked about our sector’s strengths and achievements.

How it empowers our communities.

How it improves access to culturally-secure services for our people.

How it employs our mob and supports Aboriginal leadership.

And how it is able to hold the non-Aboriginal health system to account.

For me, it is a privilege to be part of the sector and part of those achievements.

But I can’t leave you today without looking forward.

As I said at the beginning, every Aboriginal community controlled health service is an act of self-determination.

AMSANT brings us together and amplifies our voice and our capacity to act.

But the job is not done.

As well as these things, we need national processes of self- determination for us as First Peoples of this continent.

As so beautifully captured by the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017, we need

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

Why are these things important for the health and wellbeing of our peoples?

First, as I discussed before, there is a strong relationship between disempowerment and poor health and wellbeing.

These genuine reforms – and the self-determinant policies and practices that /would flow from them – would increase our control over our own lives and can be expected to lead to better health and wellbeing outcomes.

Second, a treaty is important for many reasons, including that it would provide an enduring and just institutional foundation for the provision of health services.

For example, it was convincingly argued by the late Stephen Kunitz that the treaties with First Nations in Canada, Aoteraroa and the United States led to more effective and sustainable policy and service delivery arrangements, and consequently led to a much narrower health gap than we have here in Australia [10].

This fact was shouted out loud by Aboriginal speakers at the recent Garma festival.

Last, the establishment of a permanent, constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice to the Federal Parliament would help end our marginalisation from national decision-making processes.

It will contribute to more effective policy making and program design.

And it might just help government fix its terrible record when it comes to the implementation of the recommendations of the many reviews, reports and commissions to which we have contributed over decades.

So I think we need to keep working at that local level with our communities – treating those who are sick, promoting good health, and addressing the social determinants.

We need to keep working through AMSANT at the Territory level to keep government and other agencies accountable.

And we need to keep moving forward on national processes of self-determination by implementing the demands contained in the Uluru Statement.

So to finish I would like say thank you once again to all of you here at this celebration of AMSANT’s first twenty-five years.

I hope you find the next couple of days empowering and inspiring, an opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future.

But most of all, an opportunity to celebrate the great achievements of our Aboriginal community controlled sector.

Thank you.

  1. Marmot M, Siegrist J, and Theorell T, Health and the psychosocial environment at work, in Social determinants of health, Marmot M and Wilkinson R, Editors. 2006, Oxford University Press:
  2. Tsey, K., et al., Social determinants of health, the ‘control factor’ and the Family Wellbeing Empowerment Australasian Psychiatry, 2003. 11(3 supp 1): p. 34–39.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations: Online Services Report — key results 2015–16. 2017, AIHW:
  4. M, C. and L. C, Cultural continuity as a hedge against suicide in Canada’s First Nations. Transcultural Psychiatry, 1998. 35(2): p. 191-219.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations: Online Services Report — key results 2017–18. 2019, AIHW:
  6. Vos T, et al., Assessing Cost-Effectiveness in Prevention (ACE–Prevention): Final Report. 2010, ACE–Prevention Team: University of Queensland, Brisbane and Deakin University:
  7. National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Economic Value of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, in Unpublished paper. 2014, NACCHO:
  8. Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 Report. 2017, Commonwealth of Australia:
  9. Kettle E, Health Services in the Northern Territory – a History 1824-1970. 1991, Darwin: Australian National University Northern Australia Research
  10. Kunitz S J, Disease and social diversity. 1994, Oxford: Oxford University

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Cards : NACCHO strongly supports the @ACOSS position as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the Newstart rate and the cashless welfare card

 “NACCHO strongly supports the ACOSS position as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the Newstart rate and the cashless welfare card

Acting NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills was commenting on the ACOSS Press Release 28 July in full below

See all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card articles HERE

Pictured above elder Ted Carlton with card

Acoss Press Release 28 July : Unnecessary, demeaning cashless debit card unfairly targets people just because they can’t find paid work

Following reports that Nationals are considering an expansion of the cashless debit card as part of a Newstart increase, the Australian Council of Social Service is reiterating its strong position against the cashless debit card.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said: “The cashless debit card is designed to control people on low incomes just because they haven’t been able to find a job. It is grossly unfair, impractical, demeaning, unproven and expensive.

“Are we now saying that, in addition to having to wait 25 years for an increase in incomes for people doing it the toughest, the trade-off would be control over their lives? Life is hard enough already for people on Newstart who trying to get through tough times and into paid work.

“Half of people on Newstart are 45 or older, one quarter have an illness or disability and more than 100,000 people on Newstart are single parents.

“Having to pay with the card cuts off some of the cheaper ways for people to get by such as buying second hand furniture or buying food from markets.

“People feel humiliated when they have to pay with the cashless debit card, especially in small communities.

“The government has shown no willingness to do a proper evaluation on cashless debit. The evaluations conducted so far do not demonstrate that cashless debit helps people.

“Cashless debit is also hugely expensive, costing thousands per person to administer.

“Instead of considering forcing people onto cashless debit cards, we need our political leaders to act to increase Newstart and better fund employment services to help people get paid work.

“Newstart must be urgently increased. 25 years with no real increase has left people in a spiral of debt and deprivation that makes it much harder to get paid work.”

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingTheGap #NAIDOC2019 : @AIHW Key results report 2017-18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations:

Findings from this report:

  • Just under half (45%) of organisations provide services in Remote or Very remote areas

  • In 2017–18, around 483,000 clients received 3.6 million episodes of care

  • Nearly 8,000 full-time equivalent staff are employed in these organisations and 4,695 (59%) are health staff

  • Organisations reported 445 vacant positions in June 2018 with health vacancies representing 366 (82%) of these
  • In 2017–18, nearly 200 organisations provided a range of primary health services to around 483,000 clients, 81% of whom were Indigenous.
  • Around 3.6 million episodes of care were provided, nearly 3.1 million of these (85%) by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

See AIHW detailed Interactive site locations map HERE

In 2017–18, Indigenous primary health services were delivered from 383 sites (Table 3). Most sites provided clinical services such as the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses (88%), mental health and counselling services (88%), maternal and child health care (86%), and antenatal care (78%). Around two-thirds provided tobacco programs (69%) and substance-use and drug and alcohol programs (66%).

Most organisations provided access to a doctor (86%) and just over half (54%) delivered a wide range of services, including all of the following during usual opening hours: the diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease; antenatal care; maternal and child health care; social and emotional wellbeing/counselling services; substance use programs; and on‑site or off-site access to specialist, allied health and dental care services.

Most organisations (95%) also provided group activities as part of their health promotion and prevention work. For example, in 2017–18, these organisations provided around:

  • 8,400 physical activity/healthy weight sessions
  • 3,700 living skills sessions
  • 4,600 chronic disease client support sessions
  • 4,100 tobacco-use treatment and prevention sessions.

In addition to the services they provide, organisations were asked to report on service gaps and challenges they faced and could list up to 5 of each from predefined lists. In 2017–18, around two-thirds of organisations (68%) reported mental health/social and emotional health and wellbeing services as a gap faced by the community they served.

This was followed by youth services (54%). Over two-thirds of organisations (71%) reported the recruitment, training and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff as a challenge in delivering quality health services.

Read full report and all data HERE

This is the tenth national report on organisations funded by the Australian Government to provide health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Indigenous primary health services

Primary health services play a critical role in helping to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous Australians may access mainstream or Indigenous primary health services funded by the Australian and state and territory governments.

Information on organisations funded by the Australian Government under its Indigenous Australians’ health programme (IAHP) is available through two data collections: the Online Services Report (OSR) and the national Key Performance Indicators (nKPIs). Most of the organisations funded under the IAHP contribute to both collections (Table 1).

The OSR collects information on the services organisations provide, client numbers, client contacts, episodes of care and staffing levels. Contextual information about each organisation is also collected. The nKPIs collect information on a set of process of care and health outcome indicators for Indigenous Australians.

There are 24 indicators that focus on maternal and child health, preventative health and chronic disease management. Information from the nKPI and OSR collections help monitor progress against the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Closing the Gap targets, and supports the national health goals set out in the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023.

Detailed information on the policy context and background to these collections are available in previous national reports, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online Services Report—key results 2016–17 and National Key Performance Indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care: results for 2017.

At a glance

This tenth national OSR report presents information on organisations funded by the Australian Government to provide primary health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes a profile of these organisations and information on the services they provide, client numbers, client contacts, episodes of care and staffing levels. Interactive data visualisations using OSR data for 5 reporting periods, from 2013–14 to 2017–18, are presented for the first time.

Key messages

  1. A wide range of primary health services are provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2017–18:
  • 198 organisations provided primary health services to around 483,000 clients, most of whom were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (81%).
  • These organisations provided around 3.6 million episodes of care, with nearly 3.1 million (85%) delivered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs).
  • More than two-thirds of organisations (71%) were ACCHSs. The rest included government-run organisations and other non-government-run organisations.
  • Nearly half of organisations (45%) provided services in Remoteand Very remote
  • Services were delivered from 383 sites across Australia. Most sites provided the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses (88%), social and emotional wellbeing services (88%), maternal and child health care (86%), and antenatal care (78%). Around two-thirds provided tobacco programs (69%) and substance-use and drug and alcohol programs (66%).

See this AIHW detailed Interactive site locations map HERE

  1. Organisations made on average nearly 13 contacts per client

In 2017–18, organisations providing Indigenous primary health services made around 6.1 million client contacts, an average of nearly 13 contacts per client (Table 2). Over half of all client contacts (58%) were made by nurses and midwives (1.8 million contacts) and doctors (1.7 million contacts). Contacts by nurses and midwives represented half (49%) of all client contacts in Very remote areas compared with 29% overall.

  1. Organisations employed nearly 8,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff

At 30 June 2018, organisations providing Indigenous primary health services employed nearly 8,000 FTE staff and over half of these (54%) were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. These organisations were assisted by around 270 visiting staff not paid for by the organisations themselves, making a total workforce of around 8,200 FTE staff.

Nurses and midwives were the most common type of health worker (14% of employed staff), followed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners (13%) and doctors (7%). Nurses and midwives represented a higher proportion of employed staff in Very remote areas (22%).

  1. Social and emotional health and wellbeing services are the most commonly reported service gap

Organisations can report up to 5 service gaps faced by the community they serve from a predefined list of gaps. Since this question was introduced in 2012–13, the most commonly reported gap has been for mental health and social and emotional health and wellbeing services. In 2017–18, this was reported as a gap by 68% of organisations.