NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #prisons #JustJustice : Terms of references released Over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in our prisons

img_7087

 ” It is acknowledged that while laws and legal frameworks are an important factor contributing to over‑representation, there are many other social, economic, and historic factors that also contribute.

It is also acknowledged that while the rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their contact with the criminal justice system – both as offenders and as victims – significantly exceeds that of non‑Indigenous Australians, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit criminal offences.”

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia,

Refering to the Australian Law Reform Commission, an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons:

Senator Siewert Greens Senator moved the following motion in the Senate

(a) notes that the adult incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples increased by 77.4 per cent from 2000 to 2015;

(b) acknowledges the growing incarceration rates of our First Peoples is shameful;

(c) notes the Redfern Statement, which was released in 2016 by over 55 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations and peak bodies, sets out a plan for addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage;

(d) notes that the Redfern Statement calls for justice targets to help focus the effort to reduce Aboriginal incarceration; and

(e) calls on the Government to listen to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and adopt justice targets as a matter of urgency.

NACCHO NOTE :

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will tomorrow deliver the ninth Closing the Gap address to Parliament.

The annual report card tracks progress against targets in a range of areas, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and life expectancy.

But it does not include any targets around incarceration rates — despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making up a quarter of Australia’s prison population

ALRC inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) welcomes the appointment by Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, of His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM as an ALRC Commissioner.

Judge Myers will lead the new ALRC Inquiry into the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, announced by the Attorney-General in October 2016.

Judge Myers was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2012. He is a member of the Board of Family and Relationship Services Australia, the CatholicCare Advisory Council (Broken Bay Dioceses), Law Society of New South Wales Indigenous Issues Committee, Federal Circuit Court of Australia Indigenous Access to Justice Committee, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Family Law Pathways Network, member of the Central Coast Family Law Pathways Network Steering Committee, member of the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, member of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council,  member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and member of the Honoured Friends of the Salvation Army.

Judge Myers said “I am honoured by this appointment and the opportunity to build on the valuable work of past Commissions, Inquiries and successful community initiatives. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children are significantly over represented in the Australian criminal justice system. This is something that cannot and should not be acceptable to any Australian. I look forward to undertaking a broad consultation across the country, working closely with stakeholders and the community to develop meaningful and practical solutions through law reform.”

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM said, “We are delighted by this appointment and welcome Judge Myers to lead this very important Inquiry. To echo the Attorney-General, the over representation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system is a national tragedy. This Inquiry, with the expertise and leadership of Judge Myers, is an important step in developing much needed law reform in this area.”

The Attorney-General’s Department released draft Terms of Reference for Inquiry into the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for community consultation, in December 2016.

The consultation included Indigenous communities and organisations and state and territory governments.

Scope of the reference

  1. In developing its law reform recommendations, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) should have regard to:
    1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody, specifically in relation to:
      1. the nature of offences resulting in incarceration,
      2. cautioning,
      3. protective custody,
      4. arrest,
      5. remand and bail,
      6. diversion,
      7. sentencing, including mandatory sentencing, and
      8. parole, parole conditions and community reintegration.
    2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering (1)(a)(i-viii), including:
      1. community safety,
      2. availability of alternatives to incarceration,
      3. the degree of discretion available to decision-makers,
      4. incarceration as a last resort, and
      5. incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment.
    3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
    4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
    5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
    6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  2.  In conducting its Inquiry, the ALRC should have regard to existing data and research[1] in relation to:
    1. best practice laws, legal frameworks that reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration,
    2. pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the criminal justice system, including most frequent offences, relative rates of bail and diversion and progression from juvenile to adult offending,
    3. alternatives to custody in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and/or offending, including rehabilitation, therapeutic alternatives and culturally appropriate community led solutions,
    4. the impacts of incarceration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in relation to employment, housing, health, education and families, and
    5. the broader contextual factors contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration including:
      1. the characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population,
      2. the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration and inter‑generational trauma, loss of culture, poverty, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, experience of violence, including family violence, child abuse and neglect, contact with child protection and welfare systems, educational access and performance, cognitive and psychological factors, housing circumstances and employment, and
      3. the availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration.
    6. fullsizerender
  3. In undertaking this Inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consider other reports, inquiries and action plans including but not limited to:
    1. the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,
    2. the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (due to report 1 August 2017),
    3. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services,
    4. Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric impairment in Australia,
    5. Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Harmful Use of Alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,
    6. reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    7. the ALRC’s inquiries into Family violence and Family violence and Commonwealth laws, and
    8. the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

  1. In conducting its inquiry the ALRC should also have regard to relevant international human rights standards and instruments.

Consultation

  1. In undertaking this inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consult with relevant stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their organisations, state and territory governments, relevant policy and research organisations, law enforcement agencies, legal assistance service providers and the broader legal profession, community service providers and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Timeframe

  1. The ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 22 December 2017.

[1] It is not the intention that the Australian Law Reform Commission will undertake independent research or evaluation of existing programs, noting that this falls outside its legislative responsibilities and expertise.

img_7088

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Racism : Download report – Racism remains a barrier to reconciliation

rec

“Our Australian Reconciliation Barometer findings show that in the six months prior to the survey, 46 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, experienced at least one form of racial prejudice.

“This is up from 39 percent in 2014, and is two and a half times higher than an Australian from the general community, of whom only 18 percent had had such experiences,”

Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Officer, Mr Justin Mohamed ( and former Chair of NACCHO )

1.Download full report here ra_arb-2016_-full-report_final-1

2.Download Overview brochure ra_arb-2016_overview-brochure_web-1

Read over 7o articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism

Almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have described experiencing racism according to the findings of Reconciliation Australia’s latest Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey.

The Australian Reconciliation Barometer is a national research study conducted every two years to measure and compare attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation in both the general Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Other key findings of the survey reveal that:

  • Many Australians (57% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 39% Australians in the general Australian community) agree Australia is a racist country.
  •  Almost half (46%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians say they trust other Australians, but only 1 in 5 (19%) of the general Australian community think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians trust them.
  • Almost all Australians (97% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 89% Australians in the general community) believe the relationship is important.
  • Most Australians agree that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s national identity (93% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and 77% Australians in the general community).

“What we’re seeing since the first survey in 2008 just after the National Apology to Stolen Generations is that whilst we’ve maintained a lot of goodwill since then, we aren’t moving fast enough on issues of racism and trust. This is holding all Australians back from having positive relationships with each other,” Mr. Mohamed added.

“Part of the problem that our State of Reconciliation in Australia report uncovered last year is that we aren’t addressing racism at an institutional level. Attempts to weaken legal protections under the Racial Discrimination Act are ongoing; Australia is yet to implement its international obligations under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the Australian Constitution still allows for racial discrimination in our nation’s founding document.”

“The reality is, that unless goodwill is followed through with significant reform at an institutional level, Australia will continue to fall short of its full potential as a reconciled nation.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Nigel Scullion

Australian Reconciliation Barometer Report Response

9 February 2017

Reconciliation Australia’s biennial Australian Reconciliation Barometer has been released today, providing a snapshot of views on the relationship between First Australians and the wider Australian community.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said the report showed some encouraging signs but there was still a lot more work to be done.

“It is very pleasing that most Australians surveyed believe reconciliation is important and that itis possible for all Australians to be united,” Minister Scullion said.

“Almost everyone – 97 per cent of those surveyed – believed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s identity, and that more Australians in the general community now accept key facts about Australia’s past. This is extremely important going forward.

“Sadly, of those surveyed, almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people said theyexperienced at least one form of racial prejudice in the six months prior to the survey.

“Although there are notable improvements across the last two reports, there is still more Australia can do. There is a lot of goodwill out there and with further education we can ensure our First Australians enjoy respectful relationships to the same extent as fellow Australians.

“Australian businesses are leading the way through their commitments in Reconciliation Action Plans. Individuals in communities can also take a proud stand against racism.

“The Coalition Government is pleased to support Reconciliation Australia and the work it undertakes to increase the understanding of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and fellow Australians within businesses and communities throughout Australia.”

 

NACCHO Invites all health practitioners and staff to a webinar : Working collaboratively to support the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal youth in crisis

atsi

NACCHO invites all health practitioners and staff to the webinar: An all-Indigenous panel will explore youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The webinar is organised and produced by the Mental Health Professionals Network and will provide participants with the opportunity to identify:

  • Key principles in the early identification of youth experiencing psychological distress.
  • Appropriate referral pathways to prevent crises and provide early intervention.
  • Challenges, tips and strategies to implement a collaborative response to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in crisis.

Join hundreds of doctors, nurses and mental health professionals around the nation for an interdisciplinary panel discussion. The panellists with a range of professional experience are:

  • Dr Louis Peachey (Qld Rural Generalist)
  • Dr Marshall Watson (SA Psychiatrist)
  • Dr Jeff Nelson (Qld Psychologist)
  • Facilitator: Dr Mary Emeleus (Qld GP and Psychotherapist)

Read more about the panellists.

Working collaboratively to support the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in crisis.

Date:  Thursday 23rd February, 2017

Time: 7.15 – 8.30pm AEDT

REGISTER

No need to travel to benefit from this free PD opportunity. Simply register and log in anywhere you have a computer or tablet with high speed internet connection. CPD points awarded.

Learn more about the learning outcomes, other resources and register now.

For further information, contact MHPN on 1800 209 031 or email webinars@mhpn.org.au.

The Mental Health Professionals’ Network is a government-funded initiative that improves interdisciplinary collaborative mental health care practice in the primary health sector.  MHPN promotes interdisciplinary practice through two national platforms, local interdisciplinary networks and online professional development webinars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Death by #racism: Is bigotry in the health system harming Indigenous patients ?

 racism

” Death by racism should be a category on death certificates, because the racism in hospitals is hindering the recovery of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Spend some time as a patient in a hospital and you soon find out that the medical profession is full of bigots and people who might not consider themselves racist, but have preconceived ideas on race and hold outdated beliefs in racial stereotypes.”

 We need cultural awareness programs on all levels of the system, writes Colleen Lavelle for IndigenousX : Our stories, our way” – each week, a new guest hosts the @IndigenousX Twitter account to discuss topics of interest to them as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people. Produced with assistance of Guardian Australia staff.

NACCHO background info

Read previous 69 articles NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism

Read previous 10 articles NACCHO Aboriginal health / Cultural safety

 ” The National Cultural Respect Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 2016–2026 (the Framework) was recently launched by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council .

This ten year framework seeks to guide delivery of culturally safe, responsive, and quality health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

Download the COAG Cultural Respect Framework here :

cultural_respect_framework_1december2016_1

I have been in and out of hospital for years with a brain tumour and have experienced the bigotry within the system first hand. I have also collected stories from Indigenous people around the country and a common thread is either: “Is it me or do they treat all of us like this?” or “Am I being overly sensitive?”

Indigenous cancer patients have even had pain relief denied to them. This might happen for a couple of reasons. First, because apparently some people think we Indigenous people can cope with more pain than our European counterparts. Let me state now that that ethnocentric view is not true. Another common view is that we are “faking it” to get drugs. Now, I don’t know about you, but if someone has cancer and is crying in pain, it’s pretty obvious they are not trying to get some cheap thrills.

A similar misconception is that we are drunk. I have even heard of cancer patients having their blood alcohol level tested before a doctor will see them. This assumption that we all take drugs or drink is outdated and just insulting.

Traditional people from remote communities have had to deal with their cultural mores being completely overlooked. Men have been shamed by having a young female nurse attend to them, when a male nurse is required. The same happens to our women too: a male attendant will try to do something that should only be done with or by a female. And when women ask to have another female in with them, they are quite often overlooked. I can’t understand why our cultural needs are overlooked when other peoples have their cultural rules respected.

The medical system seems so against us in so many ways, particularly if we are sent to a hospital away from home and English is not our first language. Good luck trying to find a translator to help! Governments, both at state and federal level can’t say they are doing all they can when our needs are not even considered important. All we hear are excuses like, “The cost is prohibitive for translators, patient transport, mobile medical units …”

We are the first people of this country and as such we shouldn’t be constantly overlooked. Perhaps fewer trips to the Gold Coast and a little bit more money into Indigenous health could help.

There are ways to make the road to good health better. For starters, no doctor or nurse should be allowed to work with Aboriginal people unless they have had cultural awareness training. It should be a requirement that all medical professionals do a cultural awareness course, with a refresher course after every year. Make it part of the accreditation process. It should be a part of the Close The Gap scheme that every general practice has to sign on to do cultural awareness. Even if it’s just one person in the practice doing it online. There could also be an incentive, such as the practice receives money for each Indigenous patient they see.

If every doctor and nurse across the country had this training and if hospitals and health executives spent quality time with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, they might learn we are not so different. We might have some different needs, but they shouldn’t compromise the levels of compassion, caring and proper medial attention that we need.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Human Rights : Nomination open 2017 National Indigenous #HumanRights Awards

nihra-2017-save-the-date-invitation_version-2

 ” The National Indigenous Human Rights Awards recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who have made significant contribution to the advancement of human rights and social justice for their people.”

The awards were established in 2014, and will held annually. The inaugural awards were held at NSW Parliament House, and were welcomed by the Hon Linda Burney, MP and included key note speakers Dr Yalmay Yunupingu, Ms Gail Mabo, and Mr Anthony Mundine. A number of other distinguished guests such as political representatives, indigenous leaders and others in the fields of human rights and social justice also attended.

The Awards were presented by leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders, and leading Indigenous figures in Indigenous Social Justice and Human Rights. All recipients of the National Human Rights Award will be persons of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage.

To nominate someone for one of the three awards, please go to https://shaoquett.wufoo.com/forms/z4qw7zc1i3yvw6/
 
For further information, please also check out the Awards Guide at https://www.scribd.com/document/336434563/2017-National-Indigenous-Human-Rights-Awards-Guide

AWARD CATEGORIES:

 

DR YUNUPINGU AWARD – FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
 
To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Human Rights for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Dr Yunupingu is the first Aboriginal from Arnhem Land to achieve a university degree. In 1986 Dr Yunupingu formed Yothu Yindi in 1986, combining Aboriginal (Yolngu) and non-Aboriginal (balanda) musicians and instrumentation.

In 1990 was appointed as Principal of Yirrkala Community School, Australia’s first Aboriginal Principal. Also in that year he established the Yothu Yindi Foundation to promote Yolngu cultural development, including Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures Dr Yumupingu was named 1992 Australian of the Year for his work in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities across Australia.

THE EDDIE MABO AWARD FOR ACHIEVEMENTS IN SOCIAL JUSTICE

In memory of Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992), this award recognises an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of Social Justice for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Eddie Koiki Mabo was a Torres Straits Islander, most notable in Australian history for his role in campaigning for indigenous land rights.

From 1982 to 1991 Eddie campaigned for the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have their land rights recognised. Sadly, he died of cancer at the age of 56, five months before the High Court handed down its landmark land rights decision overturning Terra Nullius. He was 56 when he passed away.

THE ANTHONY MUNDINE AWARD FOR COURAGE

 

To an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of sports among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Anthony Mundine is an Australian professional boxer and former rugby league player. He is a former, two-time WBA Super Middleweight Champion, a IBO Middleweight Champion, and an interim WBA Light Middleweight Champion boxer and a New South Wales State of Origin representative footballer. Before his move to boxing he was the highest paid player in the NRL.

In 2000 Anthony was named the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person of the Year in 2000. He has also won the Deadly Award as Male Sportsperson of the Year in 2003, 2006 and 2007 amongst others.

He has a proud history of standing up for Indigenous peoples, telling a journalist from the Canberra Times: “I’m an Aboriginal man that speaks out and if I see something, I speak the truth.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : A call to acknowledge the harmful history of nursing for Aboriginal people

nurses

 ” While we ourselves did not work there, the societal beliefs interwoven with the professional theories practised at that time are a legacy we have inherited. Those attitudes and practices remain present within our professional space.

Have we done sufficient work to decolonise ourselves?

Decolonising is a conscious practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses. It involves recognising the impact of the beliefs and practices of the coloniser on ourselves at a personal and professional level, then disavowing ourselves from them.

We talk about this in CATSINaM with our Members. We invite our non-Indigenous colleagues to engage in this self-reflective conversation through many aspects of our work.

janine-mohamed-indigenous-x-profile-picture

Janine Mohamed (right), CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), argues we should.

Is it time for the nursing and midwifery professions to reflect on our historical involvement in the subjugation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and consider whether we owe a statement of regret for our failures as part of the wider healthcare system to respond to the needs of Aboriginal Australians?

Do formal apologies mean anything?

We welcome your input on this fundamental issue for Australians – and especially input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

Editorial Nurse Uncut Conversations

In September 2016, the Australian Psychological Society issued a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for their past failure as a profession to respond to the needs of Aboriginal patients.

In the past, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association and the ANMF more broadly have issued statements of apology for our professions’ involvement in the practices associated with the forced adoption of babies from the 1950s to 1980s.

In doing so we recognised that while those nurses and midwives were working under direction, it was often they who took the babies away from mothers who had been forced, pressured and coerced into relinquishing their children and we apologised for and acknowledged the pain these mothers, fathers and children had experienced in their lives as a result.

Following the recent commendable move by the Australian Psychological Society, is it now time for the nursing and midwifery professions to reflect on our historical involvement as healthcare providers in the subjugation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and consider whether we owe a similar statement of regret for our failures as part of the wider healthcare system to respond to the needs of Aboriginal Australians?

But firstly, do such apologies mean anything?

Professor Alan Rosen AO (a non-indigenous psychiatrist) makes a cogent argument for an apology by the Australian mental health professions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

The recent apology by the Australian Psychological Society to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is of profound national and international significance.

The APS is believed to be the first mental health professional representative body in the world to endorse and adopt such a specific apology to indigenous peoples for what was done to them by the profession as part of, or in the name of, mental health/psychological assessment, treatment and care.

The APS Board also substantially adopted the recommendation of its Indigenous Psychologists’ Advisory Group (IPAG), whose Indigenous and non-Indigenous members crafted this apology together. This sets a fine precedent.

As some other Australian mental health professional bodies are still considering whether to make such an apology, it is to be hoped that the APS has set a new trend. The APS has provided a robust example of how to do it well and in a way that it is more likely to be considered to be sincere and acceptable by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have suffered much more incarceration, inappropriate diagnoses and treatments and more control than care in the hands of mental health professionals, facilities and institutions.

This is also true for all First Nations peoples, globally.

Professor Rosen argues that such apologies demonstrate concern for possible historical wrongs, either deliberate or unwitting, by professionals and institutions and the enduring mental health effects of colonialism. The Croakey.org article goes on to describe the purposes and goals of an apology, why they are worth doing and proposes a template.

So, just as we have recognised and apologised for the role our professions played in forced adoptions, is it now time to examine and take responsibility for our professions’ historical contribution to undermining Indigenous Australians’ social and emotional health and wellbeing?

Janine Mohamed (right), CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), argues we should.

Between 1908 and 1919, hundreds of Aboriginal patients were incarcerated in the Lock Hospitals off the coast of Carnarvon, with more than 150 people dying there. The West Australian government established the hospitals for the treatment of Aboriginal people with sexually transmitted infections, but there remains considerable doubt as to the accuracy of such diagnoses – many of which were made by police officers.

The Fantome Island Lock Hospital operated in Queensland from 1928-45 under similar arrangements, detaining Aboriginal people with suspected sexually transmitted infections. There was also a lazaret on Fantome Island (1939-73) for segregated treatment of Aboriginal people with Hansen’s disease.

Aboriginal people taken to the hospitals were often forcibly removed from their families and communities and transported in traumatic conditions, in chains and under police guard. There is also evidence of medical experimentation and abuse.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association has embarked on the process of developing a Reconciliation Action Plan. As a first step, over coming months we will be working on developing a more thorough understanding of how historical practices have affected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our care.

We welcome feedback, especially from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Invasion Day #changethedate debate : New Australia Day ad has no mention of it? Strewth

 lamb_3

” The latest Meat and Livestock Association’s (MLA) annual Australia Day ad is out. It’s the first not to mention ‘Australia Day’, but it doesn’t need to. It features a “beach party” scene imitating all textbook illustrations of the arrival of European colonization.

The only thing I can hope for when I watch that ad is that this will be the last Australia Day held on the 26th of January, and that any future attempts to profit from patriotism will not need to try so damn hard to make Australian history, or contemporary Australian society, appear much more inclusive than it actually is. “

By Luke Pearson  Source:  NITV

” An Australia Day ad without actually mentioning Australia Day? Strewth, that’s un-Australian!

But that’s exactly what Meat & Livestock Australia has done, with its annual Australia Day ad failing to actually name the national celebration.

Labelled the MLA’s “January campaign”, the ad instead focuses on the controversy surrounding the negative meaning on Australia Day for indigenous Australians.

Referred to by many as “Invasion Day”, January 26th is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet from Great Britain “

Australia Day ad has no mention of it? Strewth! The Australian

The ad perhaps is a fitting theme for Australia Day: forget about or completely misrepresent Australian history and contemporary society, and buy stuff instead.

Enjoy your paid day off, buy a flag cape, buy some alcohol and get drunk, buy some lamb and have a BBQ, and complain about whoever you think isn’t ‘Australian enough’ or about those who choose not to celebrate ‘Australia Day’ and call the day Survival Day, Invasion Day, or a Day of Mourning.

Apart from a brief reference to Aboriginal people having been here “since forever”, the ad crams tens of thousands of years into a quick sound bite. The ad revels in the last 200 years, because apparently, that’s when pretty much anything worth talking about happened.

The attempt to include ‘boat people’ at the end, with the response: “aren’t we all boat people?”, does nothing to redeem the caricatures we’ve just witnessed.

 2017 lamb ad features a beach party hosted by Indigenous Australians.

Using sarcasm to say “we’re not racist” is probably the point.

An ad like this can’t lose from a marketing perspective. People who love it will share it and sing its praises, people who hate it will share it and point out its flaws, commentators like myself will comment on it guaranteeing that anyone who reads this and hasn’t seen the ad will watch it, if only so they can make sense of what I am saying. I’m okay with that thought because, for my part at least, I’m not trying to get anyone to boycott lamb or trying to stop anyone from watching the ad.

Love it or hate it, it is still worth a watch.

My goal is trying to get the date of Australia Day changed, and the blind patriotism that goes along with it reduced, not merely extended so that everyone else can be just as blindly patriotic to the notion of ‘Australianity’, or mateship, or ‘One Nation’ or whatever we are calling it these days.

I do however appreciate that all ads are trying to sell something, that is what they’re meant to do, but I think the MLA are trying too hard to tack on their newly discovered ‘sense of inclusivity’ to their core desire to sell more meat.

The idea of a group of marketing executives sitting a room thinking, “Hmmm, how can we make the controversy over Australia Day equal more profits for us?”, just turns me off my lunch.

I can picture the creative team patting each other on the back after coming up with the line, “we’re all boat people” and feeling particularly clever about co-opting a concept that many people have used for years now, albeit for more altruistic motives, namely to combat the term being used to denigrate asylum seekers.

The construct of ‘Australia Day’ is problematic enough for the Australia Day Council given the date that Australia chooses to hold its national day, but to take it one step further to try to sanitise the history of migration to Australian shores is outright impossible.

Justifying the existence of Australia Day being on the 26th of January in order to sell lamb to a more diverse customer base is just too convoluted a plan for my taste.

The only thing I can hope for when I watch that ad is that this will be the last Australia Day held on the 26th of January, and that any future attempts to profit from patriotism will not need to try so damn hard to make Australian history, or contemporary Australian society, appear much more inclusive than it actually is.

I’m sure many people will consider this ad to be a great step forward for representation in Australian media, but personally, I still remember their racist ads of recent years, and I am not buying that this attempted shift of focus has anything other to do with trying to sell more lamb, which I am also not buying.

Maybe I’d have been a bit kinder to this latest attempt if it was a standalone, and not just the next chapter of a series I already don’t like, written for an company I already don’t like, tied to a day that I do not like…

Just change the damn date already.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Ode to Ms Dhu a powerful means to expose racism and demand justice

Della Roe, mother of Ms Dhu outside the coroner's court in Perth on Friday, Dec 16, 2016. The State Coroner is due to hand down findings into the death of Ms Dhu, who died in police custody in August, 2014. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright) NO ARCHIVING

 ” Racism mires this nation, despite the denials of the many who reduce the debate to a minimum. Unsurprisingly, our state and federal governments remain idly quiet, as their parliaments do not reflect the demography of the nation in their make-up.

During  Ms Dhu coronial inquest, I listened to ludicrous assertions, such as, ‘there is no racism or discriminating in the work places of hospitals and police stations’.

All anti-discrimination, anti-racism and cross cultural training teaches us to recognise that every workplace is tainted by racism and discrimination, and only by recognising this can we manage and reduce incidences of racism and discrimination.

The police should have focused on Ms Dhu’s wellbeing, which was their duty of care, not her fines. “

By Gerry Georgatos

Image above : Della Roe, mother of Ms Dhu outside the coroner’s court in Perth on Friday, Dec 16, 2016.

On August 4, 2014, I was phoned by Ms Dhu’s family. Only hours before the phone call, she had passed away at the hand of racism. Some will argue racism did not kill Ms Dhu, but I am of the view racism did.

Mainstream Australia only became truly aware of Ms Dhu’s death on December 16, when the CCTV footage of Ms Dhu’s final moments was finally released publicly, after a lengthy legal battle. Ms Dhu’s family wanted the footage to be shown for the benefit of the public interest.

When handing out her findings into the causes of Ms Dhu’s death, the West Australian coroner found Ms Dhu’s death was preventable, and police were ‘unprofessional and inhumane’.

As the CCTV footage lays witness, Ms Dhu was dragged, carted, and hauled to the pod of a police vehicle, as her spirit left behind her mortal coil. The footage is disturbing.

Some would say Ms Dhu was dumped into the paddy wagon ‘like a dead kangaroo’.

The rawness of this visual analogy was not lost on The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl, who has just released a song about the events.

The renowned singer/songwriter had been reading my articles on Ms Dhu’s death and had contacted me to find out more.

Felix wanted to do something to raise awareness on Ms Dhu’s needless death. He felt the nation had to know about her abhorrent treatment in custody, and believes people should demand change.

Mid-last year, Felix emailed me a draft song: an ode in memory of Ms Dhu; a call to the nation’s principled and compassionate people to come as one and plea for justice.

When many rise, change happens

The song is a journey into injustice. It enumerates the wrongs Ms Dhu suffered in her last 48 hours.

Teenage female Aboriginal and Torres Strait youth choir, Marliya (Yindjibarndi for bush honey) from far north Queensland partnered with Felix.

Felix and Marilya capture the veils and layers of institutionalized systematic racism when they sing:

“…they carried her ‘like a dead kangaroo’, from her cell back to the same hospital who’d assumed that her pain must be invisible.”

The lyrics allude to some police having testified they thought Ms Dhu was faking illness and was coming down from drugs. Medical staff also thought she was exaggerating.

The bigger question is – why did police and hospital personnel decide ‘she was faking it’?

This assumption cost Ms Dhu her life. It denied her a proper health assessment and the care she needed.

Racism mires this nation, despite the denials of the many who reduce the debate to a minimum. Unsurprisingly, our state and federal governments remain idly quiet, as their parliaments do not reflect the demography of the nation in their make-up.

I endured racism as a child and have been haunted by it ever since. I have dedicated much of my research to unveiling it, but only so that we journey forward. I am exhausted by White Privilege talking down to minorities as if racism didn’t exist, as if White Privilege could ever understand what it is like to experience racism.

When Western Australian Coroner Ros Fogliani delivered her findings on Ms Dhu’s death on December 16, no one expected any damning condemnation from the coronial inquest.

We have been burnt so many times, hope was non-existent.

When 16-year-old John Pat died in 1983 in Roebourne, after being bashed to death by an inebriated police officer, Roebourne became to Western Australia what Birmingham had been to Alabama two decades prior: five police officers, who with furious fists laid into Yindjibarndi youth, were acquitted by an all-white jury.

A little over two decades later, we would be let down again when Mulrunji Doomadgee was critically injured in police custody. These police officers are still ‘serving the public’. So too are the police officers and health personnel who were ‘caring’ for Ms Dhu at the time of her death.

In November 2015 and March 2016, I attended most of the coronial inquest hearings into Ms Dhu’s death. I saw the footage, and though it broke the heart to see it, I was not surprised. Much injustice is perpetrated when racism, classism and sexism take hold.

Health personnel and police officers pleaded their innocence during the coronial inquest.

Felix and Marilya capture it best in the song:

“It wasn’t me, wasn’t me, I’m innocent, say the ones who betrayed her in every sense… Now they’re white washing away evidence, will we ever see a cop locked up for negligence?”

During the coronial inquest, I listened to ludicrous assertions, such as, ‘there is no racism or discriminating in the work places of hospitals and police stations’.

All anti-discrimination, anti-racism and cross cultural training teaches us to recognise that every workplace is tainted by racism and discrimination, and only by recognising this can we manage and reduce incidences of racism and discrimination.

Last November, I met with Coroner Fogliani to discuss some of my work in suicide. I also took the opportunity to discuss briefly Ms Dhu’s death and urged for the Custody Notification Service to be recommended.

This service would have mandatorily provided a stout advocate for Ms Dhu, which could have saved her life. I found Coroner Fogliani to be an open-minded individual, and I held out hope that she would come good in the findings and recommendations, despite the weight of pessimism rightfully felt by others.

Coroner Fogliani made eleven recommendations, the majority of which were much needed and long overdue.

She described the maltreatment by police as “unprofessional”, “inhumane and cruel”. However, she did not mention racism.

I would’ve gone further to describe the police’s treatment of Miss Dhu as brutal, malicious and racist. Yes, there was domestic violence incident, and yes, there was a staphylococcus infection and septicaemia. But what ensured Ms Dhu’s death was the police locking her up for fine defaulting, despite the fact that they had been called out to a domestic incident.

The police should have focused on Ms Dhu’s wellbeing, which was their duty of care, not her fines.

The Western Australian Police Commission has a lot to answer for, but has limited itself to reprimands. Country Health (WACHS) issued a statement in December accepting “the comments and recommendations made by the Coroner about the care Ms Dhu”.

The response reads: “WACHS has received, and is currently reviewing, the full Coroner’s report, and is seeking additional advice as to whether any further actions are reasonably required by WACHS”.

The coroner’s eleven findings, which include the call for the Custody Notification Service, were appropriate; however, they fell short of making involved police and health professionals accountable before the criminal justice system for their conduct. The coroner didn’t call out the role racism played, or required compensation for the Dhu family.

As the song illustrates:

Ms Dhu pleaded for her life.

“I am in so much pain.”

“Oh God, someone please help me.”

They did not. Where to from here?

 

22-year-old Ms Dhu would have turned 25 on Christmas Eve.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cashless Welfare Card : NACCHO CEO Pat Turner questions lack of evidence

the-card

“The cashless welfare card is unfair, a form of control and reminds Aboriginal people every day that they are treated as second- and third-class citizens in their own land,”

One of the key issues in many of the areas where the card operates, such as in remote areas of South Australia, is the difficulty of accessing fresh produce at reasonable prices.

Where is the evidence that this card increases this access and enables Aboriginal people to get the healthy food they need?

A person’s dignity can also be lost when having to use such a card which can also have detrimental impacts on both their mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

Pat Turner, the chief executive of NACCHO  national peak body on Aboriginal health

From Melissa Davey The Guardian

pat-naccho-ceo2

The welfare card was “unfair” and “a form of control”, Turner said in response to a Guardian Australia report from the South Australian town of Ceduna which found welfare recipients on the card felt disempowered and dictated to.

But Turner, who before being appointed to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Naccho) was the longest-serving chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and spent 18 months as Monash Chair of Australian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, questioned the evidence from the government’s report

The trial of the card, known as the indue card, began in Ceduna in March and in the Western Australian towns of Kununurra and Wyndham in April. Welfare recipients in those towns now receive 80% of their welfare payments into the indue card, which cannot be used to withdraw cash or buy alcohol or gambling products. The remaining 20% can be withdrawn as cash.

The government, including the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the human services minister, Alan Tudge, say the card has so far been a success.

In a report released six months into the card’s trial, anecdotal evidence and early data found poker machine revenue in the Ceduna region between April and August last year was 15.1% lower than for the equivalent period in 2015.

There had also been a strong uptake of financial counselling, the report said, with 300 people seeking counselling since the trial began. Anecdotally, there had been a significant decline in people requesting basic supplies like milk and sugar from the Koonibba Community Shopfront in Ceduna, the report also said.

Most people on welfare in the trial towns are Aboriginal.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Department of Health and Human Services for comment.

The strength of data used in the government’s cashless welfare card progress report has been questioned by Aboriginal elders, health economists and the Greens senator, Rachel Siewert.

Aboriginal Health and #Racism : NACCHO submission to #SavetheRDA #18C Inquiry into #Freedomofspeech

 savetherda

” NACCHO does not believe the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (the “RDA”) imposes unreasonable restrictions upon freedom of speech [taking into account the meaning given to that phrase in the Terms of Reference], or that sections 18C and 18D should be reformed. NACCHO’s submission instead argues that:

  • Racism and racial vilification causes harm to individuals, to groups and society as a whole. The submission will summarise evidence of the important links between racism and health and wellbeing and the specific impacts of racism on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Racism and racial vilification experienced by Indigenous Australians is a widespread, serious and ongoing problem. The submission summarises recent evidence of the prevalence and nature of racist behaviours, including speech, directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Any weakening of current restrictions on freedom of speech will directly undermine and work in opposition to existing Government strategies and programs for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health.
  • Combating racial discrimination is a key strategy for closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and achieving the Australian Government’s vision for an Australian health system that is free of racism and inequality and where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable. The submission discusses some evidence-based approaches to addressing racial discrimination and helping to achieve this vision. “

Matthew Cooke Chair of NACCHO

Download our full submission here

submission-to-inquiry-into-freedom-of-speech-and-rda-draft

 

na

 

FROM : NACCHO PO Box 5120  Braddon ACT 2612 8 December 2016

TO : Committee Secretary Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

PO Box 6100 Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Committee Secretary

INQUIRY INTO FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN AUSTRALIA

Introduction

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is a living embodiment of the aspirations of Aboriginal communities and their struggle for self-determination. NACCHO is the national peak body representing over 140 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues. It has a history stretching back to a meeting in Albury in 1974.

NACCHO represents local Aboriginal community control at a national level to ensure that Aboriginal people have greater access to effective health care across Australia, and advocates for culturally respectful and needs-based approaches to improving health and wellbeing outcomes through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Our members continue to demonstrate that they are the leading provider of culturally appropriate, comprehensive, primary health care to Aboriginal people across the nation, exceeding Government or private providers.

The definition of “health” adopted by NACCHO and its members is in accordance with that described in the 1989 National Aboriginal Health Strategy:

“Aboriginal health means not just the physical wellbeing of an individual, but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential as a human being, thereby bringing about the total wellbeing of their community. It is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.”

Aboriginal people enjoy quality of life through whole-of-community self-determination and individual spiritual, cultural, physical, social and emotional wellbeing.

  1. Summary

NACCHO does not believe the operation of Part IIA of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (the “RDA”) imposes unreasonable restrictions upon freedom of speech [taking into account the meaning given to that phrase in the Terms of Reference], or that sections 18C and 18D should be reformed. NACCHO’s submission instead argues that:

  • Racism and racial vilification causes harm to individuals, to groups and society as a whole. The submission will summarise evidence of the important links between racism and health and wellbeing and the specific impacts of racism on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Racism and racial vilification experienced by Indigenous Australians is a widespread, serious and ongoing problem. The submission summarises recent evidence of the prevalence and nature of racist behaviours, including speech, directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Any weakening of current restrictions on freedom of speech will directly undermine and work in opposition to existing Government strategies and programs for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. Combating racial discrimination is a key strategy for closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and achieving the Australian Government’s vision for an Australian health system that is free of racism and inequality and where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable. The submission discusses some evidence-based approaches to addressing racial discrimination and helping to achieve this vision.

It is NACCHO’s strongly held view that there is no current or historical evidence, nor any policy or legal imperatives to support the notion that the handling of complaints made to the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) should be reformed. NACCHO believes the process provides important access to remedies for victims of racial vilification with most complaints resolved through an accessible mediation process.

NACCHO can find no objective analysis of Part IIA of the RDA shows that the laws are not being interpreted sensibly by the courts. The laws appear to generally strike an appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom from racial discrimination and vilification.

NACCHO is not alone in its view that the current inquiry as unnecessary, misconceived and mischievous, noting that:

  • Australians made their support for legislation against racial vilification very clear two years ago in response to the proposed Freedom of Speech (Repeal of s. 18C) Bill 2014 which proposed major changes to section 18C of the RDA.
  • The terms of reference appear to be inconsistent with the proper enforcement of the RDA and thereby appear to seek to undermine the rule of law and the statutory role of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
  1. Position Statement

The link between racism and health and wellbeing

The link between self-reported perceptions or experiences of racism and poorer physical and mental health is established and the pathways from racism to ill-health are now well understood by health researchers.

Racism contributes to reduced access to societal resources and services such as education, employment, housing and medical care which impact on health and wellbeing. Evidence suggests that racism experienced in the delivery of health services contributes to low levels of access to health services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be reluctant to seek much-needed health, housing, welfare or other services from providers they perceive to be unwelcoming or who they feel may hold negative stereotypes about them. Racism has flow on effects for individuals’ social cohesion and for workforce participation, productivity and educational achievement.

Experiences of racism lead to inequitable exposure to risk factors including stress and cortisol dysregulation affecting mental health (anxiety and depression) as well as injury from racially motivated assault. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies both nationally and internationally have found a strong association between experiences of racism and ill-health and psychological distress, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and risk behaviours such as substance use, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

More subtle experiences of racism strongly linked to poor mental health outcomes include feelings of being left out and avoided; a form of social exclusion that results from both direct and indirect racism. Ongoing harmful effects of racism including anxiety and depression continue long after exposure to racist incidents and that individuals also experience anxiety on behalf of relatives and loved ones.

Chronic exposure to racism leads to excessive stress, which is an established determinant of obesity, inflammation and chronic disease. Analysis of the 2012-13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey found that Indigenous Australians with high/very high levels of psychological distress were 1.3 times as likely to report having circulatory disease and 1.8 times as likely to report having kidney disease. The Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2016 report showed that the situation is worsening, with the proportion of adults reporting high levels of psychological distress increasing from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 33 per cent in 2014-15, and hospitalisations for self-harm increased by 56 per cent over this period.

Children and young people’s health and wellbeing

Children and young people’s perspectives and experiences of racism, and the ways in which such experiences impact their health and wellbeing should be a key consideration for the Committee.

Neuroscience and molecular biology tell us that early life experiences and exposures ‘get under the skin’ and become biologically embedded. A survey of research on the health effects of racism on children by UNICEF concluded that toxic stress in childhood is especially harmful, with ever increasing evidence that exposure to high levels of stress and adversity in childhood influences later physical and mental health and cardiovascular, metabolic and immune function right through to mid-life and older adulthood. Young people who experience high levels of racial discrimination were also found to have increased sleep difficulties, cellular aging, inflammation, and physiological wear and tear. UNICEF has stated that children and young people who are targets of racial discrimination are at higher risk of increased anxiety and depression, behavior difficulties, suicide and self-harm. Racial discrimination quite literally can get under the skin and make our children and young people sick.

UNICEF’s survey noted that racism experienced by a carer, family member or peer, that may or may not be witnessed by the child, has also been shown to place children and young people at risk. Studies show increased risk of common childhood illnesses, social emotional difficulties, and risk of overweight and obesity among children with carers and families who experience racism. Witnessing or hearing about racism in the media and online, including stereotyped, negative portrayals, is one harmful form of vicarious racism that also places children at risk.

The impact of racism on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Racism is a key social determinant of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and can deter people from achieving their full capabilities. The impact of racism on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be seen in:

  • inequitable and reduced access to the resources required for health (employment, education, housing, medical care, etc);
  • inequitable exposure to risk factors associated with ill-health (junk food, toxic substances, dangerous goods);
  • stress and negative emotional/cognitive reactions which have negative impacts on mental health as well as affecting the immune, endocrine, cardiovascular and other physiological systems;
  • engagement in unhealthy activities (smoking, alcohol and drug use);
  • disengagement from healthy activities (sleep, exercise, taking medications); and
  • physical injury via racially motivated assault.

Research and survey results indicate a common response to experiencing racism is to subsequently avoid similar situations: 35% of those who reported in the 2012–13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey that they had been treated badly, said they usually responded to discrimination by avoiding the person or situation. This holds implications across health, education and employment sectors.

Henry et al argue that healthcare in Australia is institutionally racist, but, more importantly, that such racism represents one of the greatest barriers to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is a growing body of evidence that the health system itself does not provide the same level of care to indigenous people as to other Australians. This systemic racism is not necessarily the result of individual ill-will by health practitioners, but a reflection of inappropriate assumptions made about the health or behaviour of people belonging to a particular group.

Institutionalised racism occurs in many contexts in the Australian health system:

  • Barriers to hospitals and health care institutions: Institutional racism manifests itself in (1) the adoption, administration, and implementation of policies that restrict admission; (2) the closure, relocation, or privatisation of hospitals that primarily serve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; and (3) the continued transfer of unwanted patients (known as patient dumping) by hospitals and institutions. Such practices have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Discriminatory policies and practices can take the form of medical redlining, excessive wait times, unequal access to emergency care, and lack of continuity of care, which all have a negative effect on the type of care received.
  • Lack of Language and Culturally Competent Care – cultural competency involves ensuring that all health care providers can function effectively in a culturally diverse setting; it involves understanding and respecting cultural differences including diverse groups with diverse histories, languages, cultures, religions, beliefs, and traditions. Without understanding and incorporating these differences, health care cannot be provided in a culturally competent manner.

How commonly is racism directed at Indigenous Australians?

The common perception seems to be that racism directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is regrettable, but that such incidents are isolated, trivial and essentially harmless. Such views were commonly expressed, for example, following the racial abuse of Sydney Swans footballer and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, earlier in 2015. Recent evidence suggests that racism and racial vilification experienced by Indigenous Australians is a widespread, serious and ongoing problem.

A key study in Victoria in 2010-11, funded by the Lowitja Institute, documented very high levels of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians. It found that of the 755 Aboriginal Victorians surveyed, almost all (97 per cent) reported experiencing racism in the previous year. This included a range of behaviours from being called racist names, teased or hearing jokes or comments that stereotyped Aboriginal people (92 per cent); being sworn at, verbally abused or subjected to offensive gestures because of their race (84 per cent); being spat at, hit or threatened because of their race (67 per cent); to having their property vandalised because of race (54 per cent). Significantly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed experienced eight or more such incidents in the previous 12 months. Racism occurred across a broad range of settings and was commonly experienced in shops (67%), public spaces (59%), employment (42%), housing (35%), while nearly a third (29%) of respondents experienced racism in health settings. There were no differences in experiences of racism due to gender, age or geographical location. Other studies have found high levels of exposure to racist behaviours and language. For example, in the 2012-13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 16% of respondents reported that they were treated badly in the previous 12 months because they identify as Indigenous Australians.

A recent survey to gain insight into discriminatory attitudes and beliefs of non-Indigenous Australians (aged 25–44 years) towards Indigenous Australians conducted by Beyond Blue in 2014 found a general lack of awareness of what behaviour is considered discriminatory, along with widespread belief that behaviours such as employment discrimination are considered an ‘unconscious act’ by the perpetrator. Key findings include:

  • Discrimination is commonly witnessed, with 40% seeing others avoid Indigenous Australians on public transport and 38% witnessing verbal abuse.
  • Almost a third (31%) witnessed employment discrimination against Indigenous Australians and 9% admit they themselves discriminate in this context.
  • One in four (25%) do not agree that discrimination has a negative personal impact for Indigenous Australians.
  • More than half (56%) believe that being Indigenous makes it harder to succeed.
  • Many believe it is acceptable to discriminate, with 21% admitting they would move away from an Indigenous Australian if they sat nearby, and 21% would watch an Indigenous Australian’s actions when shopping.

Evidence-based approaches to reducing racism

The law has an important role to play in addressing the harm caused by racial discrimination and racial vilification. By setting standards of conduct, the laws constrain the spread of racism and racial hatred, and encourage people to speak out against racism, complementing broader education strategies. Protecting people from that harm is an appropriate object of government legislation, as recognised by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Freedom of expression is not an absolute right and preventing the harm caused by racist speech is of sufficient importance to warrant appropriate restrictions on freedom of speech as in sections 18C and 18D.

The Victorian Coalition for Aboriginal Health Equality argues for addressing discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a human rights approach. The principles of human rights emphasise empowerment for all Indigenous peoples and provide a clear, positively oriented set of principles to guide individuals and organisations in addressing discriminatory behaviours, practices and policies. The Coalition has identified the following evidence-based approaches to addressing racial discrimination:

  • Taking Preventive Action – Preventive action is a more effective and efficient public health intervention than responding to individual incidents of prejudice; a range of preventive actions can be undertaken at the interpersonal and organisation level.
  • Communication, Training and Behavioural Change – International evidence shows that it is more effective to seek to change behaviours than to address underlying beliefs; strategies that curb racist behaviours will have a positive impact on reducing Aboriginal people’s experiences of racism. Underpinning this behavioural change, it is vital to provide accurate information and offer sound alternative explanations to racist views, to build a consensus that supports culturally safe behaviours.
  • Strategic Approaches – Individuals, organisations, advocates and governments should incorporate longitudinal strategies and develop long-term plans for addressing discrimination rather than proposing rather one-shot interventions; effecting behavioural change and addressing institutionalised forms of inequality take time and cannot be effectively implemented without a commitment to continual improvement.

Any weakening of current restrictions on freedom of speech will directly undermine and work in opposition to existing Government strategies and programs for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. Combating racial discrimination is a key strategy for closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and achieving the Australian Government’s vision outlined the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Plan 2013-2023. The Health Plan vision is:

“The Australian health system is free of racism and inequality and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable. Together with strategies to address social inequalities and determinants of health, this provides the necessary platform to realise health equality by 2031.”

The Health Plan’s accompanying Implementation Plan, released by the then Minister for Rural Health, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash, in 2015, takes forward the overarching vision by progressing strategies and actions that prevent and address systemic racism and discrimination in the health system. The Implementation Plan focuses on the Australian Government’s role in ensuring that the health system is free of racism. It includes strategies to reduce racism and discrimination and improving the cultural safety of the mainstream health system, including primary health care. Strategies and actions such as empowering youth and adolescents to be proud of their identity and culture and recognising the centrality of culture in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are also supported. Any moves to water down the existing restrictions upon freedom of speech through reform of sections 18C and 18D of the RDA will jeopardise this strategic investment and presents major risks for the effective implementation of the Health Plan.

  1. Conclusion

The link between self-reported perceptions or experiences of racism and poorer physical and mental health is established and the pathways from racism to ill-health are now well understood by health researchers. Racism and racial vilification experienced by Indigenous Australians is a widespread, serious and ongoing problem.

Any weakening of current restrictions on freedom of speech will directly undermine and work in opposition to existing Government strategies for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. Combating racial discrimination is a key strategy for closing the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and achieving the Australian Government’s vision for an Australian health system that is free of racism and inequality.

In conclusion we wish to express our very profound concerns that the terms of reference for this inquiry appear to suggest that the right to freedom of speech is superior to the right to freedom from discrimination, in particular in the form of racist vilification. Freedom of expression is not an absolute right and preventing the serious harm caused by racist speech is of sufficient importance to warrant appropriate restrictions on freedom of speech as currently contained in sections 18C and 18D of the RDA.

Please contact Dawn Casey on (02) 62** **** or by email at dawn.casey@naccho.org.au if there is any area of this submission for which we can provide further assistance or information.

Yours faithfully,

Matthew Cooke

Chairperson

NACCHO

References:

  1. Anderson, P (2013) “Racism a driver of ill health”, The Australian; July 27, 2013 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/racism-a-driver-of-ill-health/news-story/caed7cfeca6b5a9051ee1fd18042923d
  2. Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, 2015, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2014 Report, AHMAC, Canberra.
  3. Department of Health, Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023, Australian Government, Canberra, 2015
  4. Australian Government, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023, Australian Government, Canberra, 2013 http://www.health.gov.au/NATSIHP
  5. Ferdinand, A., Paradies, Y. & Kelaher, M. 2012, Mental Health Impacts of Racial Discrimination in Victorian Aboriginal Communities: The Localities Embracing and Accepting Diversity (LEAD) Experiences of Racism Survey, The Lowitja Institute, Melbourne.
  6. Paradies, Yin (2006) “A systematic review of empirical research on self-reported racism and health”, International Journal of Epidemiology, (35) pp. 888-901.
  7. Coalition for Aboriginal Health Equality Victoria, 2014, Racial Discrimination and Health Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People http://www.vaccho.org.au/assets/01-RESOURCES/TOPIC-AREA/POLICY/Position-Statement-on-Racial-Discrimination-and-Health-Outcomes-for-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-People.pdf
  8. SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2016, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2016, Productivity Commission, Canberra.
  9. Priest N, 2016, Research reveals what racism can do to a child’s body http://www.unicef.org.au/blog/november-2016/research-reveals-what-racism-can-do-to-a-childs-body?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=racism&utm_medium=page-post&utm_content=research-reveals-blog-post-1
  10. Henry BR, Houston S, Mooney GH. (2004) “Institutional racism in Australian healthcare: a plea for decency”, The Medical Journal of Australia 2004 May 17; 180(10): 517-20.
  11. Beyond Blue 2014, Discrimination against Indigenous Australians: A snapshot of the views of non-Indigenous people aged 25-44. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/docs/default-source/research-project-files/bl1337-report—tns-discrimination-against-indigenous-australians.pdf?sfvrsn=2
  12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13 (Cat no. 4727.0.55.001)
  13. Mooney G. “Inequity in Australian health care: how do we progress from here?” Aust N Z J Public Health 2003; 27: 267-270. See also Y Paradies, ‘A systematic review of empirical research on self-reported racism and health’ (2006) 35(4) International Journal of Epidemiology 888; D Williams & R Williams-Morris, ‘Racism and mental health: The African American experience’ (2000) 5(3–4) Ethnicity and Health 243; J Soto, N Dawson-Andoh & R BeLue, ‘The relationship between perceived discrimination and generalized anxiety disorder among African Americans, Afro Caribbeans, and non-Hispanic whites’ (2011) 25(2) Journal of Anxiety Disorders 258; E Pascoe & L Richman L, ‘Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review’, (2009) 135(4) Psychological Bulletin 531.
  14. National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities (Universities Australia, 2011).