Congress NHLF response to NATSIHP Aboriginal Health Plan: culture, anti-racism and rights at the centre of wellbeing


Congress and the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) support the priorities and vision of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan released today.


Jody Broun, (pictured above)  Co-Chair of Congress and the NHLF, said placing culture and community at the heart of the plan puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in control of health and well-being.

“The recognition of culture as central to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities shows a deep understanding of the role culture plays in our health and wellbeing,” she said.

“The plan’s vision of the Australian health system being free of racism sets a new precedent for Australian public policy.

“Congress and the NHLF organisations were able to significantly influence the health plan to ensure recognition is given to the right to health and to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” she said.


NHLF Co-Chair and Chair of the National Community Controlled Health Organisation Justin Mohamed said, “Our joint submission to the plan involved extensive consultation with communities, from Darwin to Port Augusta, from Perth to Dubbo to identify what our people and expert organisations wanted to see done to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

“The Plan establishes the new model for how services will be delivered and funding for the Plan must get to communities and community controlled health organisations for it to have a real impact,” he said.

Co-Chair Broun said the Plan must embody systems of accountability so there is a clear line of sight between the intent of the plan and the services delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“Implementation will be the key, and we call for a united leadership from communities, Governments and health organisations for the most effective implementation and monitoring of the plan,” she said.

“All state and territory governments must now be open about their commitment to a National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes which will drive the full roll out of this Health Plan.

“As the federal election draws closer, all parties must now get on the record for multi-decade commitments to our Peoples health to span policy cycles, funding agreements and governments,” she said.

Organisations in the national health leadership forum are

·         National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)

·         Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation

·         Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association

·         Australian Indigenous Psychologists’ Association

·         Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses

·         Indigenous Allied Health Australia

·         Indigenous Dentists’ Association of Australia

·         The Lowitja Institute

·         National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers’ Association

·         National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Physiotherapists

·         Torres Strait Regional Authority

Contact: Liz Willis 0457 877 408

NACCHO MJA heath news: NAIDOC Week issue devoted to exploring the health status of Australia’s Aboriginal peoples

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Article by: Ruth Armstrong, Senior Deputy Editor – Medical Journal of Australia, Sydney, NSW.

This issue of the MJA, timed to coincide with NAIDOC Week, is devoted to exploring the health status of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples — particularly our children and young people. Children aged 0–14 years make up 35% of the Australian Indigenous population, write Eades and Stanley.

Data on their health and development are patchy but indicate a growing divide between Indigenous and other Australian children for several risk factors and conditions. Azzopardi and colleagues add a systematic review of the evidence for young people aged 10–24 years into the mix, finding gaps in the observational research for urban settings, mental health and injury, and confirming the well known dearth of interventional studies.

Two studies in this issue add to the scant evidence available by testing simple interventions that might lead to improvements, such as providing subsidised fruit and vegetable boxes to disadvantaged families in regional towns (Black and colleagues) and swimming pools in remote communities (Stephen and colleagues).

Turning our thoughts to the health needs of Indigenous children is always important but is particularly timely now. A federal election, with all its potential for policy upheaval, is just 2 months away. In the first article in our pre-election series, Arabena recognises an urgent need for better data to evaluate existing and future policies, and envisages a plan for health that takes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ perspectives, wishes and culture into account, and brings an end to aspects of the health system that contribute to inequality, such as racism.

Independently of the election, the Australian Government is developing a new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan for the next decade. Kimpton, president of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, says the plan will have the best chance of success if it has at its heart some important principles: nurturing of the Indigenous health workforce; genuine, strong partnerships with Indigenous organisations; fostering culture as integral to health and wellbeing; and promoting Indigenous leadership, while involving the whole health system.

The solutions to many health problems for Indigenous children lie outside the health system, but making our health services accessible, culturally safe and appropriate places will lead to better outcomes for the families who inevitably need them. “Cultural competence” can be a daunting term for doctors. Thackrah and Thompson encourage us to look at our own culture of medicine and the practical realities of patients’ lives when trying to put this difficult concept into practice.

Amid all this thinking and soul searching, there are good examples of what works — innovative health promotion and education programs combining the nurturing effects of “country” with exchanges of new knowledge (Webb and colleagues), and thriving health services where Indigenous families can truly have their health needs met and that also serve as centres of outreach bringing sorely needed medical expertise to remote communities (McGilvray).

As Milroy reminds us in her response to a study that found many Aboriginal children had been exposed to traumatic, potentially health damaging experiences (Askew and colleagues), Indigenous children need access to the best possible health services right now and for years to come.

History tells us that policies fail, and services falter, when they are not developed in consultation with those for whom they are designed. On this point, Eades and Stanley concur: “… we believe that Australian services have failed to close the gap in child health because they have been developed without involving or engaging First Nations people”. At this important time in Australian history, we have yet another chance to get it right. Be it by public policy or individual action, we need to do all we can to make our health services places of healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

NACCHO good news:New National Health Careers Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander


Our future Aboriginal doctors and health workers pictured above arriving in Canberra

30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander senior high school students from around the country have been selected to be part of the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Careers Development Program: Murra Mullangari – Pathways Alive and Well.

 The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association President, Dr Tammy Kimpton said “it is extremely important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to know the wide range of rewarding careers in health that are open to them, from a very early age”

 “Murra Mullangari is just one way of empowering our young people to achieve their goals.”

 Murra Mullangari is an initiative of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, designed and delivered in partnership with the following Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak health organisations:

 o National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

o Indigenous Allied Health Australia

o Indigenous Dentists Association Australia

o National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association

o Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses; and

o Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association

 17 year old Ms Annie Ingui, a Torres Strait Islander student from Queensland said “I am interested in pursuing a health career because I have always wanted to make a difference in Indigenous communities.

 I think it is important to make other Indigenous mothers comfortable while they are having their baby and Indigenous women are most likely going to want an Indigenous midwife”.

 “Murra Mullangari will be an important experience for me because it’s going to help me go further in being a midwife”. Murra Mullangari comprises of a 5 day residential program and follow-up mentoring component. Illustrating the high demand for such a program, around 200 application were received for the 30 places.

 AIDA CEO, Mr Romlie Mokak said “The high demand reflects the fact that Murra Mullangari is a program run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people.

 The participants will be immersed in a culturally, educationally and professionally empowering space”.

 The Program will encourage Indigenous students to pursue a career in health and support transitions from secondary school toward careers in health. The program aims to increase awareness of pathways into the health workforce, identify common educational barriers and build strong networks.

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