NACCHO Aboriginal Health #closethegap debate: Blackface and blaming Indigenous health woes on culture are two sides of the same racist coin

 

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“The statement that Aboriginal culture has to change to close the health gap is much the same.

Health in any population is socially determined; this is a basic population health fact. Instigators of this debate present their judgements of some behaviour among Australia’s Indigenous populations as endemic to their culture, and then argue that their culture must change.

There are basic flaws in this thinking.”

Norm Sheehan

Director, GNIBI College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Southern Cross University

I engaged in debate recently with someone who said very clearly that the gap in Indigenous health in Australia was due to culture. Thus, his argument went, to reach health parity Indigenous culture would have to change.

Simultaneously, debate also began concerning “blackface” and whether dressing up in this style was racist or not. It followed Australian basketballer Alice Kunek attracting the ire of team-mate Liz Cambage – whose father is Nigerian – for an Instagram post where she had painted her face brown.

These two debates share similar characteristics that reveal aspects of Australian society when it comes to race. And there is a real absence in these debates of basic knowledge about culture and history.

NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism : What are the impacts of racism on Aboriginal health ?

Where did blackface come from?

Asking if blackface is racist is a bit like asking if the earth is round. You only need to simply search Zip Coon or Jim Crow and you will find the rich racist origins of blackface in 1830s America.

Blackface originated as a popular movement that lampooned and ridiculed African Americans leading up to the American Civil War. It continued until the 1970s. White performers in blackface would perform in what were known as minstrel shows, where they could extend the emotional range and musical style of their performances based on African American music and talent without fear of condemnation or competition.

Minstrel shows also provided a site where African Americans and all people of colour could be openly parodied and ridiculed while being excluded from the entertainment industry.

In this way, blackface is a symbol of personal ridicule, racial exclusion, and intercultural exploitation. The word “coon” lingers in racial abuse as one of many legacies of this movement.

Culture is not easily changed

The statement that Aboriginal culture has to change to close the health gap is much the same.

Health in any population is socially determined; this is a basic population health fact. Instigators of this debate present their judgements of some behaviour among Australia’s Indigenous populations as endemic to their culture, and then argue that their culture must change.

There are basic flaws in this thinking. First is the understanding that culture is not behaviour. People change their behaviour all the time, but changing culture is a very different proposition. An analogy is how it feels when managers talk about implementing culture change in the workplace.

Cultures are not easily changed, as is evident in the resilience of Aboriginal cultures after centuries of persecution. Culture change in any context is slow and sometimes careful because cultural change hurts.

Imposed cultural change is an overt violence condemned by all historical accounts and resultant statements of human rights. Saying that this change is necessary to assist anyone is nonsense.

In their shoes

Racist behaviour operates through substituting offhand unthinking statements for real or true statements. Racist statements are not stupid; they are intentionally unthinking because the aim is to encourage decisions that do not consider how proposals about others or representations of others play out and impact others’ lives.

Just consider, for a moment, how the granddaughter of an African American musician would view a blackface person at a party. Think how an Aboriginal community that has survived mission incarceration, child removal, assimilation and interventionist policy for generations might feel when someone says that their Aboriginal culture is the impediment to their health and well-being.

Speaking against these unconsidered attitudes and actions is not imposing political correctness. It is simply applying good thinking and consideration. History presents knowledge of the past and what was done to some groups by others, so it also engages consideration for the future – informing us so we ensure actions done now do not repeat this harm.

A fear of history has been successfully marketed among members of Australian society. The direct media support and continued funding for edits of colonial reality have worked. This is not because the writings are in any way true, but because they have social validity. Colonial violence was so abhorrent that denial is socially valid and the most common offhand response.

This validity has two basic sources – the intense depravity of colonial violations, and the obvious continuation of a poverty of consideration for Aboriginal peoples. The choice people have to make is whether they are courageous enough to face the truth or use their power to conceal it.

This has resulted in Australians generally not being aware of the significance and value of their history. Media preferences for short, high-impact stories fit seamlessly with these unconsidered offhand manipulations. Resultant “debate” is fleeting. It is uninformed, offhand, and ripe with hostility.

The social interactions surrounding these debates are repeated in a similar form whenever they arise. The old adage is history repeats, but now this seems to have become a repetitious beat that prompts a lot of dancing just to avoid stepping forward with truth

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper closing 18 March

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Next Editions

6 April , 13 July and 16 November 2016

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign for the governments of Australia to commit to achieving equality  for Indigenous people in the areas of health and  life expectancy within 25 years.

Response to this NACCHO media initiative has been nothing short of sensational, with feedback from around the country suggesting we really kicked a few positive goals for national Aboriginal health.

Thanks to all our supporters, most especially our advertisers, NACCHO’S Aboriginal Health News is here to stay.

We are now looking to all our members, programs and sector stakeholders for advertising, compelling articles, eye-catching images and commentary for inclusion in our next edition.

Please Note: All submitted advertising and editorial content is subject to space availability and review by the NACCHO Newspaper editorial committee

This 24-page newspaper is produced and distributed as an insert in the Koori Mail, circulating 14,000 full-colour print copies nationally via newsagents and subscriptions.

Our audited readership (Audit Bureau of Circulations) is 100,000 readers!

Our target audience also includes over 500 NACCHO member and affiliate health organisations, relevant government departments, subsidiary indigenous health services and suppliers, as well as the end-users of Australian Indigenous health services nationally.

Your advertising support means we can build this newspaper to a cost-neutral endeavour, thereby guaranteeing its future.

Contact the Editor Colin Cowell nacchonews@naccho.org.au

DOWNLOAD OUR 2016 ADVERTISING RATE CARD 

HERE

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Close the Gap: Indigenous health implementation plan a potential game-changer

 MC

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Implementation Plan also means much improved management and information processes. A dedicated share of the eHealth budget is required to ensure funds to monitor and support continuity of care and quality improvement across both mainstream and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS). Management needs to be reshaped from a blind contract management process to a mutual, shared process between funder and service provider process which will guarantee return on investment.

Ian Ring is a professorial fellow at the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong.

Download here the Implementation plan for the

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Plan 2013-2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 looks to the people who have runs on the board, those in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector, to play a key role, and offers further opportunities for our Services to grow and deliver more primary health care to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We congratulate Minister Fiona Nash on seeing this through – a process started by the former government but broadly informed by the Aboriginal health sector”

Picture above Matthew Cooke leading the way by example : see NACCHO response here

The launch of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Implementation Plan by Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash on October 22 is another important milestone on the long path towards achieving the goals of Australian governments to Close the Gap in child mortality and life expectancy. It is potentially a game changer and comes at a critical time for Australia’s Indigenous people, following the threats to remote Indigenous communities in WA, cuts to major programs such as those aimed at reducing smoking by Indigenous people, and what is widely seen as a debacle with changes to the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

It was generally recognised that the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Plan launched by former Indigenous health minister Warren Snowdon needed an implementation plan to turn the concepts in that document to services which would actually alter what happens on the ground, and deliver the services which are needed to Close the Gap. Of course the NATSIHIP isn’t really a fully developed implementation plan at this stage, and probably couldn’t be, but it does have the architecture of one, and recognises most of the key elements. Full credit to Minister Nash and to the National Indigenous Health Leadership Forum for reaching this stage.

The NATSIHIP recognises the central importance of culture and racism in shaping Indigenous health and, for the first time, starts to come to grips with the obvious question of what services are need to Close the Gap, what workforce is required and how would they be paid for. Most importantly, it focuses on the need to identify the areas with relatively poor health and not enough services, to make capacity building of services in those areas a priority. Some health gains are possible through improvements to services for people already receiving some kind of service, but much more gain is possible through provision of services to those who aren’t receiving them or aren’t receiving adequate services.

But the real work lies ahead. The key question of identifying a set of services required to Close the Gap remains to be tackled, although fortunately there is some excellent work on this topic in the NT that can be used as a starting point. Once the services are clearly defined, then the workforce requirements and funding strategies can be developed. This does not mean that there is an inbuilt assumption of an unlimited bucket of money to fund services but it does imply shifting the current ad hoc inequitable and inefficient funding mechanisms to a more rational basis and clearly identifying service gaps for government consideration.

So, the first key point is that the NATSIHIP is not a one-off, static, glossy piece of paper. Rather it is an ongoing process whose aim is the continuous improvement of services. The goals are achievable but require high quality services delivered in the right way. That is the job of the NATSIHIP and it is to be achieved, not through words, but with services and actions on a continuing long-term basis, and a small combined Indigenous/government oversight group for that purpose is essential.

What is missing at this stage? Firstly, a process to define the core services and associated workforce and funding strategies. Secondly, “training opportunities” need to become a formal national training plan. Much greater value will be achieved from funds for Indigenous health services if all those involved are actually trained in how best to provide those services. This means training public servants in health planning, health administration and the core elements of Indigenous health, training clinicians in technical and cultural aspects of Indigenous health, and managers and board members of health service organisations. And everyone involved needs to understand, live and breathe Continuous Quality Improvement.

It also means much improved management and information processes. A dedicated share of the eHealth budget is required to ensure funds to monitor and support continuity of care and quality improvement across both mainstream and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS). Management needs to be reshaped from a blind contract management process to a mutual, shared process between funder and service provider process which will guarantee return on investment.

And much more work needs to be done to develop a sensible set of targets (badged as “Goals” in the Implementation Plan). The National Indigenous Health Equality Targets developed by a broad range of organisations is a sensible starting point. These targets identified the health issues responsible for the life expectancy and child mortality gaps (chronic disease, low birth weight etc), defined services required for those topics, spelt-out infrastructure requirements (workforce and funding) and the central importance of social determinants.

The targets identified in the NATSIHIP seemed to have been framed to present predictions from current trajectories and rather miss the point. A target is an aspiration, not a prediction and needs to bear a logical relationship with the overall Goal (Close the Gap) and with the level of investment in a given time period. The level of health gain is closely linked to the degree of service enhancement that is possible. For this reason, the critical targets at this stage are those for service provision and can really only be set when the core service requirements are defined.

The success of the NATSIHIP will ultimately turn on all these elements and particularly on building up ACCHS services in areas lacking sufficient services, lifting the standard of mainstream services and formal structures and mechanisms for both types of services to work constructively together in each region of Australia.

There is still a long way to go but everyone involved, including Minister Nash and the Indigenous health leaders should be congratulated for reaching this stage.

Ian Ring is a professorial fellow at the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/close-the-gap-indigenous-health-implementation-plan-a-potential-gamechanger-20151023-gkhavx#ixzz3phpOpcoM Follow us: @theage on Twitter | theageAustralia on Facebook

NACCHO youth healthy futures : Aboriginal youth encouraged to apply for Indigenous Youth Parliament 2014

NIYP 2014 flyer_Page_1

NACCHO and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is urging all Indigenous Australians aged 16 to 25 to apply now for the National Indigenous Youth Parliament (NIYP).

NIYP is a week-long leadership program for young Indigenous Australians, to be held in Canberra in May 2014.

DOWNLOAD THE NIYP application form now

AEC NT Indigenous Community Engagement Officer Ruth Walker said this is a once-in-a-life time opportunity. Fifty young Indigenous Australians will travel to Canberra to learn directly from the people making decisions that affect Indigenous communities.

“No specific skills or experience are required. But we hope young Indigenous Australians from NT who are passionate about issues and willing to stand up and have a say will seize this great opportunity,” Ms Walker said.

“They’ll get expert training in public speaking and in dealing with the media, and they’ll meet members of Parliament and other national leaders”.

NIYP will be held from 28 May to 3 June 2014. The centrepiece of the program is a two-day simulated parliament in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House where participants will debate bills and important issues.

Young Indigenous Australians aged 16 to 25 must apply no later than Monday 10 March 2014. Participants will be chosen based on their ideas and interest in government and parliament and their potential leadership skills. Application forms are at

http://www.aec.gov.au/Indigenous.

The Youth Parliament is run by the AEC in collaboration with the YMCA and Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

More information on the National Indigenous Youth Parliament is at

http://www.aec.gov.au/Indigenous or contact Ruth Walker (08) 8982 8006.

NACCHO UPDATE

Have you downloaded the new NACCHO APP

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Here are the URL links to the App – alternatively you can type NACCHO into both stores and they come up!

iPhone/iPad

ios.giveeasy.org/naccho

Android

android.giveeasy.org/naccho

“The NACCHO App contains a geo locator, which will help you find the nearest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in your area and  provides heath information online and telephone on a wide range of topics and where you can go to get more information or assistance should you need urgent help “

– See more at: http://www.naccho.org.au/naccho-app/#sthash.hwdIQ3dt.dpuf