NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CloseTheGapDay 18 March : @June_Oscar and @briscoe_karl launch the 2020 @closethegapOZ Report : Download HERE

” We are heartened by the developments last year with COAG and the Prime Minister agreeing to a formal partnership with the Coalition of Peaks on the Closing the Gap strategy.

“Indigenous involvement and participation is vital – when our peoples are included in the design and delivery of services that impact their lives, the outcomes are far better.

However, now that partnership is in place, governments must commit to urgent funding for Indigenous health equity and solutions to prevent further entrenching our social and economic disadvantage.”

Co Chairs June Oscar and Karl Briscoe.

The Close the Gap Campaign is cancelling its public events to mark Close the Gap Day on Thursday 19 March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Close the Gap Campaign has warned that only systemic reform will make up for the harrowing failure of the last 12 years of government policy on closing the gaps in health equity, social and economic disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The 2020 Close the Gap Campaign report, again written by the Lowitja Institute and released today, sets out a blueprint for change, presenting 14 recommendations for Australian governments that must be urgently implemented to avoid further preventable deaths and protect Indigenous health, wellbeing, culture and Country.

Download the Report Here

CTG2020 Report

“Our report details some great programs and initiatives designed and led by our communities – but we are achieving these solutions inside a system that is not designed for us. This cannot continue.

“The Close the Gap Campaign membership is growing in strength and we cannot – and we will not – stand by and see more preventable deaths and the ongoing neglect of Indigenous people’s health, wellbeing, culture and Country.”

The report welcomes the new shared decision-making agreement between COAG and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to endure higher levels of illness and higher levels of comorbidity. We have three times the rate of preventable admissions to hospital, overcrowded housing and a lack of access to basic health services in many areas.

Our increased incidence of pre-existing health conditions is due in large part to governments’ failures to close the gaps in health equity for Indigenous people in Australia.

The 2020 Close the Gap campaign report will also be publicly available

 https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/publications/close-gap-2020

The Close the Gap Campaign is cancelling its public events to mark Close the Gap Day on Thursday 19 March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Today is National Close the Gap Day (19 March 2020) – instead of holding live events, the Close the Gap campaign is encouraging people to sign the pledge at https://antar.org.au/closethegappledge and hold online events instead.

Follow #CloseTheGap, #closethegapday @closethegapOZ for more details.

You can read more about the Close the Gap Campaign on the ANTaR website at https://antar.org.au/close-gap

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read / Download Press Release responses to the 2020 #ClosingtheGap Report from #CoalitionofPeaks @closethegapOZ @NATSILS_ @SNAICC @SenatorSiewert @CAACongress @RACGP

“ These Closing the Gap reports tell the same story of failure every year

The danger of this seemingly endless cycle of failure is that it breeds complacency and cynicism, while excusing those in power.

People begin to believe that meaningful progress is impossible and there is nothing governments can do to improve the lives of our people.

The truth is that the existing Closing the Gap framework was doomed to fail when it was designed without the input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We know what will work best for our communities and the Prime Minister even acknowledges in this report that our voice was the missing ingredient from original framework.

The Coalition of Peaks has signed a formal partnership agreement with every Australian government, where decision-making on design, implementation and evaluation of a new Closing the Gap framework will be shared. Through this partnership, the Coalition of Peaks has put forward structural priority reforms to the way governments work with and deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Governments say they are listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, the true test in listening is translating the priority reforms into real, tangible and funded actions that make a difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our country.

This historic partnership could be the circuit-breaker that is needed. However, if they view this process as little more than window dressing for the status quo, the cycle of failure evident in today’s report is doomed to continue.”

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, said that governments need to learn from these failures, not continue to repeat them.

Read Download the full Coalition of Peaks Press Release HERE

Read previous NACCHO Communiques this week

1.Coalition of Peaks Editorial Pat Turner

2.PM Launches CTG Report ( Download )

3.PM CTG Full Speech

4.Opposition response to CTG Report

“Every year for the last 12 years we have listened to a disappointing litany of failure – it’s not good enough, Indigenous Australians deserve better.

We are heartened by the developments last year with COAG and the Prime Minister agreeing to a formal partnership with the Coalition of Peaks on the Closing the Gap strategy.

Indigenous involvement and participation is vital – when our peoples are included in the design and delivery of services that impact their lives, the outcomes are far better.

However, now that partnership is in place, Australian governments must commit to urgent funding of Indigenous healthcare and systemic reform.

Preventable diseases continue to take young lives while unrelenting deaths in custody and suicide rates twice that of other Australians continue to shame us all.

As governments reshape the Closing the Gap strategy, we cannot afford for the mistakes of the past to be repeated.

Close the Gap Campaign co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA) CEO Karl Briscoe, have called on the government to invest urgently in health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Download full Close the Gap campaign press release HERE

Close the Gap Campaign response to CTG Report

” There was one glaring omission from the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech this week. Housing did not rate a mention. Not a word about action on Aboriginal housing or homelessness.

Housing was not even one of the targets, let alone one we were meeting, but it must be if we are to have any chance of finally closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on all the other targets for life expectancy, child mortality, education and jobs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3 per cent of Australia’s population but 20 per cent of the nation’s homeless. Aboriginal people are 2.3 times more likely to experience rental stress and seven times more likely to live in over-crowded conditions than other Australians.”

James Christian is chief executive of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

“For the first time ever, there is a commitment from all Australian governments, through COAG, to work with Aboriginal leaders through the peak bodies of Aboriginal organisations to negotiate key strategies and headline indicators that will make a difference.

So long as the negotiations continue in good faith and we stay the course together this should lead to a greater rate of improvement in coming years. Of this I am sure.

There is a commitment to supporting Aboriginal people by giving priority to our own community controlled organisations to deliver the services and programs that will make a difference in our communities while at the same time ensuring mainstream services better meet our needs”

Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress : Read full Report Part 1 below.

“Today is another day we reflect on the Federal Government’s inability to meet the Closing the Gap targets.

This report clearly shows that the gap will continue to widen if reforms aren’t translated into tangible, fully funded actions that deliver real benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the country.

The report reveals that progress against the majority of Closing the Gap targets is still not on track. The gap in mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous

Australians increased last year and there are very worrying signs on infant mortality.

The Federal Government needs to commit to funding solutions to end over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they must be implemented alongside other areas of disadvantage in the Closing the Gap strategy – health, education, family violence, employment, housing – in order to create real change for future generations.”

Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

“We are deeply concerned about the Federal Government’s decision to not continue funding for remote Indigenous housing. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to Closing the Gap,”

Nerita Waight, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

Download the full NATSILS press release HERE

NATSILS response CTG Report

” SARRAH welcomes the bipartisan approach by Parliamentarians who committed to work genuinely and collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

The potential contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is far greater than has been acknowledged or supported to date.

There are many organisations working hard to close the gap, such as Aboriginal community controlled health organisations right across Australia, and Indigenous Allied Health Australia, the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak allied health body.

Governments, through COAG, working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coalition of Peaks have the opportunity to reset the trajectory.”

Download SARRAH Press Release

Media Release SARRAH Closing the Gap

“ Many of our communities are affected by a range of adverse experiences from poverty, through to violence, drug and alcohol issues and homelessness.

Without an opportunity to heal from the resultant trauma, its impact can deeply affect children’s brain development causing life-long challenges to the way they function in the world.

It is experienced within our families and communities and from one generation to the next.

We need urgent action to support better outcomes and opportunities for our children.

SNAICC CEO, Richard Weston

Download the full SNAICC press release HERE

SNAICC Response to CTG Report

“Mr Morrison will keep failing First Nations peoples and this country until a genuine commitment to self-determination is at the heart of closing the gap.

The Prime Minister’s same old “welfare” rhetoric indicates that the Government really hasn’t got it.   While they say they are committed to the COAG co-design process the PM ignores the point that it is his Government continuing to drive discriminatory programs such as the Cashless Debit Card, the CDP program, ParentsNext and who are failing to address the important social determinants of health and wellbeing.

There are a few things this Government needs to do before they just “get people into jobs”, like invest in the social determinants of health and wellbeing and a housing first approach.”

Australian Greens spokesperson on First Nations peoples issues Senator Rachel Siewert

Download the full Greens press release HERE

The Greens Response to CTG Report

” Australia’s efforts to close the gap are seemingly stuck in a holding pattern.

Though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hailed the beginning of a ‘new era’ of improving the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the launch of the 12th Closing the Gap report, the results are all but unchanged.”

Read RACGP editorial

Part 1 : Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Continued

“It’s also important to recognise that there has been progress here in Central Australia both over the longer term and more recently. Since 1973, the number of Aboriginal babies dying in their first year of life has reduced from 250 to 10 per 1000 babies born, and life expectancy has improved on average around 13 years.

As recently as 2019 we have seen significant improvements across multiple areas.

“Alice Springs has experienced a remarkable 40% reduction in alcohol related assaults and a 33% reduction in domestic violence assaults. This is 739 fewer assaults year on year, or 14 fewer assaults per week”.

“There has been a 33% reduction in alcohol related emergency department presentation which is 1617 fewer presentations year on year or a reduction of 31 per week. Corresponding with this, there has been a decline in hospital admissions and, as noted in the MJA recently, ICU admissions. These are dramatic improvements,” she said.

“The proportion of babies born of low birth weight has halved and the rates of childhood anaemia and anaemia in pregnancy have declined markedly.”

“In addition to this the number of young people who reoffend and therefore recycle through youth detention has dropped dramatically.”

“Combining all of these factors, we are closing the gap on early childhood disadvantage and trauma and this will make a big difference in coming years in other health and social outcomes.”

There are however, still many issues to be addressed, especially with the current generation of young people, as too many have already experienced the impacts of domestic violence, trauma and alcohol and other drugs. Unfortunately, this has led to the youth issues experienced now in Alice Springs.

The NT government recently advised Congress that they are implementing strategies that are aimed at making an immediate difference while at the same time we know key strategies that will make a longer-term difference are already in place. New immediate strategies include:

  1. 14 additional police undertaking foot patrols and bike patrols in the CBD
  2. Police now taking young people home where it is safe to do so, rather than telling them to go home themselves
  3. The employment of two senior Aboriginal community police officers from remote communities and the recruitment of three others in town and two at Yuendumu
  4. The flexible deployment of the YOREOs to meet peaks in the numbers of young people out at different hours of the night
  5. The much more active deployment of the truancy officers to ensure all young people are going to school.
  6. Access to emergency accommodation options for young people at night

While progress overall is slower than it should be, it is important to acknowledge the successes we are having because of the good work of many dedicated community organisations and government agencies working together in a supportive environment, where governments are adopting evidence based policies.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #CloseTheGap News Alert : Read / Download the Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP speech : ” We are beginning this next chapter in #ClosingtheGap “

Bill Wentworth our first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( 1967 ) had a belief that as Australians began to understand and embrace Indigenous culture and our Indigenous people, then we transform the way Indigenous people see themselves – and not only that, it transforms the way we see ourselves as a people who share this continent.

This goes to the heart of who we are.

In partnership with Indigenous Australians; with respect for their wisdom and capabilities; and appreciation for their grace towards their fellow Australians, we are beginning this next chapter in Closing the Gap.

To see the gap, to see the challenges, to see the opportunities, to understand the hope, to see the way, through Indigenous eyes.

A chapter which allows us to believe in a day when the Indigenous children of this land have the same opportunities as every other Australian child

Prime Minister Scott Morrison 30 minutes Closing the Gap speech Parliament House 12 February 2020

Download PDF copy of speech

Prime Minister CTG Report speech

Download a copy of 2020 Closing the Gap Report

PRIME MINISTER: Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country.

I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future.

I honour all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in this House, and right across our great continent.

I also acknowledge our service men and women, our veterans, and particularly acknowledge our Indigenous servicemen and women, and our Indigenous veterans – as we did just last week at the Australian War Memorial.

Service that for so long was not acknowledged, but who served not for recognition, but because of their faith in who we could become as a country and as a people. We are still on that journey and I thank them on behalf of a grateful nation for their service.

I also acknowledge and honour our Indigenous leaders who are also the democratically elected representatives of the people:

The Member for Hasluck, the Honourable Ken Wyatt — our very first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians.

The Member for Barton, the Honourable Linda Burney.

Senator Patrick Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and Senator Jacqui Lambie.

I also welcome Convenor Pat Turner, and all members of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations.

I thank you for your partnership, your strength, and your leadership.

 

Mr Speaker, for 12 years, I have sat in this chamber and listened to Closing the Gap speeches.

It’s a tale of hope, frustration and disappointment. A tale of good intentions. Indeed good faith.

But the results are not good enough. This is sadly still true.

Last year, I opened this address with what I believe is a national truth and a national shame: that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia today do not have the same opportunities as all other children growing up in Australia.

They never have in Australia. Never.

This is the ultimate test of our efforts. That every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boy or girl, can grow up in this country, with the same opportunities and expectations as any other Australian boy and girl.

Over decades, our top down, government knows best approach has not delivered the improvements we all yearn for.

When it comes to the welfare and advancement of our Indigenous peoples, I don’t doubt the good hearts and the goodwill of those in this chamber and those who have served here, including former Prime Minister Rudd who began this process with the National Apology, indeed the day before I gave my first speech in this place 12 years ago.

The National Apology was an important milestone, but it did not pretend to be the solution.

It was important for many reasons Mr Speaker, but for me, it was most important to me, was that it was most important to our First Australians. It mattered to them, and so it mattered to me.

Despite our best intentions, Closing the Gap, as an initiative fell victim to the same type of thinking that has hampered our efforts in the past.

We seemed to think that somehow if our aspirations were high enough, the rest would just take care of itself.

This is not a challenge of aspiration. It is not a contest of earnestness. It is not about who cares more. It is not about symbolism.

There has been no shortage of money or will. The Productivity Commission estimates that in 2015-16, total indigenous specific expenditure of all levels of government was $6 billion. And the share of mainstream programs that all Australians share was a further $27.4 billion.

Over the forward estimates, we are providing $5.2 billion for our Indigenous Advancement Strategy, $4.1 billion for targeted efforts to improve Indigenous Health as well as significant payments to the states and territories for Indigenous specific programs.

Closing the gap is a very practical challenge, and a very difficult one. Getting people into jobs so they can lift up their eyes from seeing hopelessness and see a future that they can direct.

Ensuring young children are healthy, in school and well educated to realise their potential. That is how generational change occurs.

Ensuring that indigenous Australians are safe in their homes and in their communities. Where they can have the same expectations of the rule of law, to go about their own lives unviolated, as any other Australian in any other part of the country.

Having watched and listened, we are now making the change to how we go about this task. It’s not judgement of our past efforts, but an honest and humble learning.

Despite the best of intentions; investments in new programs; and bi-partisan goodwill, Closing the Gap has never really been a partnership with Indigenous people.

We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking, passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our Indigenous peoples.

We don’t.

We also thought we understood their problems better than they did. We don’t. They live them.

We must see the gap we wish to close, not from our viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of indigenous Australians before we can hope to close it, and make a real difference.

And that is the change we are now making, together with indigenous Australians through this process.

We all have, in our own way, sought to grapple with the consequences of two and a quarter centuries of Indigenous disempowerment.

What I know is that to rob a person of their right to take responsibility for themselves; to strip them of responsibility and capability to direct their own futures; to make them dependent – this is to deny them of their liberty – and slowly that person will wither before your eyes.

That’s what we did to our First Nations people – and mostly, we didn’t even know we were doing it. We thought we were helping when we replaced independence with welfare.

This must change.

We must restore the right to take responsibility. The right to make decisions.

The right to step up.

The opportunity to own and create Australian’s own futures.

It must be accompanied by a willingness to push decisions down to the people who are closest to them.

Where the problems are, and where the consequences of decisions are experienced.

That is what we must do.

On the afternoon before Australia Day, my family and I once again visited a group of Ngunnawal elders, this time down by the lake for a water blessing.

It was hot, there was smoke from the bushfires in the air. I was grateful for the generosity and grace displayed by the Ngunnawal people to host a Prime Minister and his family at a poignant time when they reflect on their own long history since time immemorial.

Yet on that afternoon, my Ngunnawal friends were more concerned about what they called my Sorry Business Time and the recent passing of my father. They were concerned for my girls and their loss.

They had words and space for grief – and we sat together. I want to thank Aunty Agnes Shea for her hospitality and kind words.

Be it grief; the protection of our lands against bushfire; an understanding of our native ecosystems; or the inter-generational responsibilities to the land and to each other; there is so much we learn from Indigenous communities and peoples.

So I ask: what have we been too proud to learn? What must we learn so that we can grow together?

Our new approach to Closing the Gap provides some of the answers to this question. An approach that is built on partnership. On giving back responsibility.

An approach of listening. Of empowering.

Of government providing the capabilities, so that Indigenous Australians can make their best choices. Of all governments accepting their own accountabilities.

And of owning up to a path, that despite the very best of intentions of all Governments, hasn’t worked. Mr Speaker, today I make the final report on an old approach, as well as the first report of a new era. Here, then, are the results against the targets set since 2008.

Two of the seven targets are on track to be met this year, and in 2025.

We are on track to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment and that is a tremendous achievement.

What that means now, and in the future, is more Indigenous doctors, nurses, teachers, tradies, police officers, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, farmers, IT specialists, musicians, artists and CEOs and business leaders.

Excelling in every field of endeavour. Lifting our communities.

Indeed, this is the biggest improvement over the past decade.

The proportion of Indigenous Australians reaching this milestone has jumped more than 20 per cent in 12 years.

The biggest leap forward has been in our major cities, where 85 per cent of Indigenous 20-24 year olds have attained year 12 or equivalent.

We’re already doing more to close that gap.

In last year’s statement, I announced $200 million in extra support for Indigenous students through the Indigenous Youth Education Package.

Already, funding agreements for 30 projects valued at $190 million are in place.

This year, the package will assist over 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students stay engaged in secondary school through mentoring, cultural or other supports.

We are also working in partnership with local communities in remote and very remote communities to identify community projects that encourage school attendance. These projects are being developed

This year also, we are on track to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.

The preschool years are so important in preparing kids for their school journey and beyond. And we are seeing more Indigenous kids getting that advantage.

In 2018, the figure was 86 per cent — an almost 10 percentage point rise on 2016, and well ahead of

where we needed to be to hit that target in five years’ time.

So at both ends of the school spectrum, we have made great strides in getting more kids into school and through school.

Nothing should diminish how significant these gains are.

However, the four expiring targets that were supposed to be met by 2018 were not met. Halving the gap in child mortality.

Closing the gap in school attendance.

Halving the gap in child literacy and numeracy. Halving the gap in employment.

The final target — closing the gap in life expectancy within a generation — is not on track to be met by 2031.

This is a stark and sobering report that I have tabled.

I welcome the gains, I honour the hard work across every front.

We must be careful not to speak of our First Australians as a broken people. Because they are not.

So many of our first Australians, are out there making their way, despite the disadvantages they have faced and overcome. Setting goals, making choices, living their lives, and showing bravely the way to others.

But I don’t shy away from the failures.

I see the shortcomings.

The targets that were set for Indigenous Australians, not by Indigenous Australians, do not celebrate the strengths, achievements and aspirations of Indigenous people.

They don’t tell you what’s happening on the ground, or stirring under it.

They don’t tell you how realistic or achievable these targets were in the first place. They reinforce the language of failing and falling short.

And they also mask the real progress that has been made. We must be careful not to adopt a negative mindset.

Because on most measures, we have made progress.

I am saddened that we have not met the target for child mortality. But I draw hope and resolve from the fact that we are making progress in tackling the risk factors.

More Indigenous mothers are attending antenatal care in the first trimester and more are going to at least five antenatal sessions.

Fewer Indigenous mothers are smoking during pregnancy.

We know that if we can shift these risk factors, we can keep more Indigenous babies and children alive. We may not be on track to fully close the life expectancy gap in a generation – always an ambitious target

– but mortality rates have improved by almost 10 per cent.

This is mostly because we’ve made progress in tackling the leading cause of death: the big circulatory

diseases like heart disease and stroke. This is progress.

But, as I said, we have not made as much progress as we should have by now.

There remains much to do. And we will do it differently. By working together.

By moving from a fixation with what is going wrong to a focus on strength.

By going from good intentions and sky-high aspirations, to local, practical action that’s driven by local

leaders and local needs.

With clear accountability and responsibility. With a clear line of sight to the community.

And we’re acting on a commitment — by all levels of government — to work together. For federal, state, territory and local governments to work together.

Not just the Indigenous portfolios but whole governments, at every point of contact.

Mr Speaker, every Minister in my Government is a Minister for Indigenous Australians. And the Minister for Indigenous Australians is the first amongst equals in this cause.

More importantly, for governments to work with local communities.

In partnership with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks – known as the Coalition of Peaks, and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We’re making that commitment real.

This is what our Closing the Gap refresh is all about.

It’s what all governments agreed to at COAG a little over a year ago.

It’s what we agreed to in March last year, in our unprecedented Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Coalition of Peaks, and the Australian Local Government Association.

It’s what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for a long time.

They want a partnership where we listen, work together and decide together how future policies are developed — especially at a regional and local level.

A partnership that respects their expertise, and acknowledges their place as the First Nations people of this continent.

So we’re bringing more people into the process.

We are finalising a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a formal agreement between COAG and the Coalition of Peaks. We expect this to be considered in April during Joint Council in Western Australia.

Just last month, the Peaks and I sat around the Cabinet Table and talked about how we’re making this commitment real.

Even meeting together like that, I’m advised – the Ministers and me, along with the heads of 14 community-controlled organisations, representing almost 50 different community-controlled organisations – was unprecedented.

It was historic – but it shouldn’t have been. This partnership is generations overdue.

At that meeting, I listened.

The Indigenous leaders were telling us where the gaps are, where the needs are, where the strengths are. The success stories.

The empowering stories.

The stories of hope.

And our shared priorities are clear:

  • expanding the opportunities for shared decision-making
  • building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector
  • making sure all mainstream agencies provide high quality services to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Mr Speaker, in days that some in this chamber will remember, the Government had absolute control over

Aboriginal people’s lives: where they could live, where they could travel, who they could marry.

Government files held details — often brutal in their brevity — that the people themselves were not allowed to know.

 

Mr Speaker, I have one such file with me.

A file of the Native Welfare Department. File 1690/68. The file is for a boy. A teenager.

In this file are notes about funding for school uniforms.

And there is a memo to the Commissioner of Native Welfare about whether the boy should be provided pocket money of 75 cents a week.

75 cents a week.

Bureaucrats making decisions for what they paternally called ‘a good type of lad’.

Think about a life where even the most basic decision making is stripped away from you – by governments thinking they know better.

Fortunately, that boy was bigger than the times, and I’m honoured that he now sits behind me as the Minister for Indigenous Australians.

He knows that responsibility and empowerment is freedom.

He is one of almost 800,000 Indigenous Australians — in the West, in the East, from Tasmania to the top end.

As I have stated, it is time we defined the gap we want to close from the viewpoint of our Indigenous Australians. They are the Australians who should be setting these goals.

Mr Speaker, a vital part of empowering Indigenous communities, is giving them the data and information to inform their decision making.

That’s why we’ve just committed $1.5 million to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data project.

It’s about supporting local decision-making, and it’s supporting the Coalition of Peaks in partnership with the Indigenous Data Network at the University of Melbourne, to develop regional profiles for Closing the Gap targets.

It will mean having richer and more localised data to inform programs designed by and for local communities.

And a commitment of states and territories, all governments, to report publicly on Closing the Gap into the future.

These new arrangements underpin the future of Closing the Gap.

One of the things we’ve learned from the last 12 years is that the way we deliver services matters as much as what’s delivered.

That’s why we changed the funding model for the Indigenous Australians Health Program.

The new design is focused on delivering primary health care that’s appropriate to the unique languages and cultures and circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I’m very hopeful that a new approach that’s more locally-led and more collaborative will take us much further than the top-down, one-size-fits-all, government-led approach ever could.

We know that when Indigenous people have a say in the design of programs, policies and services, the outcomes are better – and lives are changed.

For a young mother, it’s the difference between antenatal care that’s too far away or not culturally competent, and getting the care she needs from a local Indigenous service.

For a young child, it’s the difference between getting a patchy education and getting the right support to stay in school.

For a jobseeker, it’s the difference between giving up on getting a job, and finding a service provider that won’t give up on them.

For an older person with a chronic health problem, it’s the difference between missing treatment, and

turning up to a friendly face and a familiar touch, getting the care they need in the way they need it. That is our goal. Services that make a meaningful difference.

Last year, I said that we must make an impact on one really important area: and that’s in education.

You get the education right – skills, jobs, security, health, prosperity, and longevity all follow.

And it’s the area where, as I already noted, we’ve been seeing the most encouraging signs.

Think about those four-year-olds just starting early childhood education this year. On the very threshold of a whole life of learning.

In 2020, the Government has committed almost half a billion dollars to preschool education, so that every Australian child can have access to a quality early childhood programs in the year before school.

That includes every Indigenous child.

One program in particular is having an impact on helping those kids get that good start. The Connected Beginnings program is in 15 Indigenous communities across Australia.

In Alice Springs, it’s seen more kids actually enrolling in preschool – shifting from around half to three quarters.

In the Jordan River community, more Indigenous kids are participating in childcare and playgroups, and more are getting referrals to the health and specialist services they need.

In Doomadgee, teachers are seeing Year 1 students who are now much better prepared for school.

Together, we need to accelerate our efforts in these early years to make sure every Indigenous child across our country grows up safe, resilient and ready to thrive throughout life.

That is why I’ve asked the Minister for Indigenous Australians to lead the development of a national Indigenous early childhood strategy this year. To design a new way of working together to achieve our shared goal.

To prioritise these actions that matter most to parents and carers – the ones who live the experience. To partner with experts, families, frontline services and communities.

And to have a more coordinated effort across the Commonwealth and with our state and territory colleagues.

Mr Speaker, we are also seeing great connectedness between our universities and young Indigenous students.

For school-leavers in regional areas, it’s sometimes harder to see where the path leads next. It’s harder to go on to further study if that means uprooting everything you know and trust.

That’s why Regional University Centres are so important.

They help Indigenous students in regional places take on certificates and degrees through any Australian tertiary institution they choose.

In the Northern Territory, the Wuyagiba Bush Hub saw nine students successfully complete their university preparation course last year.

Five of them have been offered places at Macquarie Uni, and four at the Territory’s Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

In 2020, the Bush Hub is expanding its offerings so more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students can study on-country.

It’s run by the Wuyagiba Bush Hub Aboriginal Corporation, and I apologise if my pronunciation is inaccurate, together with a local elder and an academic from Macquarie. It’s a real success story.

Then there’s the Indigenous Student Success Program, giving nearly 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students access to scholarships, tutoring, mentoring and other cultural support to help them succeed at university.

With the support of this program, Griffith University in Queensland has helped more than 300 students get degrees in the last couple of years, and also supports about 160 regional and remote students to succeed.

We know that whatever we can do to get more kids in school, finishing school, and going on to further study – it all helps to set them on the path to a better life.

That path must lead to a job.

One of the success stories of recent years has been the Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy. This policy is about encouraging Indigenous entrepreneurship, and job producing businesses.

In 2018-19, Commonwealth portfolios and their major suppliers awarded contracts to 775 Indigenous businesses with a total value of $754 million dollars.

Since July 2015, the Indigenous Procurement Policy has seen $2.69 billion in contracts awarded to 1,842 Indigenous businesses.

This means more jobs, rising incomes and greater economic security for Indigenous communities.

From 1 July this year, we will introduce a target of three per cent of the value of Commonwealth contracts to be awarded to Indigenous businesses. This will add to the existing target of three per cent of the number of Commonwealth contracts that go to Indigenous businesses.

This is consistent with our belief that strong local economies always underpin local healthy communities.

It is economic opportunity and a culture of responsibility and empowerment that provide the foundation for the transformation of local communities.

Mr Speaker, sadly, in recent years, Indigenous youth suicide has taken so many young lives.

Indigenous young people are almost four times more likely than their non-Indigenous peers to take their own lives.

Tackling suicide – all suicides – is a national priority.

In tackling this national priority, we are using targeted strategies.

We have unveiled Australia’s largest ever Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention package.

Two of the 12 trials being funded are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people specifically.

In the last Budget, we committed $4.5 million for Indigenous leaders to work on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Plan.

A plan that recognises the value of community and provides services that are culturally safe and accessible, and are well connected to each other and the broader community.

Out of that came a body called Gayaa Dhuwi – “Proud of Spirit” – that will support Indigenous leadership in suicide prevention.

We are also working alongside community members in front-line services, who serve their communities selflessly, with strong and open hearts.

Rangers and Community Night Patrols. Indigenous liaison officers.

Indigenous doctors and nurses.

In the last three years, nearly 5,000 people in more than 180 regional and remote communities have completed Mental Health First Aid training, a program we expanded in the last Budget.

As well, 89 local people were supported to become accredited instructors so they can deliver that training.

We are making progress with solutions that empower, that are local and developed in partnership with Indigenous communities.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to be clear, as Prime Minister I respect their honest yearn for Constitutional Recognition.

In 2018, the Joint Select Committee into Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples delivered a bipartisan report.

Our Government adopted the four bi-partisan recommendations in this report. In particular, JSCCR Recommendation 1.

In order to design a voice that best meets the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Committee recommends a process of co-design between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and government be initiated in communities across Australia to design a voice that can help deliver practical outcomes for that community.

This is our Government’s policy.

It is clear from the Committee’s report that more work needs to be done on a voice proposal. The Government has always supported giving Indigenous people more of a say at the local level.

We support the process of co-design of the voice because if we are going to change the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on the ground, we need their buy-in to the matters and policies that affect them.

The Committee did not make recommendations as to the legal form of the Voice, constitutional or legislation.

It recommended considering this matter after the process of co-design is complete and that’s what we are doing. We support finalising co-design first.

We also support recommendations about truth telling.

Australians are interested in having a fuller understanding of their history. Both the history, traditions and also the culture of course of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and also contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Mr Speaker, well over half a century ago, Bill Wentworth, a man called by some an ‘incorrigible backbencher’ began to build the case for a national institute to capture Indigenous languages, art and culture, which he feared would be lost for all time. Ultimately that vision would become AIATSIS.

His belief was that a loss of Indigenous culture was a loss to us all, because Indigenous culture embodied our shared humanity.

In time, Bill Wentworth would become our first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

He had a belief that as Australians began to understand and embrace Indigenous culture and our Indigenous people, then we transform the way Indigenous people see themselves – and not only that, it transforms the way we see ourselves as a people who share this continent.

This goes to the heart of who we are.

In partnership with Indigenous Australians; with respect for their wisdom and capabilities; and appreciation for their grace towards their fellow Australians, we are beginning this next chapter in Closing the Gap.

To see the gap, to see the challenges, to see the opportunities, to understand the hope, to see the way, through Indigenous eyes.

A chapter which allows us to believe in a day when the Indigenous children of this land have the same opportunities as every other Australian child.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #ClosingtheGap debate : Professor Ian Ring  “  For actual progress to occur  I suggest 7 steps fundamental shifts in policy and practice  to turn around the efforts to #closethegap “

The good news is that the lack of progress in Closing the Gaps can be turned around, but this requires capitalising on the opportunities presented by the COAG partnership and a fundamental shift in the way programs are run.

I am encouraged that First Peoples and government are finally in the one forum where funding and policy can be aligned and jurisdictional and Indigenous responsibilities assigned and monitored – through the Partnership Agreement with the Coalition of Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Organisations and the Council of Australian Governments(COAG).

This is a historic development, but one which enables but does not necessarily, of itself, guarantee progress.

For actual progress to occur, there needs to be some fundamental shifts in policy and practice.

I suggest the following 7 steps to turn around the efforts to close of the gap “

Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc see full CV part 2 below : Original published ANTAR 

Read over 600 Aboriginal and Close the Gap articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

Noting the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver his governments Closing the Gap report Wednesday 12 February

Close the Gap, Coalition of Peaks and Closing the Gap what is the difference ?

Close the Gap is a public awareness campaign focused on closing the health gap. It’s run by numerous NGOs, Indigenous health bodies and human rights organisations.

The campaign was formally launched in 2007, after the release of the social justice report by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, Dr Tom Calma.

Close the Gap gained support from state and federal governments when the Council of Australian Governments (Coag) set two health aims among their six targets in 2008: achieving health equality within a generation and halving the gap in mortality rates for children under five within a decade.

In 2008 then prime minister Kevin Rudd and then opposition leader Brendan Nelson also signed the Close the Gap statement of intent.

The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body comprised of around fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations that have come together to be partners with Australian governments on closing the gap, a policy aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 2016, Australian governments wanted to refresh the closing the gap policy which had been in place for ten years.  During this refresh process, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations told governments that we needed to have a formal say on the design, implementation and evaluation of programs, services and policies that affect us.

In March 2019, the Coalition of Peaks entered an historic formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) which sets out shared decision making on Closing the Gap.

View the Coalition of Peaks Website HERE 

Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap is the name given to Coag’s 2008 national strategy to tackle Indigenous inequality, which includes the Indigenous Reform Agreement, a commitment to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a specific timeframe, with six key targets

View the latest Closing the Gap Website HERE

” Everyone deserves the right to a healthy future and the opportunities this affords.

However, many of Australia’s First Peoples are denied the same access to healthcare that non-Indigenous Australians take for granted.

Despite a decade of Government promises the gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is widening.

The Close the Gap Coalition — a grouping of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and community organisations — together with nearly 200,000 Australians are calling on governments to take real, measurable action to achieve Indigenous health equality by 2030.” 

National Close the Gap Day March 17 Campaign website

Ian Ring suggests the following 7 steps to turn around the efforts to close of the gap 

1.Target Setting

Firstly, target setting is not simply a process of setting out what results would be desirable but needs to take into account what actual services and resources would be required to achieve the targets – and how long it would take to both measure and achieve them. Targeting and budgeting must go hand in hand, and targeting without budgeting is simply a recipe for failure and disappointment.

2.Needs-Based Funding

Secondly, it is a cardinal principle behind government social policy that service provision should be related to need. For example, no one questions the fact that far more is spent on health care for the elderly than on the young who enjoy much better health.

However, while in broad terms the level of need for health care in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, based on the Burden of Disease studies is approximately 2.3 times higher than for the rest of the population, though the jurisdictions spend $2 approximately pc (87% of needs based requirements) on health for every $1 spent on the rest of the population, the Commonwealth only spends $1.21pc on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for every $1 spent on the rest of the population (barely half [53%] of the needs based requirements).

This is particularly important as the Commonwealth is largely responsible for the out-of-hospital services required to bring down preventable admissions and deaths. It is utopian and unrealistic to believe that gaps can be closed by spending relatively less on people with worse health.

This is not a plea for some kind of special deal for First Peoples but rather for a level of expenditure that anyone else of the population with equivalent need would receive.

Funds are required to address market failure, particularly with the underuse of Commonwealth funding schemes (MBS/PBS) and to fill current service gaps with services that work and particularly, services designed by and for Aboriginal people (ACCHS). Similar principles apply to other areas of government policy and service provision eg housing, education, welfare etc.

3.Focus on Services

Thirdly, there seems to be a widespread belief that targets are somehow self-fulfilling, that all that is required is to set targets, measure them and that somehow or other the targets can be achieved.

This is of course nonsense, but indicative of the need for skills training in health planning and related fields (see below). Having set targets, it is absolutely necessary to consider what services are required to achieve the targets, what services are available and what services are missing, and the investment required to fill the service gaps. For services that are available, it is fundamentally important to have evaluation as a mandatory routine to see if the services are accessible, and effective – and if not, why not, and then take the necessary management decisions to improve service delivery (see management below).

4.Training

There is clear evidence across a range of fields (health, education, housing, justice etc) that significant progress is possible using methods that are tried and tested.

But Aboriginal health and related issues are not so simple that anyone can tackle them effectively. They are complex and require considerable skills and service delivery experience for effectiveness.

Throwing staff in at the deep end is inefficient, and not fair either to the staff or to Indigenous people. Health planning, for example, is a defined skill and requires specific training and a manifest lack of planning skills lies at the heart of suboptimal service delivery A fundamental understanding of culture is an absolute necessity as is a very solid grounding in service delivery experience. The need for training extends right across the board and applies to clinicians, health service administrators  and public servants.

For each individual the question needs to be asked – what training does this person require in order to fulfil their role with maximum effectiveness? It is time for amateur hour to come to an end and for the development and implementation of a National Training Plan to ensure all involved are adequately equipped  for their individual roles – and it will not be possible to adequately realise on the investments involved in Indigenous service provision without appropriate staff training.

5.Management

For many, the concept of management is little better than sitting around and hoping that somehow, miraculously, next year’s results will be better. That is not how Gaps are Closed.

A formal, integrated, multilayered management system is required – supported by appropriate information and evaluation systems.

At the service delivery level there needs to be formal review processes, at least mid-year and annually, to consider both process and outcome measures in relation to the specified targets – with a timeframe that is based on trajectories which set out what results can and should be expected at different points of time.These measures need to be replicated at regional and jurisdictional levels in the context of a wider consideration of staffing, training and resourcing issues. At the national level the focus needs to be on both resourcing and policy issues. At every level, the question needs to be how well are we doing, and what needs to be done to achieve better results – and then to take the appropriate management decisions required to achieve the targets.

6.Continuous Quality Improvement

There is incontrovertible evidence that sizeable and rapid gains are possible in both chronic disease  and in the health of mothers and babies. But those gains require high quality services and are not achieved without proper systems for measuring, monitoring and improving the quality of services.

Such approaches are standard throughout industry and need to be a formal component of health service delivery and other areas of social policy. CQI processes have been used for some services but need to be mandated and funded as a national requirement so that everyone involved in Indigenous service provision lives and breathes service quality enhancement and participates in the formal processes involved.

7.Learning from national and international experience

There are many fine examples of Indigenous Health service delivery – and some of the best health services in the country are provided by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

The Institute of Urban Indigenous Health in South-East QLD (IUIH) is an outstanding example of how to integrate Primary Health Care services, both Indigenous and mainstream, under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. in achieving the desired results in term of Closing the Gap.

It is just one of a number of examples around the country, but such examples need to become systematic, comprehensive and national throughout Australia. There are similar examples of services for mothers and babies which reduce low birth weight rates and lower perinatal mortality. In the important field of chronic disease, it has been demonstrated that systematic application of current knowledge can achieve dramatic reductions in mortality in short time periods.  We know what to do, have shown that impressive results can be achieved but nationally, progress in both child health and chronic disease falls a long way short of what is required. There needs to be formal support programs, to replicate successful models of these services, adapted as needed to meet local needs, right throughout Australia.

Similarly, successful programs like Housing for Health, developed for the Commonwealth (and subsequently dropped [!] but picked up by the NSW government) have improved housing and consequently health, and doing so by training and employing local Aboriginal people. It beggars belief that programs of such obvious worth are not universally delivered across Australia, and that needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

In other fields, child development and justice reinvestment programs have been shown to be effective and cost effective, both in Australia and overseas, but implemented on a piecemeal and patchy basis in Australia. That cannot continue.

Government budgets tend to focus on outlays rather than investment – and more importantly, return on investment. This is inefficient and, in the end, wasteful. The recent NZ Wellbeing budget shows a different approach and needs careful consideration.

Conclusion

None of the measures above are radical or untested or impossible to implement. Indeed, they are standard throughout much of the world. Not implementing them has proved costly in terms of poor results and suboptimal returns on investment.

The time for amateurism is over and Australia needs to lift its game. and these standard measures, under First Peoples leadership, and in the context of the COAG partnership, we can make a significant contribution to the achievement of Australia’s national Goals to Close the Gap.

The Gaps can and should be closed – but not by fine words and good intentions.

Much progress is possible in relatively short periods of time and Australia could and should be the world leader in Indigenous affairs.

Part 2 Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc

Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc is a Professorial Visiting Fellow, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Adjunct Professor in the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, James Cook University and Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Research and Innovation Division at Wollongong University.

He was previously Head of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University, Principal Medical Epidemiologist and Executive Director, Health Information Branch, at Queensland Health, and Foundation Director of the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University.

He has been a Member of the Board of the Australian Institute of Health, Member of the Council of the Public Health Association and the Australian Epidemiological Association.

He is an Expert Advisor to the Close the Gap Steering Committee and a member of the International Indigenous Health Measurement Group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Demographic Statistics Expert Advisory Group, Scientific Reference Group Indigenous Clearinghouse, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet Advisory Board, and AMA Taskforce on Indigenous Health.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingtheGap : ” Its time governments front up to their failure to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ” Pat Turner Coalition of Peaks.

“A core tenet of Australia’s modern national identity is belief in a fair go. Yet the promise of a fair go is not a reality for everyone in this country.

The difference in the life outcomes of First Nations people compared with the rest of Australia is stark.

There is more than just a gap; it is a chasm, a gaping wound on the soul of our nation. Collectively, we need to call this out, be truthful about the failure of governments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that we can chart a new and honest way forward.” 

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.( and CEO NACCHO )

Published in The Australian 10 February

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

Noting the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver his governments Closing the Gap report Wednesday 12 February

A decade ago, governments committed themselves to closing this gap but year after year the serving prime minister has stood up in parliament seemingly contented with the reported failures.

Governments have misled the public by painting the lack of progress on the targets as something outside their control, instead of something that is a direct result of their policy failings. Busy talking up the steps they were taking to close the gap, at the same time governments have been ripping funding from dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services and silencing our voices.

Isolated case studies of “success” are used to project a sense of change across the nation, when the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continues to experience poor life outcomes and hardship in their daily lives.

It’s no wonder then that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lost faith in the Closing the Gap framework — it has failed to deliver meaningful change and was designed without their formal involvement.

This cycle of failure is toxic. It breeds cynicism and complacency, with nobody wanting to take ownership. Enough is enough. It is time to end the cycle with a serious circuit-breaker.

That’s why a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together late in 2018 and wrote to the then prime minister, premiers and chief ministers rejecting the “Refresh” and calling for a genuinely new approach.

The Council of Australian Governments had already started work on a new Closing the Gap framework for the next decade, using the same doomed processes they have always used.

A lot of ground has been broken over the past year that could help put this cycle of failure to bed. We have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian parliaments than ever before, an Aboriginal Treasurer in Western Australia, Aboriginal ministers in the Northern Territory, a federal Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians who is a member of cabinet, and an Aboriginal Labor spokeswoman for indigenous Australians.

And we finally have a formal structure that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders of community-controlled organisations at the negotiating table with governments on Closing the Gap.

With the leadership of Scott Morrison, a formal partnership agreement was signed in March last year by COAG and our group of community-controlled peak organisations, collectively called the Coalition of Peaks. This historic partnership gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people shared decision-making power with governments to develop, implement, monitor and review Closing the Gap policies for the next 10 years.

Never have leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak bodies from across the country come together in this way: to bring their collective expertise, experiences and deep understanding of the needs of our people to the task of closing the gap; and never has there been this level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in parliaments and government decision-making positions. However, today is not a day for celebration. Having a position in cabinet or a seat at the negotiating table is not the end game. We should not be judged on the accumulation of power but what we achieve with that power.

The members of the Coalition of Peaks are living up to their side of the agreement, fiercely representing the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on what is needed to close the gap, and proposing policies we call the Priority Reforms that, if fully implemented, will lead to improvements in our people’s lives.

What we heard overwhelmingly through our comprehensive community engagement process is that structural reform based on the Priority Reforms is far more critical than targets. We must ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision-making at national, state, local and regional levels.

We must also support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to control and deliver the programs and services our communities need. And finally, we need Australian governments to contribute through structural changes to mainstream and government-funded services, such as universities, hospitals and policing and courts.

Governments say they are listening and support the Priority Reforms. But listening is more than a nod of the head; it requires the Priority Reforms to be translated into tangible, properly funded actions that deliver real benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people no matter where they live. The current cycle of failure is doomed to continue if this process of engagement and partnership is nothing more than window dressing for the status quo.

The only way outcomes for my people will change is when governments are willing to challenge the structures and assumptions that got us here and embedded the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Change is never easy but with the right leadership it is possible. So if our leaders step up and deliver, we may finally begin a new cycle of success and a fair go for First Nations people.

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.

Aboriginal Health #UluruStatement , #Referendum and #ClosingTheGap : Our mob should seek a constitutionally guaranteed #voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap.

” In the Indigenous recognition debate, constitutional symbolism would become the common enemy of indigenous advocates, who have consistently pushed for substantive and empowering constitutional reform over symbolism, and constitutional conservatives, who seek to uphold the Constitution and protect it from legal uncertainty.

Ken Wyatt should understand, however, that with the right proposal, these two groups can become proponents of sensible constitutional reform that empowers indigenous voices and upholds the Constitution.

Indigenous people would oppose a merely symbolic amendment because, as the Uluru Statement makes clear, they seek empowering structural reform to improve practical outcomes.

They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap. “

Dr Shireen Morris is a constitutional lawyer, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School and senior adviser to the Cape York Institute. Her book, A First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution (Hart), is out in July.

Originally published in the Australian 7 February

Read all Aboriginal Health , Referendum and Uluru Statement articles published by NACCHO

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

The Minister for Indigenous Australians should recall the lessons of the failed republic referendum of 1999, lest he inadvertently steer indigenous recognition towards similar doom. Australians vote ‘‘yes’’ for practical reform, not token symbolism.

The lessons of 1999 are twofold. The republic debate showed how habitual opponents can become unexpected allies to defeat a referendum proposal. During that campaign, the direct electionists joined forces with the monarchists to successfully oppose a republic. People who might ordinarily disagree can unite against a common enemy in a referendum campaign.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to address indigenous suicide, indicating a preference for the practical. On this he will find common ground with indigenous Australians. As the Uluru Statement indicates, indigenous people want better outcomes in incarceration, child removal and the economic and cultural futures of their children. They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice because they want to work in permanent partnership with government to improve practical outcomes in indigenous affairs.

If Wyatt hopes that indigenous people may be appeased by a legislated voice and will therefore accept a symbolic amendment of no operational effect — this is unlikely. Indigenous people have had legislated bodies in the past. ATSIC was short-lived and many remember the lessons of this history. Legislation alone cannot create a permanent partnership.

Constitutional conservatives will also oppose the insertion of symbolic words because they view the Constitution as a rule book — a practical and pragmatic charter of government and an inappropriate place for poetic statements, which may be interpreted in unexpected ways by the High Court. Constitutional conservatives have run many well organised ‘‘no’’ campaigns in the past and would do so again to uphold the Constitution and prevent uncertainty.

Australians, too, will likely reject a merely symbolic insertion. They have before. History demonstrates that voters favour practical reform over symbolic words. Of the eight (out of 44) referendums that have succeeded, none has been merely symbolic. All have fixed practical problems.

Why would Australians support a recognition proposal that indigenous people have rejected, which constitutional conservatives warn against, and which does nothing to practically improve indigenous policy?

Government should heed the second lesson on 1999: the failed preamble, which incorporated some lines of indigenous recognition. A purely symbolic proposal. Many indigenous people opposed it and only 39.34 per cent of Australians voted ‘‘yes’’.

It was an abysmal failure. By steering the nation towards a merely symbolic change, government is veering towards a repeat of 1999. The proposal would be pincered by indigenous opposition on the one hand and constitutionally conservative opposition on the other.

Both parties would be right: the Constitution is not the place for symbolic words. It is the place for practical reform and enduring guarantees. It is the place for a modest constitutional guarantee that indigenous people will always be heard in decisions made about them.

Properly executed, it would turn united opposition of indigenous people and constitutional conservatives into united support. Let us not forget, the concept of an indigenous constitutional voice was devised by indigenous leaders in collaboration with constitutional conservatives.

The conservative organisation Uphold & Recognise was born from the collaboration.

Indigenous people have clearly stated they want a constitutional voice in their affairs. Constitutional conservatives like former Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, federal MP Julian Leeser, senator Andrew Bragg, and professors Greg Craven and Anne Twomey have shown how this could be achieved in a way that upholds the Constitution.

Right-leaning commentators like Jeff Kennett, Chris Kenny and Alan Jones have backed the concept. Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd declared a ‘‘unity ticket’’ with Jones.

The continued pursuit of the balanced, radical centre is the way to win a referendum, not the pursuit of symbolism. Success will come through careful listening and negotiation between black and white, across left and right.

There is a need to heed government’s concerns, but government must equally heed indigenous aspirations for substantive constitutional change.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert :  Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP hosts historic meeting with the Coalition of Peaks on #ClosingtheGap

“ I’ve just come from a meeting with the Coalition of Indigenous Peak Bodies, led by Pat Turner. 

And I want to thank Pat and all of those who were able to join me there for what has been a very important meeting as to how we’re continuing to work together to close the gap.

The big change that has been occurring in policy and outcomes that we’re working to, for indigenous Australians is they are now looking at this gap from the perspective of indigenous Australians, not from the perspective of governments, but listening to indigenous Australians about those gaps, where they are, how wide they are, and the policies and the responses that are needed from the perspective of indigenous Australians and the coalition of indigenous peak groups has been invaluable in their partnership with us to go about that work

And that work will go forward to the Council of Australian Governments.

We are working with indigenous Australians all across the country, but it was a very productive meeting and there were particular initiatives about data collection, but also in the area of early childhood education. There were discussions around issues of housing.

It was a very comprehensive meeting.

And again, I want to thank Pat Turner for her tremendous leadership in the way we have been completely turning around, the way we are approaching this issue of closing the gap and ensuring that we’re doing it from the perspective of indigenous Australians, from their view, how they’re looking at those gaps and how we can overcome them.

Part 1 : Prime Minister Scott Morrison Press Conference Parliament House 23 January broadcast live ABC TV and Sky News : See full PMC communique Part 3

Read Download full transcript of the Prime Minsters opening remarks at the meeting

Today the Prime Minister and Ministers heard the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country on what is needed to close the gap.

The Prime Minister is listening to those voices and supports the new National Agreement being built around the Priority Reforms.

It was also great to see the Prime Minister responding immediately with concrete actions that will contribute to the success of our Priority Reforms.

This historic meeting represents a significant step forward under the new formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on closing the gap where decision making is shared, and the expertise and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is fully recognised.

We look forward to positive engagements with other Australian governments over the coming months as the new Agreement is finalised.”

Part 2 : Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council. See recently released 8 Page Snapshot report Part 4 below 

Read all previous NACCHO Coalition of Peaks articles

Read Download the Coalition of Peaks full Press Release Here

The meeting comes after the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed in March 2019 by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks where for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their community controlled representatives, and Australian governments share decision making on Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks acknowledged the Prime Minister’s leadership on the development of the Partnership Agreement.

The meeting discussed the Priority Reforms, agreed in-principle by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap in August 2019, to be included in the new National Agreement.

The Priority Reforms that were put forward by the Coalition of Peaks to Australian governments to be included in the National Agreement to change the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and accelerate progress on closing the gap:

Priority Reform 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;

Priority Reform 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

Priority Reform 3: Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The Prime Minister committed $1.5 million for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data project to develop regional profiles of Closing the Gap targets, Priority Reforms, and other community priorities to support regional decision making between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Australian governments.

This project will be led by the Coalition of Peaks in partnership with the Indigenous Data Network and form of delivering on the new Priority Reform Four.

Part 3 Read Download the meeting communique

Part 4 Read Download the recently released 8 page Coalition of Peaks Snapshot 2020

Coalition-of-Peaks-engagement-snapshot-6

NACCHO #HaveYourSayCTG about #closingthegap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth health : #NACCHOYouth19 Registrations Close Oct 20 @RACGP Doctor :Routine health assessments co-created with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may soon be adopted by general practice.

Part 1 : Research project ‘Developing, implementing, and testing a co-created health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in primary care’

Part 2 : Registrations close 20 October for the NACCHO Youth Conference Darwin 4 November 

Part 3 : If you cannot get to Darwin  you can still have your say about what is needed to make real change in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth

‘General practice needs to think more carefully about the issues facing young people as a distinct group. Better understanding has to start with asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about important health priorities, and then listening carefully to the responses.

Once we have listened to community voices on health priorities and co-created the young person’s health assessment, we intend to conduct a pilot randomised trial of the new health assessment looking at outcomes including social and emotional wellbeing, detection of psychological distress and appropriate management and referrals.” 

Dr Geoffrey Spurling first had the idea for his research project ‘Developing, implementing, and testing a co-created health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in primary care’ during a moving experience not so long ago, when he attended the funeral of a young Aboriginal woman who had committed suicide. See Part 1

The project was originally published in the RACGP News GP

Read all NACCHO Youth Articles HERE 

Part 1 ‘Developing, implementing, and testing a co-created health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in primary care’. Continued from intro above

‘It was a profoundly sad experience,’ Dr Spurling told newsGP.

‘At the same time, community members were telling me that social and emotional wellbeing, especially for young people, was a health priority.

‘I wanted to do what I could with my medical and research skills to understand and help address the social and emotional wellbeing issues facing the community.’

It was here that his research project began to take shape.

Dr Spurling, a GP at Inala Indigenous Health Service and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland, was recently granted funds from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to develop his project, ‘Developing, implementing, and testing a co-created health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in primary care’.

Through collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members, this research aims to develop and implement a health check especially tailored for young people in these communities.

Current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medicare health assessments involving adolescents are constructed for 5–14-year-olds and 15–54-year-olds. Dr Spurling believes more focus is needed on the health of young people within the second age group, and a specific health assessment should be implemented.

Following development of the tailored health assessments, Dr Spurling and his team intend to conduct a trial comparing the new health check with the current one available in clinical software, aiming to show better detection and management of social and emotional wellbeing concerns.

‘By creating a youth health assessment together with both young people and clinicians, I hope we can have more relevant conversations about health in general practice within both the specific context of the newly developed young person’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessment, and more broadly in general practice.’

The National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recommends the Social Emotional Wellbeing (SEW) and HEEADSSS screening tools as part of health assessments for young people.

Investigator Grants is the NHMRC’s largest funding scheme, with a 40% allocation from the Medical Research Endowment Account. The scheme’s objective is to support the research of outstanding investigators at all career stages, providing five-year funding security for high-performing researchers through its salary and research support packages. The 2019 Investigator Grants funding totals $365.8 million.

Part 2 NACCHO Youth Conference Darwin 4 November 

 ” Culturally-appropriate care and safety has a vast role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of our people.

In this respect, I want to make special mention of the proven record of the Aboriginal Community Health Organisations in increasing the health and wellbeing of First Peoples by delivering culturally competent care.

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

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

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

Minister Ken Wyatt launching AIHW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 report at NACCHO Conference 31 October attended by over 500 ACCHO delegates including 75 ACCHO Youth delegates Pictured above 

Read Download Report HERE

The central focus of the NACCHO Youth Conference Healthy youth, healthy future is on building resilience. For thousands of years our Ancestors have shown great resolve thriving on this vast continent.

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who make up 54% of our population, now look to the example set by generations past and present to navigate ever-changing and complex social and health issues.

Healthy youth, healthy future provides us with opportunities to explore and discuss issues of importance to us, our families and communities, and to take further steps toward becoming tomorrow’s leaders.

We hope to see you there!

Registrations CLOSE 20 October 

Registrations are now open for the 2019 NACCHO Youth Conference, which will be held November 4th in Darwin at the Darwin Convention Centre

REGISTER HERE

Part 3 Have your say about what is needed to make real change in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth #HaveYourSay about #closingthegapCTG

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what works best for us.

We need to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth voices are reflected and expertise is recognised in every way at every step on efforts to close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.’

‘The Coalition of Peaks is leading the face to face discussions, not governments.

The Peaks are asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to tell us what should be included in a new Closing the Gap agreement and we will take this to the negotiating table.’

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

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

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

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

https://www.naccho.org.au/programmes/coalition-of-peaks/have-your-say/

The Coalition of Peaks will be leading #HaveYourSayCTG meetings with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations on #ClosingtheGap during the month of October.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what works best for us.

We need to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are reflected and expertise is recognised in every way at every step on efforts to close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.’

‘The Coalition of Peaks is leading the face to face discussions, not governments.

The Peaks are asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to tell us what should be included in a new Closing the Gap agreement and we will take this to the negotiating table.’

Acting Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks and Chairperson of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Katrina Fanning, said we must ensure the community’s voice is truly heard and understood.

NACCHO will be updating all states and territories meeting locations and times each Tuesday ( NACCHO Save a date ) and Friday ( NACCHO Good News  )

The Coalition of Peaks are leading face to face meetings with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations on Closing the Gap during the month of October.

The meetings provide an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in each state and territory to tell the Coalition of Peaks and governments what changes are needed to improve their lives.

The Coalition of Peaks is working with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to develop a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap for the next ten years and wants to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country can have a say about what should be included in it.

The Coalition of Peaks is made up of around forty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations who have come together to negotiate a new Closing the Gap agreement with governments.

The Peaks are committed to representing the views of their membership and the communities who elected them in negotiations with government.

The face to face discussions are part of comprehensive set of engagements which also includes an online survey and Peak consultations with its own membership.

The online survey is open until 25 October 2019.

A report on the engagements will be prepared by the Coalition of Peaks, to be provided to governments and made public.

The report will inform the finalisation the new National Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG.

October Engagement Meetings:

South Australia

2 October – Adelaide

15 October – Ceduna

18 October – Port Augusta

23 October – Mount Gambier

 

Tasmania

11 October – Launceston

 

Western Australia

14 October – Broome

17 October – Geraldton

21 October – Kalgoorlie

23 October – Port Headland

28 October – Perth

30 October – Narrogin

 

Australian Capital Territory

17 October – Canberra

28 October – Canberra

Victoria

15 October – Melbourne

16 October – Bendigo

17 October – Morwell

See update below for details

New South Wales

21 October – Sydney

 All NSW Regional see below

Northern Territory

4 October – Katherine

11 October – Yirrkala

30 October – Darwin

 

National

23 and 24 October – Canberra

 

Note: Each jurisdiction has structured the events differently, some opting for fewer large events and some opting for a larger number of smaller events.

Dates and locations for Queensland will be finalised soon.

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

VIC Update

There will be three meetings held across Victoria, details are below.

Website RSVP 

City Date Venue Time
Bendigo Monday 14 October Comfort Inn Julie Anna, 268/276 Napier Street 12PM – 4PM
Melbourne Tuesday 15 October Mantra Bell City, 215 Bell Street, Preston 12PM – 4PM
Morwell Thursday 17 October Gathering Place, 99 Buckley Street 12PM – 4PM

NSW Update 

The NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO) of which NSW Aboriginal Land Council is a member, are leading the Closing the Gap engagements across the state.

28 consultations will be taking place during the month of October and early November. The consultations are an opportunity for communities to have their say on Closing the Gap.

The 2019 Closing the Gap consultation will see a new way of doing business, with a focus on community consultations. NSW is embarking on the largest number of membership consultations, more than any other state or territory, with an emphasis on hearing your views about what is needed to make the lives of Aboriginal people better.

Your voices will formulate the NSW submission to the new National Agreement. By talking to Aboriginal people, communities and organisations, CAPO can form a consensus on priority areas from NSW when finalising the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap with governments.

The discussion booklet: ‘A new way of doing business’ provides background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be discussed at the consultations.

The consultations are being supported by the NSW Government.

Come along and join in the conversation. The dates and locations are:

Route 1
Albury Monday 14th Oct
Deniliquin Tuesday 15th Oct
Balranald Wednesday 16th Oct
Griffith Thursday 17th Oct

Route 2
Wagga Wagga Tuesday 15th Oct
Young Wednesday 16th Oct
Queanbeyan Thursday 17th Oct
Batemans Bay Friday 18th Oct

Route 3
Dubbo Tuesday 22nd Oct
Condobolin Wednesday 23rd Oct
Cobar Thursday 24th Oct
Bourke Friday 25th Oct

Route 4
Newcastle Tuesday 22nd Oct
Central Coast Wednesday 23rd Oct
Muswellbrook Thursday 24th Oct
Tamworth Friday 25th Oct

Route 5
Broken Hill Tuesday 29th Oct
Wilcannia Wednesday 30th Oct
Menindee Thursday 31st Oct
Dareton Friday 1st Nov

Route 6
Lismore Monday 28th Oct
Coffs Harbour Tuesday 29th Oct
Kempsey Wednesday 30th Oct

Route 7
Redfern Monday 4th Nov
Mount Druitt Tuesday 5th Nov
Bathurst Thursday 7th Nov

Route 8
Moree Tuesday 5th Nov
Walgett Wednesday 6th Nov

To register your attendance at Routes 1 and 2, please do so via Eventbrite:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/o/nsw-coalition-of-aboriginal-peak-organisations-16575398239.

Routes 3 to 8 will follow shortly.

Consultations will run from 11am – 3pm with lunch provided.

If you are unable to make the consultations, you can still have your say through an online survey. The survey closes on 25 October, 5pm.

For more information on the Closing the Gap consultations: https://www.aecg.nsw.edu.au/close-the-gap/

NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO)

NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)
NSW/ACT Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS)
Link Up (NSW) Aboriginal Corporation (Link-Up)
NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (NSW AECG)
NSW Child, Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation (AbSec)
First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN)

NSW CAPO is co-chaired by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. NSW CAPO member organisations are non-government Aboriginal peak bodies with boards that are elected by Aboriginal communities and/or organisations which are accountable to their membership.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and our Workforce #IAHAConf19 #ClosingTheGap : Read John Paterson’s CEO @AMSANTaus Keynote Speech :The importance of collaboration , partnerships and the role of leadership vital in supporting and expanding our Aboriginal health workforce.

 

” Allied health professionals play a very important role in the health system and our services increasingly employ a range of allied health professionals as part of providing holistic, comprehensive primary health care: podiatrists, diabetes educators, dieticians, optometrists, audiologists, dental workers and physiotherapists.

Some areas have received increasing recognition and associated resourcing. For example, better understanding of the issues associated with social and emotional wellbeing, the impact of trauma and the need to address the tragic loss of so many of our people to suicide, has resulted in increased resourcing and employment of allied health professionals, particularly within the multi-disciplinary teams of our health services.

IAHA’s role, as is AMSANT’s, is to build our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce that is critical to improving health outcomes.”

John Paterson CEO AMSANT Keynote Speech IAHA Conference Darwin 25 September

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners on whose land we gather upon today, the Larrakia people – and to honour their leaders past, present and emerging.

My name is John Paterson and I am the Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT, or more commonly known as AMSANT. AMSANT is the peak body for Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) in the Northern Territory and we are an affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, NACCHO. We provide a range of support to our members including workforce, public health, policy, digital health, continuous quality improvement and trauma informed care.

I’d like to thank the Indigenous Allied Health Association for inviting me to present this morning at this important conference.

I’d also like to acknowledge my colleague, Donna Ah Chee, who gave an inspiring keynote speech yesterday.  In her presentation, Donna outlined the characteristics and importance of the comprehensive model of primary health care, delivered through Aboriginal community controlled health services, and so I won’t go over the same ground here today.

Instead I’d like to focus on the importance of collaboration and partnership that in many ways have come to define the way we work in Aboriginal health; and also to reflect on the role of leadership that is so vital in supporting and expanding our Aboriginal health workforce.

Can I firstly congratulate IAHA on celebrating their first 10 years—hopefully the first decade of many more to come—and to acknowledge their hard work across the nation to build and support quality Indigenous Allied Health professionals for our mob.

I would also like to acknowledge IAHA’s CEO, Donna Murray, their board and its members for the hard work you continue to do to build IAHA to where it is today.  We look forward to seeing where your future takes you.

We know how important it is to have our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national and peak organisations to advocate for our mob. We have to be there, in the tent, at the negotiating table, making our case.

And we’ve got to be working together.

One of my other hats is as one of the governing group of CEOs of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, or APO NT, along with the CEOs of the Northern Land Council and Central Land Council. The APO NT alliance was formed in 2010 to provide coordinated Aboriginal leadership in the Territory in the wake of the NT Intervention, although we have also worked effectively at the national level.

APO NT is a member of the National Indigenous Coalition of Peaks, within which IAHA is also represented as a member. The work of the Coalition of Peaks and the outcomes we are achieving in relation to a renegotiation of Closing the Gap is an important example of why working together in partnership is so vital to the future of Aboriginal health. This is a theme I will return to later in my presentation.

The other critical element, of course, is the frontline workers at the health service and community levels, who care for our mob.  I want to acknowledge and thank all of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Allied Health Professionals and students in the room today and across the nation who do such an exceptional job in their chosen fields to help make a difference in health.

Find a a job in an ACCHO with NACCHO Job Alerts

You are an essential part of the health system and we thank you for your tireless efforts in everything that you do.

Allied health professionals play a very important role in the health system and our services increasingly employ a range of allied health professionals as part of providing holistic, comprehensive primary health care: podiatrists, diabetes educators, dieticians, optometrists, audiologists, dental workers and physiotherapists.

Some areas have received increasing recognition and associated resourcing. For example, better understanding of the issues associated with social and emotional wellbeing, the impact of trauma and the need to address the tragic loss of so many of our people to suicide, has resulted in increased resourcing and employment of allied health professionals, particularly within the multi-disciplinary teams of our health services.

IAHA’s role, as is AMSANT’s, is to build our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce that is critical to improving health outcomes.

The untapped potential is huge. Collectively, the Aboriginal community controlled health sector employs about 6,000 staff, 56 per cent whom are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This makes us the single largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country.

But there is still such a long way to go.

One of the areas requiring attention is the need to be advocating for more allied health positions within our sector. Many Aboriginal community controlled health services are not sufficiently funded to employ the multi-disciplinary workforce required to deliver the full range of core comprehensive primary health care services. Expanding and increasing the resourcing of Aboriginal community-controlled comprehensive primary health care services is a key strategy in developing our Indigenous workforce, particularly in allied health positions.

Further potential is provided by the opportunities to expand services in regional and remote areas in aged care and through the NDIS.

The lack of aged care and disability services in regional and remote areas is a major problem that needs to be addressed in ways that take account of the lack of economies of scale and difficulty in attracting health professionals to such areas, as well the need for culturally responsive service delivery. This requires consideration of regional hub models and opportunities for joint initiatives in workforce development, capacity building and the employment of specialist and other allied health professionals.

Some ACCHSs already provide aged care and disability services, sometimes by default due to the failure or lack of service providers. There is further potential for ACCHSs to employ staff who can provide aged care and disability services.

Our vision is for people with disabilities in remote and regional areas to be able to access the services they need and to lead active and fulfilling lives. And for our old people to be able to live out their days in dignity on country and pass away surrounded by family.

We have such a long way to go to achieve this vision and we hope that the current Royal Commissions into these areas will provide a catalyst for action.

Increasingly, building our Indigenous workforce requires collaboration between providers and sectors. AMSANT works in collaboration with a wide range of key stakeholders to create career opportunities for our next generation coming through, and to build initiatives and opportunities for our existing Aboriginal health workforce in developing career pathways, whether it be as community workers, health workers or in management.

An important initiative for AMSANT has been our involvement in the Lowitja Institute-funded Career Pathways Project. This is an Aboriginal-led national research project to provide insights and guidance to enhance the capacity of the health system to retain and support the development and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce. The project partners include Aboriginal health services in NSW and the NT along with university and peak organisation partners.

This project was important to us. We wanted to give our Aboriginal health professionals a voice that was evidence-based. To be able to provide solutions from the ground up that we could advocate for at local, regional and national platforms. To demonstrate with evidence where the need for investment is and emphasise how critical our Aboriginal health workforce is to improve health outcomes for our mob.

Other significant collaborations include working with Indigenous workforce bodies, such as IAHA and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association, or NATSIHWA, on expanding Indigenous workforce in key areas.

You may have heard yesterday that AMSANT has been working in partnership with IAHA for the past 2-3 years to develop and implement a VET in schools pathway for high school students here in Darwin. This will provide students an opportunity to gain a qualification in allied health support and consider a career in health.

This has been a priority for AMSANT for many years, to source opportunities in many health disciplines for the next generation of our kids to start a journey in health. We have known for too long here in the NT that there are simply not enough opportunities for our kids to start that journey. A journey that is supported, nurtured and led by the Aboriginal health sector.

We have also successfully advocated alongside IAHA and other key organisations to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) at a meeting in Alice Springs, for the development of an Aboriginal health workforce plan.

The important message from this is that we can’t do workforce strategy, or broader health strategy for that matter, alone.

Partnerships are vital. We need them to help bridge the gap between the too-often siloed mentality of governments and funders and the reality that health is holistic and demands focus on the big picture.

Partnerships enable us to work together to push the health agenda and encourage investment in the areas our communities so desperately need.

This means following the evidence and advocating on it.

For example, it’s now commonly understood that health services only account for approximately a third of health outcomes, with the other two thirds accounted for by the social and cultural determinants of health.

Increasingly, AMSANT’s partnerships have focused on health determinants, following the evidence and responding to the issues raised by our membership and the community. Our sector’s model of comprehensive primary health care encourages cross sectoral action on the social determinants.

Housing has been at the forefront of community concern, with high levels of overcrowded and inadequate housing and homelessness. We know the health and wellbeing impacts that poor housing and homelessness causes. This includes impacts on the Aboriginal health workforce who struggle with living in inadequate or overcrowded houses while maintaining their responsibilities to their work in health. Strong Aboriginal advocacy on housing is needed.

As a member of APO NT, AMSANT has contributed to the development of a Northern Territory Aboriginal peak housing body, Aboriginal Housing NT or AHNT. The new body will provide a strong Aboriginal voice on housing as well as a mechanism for government to engage with in increasing the involvement of Aboriginal organisations in housing provision and management.

I use this example to illustrate the importance of taking a role in advocating on the social determinants as a means of improving health outcomes as opposed to focusing exclusively on health service or disease specific strategies.

However, it also illustrates the point that I began this presentation with—the importance of Aboriginal leadership and having our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to advocate for our mob and to deliver services to our communities that are culturally responsive and effective.

I want to return briefly to my earlier mention of Closing the Gap and the membership of APO NT and IAHA as members of the National Indigenous Coalition of Peaks.

 

The Coalition of Peaks emerged as a result of a group of national Indigenous organisations writing to the Prime Minister in relation to the exclusion of our mob from the decision-making process for the Closing the Gap Refresh.

After ten years of failed progress under Closing the Gap we weren’t about to submit to another top-down, government-imposed process on our communities.

The letter sparked a meeting with the Prime Minister and subsequently, negotiations with the Council of Australian Governments, or COAG, that have resulted in 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 Council member—the first time that a non-governmental body has been represented within a COAG structure.

Importantly, the central ask of the Coalition of Peaks, is not around 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 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.

We are also calling for the new Closing the Gap strategy to be properly funded, at least matching the ten-year funding of the original Closing the Gap.

The potential for this new national partnership with government is that support for the expansion of the Aboriginal community controlled service delivery sector and with it the Indigenous health workforce could be a game-changer.

While nothing is certain in this world, this is one development that gives me real hope that fundamental change is possible.

Have Your Say SURVEY HERE

And it started with Aboriginal leadership.

Of course, Aboriginal leadership is just as important at the sector and service level if we are to be true to our commitment to the aspirations and standards of community control.

AMSANT has been committed to building leadership capacity within the health sector in the NT and has been delivering leadership workshops for over 11 years now. We have recently developed a formal partnership with the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre which will further build our capacity in leadership support within the NT. We look forward to seeing this partnership develop and deliver for our sector.

We especially need to acknowledge our elders—our leaders and mentors who have or still work tirelessly to keep doing what they do to give our communities the best possible chance of improving health outcomes. Too often they are the unsung heroes that have paved the way for the next generations to keep building on the hard work that’s been done.

Leadership is vital at every level, not least in supporting our Aboriginal workforce. We know the many challenges that our workforce face, dealing with burnout, the vicarious trauma they experience, as well as day to day stress—and we know that we have to have in place effective strategies to support them. We know there is much still to do in supporting career pathways. And we know that there are many issues of equity, such as addressing the lack of housing for local workers.

The Aboriginal health sectors and its workforce has decades of knowledge, know-how and lived experience to know what we need by way of services and ways to improve health outcomes.

AMSANT recently celebrated our 25th anniversary and our oldest member service, the Central Australia Aboriginal Congress, has now been in existence for 45 years. They, along with other pioneers such as the Redfern Medical Service, paved the way for the more than 150 Aboriginal community controlled health services that are currently working for our communities across the country.

Here in the Territory, AMSANT is a member of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum along with the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments, and the NT Primary Health Network. The Forum is a high level Aboriginal health planning body that assures us a seat at the table.

Our sector today continues the mission it took on 45 years ago to provide Aboriginal community controlled holistic, comprehensive primary health care to our people. We have continued to grow our place in the health system, currently providing around two thirds of all primary health care services to our communities. And we are supported to continue to transfer government run services to community control over time.

I hope that the students amongst the audience today can take encouragement from this history of our sector, that you have a secure future in Aboriginal health and that you have a welcome place in our services.

Believe me, as a former bureaucrat and ATSIC Commissioner, there is not much that survives the relentlessly changing priorities of government. That we continue to prevail is a true success story!

And I hope you can take the courage to dream big as our leaders did all those years ago.

Today we have a new vision to follow: the Uluru Statement from the Heart, adopted by the First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017.

Treaty, truth, voice!

We have support and as Indigenous peoples we are persistent and patient.

But keep that fire in your belly!

I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference and I wish you all the very best for your futures.

Thank you.