NACCHO Conference Alert #closethegap :Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Conference Call for Papers

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Energy is building and registrations are open for the inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference in Alice Springs on 5 – 6 May 2016

Every year at least 5% of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is due to suicide. This ongoing crisis is increasingly significant amongst those aged 15 to 34, where suicide is the leading cause of death, accounting for a third of all loss of life.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) has been funded by the Australian government to investigate suicide prevention programs to determine what works, why, and how it can be replicated.

Incorporating a strong commitment to Indigenous governance, ATSISPEP is not just an exercise in desk top research. Listening to communities through personal consultation and Community Roundtables is essential to understanding the complexity of the problem, and the appropriateness of systematic, yet locally specific, solutions.

The culmination of this process is the Inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference.

Long overdue, this event will bring together experts and members of the Australian community from across the country to Alice Springs. For two days those gathered will exchange learnings, share lived experience and build knowledge about how we can best empower communities to tackle this entrenched tragedy.

Call for Papers

Thank you for your interest in presenting at a concurrent session at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference.  Abstract submissions are now open. Sessions will be between 15 and 25 minutes and are available on both 5 and 6 May. Abstract submission deadline is 5.00pm (WST) Wednesday 23 March 2016.
Abstracts are assessed based on the following criteria:

  • Experience working in the field
  • Lived experience of people who are delivering programs or services in the community
  • Preference will be given to presentations from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or teams of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people

Please email Chrissie Easton, the ATSISPEP Project Coordinator an abstract on a topic you would like to present

Registration and accommodation bookings are available at http://www.atsispep.sis.uwa.edu.au/natsispc-2016 
There are a limited number of bursaries available – please contact Chrissie Easton at chrissie.easton@uwa.edu.au if you need assistance to complete the application.

Please also contact Chrissie Easton if you are interested in making a presentation at the conference of up to 30 minutes.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Alert : Suicide prevention information SURVEY and leaders meeting update

ATSISPEP

“The focus of the roundtable will be on how we can best reduce the incidence of mental health conditions and suicide, and improve social and emotional wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Indigenous health remains this nation’s most confronting health challenge, with mental health issues in need of urgent attention. We want this meeting to develop some clear, positive strategic direction,”

Senator Scullion speaking on behalf of the three federal government ministers who will sit down with Indigenous leaders and mental health advocates today ( Wednesday)  to tackle Indigenous mental health, which they say is the nation’s “most confronting health challenge”. See full story below

SURVEY INFO

Welcome to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention information survey.

This survey is being conducted for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) – a national research project at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in partnership with Telethon Kids Institute that is responding to the high levels of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

COMPLETE SURVEY HERE

ATSISPEP is developing a strong evidence base on effective programs, services, resources, training and other initiatives directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention across Australia. This survey seeks your feedback, responses, and insights about any experiences you may have had with a range of suicide prevention programs, services, training and resources– either personally or in your professional capacity. The information you provide will help guide and further inform our project and strengthen its findings.

The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. Please contact the team at Telethon Kids Institute if you have any queries about the survey, or if you would like to discuss anything further with the ATSISPEP team. Thank you for your interest and participation in what we hope will be a valuable information gathering exercise.

 Indigenous mental health: leaders to tackle ‘most confronting challenge’

Three federal government ministers will sit down with Indigenous leaders and mental health advocates on Wednesday to tackle Indigenous mental health, which they say is the nation’s “most confronting health challenge”. 

From Sarah Whyte SMH :

Health Minister Sussan Ley, Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion will meet 17 mental health advocates and seven respected Indigenous health leaders at Parliament House to discuss reducing the suicide rates of Indigenous people and associated mental health issues.

“The focus of the roundtable will be on how we can best reduce the incidence of mental health conditions and suicide, and improve social and emotional wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Senator Scullion said.

“Indigenous health remains this nation’s most confronting health challenge, with mental health issues in need of urgent attention. We want this meeting to develop some clear, positive strategic direction,” he said.

Suicide death rates among Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders are more than double those of non-Indigenous people living in the same areas.

For people aged 25 to 34, the suicide rate almost triples compared with non-Indigenous people.

“Successive governments have invested heavily in culturally appropriate health programs for Indigenous Australians and, while we have had some success with improvements in life expectancy, especially with the decline in child death rates, the incidence of suicide is a continued concern and we must all work toward a coherent, national approach that more rapidly tackles these issues,” Ms Ley said.

For help or information call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636

 COMPLETE SURVEY HERE

NACCHO Health News Alert : $26m prevention strategy aimed at troubled Aboriginal children

 

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“Counsellors with skills and experience in dealing with troubled Aboriginal children are part of the best-resourced suicide-prevention strategy in Western Australia’s history, unveiled seven months after the death of 11-year-old Peter Little brought attention to a succession of indigenous youth suicides across the state.

From The Australian Report Paige Taylor

On average one in 20 of Australia’s First Peoples will die by suicide, this is catastrophic, but the real rate is more likely one in 10 – there are under-reporting issues. Wholesale suicide prevention for First Peoples can only succeed if it includes the redressing of inequalities in reference to the social determinants – homelessness, housing, social infrastructure, education – the elimination of extreme poverty. Without the strengthening of social health, far too many will lapse under pressures culminating in depression, clinical disorders and violence. Substance abuse are merely dangerous relief from the various personal dysfunction and sense of hopelessness.

Truth, not lies, on Aboriginal suicide rates by Gerry Georgatos (see full report below)

1.Report From The Australian Report Paige Taylor

While last week’s Barnett government budget revealed a dire financial picture and deep cuts to the public sector, it contained big funding increases for mental health and suicide prevention.

The $26 million OneLife strategy is twice as expensive as the strategy it replaces and will, across the next four years, involve schools and the community in identifying people at risk.

The state’s suicide rate declined between 2008 and 2013, largely credited to a relatively small but targeted prevention strategy overseen by Mental Health Minister Helen Morton.

But an investigation by The Weekend Australian in November revealed the state again was a suicide hotspot.

At least 12 young Aborigines had died by suicide in the preceding 11 months, twice the number shown in state government data.

Among those lost was Geraldton’s Peter Little, who took his life in October. A month later, the Williams family from the wheatbelt buried Steve, 15, a talented footballer. The same day, the Gerrard and Webster clans said goodbye to Owen, 15, an excellent hunter from Kununurra.

The new strategy includes $1.5m for improved data ­collection.

“We need far more information, far better data and in a much more timely manner so we can better understand the causes and how to intervene more effectively,” Ms Morton said.

She said the suicide strategy would establish a counselling service to specialise in helping Aboriginal people with suicidal ideation, which could have helped those such as Peter Little.

The plan included $4m for public awareness and local ­community prevention activities, and targeted help for high-risk groups.

The strategy aimed to co-opt big employers into helping with ­suicide prevention in the workplace.

Truth, not lies, on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide rates

Image - Gerry Georgatos

Suicide prevention should be one of the most urgent priorities of our times – globally and nationally. The rates of suicide should be known, disaggregated and unmasked as the humanitarian crisis that in effect it really is – though little known, suicide is one of the issues of our times. Annually, suicide takes more lives on average than wars, civil strife, all violence combined. It takes more lives annually than most diseases do. In Australia, suicides exceed road fatalities. Why then is not suicide prevention one of the national priorities?

The contributing factors need to be understood, they vary demographically and from people to people – culturally and ‘racially’. In Australia, the majority of suicides have been linked to various stressors – including mental health, various trauma, cost of living pressures, a sense of failure, depression, and among the elderly there are underlying factors such as pain. However for Australia’s First Peoples the contributing factors are markedly different – they are linked to extreme poverty and disadvantage from the beginning of life, intergenerational trauma, cultural identity, racialisation and racism. Often alcohol and substance abuse are considered by many as underlying causes but these are not underlying causes and rather they are at best contributing factors borne symptomatically of the above.

For non-Aboriginal Australians who have suicided the average estimated loss of life is about 30 years per person however for the First Peoples of this continent who take their lives the average loss per person in years is more than 50 years. To put average loss of life years per person into context, we can compare this to cancer – the estimated loss of life years per person dying of cancer is 8 years. Therefore suicide not only takes more lives but more life years. The majority of suicides by First Peoples are below the age of 35 years, with the most at-risk age category the 25 to 30 year olds.

There are other high risk groups – LGBTQI with Aboriginal LGBTQI up to four times more at-risk than their non-Aboriginal counterparts; those who have experienced prison – in the first year post-release they are up to ten times more likely to intentionally self-harm and suicide than while in prison and up to 40 times more likely than the rest of the national population; those with Acquired Brain Injury are also at between ten to twenty times more likely to endure suicidal ideation.

On average one in 20 of Australia’s First Peoples will die by suicide, this is catastrophic, but the real rate is more likely one in 10 – there are under-reporting issues. Wholesale suicide prevention for First Peoples can only succeed if it includes the redressing of inequalities in reference to the social determinants – homelessness, housing, social infrastructure, education – the elimination of extreme poverty. Without the strengthening of social health, far too many will lapse under pressures culminating in depression, clinical disorders and violence. Substance abuse are merely dangerous relief from the various personal dysfunction and sense of hopelessness.

The radical reduction in suicide rates among this continent’s First Peoples will not be achieved without social inequalities redressed, without degraded communities and towns of predominant Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander populations at long last brought to parity with the rest of the nation in terms of their social conditions.

Suicide prevention workshops, suicide prevention ambassadors and reductionist policies dealing with symptoms rather than causality will not only go nowhere but will more than likely ensure suicide rates increase, and that attempted suicides and intentional self-harm rates continue. Any strategy that suggests or claims it can achieve radical reductions with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide rates without an investment in social infrastructure is lying. By now everyone should know better.

Western Australia is the wealthiest jurisdiction in Australia. Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy. Western Australia has the world’s highest median wage. But far too many of the State’s First Peoples live impoverished, live in third-world akin conditions. Western Australia’s suicide rate is higher than the national rate. From 2007 to 2012 it had a suicide rate of 13.9 per 100,000 population but if you subtract the State’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population, which is less than 3 per cent of the State’s total population, the State’s suicide rate would be significantly lower. In the same period the State’s suicide rate for First Peoples was nearly 40 per 100,000 population.

Suicide is the tip of the iceberg, the worst culmination. Nearly 400,000 Australians each year contemplate suicide, with thereabouts 70,000 suicide attempts annually.

Though the underlying issues to suicide for non-Aboriginal and to First Peoples, and the contributing and protective factors are different, there is no more pressing issue that our Governments should focus on – bona fide suicide prevention.

Western Australia has the highest rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide in the nation, and especially so since 2005. The Kimberley region has the nation’s highest rate of suicide of First Peoples, and is only matched sadly by Far North Queensland’s First Peoples.

Mental illness is generally slated as the predominant contributing factor to suicides – Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal however it is not the predominant factor, but something cumulative or consequent, particularly for the majority of First Peoples.

The only way forward to bring about radical reductions in the rates are through transformational ideologues – for First Peoples and their rates of intentional self-harms, attempted suicides and suicides will only be brought at least in line with non-Aboriginal rates when equality is dished out; by equality I mean the investment in the social infrastructure of communities, towns, urban masses predominately populated by First Peoples but for too long degraded by one Government after another.

Anything else is mindless hogwash, more neglect, endless racism.

 

– Gerry Georgatos is a researcher suicide prevention and in racism

Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline, 13 11 14

Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention Beyond Blue

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

 

“On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.”

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (and a former chair of NACCHO) see her opinion article below

“If you (Indigenous patient) go to a health service and you’re made to feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable or not deserving or prejudged and there are lots of scenarios of Aboriginal people being considered to be perhaps being seriously intoxicated when in fact they’ve been seriously ill.”

Romlie Mokak CEO Australian Indigenous Doctors Association

 

Read over 100 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles pubished over past 6 years by NACCHO 

JUST ADDED 3 March VACCHO POSITION PAPER Health and Racism

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It’s well known that Indigenous Australians have much lower life expectancy than other Australians, and have disproportionately high rates of diseases and other health problems.

Could that in part be due to racism?

Would cultural awareness training for health professionals would reduce the incidence of racism ?

Should governments acknowledge and address the impact of factors such as racism on health outcomes?

These are some of the question being asked in the health and community sectors, amid reports of a rise in racist incidents.

How racism affects health

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)
  •  physical injury via racially motivated assault

HOW DO WE BUILD A HEALTH SYSTEM THAT IS NOT

World news radio Santilla Chingaipe recently interviewed a number of health organisations

It’s well known that Indigenous Australians have much lower life expectancy than other Australians, and have disproportionately high rates of diseases and other health problems.

Could that in part be due to racism?

The Social Determinants of Health Alliance is a group of Australian health, social services and public policy organisations.

It lobbies for action to reduce inequalities in the outcomes from health service delivery.

Chair of the Alliance, Martin Laverty, has no doubt racism sometimes comes into play when Indigenous Australians seek medical attention.

“When an Indigenous person is admitted to hospital, they face twice the risk of death through a coronary event than a non-Indigenous person and concerningly, Indigenous people when having a coronary event in hospital are 40 percent less likely to receive a stent* or a coronary angiplasty. The reason for this is that good intentions, institutional racism is resulting in Indigenous people not always receiving the care that they need from Australia’s hospital system.”

Romlie Mokak is the chief executive of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

Mr Mokak says the burden of ill health is already greater amongst Indigenous people – but this isn’t recognised when they go to access health services.

“Whereas Aboriginal people may present to hospitals often later and sicker, the sort of treatment they might get once in hospital, is not necessarily reflect that higher level of ill health. We’ve got to ask some questions there and why is it that the sickest people are not necessary getting the equitable access to healthcare.”

Mr Mokak says many Indigenous people are victims of prejudice when seeking medical services.

“If you (Indigenous patient) go to a health service and you’re made to feel unwelcome, or uncomfortable or not deserving or prejudged and there are lots of scenarios of Aboriginal people being considered to be perhaps being seriously intoxicated when in fact they’ve been seriously ill.”

But Romlie Mokak from the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association says the onus shouldn’t be on the federal government alone to improve the situation.

He suggests cultural awareness training for health professionals would reduce the incidence of racism.

“Not only is it at the point of the practitioner, but it’s the point of the institution that Aboriginal people must feel that they are in a safe environment. In order to do this, it’s not simply that Aboriginal people should feel resilient and be able to survive these wider systems, but those services really need to have staff that have a strong understanding of Aboriginal people’s culture, history, lived experience and the sorts of health concerns they might have and ways of working competently with Aboriginal people.”

Martin Laverty says at a recent conference, data was presented suggesting an increase in the number of Australians experiencing racism.

And he says one of the results is an increase in psychological illnesses.

“We saw evidence that said about 10 percent of the Australian population in 2004 was reporting regular occurences of individual acts of racism and that that has now double to being close to 20 percent of the Australian population reporting regular occurences of racism. We then saw evidence that the consequences of this are increased psychological illnesses. Psychological illnesses tied directly to a person’s exposure to racism and discrimination and that this is having direct cost impacts of the Australian mental health and broader acute health system.”

Mr Laverty says it’s time governments acknowledged and addressed the impact of factors such as racism on health outcomes.

He says a good start would be to implement the findings of a Senate inquiry into the social determinants of health, released last year.

“In the country of the fair go, we should be seeing Australian governments, Australian communities acting and indentifying these triggers of racism that are causing ill health and recognising that this is not just something the health system that needs to respond to, but the Australian government can respond by implementing the Senate inquiry of March 2013 that outlines the set of steps that can be taken to overcome these detriments of poor social determinants of health.”

Racism a driver of Aboriginal ill health

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On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (and a former chair of NACCHO)

As published in The Australian OPINION originally published in NACCHO July 2013

 In July 2013, the former federal government launched its new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

As with all such plans, much depends on how it is implemented. With the details of how it is to be turned into meaningful action yet to be worked out, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations and others will be reserving their judgment.

Nevertheless, there is one area in which this plan breaks new ground, and that is its identification of racism as a key driver of ill-health.

This may be surprising to many 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 Adam Goodes earlier this year.

However, the new health plan has got it right on this point, and it is worth looking in more detail at how and why.

So how common are racist behaviours, including speech, directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

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.

Other studies have found high levels of exposure to racist behaviours and language.

Such statistics describe the reality of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Most Australians would no doubt agree this level of racist abuse and violence is unwarranted and objectionable. It infringes upon our rights – not just our rights as indigenous people but also our legal rights as Australian citizens.

But is it actually harmful? Is it a health issue? Studies in Australia echo findings from around the world that show the experience of racism is significantly related to poor physical and mental health.

There are several ways in which racism has a negative effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health.

First, on an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Second, 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.

Last, 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.

What the research tells us, then, is that racism is not rare and it is not harmless: it is a deeply embedded pattern of events and behaviours that significantly contribute to the ill-health suffered by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Tackling these issues is not easy. The first step is for governments to understand racism does have an impact on our health and to take action accordingly. Tackling racism provides governments with an opportunity to make better progress on their commitments to Close the Gap, as the campaign is known, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The new plan has begun this process, but it needs to be backed up with evidence-based action.

Second, as a nation we need to open up the debate about racism and its effects.

The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution is important for many reasons, not least because it could lead to improved stewardship and governance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health (as explored in a recent Lowitja Institute paper, “Legally Invisible”).

However, the process around constitutional recognition provides us with an opportunity to have this difficult but necessary conversation about racism and the relationship between Australia’s First Peoples and those who have arrived in this country more recently. Needless to say, this conversation needs to be conducted respectfully, in a way that is based on the evidence and on respect for the diverse experiences of all Australians.

Last, we need to educate all Australians, especially young people, that discriminatory remarks, however casual or apparently light-hearted or off-the-cuff, have implications for other people’s health.

Whatever approaches we adopt, they must be based on the recognition that people cannot thrive if they are not connected.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be connected with their own families, communities and cultures. We must also feel connected to the rest of society. Racism cuts that connection.

At the same time, racism cuts off all Australians from the unique insights and experiences that we, the nation’s First Peoples, have to offer.

Seen this way, recognising and tackling racism is about creating a healthier, happier and better nation in which all can thrive.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health :Social media the new health danger in Aboriginal Communities

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The use of social media in the region is also problematic because of the small population size of remote communities, and the complex family relationships that often break down into community division.

The exposure of the mental health epidemic afflicting children in the lands comes as community leaders call for more action to protect children. Some community members say the government must consider a strong response, such as community boarding houses, to keep children safe at night.

ABORIGINAL teenagers in remote communities of central Australia are using Facebook to regularly threaten suicide, prostitute themselves and talk about substance abuse.

Child welfare advocates have sent The Australian Facebook posts from children as young as 13 that lay bare the dysfunction of the region.

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Bullying is also commonplace, with teenagers regularly threatening violent abuse on the site.

Picture Above: Nyuminya Ken, from Ernabella in the APY Lands of South Australia, has sent her daughter away to school in Victoria to escape cyber bullying. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source: News Corp Australia

Story Sarah Martin Published THE AUSTRALIAN 20 FEB

PREVIOUS ARTICLES FROM NACCHO about Social media

The disturbing posts include a teenage girl expressing “real shame” at young girls in her community who “strip their self when they hanging out for dope”.

The Australian has seen at least a dozen posts of children from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands threatening suicide, and posts of teenagers listing mobile phone numbers to procure sex.

Nyuminya Ken, a respected elder in the community of Ernabella, said there was widespread concern about the inappropriate use of Facebook.

One post has a young girl saying “all the man stop ringing to my phone, I’m little kids, not big woman … I don’t like big man”. In another post, a pregnant 18-year-old says she is addicted to sniffing laundry products, saying: “Damaging this kids brain. Cnt get rid of it. Gona sniff it all night till I get sick.” Another girl, understood to be just 14, threatens to hang herself when her family goes to sleep. “Feel lost right now hang myself,” the girl writes.

The use of social media in the region is also problematic because of the small population size of remote communities, and the complex family relationships that often break down into community division.

The exposure of the mental health epidemic afflicting children in the lands comes as community leaders call for more action to protect children. Some community members say the government must consider a strong response, such as community boarding houses, to keep children safe at night.

Child Protection Minister Jennifer Rankine said she had ordered Families SA to do an immediate check on each of the children, whose posts were brought to the department’s attention by The Australian.

“I have been advised that only one of the seven young people is known to Families SA,” Ms Rankine said. “An FSA officer has been instructed to check on this child’s welfare immediately.

“I have also instructed FSA to work with SA Police in an effort to … check on their welfare.”

A spokeswoman for the minister said police had checked on the children and they were “safe and happy”.

Mrs Ken said that she had spoken to the region’s women’s council and police about its use, and wanted more action to prevent it adding to the community’s ills.

“All the girls are doing Facebook, and we don’t want it on their phones,” she said.

She said she had asked for the police to come to the school to talk to students about the Facebook “problem.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said the safety of users was a priority. “Facebook takes threats of self-harm very seriously. We also work with suicide prevention agencies around the world to provide assistance for people in distress.”

As for the site being used for minors to procure sex, the spokeswoman said Facebook had a strict policy, involving law enforcement collaboration, against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor was involved.

If you are depressed or contemplating suicide, help is available at Lifeline on 131 114.

Please Take

NACCHO needs to improve how we  connect, inform and engage into the Ifuture.

SURVEY LINK

NACCHO CTG and Aboriginal incarceration rates : Abbott must Close The Gap on black justice

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If Abbott were to seriously take on the incarceration issue, he would have to openly and actively confront the issue of ongoing systemic discrimination against Indigenous Australians, and acknowledge its historical causes, including colonialism and racism.

That would mean talking to the nation plainly about deaths in custody and acknowledging the fact that a black man can still face violent treatment and be left to die in “protective custody” without police facing serious punishment.” Max Chalmers

According to the latest national figures, indigenous young people – who  comprise just 5 per cent of the population – were detained at a staggering 31  times the rate of non-indigenous young people on an average night in June 2012.  Most were yet to be sentenced (see report below)

School attendance is a far less controversial topic than Indigenous incarceration rates.

No wonder Tony Abbott made it the centrepiece of his ‘Close the Gap’ speech.

In the lead-up to the 2013 election, Tony Abbott took a brief moment out from his relentless denigration of the government to broach a policy area that usually doesn’t make the debate.

Cautiously, he vowed to be a prime minister for Australia’s first peoples.

“It is my hope that I could be, not just a prime minister, but a prime minister for Aboriginal Affairs,” he said

In an address to Federal Parliament yesterday, Abbott took a tentative step towards positioning Indigenous Affairs alongside the government’s holy trinity of policy talking points.

His government is “no less serious [about Indigenous Affairs] than it is about stopping the boats, fixing the budget, and building the roads of the 21st century.”

Putting Indigenous Affairs on the national agenda is a move that should draw praise. But the way Abbott has chosen to frame the issue raises questions about how serious his government really will be in its efforts to help overcome the outrageous disadvantage Indigenous Australians continue to experience.

Indigenous groups were quick to point out one particularly glaring omission from Abbott’s remarks.

“Today, Australia’s national shame is the mass imprisonment of Aboriginal people, particularly young people. Australia’s Aboriginal children are detained at the world’s highest rates,” Phil Naden, the NSW and ACT Aboriginal Legal Service CEO noted in a press release.

“More than half of the young people in detention today (over 52 per cent) are Aboriginal, and most are unsentenced.”

Indigenous incarceration indeed remains a national shame. The Australian Bureau of Statistics paints a bleak picture, with rates of incarceration continuing to rise markedly between 2002 and 2012. West Australia is beyond crisis point, with the rate of incarceration for Indigenous Australians 20 times higher than non-Indigenous.

Source: ABS.

Source: ABS.

Despite the 1991 Royal Commission, deaths in custody have increased, along with the surging incarceration rate. There is little reason to think that the next generation of Indigenous Australians will fare much better.

Instead of raising the issue of justice, Abbott framed his address around education. Truancy rates must be reduced, he said, and the time for excuses was over.

“Generally speaking, the more remote the school, the more excuses are made for poor attendance,” he observed, before pledging to end the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years. No reference was made to a similar standard with which to target improvements in justice outcomes.

“We were very surprised to hear there was no bipartisan commitment today towards incorporating justice targets into the Government’s Closing the Gap strategy,” Naden said on Wednesday.

Improving rates of Indigenous school attendance is an easy sell to white Australia. Everybody can get on board with sending kids to school; there is an implicit blame placed on Indigenous communities for failing to enforce school attendance, or teach their children adequate patterns of civil behaviour.

“One of the worst forms of neglect is failing to give children the education they need for a decent life,” Abbott said, following the statement up with a list of state and federal government programs designed to lower truancy rates.

But like his entire address, the line was left open, raising the question of who exactly is responsible for that neglect? This is the Liberal Party’s characteristic approach: the individual is to blame for their personal failings and societal causes don’t rate a mention.

If Abbott were to seriously take on the incarceration issue, he would have to openly and actively confront the issue of ongoing systemic discrimination against Indigenous Australians, and acknowledge its historical causes, including colonialism and racism.

That would mean talking to the nation plainly about deaths in custody and acknowledging the fact that a black man can still face violent treatment and be left to die in “protective custody” without police facing serious punishment.

It would mean taking on the state and territory governments – especially the Liberal ones – whose tough on crime policies disproportionately affect their Indigenous constituents.

It would mean investigating and policing routine police brutality, such as the recent taser attack by police on an Indigenous woman in Queensland, in which she lost an eye.

And it would mean facing off against a host of other powerful actors, like the Australian Hotels Association, who have succeeded in reversing the NT government’s efforts to limit liquor supply.

Abbott’s record on the issue is not strong so far. One of the Coalition’s nastiest election eve announcements was the decision to slash $42 million from Aboriginal legal aid, a figure that was significantly reduced after the election but will do much damage.

If he decides to pivot on the issue, and to devote the state’s energy and resources to lowering the almost unbelievable rates of incarceration, he will find a host of allies who are ready to take up the challenge. There is a growing awareness that by focusing state resources on policing and prisons we do nothing to attend to the causes of incarnation.

The justice reinvestment movement is starting to make this case publicly. There are also scores of Indigenous communities finding local solutions to the localised and diverse causes of incarceration.

There is some evidence to suggest the government will start to take an interest in such programs. Warren Mundine, the head of Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council today announced a program to help provide jobs training for Indigenous teenagers in WA.

Abbott has frequently used his time in outback Indigenous communities as evidence that he can succeed where so many previous PMs have either failed, or failed to even try. But if he is serious about using his position to help reverse the shameful disparity in living standards between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, he must make justice a top priority

TIME TO MIND THE GAP

Biana Hall SMH

Thx Tracker

Imagine if more than half the young people detained in Australia today were  from Sydney. Imagine if they were white. Newspaper letter writers would whip  themselves into a frenzy, GetUp! would run a national campaign and tens of  thousands would take to the streets to march for the freedom of Australia’s  children.

Instead, 53 per cent of young people in detention are indigenous. And instead  of a national outcry, Australia is gripped by a national silence.

According to the latest national figures, indigenous young people – who  comprise just 5 per cent of the population – were detained at a staggering 31  times the rate of non-indigenous young people on an average night in June 2012.  Most were yet to be sentenced.

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a heartfelt speech on the  government’s progress on the Closing the Gap goals to improve indigenous  people’s health and life expectancy.

The news wasn’t good. Abbott said there had been ”almost no progress” in closing the decade-wide gap between the life expectancies of indigenous people and non-indigenous people. There had been ”very little improvement” towards halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy, and indigenous employment ”has, if anything, slipped backwards”.

”We are not on track to achieve the more important and meaningful targets,”  Abbott  said.

Declaring that Australia’s challenge was to ”break the tyranny of low  expectations”,  Abbott announced that from next year, indigenous  school-attendance data would be included in the government’s Closing the Gap  measures.

He set an ambitious target to lift the attendance rates of all schools to  more than 90 per cent within five years (in very remote communities, just 31 per  cent of children are meeting the minimum attendance standards).

It’s a very welcome start, but some observers were dismayed at what he didn’t  say: that cutting the incarceration rate of indigenous people should be at the  forefront of attempts to close the gap.

The NSW and ACT Aboriginal Legal Service has long called for justice targets  to become part of the Closing the Gap goals.

Chief executive Phil Naden described the ”mass incarceration” of indigenous  people as Australia’s ”national shame”.

“Disadvantage robs Aboriginal people of a long, healthy life, and the  incarceration of Aboriginal people affects all targets.”

In 2011, a parliamentary inquiry recommended that justice targets become part  of the overall Closing the Gap strategy. Contact with the justice system, it  said, ”represents a symptom of the broader social and economic disadvantage  faced by many indigenous people in Australia”.

”We have reached the point of intergenerational family dysfunction in many  indigenous communities, with problems of domestic violence, alcohol and drug  abuse, inadequate housing, poor health and school attendance, and a lack of job  skills and employment opportunities impacting on the next generation of  indigenous Australians.”

So how, we should be asking, can we pretend the national shame of mass  Aboriginal incarceration isn’t symptomatic of other problems?

For a moment, it looked like the federal government might act. Before  last  year’s election, Labor said it would include justice targets in the Close the  Gap measures. In August, the Coalition’s indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel  Scullion raised expectations when he told The Australian: ”We will be  looking carefully at that and doing research to see how you implement another  gap measure around this justice issue.”

But on Wednesday, the Prime Minister – who in December oversaw $13.4 million  in cuts to indigenous legal aid funding over four years – made no mention of  justice. Abbott said: ”I am confident of this: amidst all the mistakes,  disappointment and uncertain starts, the one failure that has mostly been  avoided is lack of goodwill.”

What we have so often lacked is political will

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/time-to-mind-the-gap-well-overdue-20140215-32sf5.html#ixzz2tWAEtaRw

NACCHO National Apology 6th anniversary : Why the Apology, Reconciliation, Healing and Recognition Matter’

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“We need to get back to the basics of our culture and allow a diversity of opinions in a respectful and supportive manner.

This is the vital element for reconciliation, healing and recognition to become a reality in our great country.”

Speech by Josie Cashman – A member of  the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council

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HEALING FOUNDATION WEBSITE

I am humbled and proud to be asked to speak to you on the 6th anniversary of the National Apology. This year at the opening of Parliament the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott acknowledged  the damage done to the Stolen Generations. The Apology, Reconciliation, Healing and Recognition are so important to enable all Australians to come together. Many leaders have outlined the effects of the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the need for reconciliation, healing and forgiveness. In this speech, I want to use this opportunity to highlight why these things matter and what is the biggest threat to moving forward as one country.

What is the greatest challenge? My answer may surprise you! To frame this I will look back in history to 1938, to an event that was not a sad occasion for our people but a show of strength, pride and hope. I will also talk about one of my Indigenous heroes, the Phillips family of Redfern.

Firstly, I want to pay my respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and high achievers past and present. Our modern Indigenous leaders are very, very courageous. They are often attacked for having a view.

Recent examples include on social media where our Australian of the Year was described as ‘Captain Coconut’, the reference to a coconut is a racial slur meaning dark on the outside and white on the inside.  And last year the Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council was subject to a much-publicised raft of racial slurs on social media, including being called “Uncle Tom”, for his willingness to advise a Coalition government on solving the problems that face our people. This behavior should not be tolerated in any culture. Leaders suffer a personal toll with both them and sometimes their families attacked with disgraceful sniping and lateral violence at the hands of their own people. This is fuelled by the far Left for its own agenda.

These groups promote and encourage conspiracy theories that the Government and Australian people are against Aboriginal people and that we continue to be victims of this society. Under this world view, every problem faced by Indigenous people is the result of bad things done by European colonists and assimilation into western cultures. The value of so called “western” influences to Indigenous people – like mainstream education and economic development – is questioned.

Disadvantage and suffering have become the defining characteristics of the far left. Institutionalised welfare is a key policy platform for them. Any suggestion that welfare dependence has had negative impacts on Indigenous people is not tolerated. Underpinning all of this is an idealised concept of traditional Indigenous people not “corrupted” by civilization or development. There is an old expression to describe this – the “noble savage”.

How can we build mutual respect in an environment where fear and distrust of government and the Australian people is encouraged? How can we move on to healing when there are people who want to define us as damaged? This is a cancerous philosophy.

This is the most destructive form of racism and is promoted by the far Left to feed into their ideology that western free market democracy is wrong and we have to keep Indigenous Australians as noble savages. It is this ideology that is stopping Indigenous Australians coming into the economic mainstream. Labelling Aboriginal and Torres Strait People as disadvantaged and victims sets extremely low expectations in terms of employment, business capacity and education. The welfare mentality is the greatest challenge inhibiting our people to rise up. This ideology is the height of discrimination and it is destroying our cultural values which embraced hard work, taking responsibility and contributing to community. This threat from the far Left is what I call intellectual racism.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are sick of being used as a political football for only radicals’ political and ideological purposes. Enough is enough!

This ideology is also totally disrespectful to the Indigenous leaders who had a dream for their families and communities of coming together with all Australians. We need to remember the passion and conviction of our past leaders. They were hopeful and never victims. These leaders were dignified and capable of galvanizing their community as they dreamt for a better life.

An example of this is the historic meeting of the Australian Aborigines’ League at the Day of Mourning Conference on 26 January 1938.  Over 100 people attended from all around the Eastern Seaboard. With little money travelling from far and wide, they were strongly committed and came together to fight for a better life at their own personal risk.  All were well dressed in suits and were well-spoken. Many delegates entered through the back entrance to avoid being identified, afraid they would be victimised by police for attending.

The conference endorsed the following statement:

WE, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in Conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th Anniversary of the whitemen’s seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the whitemen during the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian Nation of today to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, and we ask for a new policy which will raise our people to FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.

Many of our Aboriginal leaders today are direct descendants of this group and I am privileged to acknowledge the contributions their ancestors made.

African-American scholar and economist Dr Thomas Sowell argues that the most damaging results of the welfare state mentality, is the teaching of victimhood. If African-Americans in the 1930s and 40s had been taught that they were victims, then the Civil Rights movement may have never happened. African-Americans survived through centuries of slavery, then their society began to fall apart with the introduction of the welfare state.

In the 1990s Dr Sowell gave a lecture at a university, a young African-American man who was about to graduate, got up from the audience and said ‘What hope is there for me?’. Dr Sowell took off his glasses and said to this young man, ‘you have four-times the hope of your grandparents and twice that of your parents’. This is equally true for Indigenous families. Why then are we not advancing when we have strong political, business and community support including the National Apology and the reconciliation movement?

Like African-Americans, Indigenous Australians are marred by the disadvantage label. A label that teaches us that there is no hope, so what is the point of participation in society?

This is not a phenomena necessarily related to race. It is reflected in the UK amongst whites in the housing commission areas.  Teenagers there can’t multiply six times nine. This country produced people such as Shakespeare and Issac Newton and now a significant proportion of its society can’t do simple maths and cannot read.

In the worst affected areas of Australia, only 18% of remote and rural Indigenous kids attend school 80% of the time, and that 80% is the minimum required to attend to learn the basics. These are the alarming statistics. In 2014 despite being full citizens with equality in the community and access to education we are now faced with the lowest Indigenous school attendance rates.  Most of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders dreamt of being treated as full citizens of this country with full access to education. Here we are now. But if we allow Indigenous people to think they can’t do anything or think the system is against us, what is the point of learning? No if or buts, every Indigenous child need to attend school! One day, I dream of many Aboriginal doctors, accountants and public servants.

If we believe maybe even an Indigenous astronaut to shoot to the moon, because we now live in a world full of possibilities.

We need to get back to the basics of our culture and allow a diversity of opinions in a respectful and supportive manner. This is the vital element for reconciliation, healing and recognition to become a reality in our great country.

I am pleased to say that there are many examples of modern day Indigenous leaders who are victorious. They do not accept the Left’s intellectual racism and the disadvantaged label. They are the Aussie battlers working hard in the community to lift their people, create hope and to let them believe that anything is possible.

An example of this is Mr Shane Phillips, a community leader in Redfern, Sydney. Shane works day and night with Aboriginal kids picking up troubled teenagers up so they can attend early morning sessions of boxing with the local police officers, which brings both groups together to promote citizenship and harmony. Shane also runs and established the Tribal Warrior Association, these wide-sailed ships, glide gracefully on our glorious Sydney Harbour, providing meaningful employment for Aboriginal people as tourist guides and ship operators. Shane engages with the Aboriginal community, promotes kids going to school and helps Aboriginal people gain self-esteem.

Shane’s parents Richard ‘Dickie’ and Yvonne Philips are also my heroes. These pastors gave endless service to the community. Every year they took in up to 200 Indigenous and non-Indigenous street children, some of whom were forced to sell their bodies to survive. They huddled on the floor in the leaky cold, old church that used to be a factory, on the ‘Block at Redfern’. Sometimes over 50 or more foam beds littered the floor. Smiling, the children lay their heads down, with full bellies entertained by Uncle Richard playing the ukulele and praising the Lord while slowly hushing them into a gentle slumber with his soft lullaby. These kids were given a safe place and hope for their future.

This couple never gave up with limited funds, if any Government funding.  They instead had a strong conviction that good would prevail. Since this time, we have as a nation benefited from the most historical events to bring us together including the apology, movement towards reconciliation, healing and recognition. I am sure Mr and Mrs Philips would be looking down on us from heaven, not only very proud of their children, but of how far all Australians have come.

I feel so privileged to have spent time with these Preachers. I will never forget when I was feeling down when dear Pastor Philips slowly turned his head around to face me, opened his soft dark eyes with the widest smile and gently said to me ‘never give up on the edge of a miracle’.

The appeal by the Australian Aborigines’ League on 26 January 1938 has in fact, been answered. Australia has made new laws for the education and care of Indigenous people, it has raised our people to full citizen status and has introduced a policy to raise our people to equality within the community. Australia has gone even further than our leaders in 1938 would have imagined. Governments and the private sector have been willing to spend billions in pursuit of real equality for Indigenous people. A formal reconciliation process has been in place for over 20 years and governments have apologised for the policies of the forced removal of children. And now our Parliament is preparing to champion a constitutional amendment to recognise Indigenous people in Australia’s constitution. These symbolic steps demonstrate the goodwill of Australia towards its first peoples and their descendants. On the other hand the victimhood label is wrong and harmful for our futures.

It is time for each of us, black, white or brindle to seize the day and galvanize like never before to finally solve the gap. Let us now rewrite wrongs and recognize the first Australians in the best country in the world. We immediately need to support the Prime Minister’s historic push for the recognition of Indigenous peoples in the Australian constitution.  We need to walk the talk in our professional roles and communities. We need now for every Australian to participate in this, every single Australian’s effort counts.

When I was originally selected on the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council our Prime Minister, Mr Tony Abbott phoned me and I was so nervous it took me three hours to phone him back after receiving my call at 6AM. I will never forget the Prime Minister’s powerful words that are now cemented in my mind. ‘Josephine, Indigenous People are the first class citizens of their own country’.  It dawned on me then how much hope Mr Abbott has today with this historic opportunity for healing, coming together to showcase our talent and diversity in Indigenous Australia through constitutional recognition. We have a rich culture of respect and family values are the cornerstone. We need to get back to basics and that is back to the start.

Today you have an opportunity to make a real difference. You have a choice to reinstate hope in your professional capacity as an Australian Public Servant and as a member of the Australian community. You have the opportunity to bring everyone together as never before and recognize the first peoples of this beautiful country. My task for you is to function on hope.

Everyday all of us, make choices as to whether we live in hope or disadvantage. My own story shows that we have positive choices to make. From deciding to live hopeless in a drain at 12 to now today, I am standing here, my heart is so full I can’t explain. With that faith, now, maybe today, All Australians, are on the edge of a miracle.

NACCHO Aboriginal health and racism :How do we build a health system that is not racist?

Racism

But that’s the risk in the medical context, where doctors and health care workers are often rushed and stressed and don’t have the mental space to make a considered decision. “So they fall back on prevailing and persistent stereotypes of Aboriginal people as lazy or ignorant.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders recently contributed to a “festival of ideas” at this public symposium  in Melbourne todayClosing the Credibility Gap: Implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013- 2023.

ALSO READ : Article from Ms PAT Anderson former NACCHO chair

NACCHO NATSIHP health plan news: Racism a driver of Aboriginal ill health

The article below investigates a key theme of the event – how health services and professionals can help tackle racism.

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Journalist Marie McInerney covered  the event for the Croakey Conference Reporting Service (you can read her preview, an interview with Professor Kerry Arabena here.) Our Thanks to Melissa Sweet for her continued support of NACCHO.

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How do we build a health system that is not racist?

Marie McInerney writes:

That’s one of the challenges being discussed  at the Closing the Credibility Gap conference on implementing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan which articulates, for the first time, a health system free of racism and inequality.

A good start at an individual level, says Associate Professor Yin Paradies – for any profession working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people – is to test our own stereotypes and preconceptions by taking the Implicit Association Test developed by United States researchers.

The test aims to detect implicit bias on race, colour, age, gender, sexuality and weight. Its race test has an Australian version, asking online participants to press different keys to associate particular words with white and Aboriginal faces.

It has famously found people are more likely to associate black people with words like ‘bad’ and ‘failure’ and white people with ‘happy’ and ‘joy’. Interestingly it comes with a warning:

“If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further. You may prefer to examine general information about the IAT before deciding whether or not to proceed.”

The IAT has its share of critics, but it’s been clicked on more than five million times and is an excellent teaching tool to show people if they have an implicit racial bias or not, says Paradies, who is a Principal Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin university.

“One of the biggest ways to address a bias is to be aware of it,” he says. “The next biggest is having the motivation to stop it from happening, and the third is to really combat those associations in your mind that are driving it by finding counter-stereotypical and positive examples.”

“There’s a lot of evidence of the success of just being mindful,” he says. But that’s the risk in the medical context, where doctors and health care workers are often rushed and stressed and don’t have the mental space to make a considered decision. “So they fall back on prevailing and persistent stereotypes of Aboriginal people as lazy or ignorant.”

The implications of such bias at both an individual and institutional level in health care will be the subject of Paradies’ ‘virtual’ presentation on Friday to the symposium on: ‘A culturally respectful and non-discriminatory health system’. He is also presenting in Adelaide at a symposium on health services, racism and Indigenous health.

The issue also arose at a Health Workforce Australia conference  in Adelaide. HWA has funded Curtin University to develop the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework project which, among other things, will consider issues of cultural competence for health professionals.

Having begun his career as a cadet at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Paradies’ work has explored the health, social and economic effects of racism, as well as anti-racism theory, policy and practice.

He has just won a $830,000 Future Fellowship grant from the Australian Research Council to look at understanding and addressing racism in Australia. With both Aboriginal and Asian heritage, he acknowledges his own understanding is not just theoretical.

While there has been growing awareness of racism as a determinant of health, he says most focus has remained directly on disadvantage without considering the various factors that produce and reproduce disadvantage. Having the role of racism in health and the health system front and centre in the National Health Plan is, he says, a big move forward.

“I think people are not really willing yet to turn their gaze back to the mainstream, to institutions and organisations, and the general populace and their attitudes and how they might be a driver of disadvantage,” he said.

“People are more comfortable with the ideas of past transgressions, the Apology for the Stolen Generations being a prime example. It’s easier to focus on the people who are disadvantaged, who are ‘victims’, and we’ve seen that with things like the Northern Territory Emergency Intervention.”

How racism affects health

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)
  •  physical injury via racially motivated assault.

The second layer comes through health care provider racism. As Symposium organiser Professor Kerry Arabena pointed out in a preview of today’s event, one in three Aboriginal Victorians surveyed by VicHealth reported experiencing racism in a health care setting.

Such experiences, Paradies says, can lead to:

·         poorer self-reported health status

·         lower perceived quality of care

·         under-utilisation of health services

·         delays in seeking care

·         failure to follow recommendations

·         societal distrust

·         interruptions in care

·         mistrust of providers

·         avoidance of health care systems.

Unconscious healthcare provider bias has more complex implications, including being found in the United States to lead to poorer clinical decisions for African Americans.

Australian studies have shown disparities in medical care experienced by Indigenous patients, including that they are a third less likely to receive appropriate medical care across all conditions, as well as for lung cancer and coronary procedures. Another study showed Indigenous patients were only one-third as likely to receive kidney transplants.

“In the US studies, doctors recommend different courses of action in hypothetical cases of patients who are the same in essence, except that one is black and one white,” Paradies says. “A lot of the time in Australia this is driven by implicit, very unconscious kinds of views about Aboriginal people and their capacity to benefit from certain treatments, or whether they in fact have conditions that require further investigation.”

It’s an issue seen often in other service areas, not least in racial profiling by police, which led recently in Victoria to a breakthrough when police settled a Federal Court racial harassment case brought by a group of African Australians. Paradies, who acted as an expert witness in the proceedings, notes that, despite this landmark case, police still denied evidence of a racist culture.

Yet he sees scope for optimism and points to organisations like Hunter New England Health as showing the way.

HNE Health has the largest Aboriginal population of any New South Wales local health district and has committed to a long-term approach “to address individual and institutional racism”, noting its impact on Aboriginal health and its own capacity to recruit and retain Aboriginal staff.

An article in the NSW Public Health Bulletin points to three specific strategies: leadership, consultation and partnership with local Aboriginal groups, and staff training, which it says is “deliberately challenging and confronting”.  (See the overview of its approach in the diagram below – click on image to see in more detail).

While health is a very busy space with many competing priorities, Paradies says its high regulation “in some ways makes it easier to bring in new ideas and change.”

• For conference coverage, follow @CCGSymposium and #CCGap.

• Croakey’s coverage is compiled here.

NACCHO justice ANTaR campaign support: Abbott Government delivers a blow to Aboriginal Justice

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The defunding directly targets ATSILS work with governments to address the drivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration.

The cuts will mean that even more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will not be able to access essential legal services and will result in more people ending up in prison.”

Abbott Government delivers a blow to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice

ACTION -URGE THE PM to REVERSE THE DECISION HERE

For the last year we have been working towards establishing a national campaign to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the criminal justice system.

Australia’s First People’s are dramatically over-represented in prison statistics. Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise only about 2.5 per cent of the Australian population, they make up 26 per cent of the total prison population. This is an imprisonment rate 14 times higher than the non-Indigenous rate.

ANTaR is campaigning to change this unacceptable situation. Significant campaign activity has  been instigated around the release of ‘Doing Time – A Time for Doing : Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system’; the Standing Committee of Attorneys General recommedation that specific COAG targets be set; and the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Our campaign goals are to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison and to end Aboriginal deaths in custody.

  1. Aboriginal people are severely over-represented in the criminal justice system.
  2. Decades of inaction on this issue mean the situation is getting worse. Despite the existence of major policy reports and numerous recommendations, most notably the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADC) report, governments have failed to act.
  3. The national Closing the Gap strategy currently does not include imprisonment issues or a justice target. This is a missing link and means there is little national coordination and no national focus on imprisonment rates.
  4. Aboriginal people continue to die in custody – 270 people since the RCIADC report in 1991.
  5. Growing prison populations mean increased costs for taxpayers without breaking the cycle of offending. The system is not working to prevent crime and is not sustainable.

What could change look like?

ANTaR is campaigning for:

  1. The national adoption of a justice target, which commits all governments to reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment as part of the Closing the Gap strategy.
  2. National action to end deaths in custody including independent investigations into allegations into police misconduct or abuse and independent inspections of all custodial facilities to ensure conditions are safe and humane.
  3. A coordinated, national Justice Reinvestment approach to divert resources over time from prisons into community programs. This would prevent crime, reduce imprisonment rates and create safer communities through better targeted public spending

We received a crushing blow with news that the Abbott Government have decided to defund the lead agency in this campaign, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS).

This is not a cut, this is a complete defunding, meaning that NATSILS will cease to exist if the defunding goes ahead.

NATSILS and law reform and policy officers in state and territory based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) work with governments to address the underlying causes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration, through evidenced based policy development, education and diversionary and prevention programs.

The defunding directly targets ATSILS work with governments to address the drivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration.

The cuts will mean that even more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will not be able to access essential legal services and will result in more people ending up in prison.

Incarceration rates continue to rise without making communities any safer. In order to turn this situation around we need to develop sound, evidence-based policies. It makes no sense to defund the organisations best able to do this.

You can help!  Add your voice to urge the Prime Minister to take this matter in hand and reverse the decision to defund NATSILS and the policy officer positions in state and territory based ATSILS.

ACTION -URGE THE PM to REVERSE THE DECISION HERE

Enter your details and a short message which we will send on your behalf to the following politicians:

  • The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister
  • The Hon Joe Hockey MP, Treasurer
  • Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General
  • Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Help us send a strong message now. Tell our nation’s leaders  “You can’t get smart on crime if you cut out the knowledge base.”

Send your letter now. 

How you can help

Help our campaign by staying in touch, donating to ANTaR and telling your friends about ANTaR and the need to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system.

NACCHO mental health news: Aboriginal mental health gap must be closed : Calma Dudgeon

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Writing in the Australian head of the 20th anniversary todays of a landmark indigenous mental health report, Tom Calma and Pat Dudgeon (pictured above)

Recommended providing indigenous Australians with the training, power and resources needed to determine and deliver our own mental health strategies, within our terms of cultural reference and understandings of mental health.

And in the article below about Aboriginal suicide

Call on governments to do more to prevent Aboriginal people choosing death. “While we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed,”

FROM THE AUSTRALIAN

TWENTY years ago tomorrow, the landmark Burdekin report on mental health was launched. Among indigenous Australians it identified high rates of mental health conditions and dreadful impacts in our communities.

It recommended providing indigenous Australians with the training, power and resources needed to determine and deliver our own mental health strategies, within our terms of cultural reference and understandings of mental health.

Some things have improved in the past 20 years. Since 1993, the training of a critical mass of indigenous psychologists and other mental health workers, the establishment of the Healing Foundation, the rollout of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the emergence of an indigenous mental health movement mean we are ready to both develop and implement our own mental health strategies.

Yet we have also seen little improvement in the statistics and a mental health gap has become apparent. At present, the rates of suicide and hospitalisation for mental health conditions among indigenous Australians are double those of other Australians. Further, poor mental health continues to exacerbate many other disadvantage gaps we suffer.

Today, one in four prisoners is indigenous, even though we comprise only one in 33 of the total population. Among them, the incidence of mental health conditions and substance abuse problems is shockingly high.

The associations between poor mental health and high imprisonment rates are clear. So, 20 years on, while we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed. How then do we understand our mental health, and what might an indigenous response to the mental health gap look like?

Indigenous Australians describe their physical and mental health as having a foundation of “social and emotional wellbeing” originating in strong and positive connections to family and community, traditional lands, ancestors and the spiritual dimension of existence.

This can be understood as a protective factor against the high rates of stressors and negative social determinants (including sickness, poverty, disability, racism, unemployment and so on) that we suffer and that can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse and, sometimes, severe mental illness.

In the spirit of “prevention rather than cure”, then, building on culture and social and emotional wellbeing would be at the heart of any overall response to our mental health and suicide rates. We are particularly excited by research in Canadian indigenous communities that reports those with strong cultural foundations who are working to maintain and develop their culture into the future as having significantly lower rates of suicide among their young people than communities under cultural stress.

It is thought that young people from a strong cultural background have a sense of their past and their traditions and are able to draw pride and identity from them. By extension, they also conceive of themselves as having a future: a strong disincentive to suicide. Research in our communities, too, supports the idea that there is a high level of need for programs that support culture, and also those that draw on culture to ground healing, suicide prevention and mental health programs.

Cultural and social and emotional wellbeing-based policy and program development to address the mental health gap is something that indigenous Australians must lead at both the national and community level. Even with the best will in the world, Australian governments are ill-equipped to work in this profoundly cultural indigenous space.

The proper thing here is for Australian governments and others to partner and work with us. Partnership means listening to indigenous Australians and sharing power. For too long the capital in indigenous knowledge, leadership and lived experience has been marginalised and undervalued in all areas, including this one.

Such a partnership at the national level is critical because there is currently no overarching, dedicated strategic response to closing the mental health gap that both pulls together all the causal threads and recognises mental health as a potential circuit breaker in so many areas of disadvantage.

In fact, five overlapping strategies jostle in the space. An overarching plan, or policy framework, being developed under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership is critical if these strategies are to work together towards a common goal and avoid wasteful duplication.

Such a plan would place mental health at the centre of the Council of Australian Governments’ Closing the Gap agenda. It would have a goal to close the indigenous mental health gap and inform a nationally consistent whole-of-government response that includes recognition of, and respect for, our human rights, addresses racism on a national level, and that works to complement the strategies to address disadvantage and social exclusion that already comprise much of the Closing the Gap agenda.

Placing mental health in the Closing the Gap agenda has the added benefit of harnessing the contribution closing the mental health gap could make to closing many other disadvantage gaps. In fact it is our belief that the contribution mental health conditions make to many areas of disadvantage is often underestimated – particularly in many areas that are deemed intractable. This includes lower life expectancy.

Mental health conditions, substance abuse and suicide have been estimated to account for as much as 22 per cent of the health gap. Investing in our mental health services should also be considered as a justice re-investment measure, diverting money that would have been spent on imprisonment into services that address the underlying causes of crime in our communities

. This is one possible source of the additional investment needed, and it could also help to fund the training of the required numbers of indigenous Australians to work at all levels of the mental health system, and to ensure all mental health workers are able to work competently across the cultural divide.

We call on Australian governments to support indigenous Australians to develop and deliver a national plan to close the mental health gap, and to partner with us to advance the solutions identified in the Burdekin report that have stood the test of time.

Tom Calma is a former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner and race discrimination commissioner; Pat Dudgeon, acknowledged as Australia’s first indigenous psychologist, is a member of the National Mental Health Commission. –

Suicide maps reveal Indigenous disaster

RESEARCHERS have painted a bleak picture of suicide in Australia, using mapping technology to pinpoint clusters and hotspots like never before.

But in doing so, they have also highlighted the tragedy of an Aboriginal suicide rate that is double the norm, illustrating the need for remote and impoverished communities to be given more support, compassion and hope. Using several different techniques, based on coronial data from 2004-08, health statistician Derek Cheung and colleagues identified 15 suicide clusters, mainly located in the Northern Territory, the northern part of Western Australia and the northern part of Queensland.

While their studies had some limitations, the researchers have drawn worldwide attention to the higher suicide rate in indigenous communities – publishing their findings in the prestigious PLOS ONE journal earlier this year, and Social Science & Medicine last year – and recommended more targeted policy responses.

“Our findings illustrated that the majority of spatial-temporal suicide clusters were located in the inland areas with high levels of socio-economic deprivation and a high proportion of indigenous people,” they wrote, also pointing to higher rates among men in remote areas, and the existence of clusters in metropolitan areas. The maps demonstrate the need for not only prevention but also “postvention”, where services are directed into communities after a sudden death to help the bereaved cope.

Jill Fisher, the co-ordinator of the National StandBy Response Service, became involved in postvention counselling after a youth suicide 15 years ago was followed, on the first anniversary of the death, by the suicide of two family members.

Having received a $6 million funding boost from the commonwealth last year, Ms Fisher now co-ordinates the largest program of its kind in the world and is rolling out more services here while also briefing agencies overseas on its successes and challenges.

The program, established in 2002 by not-for-profit agency United Synergies, works with local communities to respond to crises caused by suicide.

Ms Fisher said postvention seemed to be more effective in indigenous communities “because it is based on a principle that in a crisis people come together”.

“Some Aboriginal communities start to feel that suicide is all around them, and sometimes that is erroneous and we need to deliver hope,” Ms Fisher said.

“Many people don’t realise that suicide doesn’t appear to have been part of Aboriginal culture prior to white colonisation. We have strong cultural protocols, indigenous representation and the support of elders.”

Writing in Inquirer today, ahead of the 20th anniversary tomorrow of a landmark indigenous mental health report, Tom Calma and Pat Dudgeon call on governments to do more to prevent Aboriginal people choosing death. “While we take great pride in the emergence of an indigenous mental health leadership, we are also frustrated that little on the ground has apparently changed,” they write.

If you are depressed or contemplating suicide, help is available at Lifeline on 131 114.

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