NACCHO Aboriginal male health: Best of Aboriginal male health presented at Brisbane gathering

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NACCHO’S Mark Saunders pictured above presenting the an overview of the NACCHO OCHRE DAY and the

BLUEPRINT for Aboriginal Male Healthy futures 2013-2030: DOWNLOAD

It has been an overwhelmingly enriching experience to meet so many men who dedicate their lives and energy to helping other men and truly developing healthier communities for all, it leaves me with a great sense of optimism for the future.

October 25, 2013 By  A VOICE FOR MEN

The (Australasian) National Men’s Health Gathering occurred in Brisbane over the period 22 to 25 October 2013, with some 260 delegates attending from Australia, New Zealand and internationally.

Day one of the Gathering was dedicated to the 7th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Health Convention.

A highlight of the opening session was a “welcome to country” Aboriginal dance and song giving insight into the aboriginal culture and its deep connection with nature and the land in which, prior to European colonization, they lived in continuous harmony longer than any other known people.

The families, kinship’s groupings and nations of peoples systematically dismantled and dispossessed of their lands, coupled with the imposition of many of the worst aspects western ways directly impact on the current plight of aboriginal peoples with respect to loss of their traditional culture, poor health in general but poor men’s health in particular.

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These themes were echoed in the analysis of Maori men’s health given by Maori Public Health Physician Dr Rhys Jones, who sees progress toward improving Maori men’s health, being dependent not only on reconnecting with traditional culture but improving educational opportunities to allow for the training of more Maori health professionals, and better education generally, as a driver of employment and stability.

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Aboriginal health academic Randal Ross reported on the “Red Dust Healing” project, which aims to reconnect aboriginal men with their cultural roles in families as fathers. He sees removal of fathers from families as one of the key ways in which European colonization controlled and attempted to destroy aboriginal culture. The role of men in taking over from women in leading the development of boys through their adolescence and initiation into manhood was critical to healthy traditional communities.

This is described as “holding,” women hold the boy as a baby and infant but then pass the holding role to the men. It is increasingly recognized that fatherlessness and lack of culturally appropriate rites of passage for many adolescent boys is a key driver of community discord and poorer health , education and social outcomes.

Much of the focus of this first day was on programs aimed to engage, heal and reaffirm the valued role of aboriginal men in their families and communities. These prime social factors along with improving employment and reducing poverty are known critical determinants of health. Many successful aboriginal men’s groups are operating throughout the country the Gamarada Men’s Self Healing Program in Sydney and the Innisfail Cassowary Coast Men’s Group were 2 of the many showcased. The dedication and enthusiasm for helping men and the results demonstrated for these programs was truly uplifting.

Day two saw the commencement of the Tenth National Men’s Health Conference. The program kicked off with a presentation by Richard Aston, NZ- chief executive of Big Buddy, a mentoring program for fatherless boys.

The statistics on fatherlessness are confronting, as is the knowledge that 80% of young offenders who enter the juvenile justice system in NZ originate from fatherless backgrounds. One of the biggest obstacles to setting up the program was the perception that men interested in mentoring boys were likely to be pedophiles. It required the development of a valid screening system that not only alleviated such concerns but also positively empowered those men willing to take on this role to do so without shame or suspicion. Ninety percent of men offering to be involved were accepted. Overwhelming the program has been shown to have a positive impact on the boys, the men who mentor, but more broadly on the men’s and boys families.

Professor Alan White holds the distinction of being the first person appointed as a professor of Men’s Health, and gave a rich presentation illustrating the gender gap in health with a focus on the disparity men face in the countries’ of the European Union. Perhaps his nursing background helps explain one significant disconnect not lost on many of in the audience. Whilst clearly a passionate supporter of men, fathers and families, he has also been instrumental in and apparently supportive of, the EU’s frequently misandric gender equality agenda.

There were many concurrent “break out sessions” and it was disappointing to have to choose between sometimes 5 or 6 alternate presentations or workshops.

One session was devoted to presenting research around the Australian Men’s Sheds Association. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the community benefits of men’s sheds which will help in continuing to make government funding available to help establish news sheds. Men’s Sheds have now become international phenomena with many sheds in Ireland, and the first ones appearing in the UK and Canada. Two occupational therapy honors students presented their research documenting improvements in well being for shed attendees suffering from depression and disability respectively.

Dr. Arne Rubinstein presented a valuable workshop on 21 Century Rites of Passage for Boys. Arne a general practitioner left medical practice to work with youth after being deserted by his wife and left to raise two young sons. He discovered that what was missing for many young men was a culturally sanctioned rite of passage for adolescent boys as existed in every known culture studied. The increasing absence of fathers led boys to replace such rites of passage with harmful alternatives. His Pathways program developed a process based on the traditional aims but adapted to contemporary society. It has been hugely successful, and many similar programs are thriving here and abroad.

There have been many other great sessions including a keynote forum “21st Century Man – The Way Forward” featuring Dr. Gary Misan (University of SA, New Male Studies), Glen Poole (Helping Men), Dr. Arne Rubinstein (as above) and Dr. Warren Farrell.

It is hoped that excerpts of this session will be broadcast on AVFM radio in the near future, and subsequently video of the full session should be available.

The conference closes today but it has been an overwhelmingly enriching experience to meet so many men who dedicate their lives and energy to helping other men and truly developing healthier communities for all, it leaves me with a great sense of optimism for the future.

NACCHO Blueprint 2013- 2030 news – AMA supports important initiatives to Improve the health of Aboriginal Males



AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Blueprint – Male Healthy Futures for Generational Change – contains important initiatives in national efforts to improve the health of Aboriginal men.

Dr Hambleton welcomed the focus on the health of Aboriginal men as part of broader approach to improving Indigenous health.

“Much of the health inequality between Aboriginal Australians and other Australians is due to the poor health and lower life expectancy of Aboriginal men,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The NACCHO Blueprint outlines a set of practical and achievable proposals for the delivery of culturally appropriate comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal men.

“The AMA urges governments to support these proposals with long-term funding.

“The mental health of Aboriginal men must be a priority.

“Programs and services that address emotional and social wellbeing and suicide prevention
must be supported and enhanced.

“The AMA believes that mainstream health services should be attuned to the cultural needs of Aboriginal men.

“In mainstream health services where there is a significant potential Aboriginal patient population, governments should fund appropriate facilities to accommodate the cultural needs of Aboriginal male patients.

“The AMA congratulates NACCHO for producing this Blueprint and for its ongoing commitment to improving the health of Aboriginal Australians,” Dr Hambleton said.

CONTACT: John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
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NACCHO launches Aboriginal Male Health 10 point Blueprint 2013-2030

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Deputy NACCHO chair Matthew Cooke, Chair Justin Mohamed and board member John Singer launching Blueprint

Photo Wayne Quilliam

NACCHO has long recognised the importance of an Aboriginal male health policy and program to close the gap by 2030 on the alarming Aboriginal male mortality rates across Australia.

Aboriginal males have arguably the worst health outcomes of any population group in Australia.

To address the real social and emotional needs of males in our communities, NACCHO proposes a positive approach to Aboriginal male health and wellbeing

NACCHO, its affiliates and members are committed to building upon past innovations and we require targeted actions and investments to implement a wide range of Aboriginal male health and wellbeing programs and strategies.

We call on State, Territory and Federal governments to commit to a specific, substantial and sustainable funding allocation for the NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health 10 point Blueprint 2013-2030



This blueprint sets out how the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services sector will continue to improve our rates of access to health and wellbeing services by Aboriginal males through working closely within our communities, strengthening cultural safety and further building upon our current Aboriginal male health workforce and leadership.

We celebrate Aboriginal masculinities, and uphold our traditional values of respect for our laws, respect for elders, culture and traditions, responsibility as leaders and men, teachers of young males, holders of lore, providers, warriors and protectors of our families, women, old people, and children

The NACCHO 10-Point Blue print Plan is based on a robust body of work that includes the Close the Gap Statement of Intent and the Close the Gap targets, the National Framework for the Improvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health (2002), NACCHO’s position paper on Aboriginal male health (2010)  the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (NATSIHP), and the NACCHO Healthy futures 10 point plan  2013-2030

These solutions have been developed in response to the deep-rooted social, political and economic conditions that effect Aboriginal males and the need to be addressed alongside the delivery of essential health care.

Our plan is based on evidence, targeted to need and capable of addressing the existing inequalities in Aboriginal male health services, with the aim of achieving equality of health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal males and non-Aboriginal males by 2030.

This blueprint celebrates our success so far and proposes the strategies that governments, NACCHO affiliates and member services must in partnership commit to and invest in to ensure major health gains are maintained into the future

NACCHO, our affiliates and members remain focused on creating a healthy future for generational change and the NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health 10 point Blueprint 2013-2030 will enable comprehensive and long-term action to achieve real outcomes.

To close the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal males and non-Aboriginal within a generation we need achieve these 10 key goals

1. To call on government at all levels to invest a specific, substantial and sustainable funding allocation for the, NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health 10 point Blueprint plan 2013-2030 a comprehensive, long-term Aboriginal male Health plan of action that is based on evidence, targeted to need, and capable of addressing the existing inequities in Aboriginal male health

2. To assist delivering community-controlled ,comprehensive primary male health care, services that are culturally appropriate accessible, affordable, good quality, innovative to bridge the gap in health standards and to respect and promote the rights of Aboriginal males, in urban, rural and remote areas in order to achieve lasting improvements in Aboriginal male health and well-being

3. To ensure Aboriginal males have equal access to health services that are equal in standard to those enjoyed by other Australians, and ensure primary health care services and health infrastructure for Aboriginal males are capable of bridging the gap in health standards by 2030.

4. To prioritise specific funding to address mental health, social and emotional well-being and suicide prevention for Aboriginal males.

5. To ensure that we address Social determinants relating to identity culture, language and land, as well as violence, alcohol, employment and education.

6.To improve access to and the responsiveness of mainstream health services and programs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health  services are provided commensurate Accessibility within the Primary Health Care Centre may mean restructuring clinics to accommodate male specific areas, or off-site areas, and may include specific access (back door entrance) to improve attendance and cultural gender issues

 7.To provide an adequate workforce to meet Aboriginal male health needs by increasing the recruitment, retention, effectiveness and training of male health practitioners working within Aboriginal settings and by building the capacity of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce.

8 To identified and prioritised (as appropriate) in all health strategies developed for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) including that all relevant programs being progressed in these services will be expected to ensure Aboriginal male health is considered in the planning phase or as the program progresses. Specialised Aboriginal male health programs and targeted interventions should be developed to address male health intervention points across the life cycle continuum.

9. To build on the evidence base of what works in Aboriginal health, supporting it with research and data on relevant local and international experience and to ensure that the quality of data quality in all jurisdictions meets AIHW standards.

10. To measure, monitor, and report on our joint efforts in accordance with benchmarks and targets – to ensure that we are progressively reaching our shared aims.

About NACCHO and Aboriginal Male health:

NACCHO is the national authority in comprehensive primary Aboriginal healthcare .

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is the national peak Aboriginal health body representing 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

This is achieved by working with our  Affiliates, the State and Territory peak Aboriginal Community Controlled Health bodies, to address shared concerns on a nationally agreed agenda for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and social justice equality.

NACCHO and the Aboriginal community controlled comprehensive primary health care services, which are NACCHO members are enduring examples of community initiated and controlled responses to community issues.

NACCHO’s Strategic Directions focus on three central areas that are consistent with its constitutional objectives.

  • Strategic Direction 1: Shape the national reform of Aboriginal health.
  • Strategic Direction 2: Promote and support high performance and best practice models of culturally appropriate and comprehensive primary health care.
  • Strategic Direction 3: Promote research that will build evidence-informed best practice in Aboriginal health policy and service delivery.

The NACCHO HEALTHY FUTURES 10-point plan 2013-2030 provides our sector, stakeholders, partners and governments with a clear set of priorities and strategies that will result in improvements in Aboriginal health outcomes and is the foundation for this NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health 10 point Blueprint plan 2013-2030


NOTE : Throughout this document the word Male is used instead of Men. At the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health Gathering-Alice Springs 1999, all delegates present agreed that the word Male would be used instead of the word Men. With the intention being to encompass the Male existence from it’s beginnings in the womb until death.

Throughout this document the word Aboriginal is used instead of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This is in line with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) being representative of Aboriginal People. This does not intend to exclude nor be disrespectful to our Brothers from the Torres Strait Islands.