Feature tile - First Nations-lead pandemic reponse a triumph - two Aboriginal boys holding a sign 'too dangerous to stop in Wilcannia'

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Nations-led pandemic response a triumph

Feature Story

Telethon Kids representatives, including Dr Fiona Stanley, have written to The Lancet, describing Australia’s First Nations-led response to COVID-19 as ‘nothing short of a triumph’. Since the beginning of the pandemic in Australia, there have been only 60 First Nations cases nationwide. This represents only 0.7% of all cases, a considerable under-representation, as First Nations people make up 3% of the total population. Only 13% of First Nations cases have needed hospital treatment, none have been in intensive care, and there have been no deaths.

These results have shown how effective (and extremely cost-effective) giving power and capacity to Indigenous leaders is. The response has avoided major illness and deaths and avoided costly care and anguish.

To read the letter published in The Lancet click here.

Wiradjuri man appointed as a Professor

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the appointment of Peter O’Mara as a Professor of Newcastle University. The Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Faculty, Professor O’Mara is Director of the University’s Thurru Indigenous Health Unit and a practicing GP in an Aboriginal community controlled health organisation, Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service. Professor O’Mara said becoming a GP was not something he grew up believing was possible, “I always had a strong interest in science, but in my early years I believed in the stereotypical view that studying and practicing medicine was for other people – doctors’ children and wealthy families.”

To view the full article about Professor O’Mara click click here.

Professor Peter O'Mara speaking into a microphone at a lecturn

Image source: GP News.

Face masks for our mob

The Australian Government Department of Health has developed an information sheet called How to keep our mob safe using face masks.

To access the editorial click here.

Aaron Simon standing against wall painted with Aboriginal art, wearing an Aboriginal art design face mask

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Racial Violence in the Australian health system

The statistical story of Indigenous health and death, despite how stark, fails to do justice to the violence of racialised health inequities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience. The Australian health system’s Black Lives Matter moment is best characterised as indifferent; a “business as usual” approach that we know from experience betokens failure. In an article published in The Medical Journal of Australia a range of strategies have been offered, ‘not as a solution, but as some small steps towards a radical reimagining of the Black body within the Australian health system; one which demonstrates a more genuine commitment to the cries of “Black Lives Matter” from Blackfullas in this place right now.’

To read the full article click here.

back of BLM protester holding sign of face of Kevin Yow Yeh who dies in custody at 34 years

Image sourced Twitter @KevinYowYeh.

Water fluoridation required

Poor oral health profoundly affects a person’s ability to eat, speak, socialise, work and learn. It has an impact on social and emotional wellbeing, productivity in the workplace, and quality of life. A higher proportion of Australians who are socially disadvantaged have dental caries. Community water fluoridation is one of the most effective public health interventions of the 20th century. Its success has been attributed to wide population coverage with no concurrent behaviour change required. The authors of a recent article in The Medical Journal of Australia have said the denial of access to fluoridated drinking water for Indigenous Australians is of great concern and have urged the Commonwealth government to mandate that all states and territories maintain a minimum standard of 90% population access to fluoridated water.

To view the full article click here.

close up photo of three Aboriginal children smiling

Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Torres Strait communities taking back control of own healing

Torres Strait Island communities are leading their own healing by addressing the trauma, distress and long-term impacts caused by colonisation. The island communities of Kerriri, Dauan and Saibai will host a series of healing forums coordinated by The Healing Foundation, in conjunction with Mura Kosker Sorority Incorporated; the leading family and community wellbeing service provider in the Torres Strait. Identifying the need for healing in the Torres Strait, Mura Kosker Sorority Incorporated Board President Mrs Regina Turner said: “We believe that the forums will provide Torres Strait communities a voice for creating their own healing solutions.”

To view the Healing Foundation’s media release click ere.

Wabunau Geth dance group from Kaurareg Nation

Wabunau Geth dance group from Kaurareg Nation. Image source: The Healing Foundation.

New tool to manage healthcare trial

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can trial a new tool to help them manage their healthcare with the launch of a pilot program in Perth of the GoShare digital platform which has supported over 1,000 patients so far. Launched by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, the pilot program enables doctors, nurses and other clinicians at St John of God Midland Public Hospital in Perth to prescribe a tailored information pack for patients. The electronic packs may include video-based patient stories, fact sheets, apps and tools on a range of health and wellness topics. They are prepared and adapted according to the patient’s health literacy levels and are being sent by email or text to improve their integrated care and chronic disease self-management.

To view the Australian Digital Health Agency’s media release click here.

GoShare Healthcare digital platform logo - clip art hand or hand

Image source: Healthily website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Workforce News Alert : @NATSIHWA CEO @briscoe_karl and @Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher writes: “It is a fundamental right that everyone has the right to access health care that is free from #racism “

” It is a fundamental right that everyone has the right to access health care that is free from racism and the harm that it causes notably the impacts on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations. The current Black Lives Matter movement has clearly highlighted that racism is a public health issue.

We recently released a statement, No place for racism in healthcare.

This statement called out racist behaviour in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and made clear there is no place for racism when treating patients.”

Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group’s co chair, Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association. Originally published Croakey 

One of the challenges is that most health professionals do not see themselves as racist. They can take great offence when these words are used, possibly without even considering that perhaps they may be unwittingly contributing to the problem. Yet the health outcomes gap tells the true story – we all have work to do to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

All health practitioners and parts of the health and education system must do their part to address racism in healthcare. We were heartened by the support we received from organisations and individuals on our statement.

So how should a practitioner regulatory scheme play its part in ensuring culturally safe health care and addressing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples?

Two years ago, we posed this question to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts. The beginnings of an answer, they said, was to establish a genuine partnership through which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not only providing advice but are equal partners in shared governance and decision making.

And so, the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group was born.

A major focus of the work of the Strategy Group is to equip all entities within the National Scheme – National Boards, NSW Councils, Ahpra and accreditation authorities –  with the knowledge, awareness and tools to enable culturally safe health care.

We are proud of our early work in developing a national definition of cultural safety for our scheme, which was led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts. The definition reads:

Cultural safety is determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities.

Culturally safe practice is the ongoing critical reflection of health practitioner knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in delivering safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.

To ensure culturally safe and respectful practice, health practitioners must:

    • Acknowledge colonisation and systemic racism, social, cultural, behavioural and economic factors which impact individual and community health;
    • Acknowledge and address individual racism, their own biases, assumptions, stereotypes and prejudices and provide care that is holistic, free of bias and racism;
    • Recognise the importance of self-determined decision-making, partnership and collaboration in healthcare which is driven by the individual, family and community;
    • Foster a safe working environment through leadership to support the rights and dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and colleagues.

This definition is one of the many strategic actions committed to within the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020 – 2025, which was developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group.

The Strategy focuses on achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Islander Peoples as the norm and the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety.

To counteract unconscious bias and to help ‘unlearn’ the filtered history many of us were taught at school, we have partnered with two Indigenous-led organisations, PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting and the First People’s Health Unit at Griffith University to develop a solid, pedagogically sound and evidence-based cultural safety training program.

Over time, every person working at Ahpra and on a National Board or committee will attend this in-depth training, because we must ensure that our work as a regulator is culturally safe.

However, the implementation of cultural safety is as much about individual practice as it is about changing systemic and institutional responses, whether that be practice standards, policy or legislation.

The National Boards that Ahpra works with to regulate Australia’s registered health practitioners set the national standards that all registered health practitioners must meet to become and remain registered.

The Boards have been integrating cultural safety requirements to these standards, meaning that the community can be clear about what they can expect from their practitioner. It also means that if a practitioner fails to meet this obligation, a Board may take regulatory action.

Strengthening the Indigenous health workforce

In supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the current COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the opportunities to better use our culturally safe and clinically qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce. They are one of 16 nationally regulated professions within the National Scheme.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce has lived experience in and a deep understanding of the communities they serve, possessing cultural, intellectual, social and linguistic knowledge and skills that set the workforce apart from other health professions.

These skills underpin community reach and engagement capability, coupled with comprehensive foundations in primary health care, give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners a unique ability and perspectives as health care professionals, cultural brokers and health system navigators.

More needs to be done to enable this workforce to play its part fully. For example, as has been highlighted in an earlier piece at Croakey variances in the Drugs and Poisons Acts of each jurisdiction significantly limits what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are authorised to do.

To address this, a review of drugs and poisons legislation across Australia could ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners share the same basic rights to supply and administer medications in their communities.

We continue to engage with the community and sector to increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on the Agency Management Committee and National Boards.

Work has commenced to develop a monitoring and reporting framework for notifications and during the pandemic we’ve managed to successfully complete the pilot for the Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training.

Furthermore, responding to COVID-19, we established a surge workforce for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice profession to be most responsive to the healthcare needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members.’

Ensuring access to culturally safe healthcare is a priority for Ahpra and the important role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice profession is a foundation for improving health outcomes and ensuring culturally safe health care.

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #MentalHealth and #Racism #BlackLivesMatter : Australian psychologists stand united against racism in all forms.

 ” Recent international events have put a spotlight on issues of systemic racism in our society.

The resonance of the experiences of African American, Black American and Native American people in the US in their interactions with law enforcement and incarceration with those of Indigenous Australians demonstrates the global reach of this issue.

In Australia, the Black Lives Matter movement has refocused attention on black deaths in custody and the disproportionate rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by the criminal justice system, where more than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991.

This movement has reminded us to reflect on the role we must play, as individuals and as a profession, in addressing racism and promoting equality and the social and emotional wellbeing of all Australians.

We recognise that racism impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in many ways. It is historical, political, social, cultural, systemic and direct.

The ongoing disparities in social and emotional wellbeing remind us of our responsibility to do more to stand against systemic racism.”

The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS), in conjunction with the Association of Counselling Psychologists (ACP), Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA), Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC), Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association (HODSPA), Institute of Clinical Psychologists (ICP), and Institute of Private Practising Psychologists (IPPP), stand together to call out and combat racism in our profession, our discipline and our society.

Download the Position Statement press release with all signatures 


Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over 8 years

In 2009, the Boatshed Racism Roundtable Declaration recognised that racism against Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples exists in various forms and in all systems in Australia today. Research evidence shows that racism is a barrier to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with a destructive impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, employment, health, mental health and wellbeing, well beyond its immediate impact.

Racism completely undermines all efforts to close the gap in health and other outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

We reaffirm our commitment to the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Nations peoples of Australia, and the right of Indigenous peoples to exercise authority in education, employment, health and wellbeing for their communities, with the respectful support of Australian governments.

We remain committed to ensuring that high quality research and evidence are at the heart of public policy and evidence practice, and that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are heard in shaping policy and practice.

Our profession is not immune to racism and discrimination. In 2016, the APS Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people acknowledged psychology’s role in contributing to their mistreatment and the erosion of culture.

The cultural assumptions that underlie psychological assessment and diagnostic practices, approaches to treatment, and our field’s complicity in research and policy provided the veneer of scientific rigor to harmful policies that further marginalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our profession has not always respected their skills, expertise, world views and unique wisdom developed over thousands of years.

In 2020, we are reaffirming our commitment to action, and calling on others to join us.

We acknowledge that racism is present in the psychology profession and discipline, and we remain committed to addressing it.

Many organisations and professional bodies are taking a public stand against racism. We are asking more from the psychology profession.

Our profession has a responsibility to acknowledge, address and combat racism, and support people impacted by racism and discrimination.

As psychologists, we have a professional and ethical responsibility to defend and uphold the social and emotional wellbeing of all people, providing equitable, effective, and accessible psychological services.

Psychologists must do their best to support persons impacted by racism and discrimination and raise our voices against discriminatory systems and practice that threaten the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals and communities.

And importantly, we must also reflect on ourselves and address our own racism and unconscious biases.

To start to address racism, we need to purposefully strive for social justice and look not only at how we as individuals and a profession can be part of change, but what we must do to reform our systems and practice to address systemic racism.

Successfully standing against racism will depend on our willingness and ability to engage in reflection, truth telling, (have) courageous conversations and working together towards action.

The time for action is now. We invite all psychologists to stand together against racism and discrimination of all kinds.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of @RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health “ Differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia.”

” I can recount ‘hundreds’ of similar experiences and that ‘every Aboriginal person’ would have comparable stories – Aboriginal ethnicity is the strongest predictor of Discharge Against Medical Advice ( DAMA  )and occurs at a rate eight times that of the non-Indigenous population.

I am trying to encourage health services to take more responsibility by getting them to ‘look at it in a different way’, as i believe it is incumbent upon health professionals, including GPs, to lead the fight against racism.

[I want them] to think what is so toxic about this environment … [where] they know if they walk out that front door they could die and they’d rather do that than stay in here.

Everyone in the health system should be advocating for their patients, but GPs are perfectly placed to do that.

Our patients trust us more than any other doctor that they see and they have an intimate, ongoing relationship with us that they don’t necessarily have with any other health professional.

Creating a safe environment for our patients is exactly our responsibility … it’s just about showing an extra level of care for patients and ensuring that they’re comfortable in order to help make a wider change.’

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring. Speaking to GPnews

Download the NACCHO RACGP National Guide 

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

The 12th Closing the Gap report, released in February this year, laid bare the lack of progress Australia continues to make with regard to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and employment outcomes.

Child mortality is twice that of non-Indigenous children, the life expectancy gap remains at about eight years (and equivalent to developing countries like Palestine and Guatemala), and there is a burden of disease 2.3 times greater than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

According to the Coalition of Peaks, which this week released what it called a ground-breaking report into the development of a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a change in approach is required to ‘truly close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians’.

It advocates for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement across the board, and calls for mainstream service delivery – including the health sector – to be reformed to address systemic racism, promote cultural safety, and to be held ‘much more accountable’.

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP that differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia, as is the subsequent trauma it inevitably produces.

View previous NACCHO TV Interview with Associate Professor Peter O’Mara


One of the greatest sources of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to Associate Professor O’Mara, is their interaction with police and the criminal justice system.

‘The system is against us in so many ways,’ he said.

‘I went up to a town in the Northern Territory many years ago and when I got to the community a young fella had just been taken across to Darwin where he was spending two weeks in incarceration [due to mandatory sentencing laws].

‘What had happened is, he and his mates were playing cricket on the street … and this young fella had the bat, hit a big shot, and smashed a streetlight.

‘Someone has complained and said, “I’m calling the cops”. He waited and did the right thing, he said, “Look, I’m really sorry, it was an accident, we were playing cricket. I’m sure my parents will try and help pay for the light”, but he got locked up for two weeks.

‘Just for something silly like that – they were playing cricket on a dead-end street in Australia.’

Associate Professor O’Mara says instances like that only tell part of the story.

‘[For example], there’s the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to suffer hearing disorders – often as a result of things like chronic suppurative otitis media – and the evidence is there to say that when you have a hearing disorder, you’re more likely to be incarcerated,’ he said.

‘Some of the things that we do as GPs, like working on that trying to improve ear health for children, and particularly for Aboriginal children, can have a direct impact.’

Dr Penny Abbott, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Custodial Health network, said GPs are at the frontline for people who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

‘The reasons people end up in prison usually include health issues, such as mental health or substance-related problems, and social problems like homelessness and lack of community-based support networks,’ she told newsGP.

‘Addressing these issues before people get to the point of being sent to prison can happen at a primary care level where we are good at treating the whole person in their context.’

Dr Abbott also said once a person is released from prison it is a ‘perfect time’ to consider if an Aboriginal health check, mental health plan, or chronic disease management plan is urgently needed.

‘[GPs] can make a real difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait patients by being aware of the kinds of health, social and system issues that their patient comes up against when leaving prison – a precarious time where people are at high risk of relapse to drug use, death, hospitalisation, and returning to prison,’ she said.

‘For example, GPs can ensure continuity of healthcare started in prison, manage health issues that weren’t addressed in prison, and look afresh at issues that may be cropping up post-release. Substance-use disorders are of course a big issue to be on top of.’

Aside from the incarcerated person, Associate Professor O’Mara said it is also important to be aware of the vicarious trauma that families can suffer, especially if the family member is assaulted while imprisoned, or worse, dies in custody.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died at a lower rate than non-Indigenous prisoners – although there are no reliable statistics that can be used to calculate death rates in police custody.

A key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ‘do not die at a greater rate than non-Aboriginal people in custody’, but rather ‘what is overwhelmingly different is the rate at which Aboriginal people come into custody, compared with the rate of the general community’.

Yet, in the subsequent years, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons has nearly doubled from 14% to 27%. As a result, 437 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in the past 29 years, as opposed to 99 in the 10-year period investigated by the royal commission.

The high incarceration rate means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous Australians, and thus more likely to die there as well.

Dr Abbott said deaths in custody are a great burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘We need to remain vigilant and committed to avoiding people being sent to prison in the first place, as well as providing quality care in prison and after release,’ she said.

‘We also need to continually reflect on the root causes of deaths in custody and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the social determinants of poor health and inequities, and the systemic racism that our patients continue to experience.

‘There are many things which will help, such as more programs to divert young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, and a larger workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and prison health.’

But, as pointed out in the Coalition of Peaks report, institutionalised racism is not restricted to the justice system, and remains a common experience among health professionals and within the health system as well.

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring.

‘This is a great example, unfortunately, of what happens to our people,’ he said.

‘I’ve seen a gentleman in the clinic in the Aboriginal Medical Service who had chest pain, and I thought that he was having a heart attack – a myocardial infarction. So I started treating him for that and called the ambulance, which took him to a local hospital that … within the health services is known to be blatantly racist.

‘This gentleman goes into the emergency department. He’s quite happy to be there and he’s thankful that he’s receiving the treatment, but some things are said in that environment that are so toxic to him that he decides to pull the ECG leads off, take the IV lines out and walk out the front door.

‘That happens all too commonly in this setting and then at that point, the doctors and nurses, the health professionals will wash their hands of it because we say, “We told them not to go, they chose to go, they signed this [DAMA form]”.’

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter : #Racism is killing us: Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson @LowitjaInstitut and Marching for truth and justice CEO Dr Janine Mohamed,

“ The Black Lives Matters protests, here in Australia and across the world, are sounding cries of anguish and anger about the unrelenting impact of racism on our lives.

Reflecting on this, I was struck by an important comment from leading Aboriginal psychologist and academic Professor Pat Dudgeon.

There are very few Aboriginal people who wouldn’t have suffered racism, going on to talk about a growing body of evidence showing that racism is detrimental to the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson, Lowitja Institute : See Part 1 below

” Given that this is an international gathering I wanted to just briefly set the Australian context and then talk about similarities. In Australia, Indigenous people make up just three per cent of the Australian population.

In my opinion we have only begun to publicly name and discuss racism in the 2010’s as a national issue. Concepts of critical race theory such as power, fragility, privilege, dominant culture and systemic racism are off the table and these sorts of discussions are met with resistance and cognitive dissonance.

But we have experienced the brunt of police brutality, coroners’ reports and overincarceration – in fact, our Aboriginal children make up 100 percent of those in juvenile justice in the Northern Territory.

And we experience the brunt of deaths in custody – since colonisation began, just over 200 years ago. And it’s not just been about police brutality.

It’s also about failure of police to act, including when our children have gone missing, as we saw with the deaths of three Aboriginal children in the small town of Bowraville in the 1990s, for their families who waited decades for justice.

We know this is the experience of many Indigenous peoples and People of Colour worldwide ”

Narrunga Kaurna woman, Dr Janine Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer at the Lowitja Institute, who urged civil society, including powerful sectors like the health and medical fields, to engage with historical and contemporary truth telling and the work of anti-racism.

Originally published in Croakey See Part 2 below in full

Part 1 : Racism is killing us: Statement by Pat Anderson AO, Chairperson :

See previous NACCHO Pat Anderson post read approx 100,000 times online

Pat Dudgeon’s  words echo strongly in the work of the Lowitja Institute, the national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research.

Our work shows us that racism is widespread and it makes us suffer. It makes us sick.

We saw its scope and impact in key research that we funded many years ago, which documented very high levels of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians, and high levels of distress because of it.

Almost every person (97 per cent) of the 755 surveyed in 2011 in four Victorian communities had experienced at least one racist incident in the previous 12 months, with more than 70 per cent experiencing eight or more incidents a year.

Some of it included being called racist names, teased or stereotyped (92 per cent), being sworn at, verbally abused or subjected to offensive gestures because of their race (84 per cent), or being spat at, hit or threatened because of their race (67 per cent). More than half (54 per cent) reported having their property vandalised because of race.

This is not just abhorrent and an infringement of our rights. This causes life-long harm.

Studies here and from around the world tell us that racism is associated with causing psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse. Prolonged, it can have significant physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Worryingly, our study showed that 40 per cent of participants indicated that they had experienced racism within the justice system and 30 per cent within health care systems.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will not seek out health care and will not work in health services if we do not feel culturally safe.

And we know from the families who took their heartbreak to the streets the last two weekends that racism in the justice system can be brutal and fatal.

Have things changed since the Lowitja Institute commissioned that landmark research?

Not according to new ANU research which showed that three out of four Australians who tested for unconscious bias hold a “negative implicit or unconscious bias against Indigenous Australians”.

And not according to the everyday experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.

Yet instead of taking urgent action, our government criticises us for our protests. Instead of working to address historic injustice, our Prime Minister diminished it, declaring we should not be “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia” and that “there was no slavery in Australia”. How can the leader of our country not know our history?

So, as the cries of #BlackLivesMatter continue to ring out across the globe, where do we go from here in Australia?

We need to acknowledge that racism is deeply entrenched in Australia and is a public health emergency for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

That terrible reality is there to be read clearly in the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, which identifies racism as a key driver of ill-health.

It is there to be read in the Uluru Statement to the Heart. In the critiques of the Closing the Gap strategy.

It is in the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which has at their heart, as Professor Megan Davis said last week, the need to address “the structural powerlessness that renders Indigenous voices silent” in our nation.

It is time to end that silence. And it is time for governments to hear us.

Part 2 :  Marching for truth and justice

Last weekend, we acknowledged that shared pain, and once more we as Indigenous Peoples led the call for justice in Australia.

When we saw the treatment of George – we connected with those images and trauma on many levels and wanted to show solidarity and shared lived experience.

I am proud that tens of thousands of Australians joined #BlackLivesMatter marches around the country. Despite the Prime Minister and public health officials warning people not to attend. Despite the threat of fines and arrests. Despite an effort to ban the Sydney protest.

My husband, and my family joined the marches as did many other Indigenous Peoples and community members.

As we marched, I thought of the legacy of our patient ancestors, and of the 437 Indigenous people who have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was held in the early 1990s. No one has ever been charged.

I thought of the good police officers and wondered if our stance would privilege their voices?

I thought of the many different peoples of colour who come to our shores and are surprised by the ‘casual ‘racism they experience.

I thought also of the nexus between punitive health and justice systems, and the stories of Ms DhuMs Naomi WilliamsMs Tanya Day and David Dungay Junior who died painful and /or violent and preventable deaths.

So many of our people have been hurt and harmed by traumatising systems. Yet it took the death of an African American man in the US to bring so many non-Indigenous Australians out on to the streets.

And even when we called out our heartbreak on the weekend, walking past big department stores in Melbourne, we heard them advising customers over their Public Announcement systems – “they had locked the front doors – for our safety”.

I wondered if this was a common occurrence for marches in Victoria or just black justice marches?

Systemic racism

They were reinforcing the racist profiling and stereotypes that we are violent. Placing the problem with us – rather than calling for action on police and state violence.

It was the same from much of the mainstream media – reflecting the systemic racism within all mainstream systems.

Journalists were putting the hard questions to Indigenous people (asking individuals to speak on behalf of our whole community) about why we were marching. Not putting the hard questions to governments about their failures.

And the day after the march, a prominent TV program held a panel of all-white journalists discussing Black Lives Matter! We have so many Indigenous journalists who are challenging the mainstream narratives.

But the media of course reflects the broader system.

By and large our governments have not responded to #BlackLivesMatter as they should have.

They have denied it’s an Australian issue, trivialised, undermined, vilified, and made #BlackLivesMatter the problem. Even one of our leading health officials told us – weaponised – #AllLivesMatter.

Of course, all lives would matter if Black lives did.

Truth telling matters

Our Prime Minister today said Black Lives Matter protesters should be charged if they attend further marches. He also said, “there was no slavery in Australia”.

As some of our leading academics politely put it, this statement is “at odds with the historical record!”

Our children were removed from families and put to service as domestic labour. Aboriginal pastoral workers were bought and sold in chains. Thousands of Aboriginal families were unable to benefit from economic equity with their wages being withheld well into the 70s and still to this day have not been compensated for their loss.

In some communities people were paid via rations of the worst nutritional kind – feeding Aboriginal people white flour, tobacco, refined sugar and alcohol. This resulted in third world health status in a first world county – disability, chronic illness and physical distress.

Tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders brought to Australia and enslaved to work in sugar plantations – what we call “blackbirding”.

In conclusion, international solidarity is key. And we must always start with self-examination and opportunities to be anti-racists, then we can focus on the structures we work within and influence.

I would like to see the Atlantic Fellowship issue a strong statement about historical and contemporary truth telling, and long term planned action with specific calls to governments, media, powerful sectors like the health and medical sector, businesses, universities and wider civil society.

Thank you for your bravery and solidarity brothers and sisters.

  • Dr Janine Mohamed is CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Chair of Croakey Health Media

PostScript: Prime Minister Scott Morrison today apologised for his incorrect comments on slavery.




NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism #BlackLivesMatter News Alerts : Part 1. Three in four people hold negative view of Indigenous Australians Part 2. How does racism impact on our mental wellbeing?

“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

In 2016, Will Smith made this statement on a US talk show. After the death of African-American George Floyd in the United States last week, the clip, and the sentiment behind it, has been circulating widely.

George’s death sparked global protests over racism and police brutality — and Will’s words have resonated with many Aboriginal Australians across the country. 

University of Western Australia professor, psychologist and proud Bardi woman, Pat Dudgeon, agrees.

“There are very few Aboriginal people who wouldn’t have suffered racism,” she says.

It’s often discussed as a social issue, but a growing body of evidence suggests it’s detrimental to the mental health of Aboriginal people.

Read full ABC article HERE or PART 2 Below

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO in the past 8 years 

Most Australians tested for unconscious bias hold a negative view of Indigenous Australians which can lead to widespread racism, new analysis from The Australian National University (ANU) shows.

People’s bias is regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, religion, education level, geography or political leanings, according to the findings.

The ANU researchers say 75 per cent of Australians tested using the Implicit Association Test by a joint initiative of universities including Harvard, Yale and the University of Sydney hold a negative implicit or unconscious bias against Indigenous Australians.

Their findings are published in the Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues.

The researchers analysed the “implicit bias” of over 11,000 Australian participants over a 10-year period, and how this can lead to racist attitudes or behaviour.

“The results are shocking, but not surprising,” said Australian report author

Mr Siddharth Shirodkar, a PhD researcher based in the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

“These results show there may be an implicit negative bias against Indigenous Australians across the board, which is likely the cause of the racism that many First Australians experience.

“It is the first data of its kind for Australia and this evidence shows implicit or unconscious bias toward our first Australians is not imagined.

“This study presents stark evidence of the solid invisible barrier that Indigenous people face in society.

“But the data is actually not about Indigenous Australians, it’s about the rest of us.”

The results show it is likely that many people who hold these views have no awareness of their prejudice.

“As it is often unconscious, implicit bias can seep seamlessly into the everyday decisions at all levels of society,” said Mr Shirodkar.

“If you implicitly see Indigenous people in a negative light then that is going to affect all of your interactions and dealings with Indigenous people. We can only imagine the impact of that collective negativity on outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

The test measured how quickly participants paired positive and negative words with historical images of Indigenous and Caucasian Australians.

Regardless of their occupations or levels of education, on average people displayed a negative bias against Indigenous faces. The same was found for people from all religions, as well as people who do not identify as being part of any religion.

Almost all ethnicities on average displayed bias against Indigenous Australians but people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander were statistically unbiased toward either group.

“It suggests Indigenous Australians are likely to be in the best position to make unbiased decisions about other Indigenous people,” said Mr Shirodkar.

Australian male participants showed a higher negative bias than females and people with all levels of education were guilty of bias.

Western Australian and Queensland participants recorded the highest average scores for bias. Participants from the Northern Territory and the ACT recorded the lowest average levels of bias in the country.

As the test is online and free for anyone to undertake, researchers say it is more likely to draw in people who want to prove their lack of bias.

“The results may therefore under-report the extent of implicit bias in Australia,” Mr Shirodkar said.

Anyone can take the Australian Implicit Association test from the follow link


Part 2 How does racism impact on mental wellbeing?

What form can racism take?

Yin Paradies is a professor and chair in race relations at Melbourne’s Deakin University.

He defines racism as the unfair and avoidable disparities in power, resources, capacities, or opportunities centred on ethnic, racial, religious or cultural differences.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says that “racism is more than just words, beliefs and actions. It includes all the barriers that prevent people from enjoying dignity and equality because of their race”.

“It’s a form of exclusion and it impacts on people in that way and the stress of it affects mental health directly,” Professor Paradies says.

“If you can’t get a job, or if you can’t get work, or you’re not getting as much out of your education because of discrimination … [these] really have an impact on your health and wellbeing.”

The disadvantage accrues across all spheres of life over time.

The psychological impact

Professor Paradies’ work looks closely at the impact of racism on health.

His findings show that if you experience racial discrimination you’re:

Long-term impacts of trauma

“If they had iPhones in 1788, there’d be riots here too,” says Rulla Kelly-Mansell, a proud Tulampunga Pakana man and a mental health advocate.

For Rulla, the events unfolding in the US have brought to the surface some of the issues Aboriginal people face on a daily basis.

Rulla Kelly-Mansell standing in front of a wall painted like the aboriginal flag
Tulampunga Pakana man Rulla Kelly-Mansell didn’t fully understand intergenerational trauma until he was older.(Supplied)

He says a lot of the problems Aboriginal people face day to day aren’t things you can see.

Aboriginal people are still dealing with the trauma of past generations and the side effects of those traumas.

This can include poor health, high rates of mental illness and family breakdowns. He says this puts many Aboriginal people at a disadvantage.

“As a young man that manifested in anger.”

Research suggests those who experience trauma are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours, develop lifestyle diseases and enter and remain in the criminal justice system.

Suicide rates for Indigenous Australians aged 15-34 are more than double the general population, despite being less than 3.3 per cent of the population.

The most recent figures show almost one in three Indigenous adults report high levels of psychological distress.

Marlene Longbottom, a Yuin woman and an Aboriginal postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Wollongong, expresses what this time might mean for Indigenous Australians, moving forward with mental health.

“The current time is an opportunity for us to say, ‘Seeking help is a good thing’,” Dr Longbottom says.

“We need to destigmatise [and say] going to a counsellor or getting support is OK, and the healthy thing to do.

“It’s important that our communities know there are people who will listen.”

Where can Indigenous Australians turn to for support?

Click here to see Beyond Blue’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services by state.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter : Former President  shares advice on how to make George Floyd protests ‘a turning point : Plus Australia must look in the mirror to see our own deaths in custody

” I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting – that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life.

But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful.

If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.

Let’s get to work.

Barack Obama former US President Facebook post : In full part 1 below

 ” I can’t breathe, please! Let me up, please! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!

These words are not the words of George Floyd or Eric Garner. They weren’t uttered on the streets of Minneapolis or New York.

These are the final words of a 26-year-old Dunghutti man who died in a prison in south-eastern Sydney.

The deaths in custody of First Nations Australians are not hidden. As a nation, we are choosing not to look at them. In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody documented 99 deaths in custody.

Since then, 432 Indigenous Australians have died in custody, according to Guardian Australia’s Deaths Inside project.

Read full article in The Conversation

Part 1


As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.

Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.

First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States.

The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation – something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause.

I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more.

The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities.

But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices – and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government.

And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct.

Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people – which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.

So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.

Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities. A big city may need one set of reforms; a rural community may need another.

Some agencies will require wholesale rehabilitation; others should make minor improvements. Every law enforcement agency should have clear policies, including an independent body that conducts investigations of alleged misconduct. Tailoring reforms for each community will require local activists and organizations to do their research and educate fellow citizens in their community on what strategies work best.

But as a starting point, I’ve included two links below. One leads to a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House.

And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.

Let’s get to work.







NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : #NRW2020 Messages from Minister @KenWyattPM and our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills : Let’s stand as one and continue being strong. We are all #InThisTogether2020 !’

“ This year’s #NRW2020 theme is ‘In this Together’ – reminds us whether in a crisis or reconciliation we are all #InThisTogether2020.

We have shown during these tough times that we can all do our part to stop the spread of a deadly disease and the results speak for themselves.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation but what continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face. When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

If we all can work together and support the journey of reconciliation, every step forward removes disadvantage and creates a more solid foundation for our country towards a better future for all Australians.”

Read and download full NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills Press Release HERE

Plus details of our Chairs and CEO NRW2020 speaking engagements 27 May

“National Reconciliation Week draws our attention each year to the ongoing efforts to walk together with a shared purpose, and to build a stronger future for all Australians.

This year’s theme, In This Together, resonates in new ways in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and reminds us we all share this land and rely on each other to build a better future.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, has asked Australians to think about what reconciliation means to them and what practical steps they can take to build trust, mutual respect and opportunities for Indigenous Australians. Pictured above with NACCHO CEO Pat Turner 

“The week commences 27 May marking the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and concludes with the anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision on 3 June – both significant milestones in our shared history that had profound impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“These moments in our reconciliation journey remind us of the tireless campaigners who sought to bring us closer and the success that can be achieved when Australians come together as one.”

“This year also marks 20 years since Corroboree 2000 and the memorable Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge where close to a quarter of a million people demonstrated their commitment to reconciliation. The images from that day are still striking and it’s important we do not lose that enthusiasm.”

“While we are unfortunately not able to celebrate with gatherings this year due to COVID-19, there are many events happening online that people can get involved with.”

“From film screenings and book recommendations to panel discussions and streamed concerts, there are opportunities for people to learn about our history, engage with Indigenous culture and reflect on what it means to be in this together.”

“I also encourage all Australians to take part in the National Acknowledgement of Country. At midday on Wednesday 27th May, join Indigenous Australians across the nation by posting a video of an acknowledgement of the country you are on with the hashtags #InThisTogether2020 and #NRW2020.”

Visit https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/aiatsis-map-indigenous-australia for a guide to the Traditional Owners of the land you are on.

Visit reconciliation.org.au or indigenous.gov.au to find out more.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Youth News Alerts : Download @AIHW Youth Justice Report “ Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were 16 times as likely to be under supervision as non-Indigenous young people in 2018–19 “

The rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 176 to 172 per 10,000. The rate of non-Indigenous young people fell from 12 to 11 per 10,000.

Although only about 6% of young people aged 10–17 in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, half (2,448) of the young people under supervision on an average day in 2018–19 were Indigenous.’

Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were 16 times as likely to be under supervision as non-Indigenous young people in 2018–19.”

From AIHW Youth Justice report : Download here or see summary Part 2 below

Youth Justice aihw-

“After the Northern Territory Royal Commission and all the evidence that diversion is much more effective, it’s hard to believe Indigenous kids make up 50% of those under youth justice supervision, but just 5.9% of the population of Australian children

What this tells us is that the need to raise the age of criminal responsibility is more urgent than ever. Until this happens, there must be a moratorium on arrests for children under the age of fourteen.”

Key findings of the latest report include that on average, Indigenous young people entered youth justice supervision at a younger age than non-Indigenous young people; 15.5% of kids in detention on an average day were 14 or under and that 24.7% of kids in detention overall were 14 or under.

It’s particularly alarming that of those in detention, 63% were unsentenced.

Amnesty International Australia Strategic Campaigns Advisor, Joel Clark : Download press release

Indigenous Kids In Prison Amnesty


Part 1 AIHW Press Release

The rate of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under youth justice supervision has fallen over the past five years, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown.

The report, Youth justice in Australia 2018–19, presents information on young people aged between 10 and 17 years under youth justice supervision both in the community and in detention.

On an average day in 2018–19, there were 5,694 (1 in 490) young people under youth justice supervision due to their involvement, or alleged involvement, in crime. Throughout the year, a total of 10,820 young people were under supervision.

‘Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the level of Indigenous over-representation in youth justice supervision stabilised,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Anna Ritson.

The report also shows that, on an average day in 2018–19, young males were about 4 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision as young females. Young females under supervision were more likely to be younger than males, with the most common age being 16 for young females and 17 for young males.

‘Being under youth justice supervision doesn’t always mean a young person is in detention. Around four in five young people (4,767) received community-based supervision such as home detention, bail, parole and probation,’ Ms. Ritson said.

‘The remaining 1 in 5 (956) were in detention, most of whom were remanded in custody awaiting the outcome of their charges.’

Part 2 Summary

This report looks at young people who were under youth justice supervision in Australia during 2018–19 because of their involvement or alleged involvement in crime. It explores the key aspects of supervision, both in the community and in detention, as well as recent trends.

About 1 in 490 young people aged 10–17 were under supervision on an average day

A total of 5,694 young people aged 10 and over were under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2018–19 and 10,820 young people were supervised at some time during the year.

Among those aged 10–17, this equates to a rate of 20 per 10,000, or 1 in every 489 young people on an average day.

Most young people were supervised in the community

More than 4 in 5 (84% or 4,767) young people under supervision on an average day were supervised in the community, and almost 1 in 5 (17% or 956) were in detention (some were supervised in both community and detention on the same day).

The majority of young people in detention were unsentenced

About 3 in 5 (63%) young people in detention on an average day were unsentenced—that is, awaiting the outcome of their legal matter or sentencing.

Young people spent an average of 6 months under supervision

Individual periods of supervision that were completed during 2018–19 lasted for a median of 132 days or about 4 months (this includes time under supervision before 1 July 2018 if the period started before that date).

When all the time spent under supervision during 2018–19 is considered (including multiple periods and periods that were not yet completed), young people who were supervised during the year spent an average of 192 days (about 6 months) under supervision.

Supervision rates varied among the states and territories

Rates of youth justice supervision varied among the states and territories, reflecting, in part, the fact that each state and territory has its own legislation, policies, and practices.

In 2018–19, the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day ranged from 11 per 10,000 in Victoria to 61 per 10,000 in the Northern Territory.

Rates of supervision have fallen slightly over the past 5 years

Over the 5 years from 2014–15 to 2018–19, the number of young people aged 10 and over who were under supervision on an average day saw a small decrease of 1%, while the rate of young people aged 10–17 dropped from 22 to 20 per 10,000.

The rate fell for community-based supervision (from 19 to 17 per 10,000), and fluctuated at 3–4 per 10,000 for detention.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rates have fallen

Although only about 6% of young people aged 10–17 in Australia are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, half (50%) of those under supervision on an average day in 2018–19 were Indigenous.

Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 176 to 172 per 10,000. The rate of non-Indigenous young people under supervision also fell over the period, from 12 to 11 per 10,000.

Rates of Indigenous (33–35 per 10,000) and non-Indigenous (1–2 per 10,000) young people in detention fluctuated over the same period.

Young people in remote areas were more likely to be under supervision

Although most young people under supervision had come from cities and regional areas, those from geographically remote areas had the highest rates of supervision.

On an average day in 2018–19, young people aged 10–17 who were from Remote areas were 6 times as likely to be under supervision as those from Major cities, while those from Very remote areas were   9 times as likely. This reflects the higher proportions of Indigenous Australians living in these areas.

Young people from lower socioeconomic areas were more likely to be under supervision

More than 1 in 3 young people (35%) under supervision on an average day in 2018–19 were from the lowest socioeconomic areas, compared with 6% from the highest socioeconomic areas.

More than 1 in 3 young people were new to supervision

More than one-third (35%) of young people under youth justice supervision in 2018–19 were new to supervision in that year. The rest (65%) had been supervised in a previous year.

Young Indigenous Australians (71%) were more likely than young non-Indigenous young people (62%) to have been under supervision in a previous year.

Young Indigenous Australians were younger when they entered supervision than their non-Indigenous counterparts

On average, Indigenous young people entered youth justice supervision at a younger age than non-Indigenous young people.

About 2 in 5 (38%) Indigenous young people under supervision in 2018–19 were first supervised when aged 10–13, compared with about 1 in 7 (15%) non-Indigenous young people.

A higher proportion of young people experience community-based supervision in their supervision history than detention

More than 9 in 10 (92%) young people who were supervised during 2018–19 had been under community-based supervision at some time during their supervision history (either during 2018–19 or in a previous year). More than 6 in 10 (65%) had spent time in detention. For Indigenous young people these proportions were 94% and 70% respectively


NACCHO Aboriginal Women and Children Health #MothersDay #IndigenousMums Aboriginal mothers are living with the fear their children could be taken. @HealingOurWay @DjirraVIC @JustinCCYP

“The fear these mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunties have is justified and stems from lived experience and real situations.

There are real accounts of children being removed and often never being able to reconnect again. There is an acceptance this is not right. We need to see Aboriginal children reunified with their families.

As a white family you won’t have this feeling, as you parent, that a department could come and be involved in raising or even removing your children.

Institutional racism was part of the reason why so many Aboriginal children were still removed from their parents in Australia.

The view and past policies of Aboriginal people in Australia has been through the lens of white Australia, who see Aboriginal people as dysfunctional.

So the policies developed are saying we need to protect Aboriginal people from themselves.

Institutional racism has to be addressed to change a racist process of class and value … or lack of value.”

The Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed ( and former NACCHO Chair ) , said the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care was an Australia-wide situation.

Originally published HERE

Link to community healing 

Key points:

  • Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families than other children
  • Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People says institutional racism is part of the problem
  • A support service for Aboriginal families says women have a justified fear of the system

The Victorian Government announced a $10 million redress scheme for Stolen Generations survivors recently.

But many in the Australian Indigenous community say children are still being taken.

“I’d just given birth, my daughter was two hours old and we were in hospital when I received a call,” Gunditjmara and Yuin Nation mother Yaraan Bundle said.

“It’s extremely traumatic, at such a sacred time where you should be protected and nurtured, to experience the department coming and trying to remove your family.”

The department referred to is the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It acknowledges that Aboriginal children are over-represented in out-of-home care.

National research shows Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families than other Australian children, and they make up 36 per cent of children living away from their parents in Australia.

Ms Bundle’s daughter remains with her, but so does the fear, anger, and frustration.

“I feel an intense fire deep within me, like a lioness protecting her babies. I always thought hospitals were the safest place for us to give birth, but now I understand they are not.”

Many women, same concerns

Indigenous mother Carla (not her real name) is eight months pregnant.

“Absolutely they’ll try and take my baby from me,” she said.

Carla has had children removed from her care with her children separated in different out-of-home care situations.

“I’ve got my own housing, I’ve done parenting courses, I’ve done everything they’ve said, as well as try and cope without my children, which is a struggle every day,” she said.

“This has put a big hole in my life. You can never heal that pain, and this has been happening to our people for generations.”

A Facebook post by an anonymous source complaining about a baby being taken from hospital.(Facebook)

Aunty Hazel volunteers her time supporting mothers as part of the organisation she began in 2014, called Grandmothers Against Removal.

Aunty Hazel said she remembered hiding as a child when the department came to take children from the mission she lived on.

Fighting for her family’s reunification is what inspired her to help other mothers.

“When you reflect back on these conversations you’re having with women, you’ll realise the essence of what they’re saying is like you’re talking to one person, not many,” Aunty Hazel said.

“By the time the children can get back they don’t know where they came from. It can be an 18-year sentence.”

‘Institutional racism’ part of the problem: commissioner

The Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed, said the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care was an Australia-wide situation.

“Institutional racism has to be addressed to change a racist process of class and value … or lack of value.”

DHHS said, in a statement, self-determination for Aboriginal families was part of the solution.

“We’re working hard to address the unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and improving outcomes for Aboriginal children involved with child protection,” the statement said.

Antoinette Braybrook (far right) as a child with her brothers Shaun and Ryan in 1974.(Supplied: Antoinette Braybrook)

Connection to culture key to strengthening families

Antoinette Braybrook is the CEO of Djirra, a legal, cultural and support service for Aboriginal families.

She said she remembered DHHS coming to her door if she and her siblings missed any school, even though she had a happy and safe childhood.

“With my work with Djirra we see this happening all of the time with Aboriginal women, a justified fear of the system,” she said.

“It’s an approach that’s not about supporting. It’s about punishing.”

Waka Waka woman Naomi Murphy was taken from her parents when she was a child.

Ms Murphy’s mother is part of Australia’s Stolen Generations.

“My sister and I were taken two states away. My first suicide attempt was when I was 11 because I missed my parents like crazy,” she said.

“DHHS never stepped in because we were with white men. When I finally got home to my parents I was broken.”

Ms Murphy is now a mother herself, and said she has lived with threats her children could be taken.

“Healing started when I connected to my culture. It gives you purpose and identity,” she said.

“I had to learn how to be a mum because my mum was Stolen Generations and she didn’t know how to be a mum.”