“It is essential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are respected as cultural experts, central to their own care. Yet we can’t expect to close the healthcare gap, let alone eliminate it as is our aim, by working in isolation.
Too many Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are diagnosed with illnesses much later than non-Indigenous Victorians, resulting in a significant burden on health services and other long-term costs on the system.
Together with the Heart Foundation, we can provide support and share information to help Aboriginal communities affected by, or at risk of, heart disease across the state access the services they need.”
VACCHO Acting CEO Trevor Pearce welcomed the opportunity to continue working with the Heart Foundation to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
” The people you love, take them for heart health checks.
Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and make sure to ring 000 (Triple Zero) if you think someone in your community is having one. Secondly give cigarettes the boot:
If you smoke, stop. I was only a light smoker but it still did me harm, so now I’ve given up.”
Former champion footballer Nicky Winmar always looked after his health, apart from having been a light smoker for years : Watch video
Two leading Victorian health organisations have developed a new relationship to help Close the Gap on heart disease and improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Trevor Pearce and Kellie-Ann Jolly The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Heart Foundation in Victoria today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to improve the heart health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander communities in this state.
Heart disease is the leading killer of Australians, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are twice as likely to die from heart disease than non-Indigenous people.
In some regions of Victoria, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are hospitalised for heart conditions up to three times more often than non-Indigenous Australians. Yet they are less likely than non-Indigenous people with heart disease to have coronary angiography and other cardiac procedures; to receive or attend cardiac rehabilitation; or to be prescribed statins.
Heart Foundation CEO Victoria Kellie-Ann Jolly said, “Signing this MOU reinforces the relationship and commitment both organisations have towards achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander peoples.
“We understand how important it is to build mutual respect and trust at a local level through our previous work with Shepparton’s Rumbalara Aboriginal Health Service, and as part of the Lighthouse Hospital Project with the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service and the town’s local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO),” Ms Jolly said.
“With almost one-quarter of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people due to cardiovascular disease, it is vital we work together to address this pressing issue.
“We see our collaboration with VACCHO as a long-term partnership towards achieving our shared vision of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heart health care in Victoria.
“While there’s still a long way to go, increasing awareness of heart disease and working towards improved pathways to access culturally-safe healthcare services are critical if we are to see change.
“Eliminating rheumatic heart disease, which is far more common in Indigenous communities, is another priority for the Heart Foundation. It is only through working together with grass-roots organisations and the peak body, VACCHO, that we can begin to address this issue.”
VACCHO and the Heart Foundation will also work together to advocate for projects and initiatives that strive towards health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This MOU signing marks a significant step towards Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
About the Heart Foundation
The Heart Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to fighting the single biggest killer of Australians – heart disease. For close to 60 years, it’s led the battle to save lives and improve the heart health of all Australians. Its sights are set on a world where people don’t suffer or die prematurely because of heart disease. To find out more about the Heart Foundation’s research program or to make a donation, visit www.heartfoundation.org.au or call 13 11 12.
The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc (VACCHO) was established in 1996. VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal health and wellbeing in Victoria, with 30 Member ACCOs providing support to approximately 25,000 Aboriginal people across the state.
” Look it would be easy to say that we haven’t got anywhere, but the fact is with Aboriginal health, I look at this holistically.
So there’s health in the traditional notions of health, that is physical well-being and mental health well-being, and then there’s the broader concept of health which is the whole of the person’s life and all the things that impact on that.
I think we’re making gains, but given our starting point and where we’re coming from, things don’t change quickly. It will take a number of generations for us to get to what I’d call self-equity.
It’s taken us 200 years to get where we are now, so to turn it around and get on a level par with everybody else is going to take quite a while as well. So I think we are trending in the right direction, but it will require a sustained and increased effort over many years to come, to get us really on the path or to reach the point of health equity.”
Ian Hamm has just been appointed CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), after more than 30 years’ experience working with the Indigenous community.
Hamm was appointed CEO of VACCHO for 18 months, while Jill Gallagher AO takes a leave of absence to commence as Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner from February.
He described himself as a proud Aboriginal man, who has extensive experience in the public service, including as executive director of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
Hamm currently serves as chair of the Koorie Heritage Trust, the First Nations Foundation and Connecting Home Ltd (Stolen Generations Service).
In this week’s Changemaker, Hamm speaks about his plans for VACCHO in the next 18 months, details his sister Cherie’s special connection to the organisation, and explains what keeps him motivated to serve the Indigenous community.
Have you been involved with the community sector before?
I’ve been in government for a bit over 31 years. So this is my first time working in the community sector itself, but I have worked closely with the community sector over that time. I’ve worked for federal and state governments, mostly around Indigenous community stuff. But I’ve also worked in education, in health justice economics and so forth.
What attracted you to work in the community sector?
I suppose it was the opportunity to get to work in the sector that I’d always worked with, if you like. So over the period of 31 years, I’ve worked across a range of different things to do with the Aboriginal community. I’ve worked closely with the sector. So when the opportunity came along to be CEO of one of the leading community organisations for 18 months, you get asked these things once and once only and you don’t say no.
What are your plans for VACCHO during your term as CEO?
At the moment there are a lot of developments going on in Victoria on Aboriginal matters. So quite clearly, the predominant one at the moment is the treaty discussions which are which are about to take off. The person whose role I’m taking, Jill Gallagher, is going to be the treaty commissioner for 18 months. So that’s the big piece of work in Victoria, in fact Australia to be honest.
Victoria is also doing work around self-determination and how do we bring self-determination to life. So those are two really big things going on. So clearly I want to make sure that VACCHO is well engaged in those two pieces of work and also continues to prosecute the efforts around improvement in Aboriginal health outcomes and also ensuring that our members are best practice organisations, in terms of their administration, their governance, their workforce development and all that kind of stuff as well. So there’s a fair bit I want to do and obviously looking at VACCHO itself, is there an opportunity for VACCHO to improve? I mean everywhere can improve over time and develop its operating and business models. So I want to look at VACCHO itself and how we work as an organisation.
How do you see a typical day going for you as CEO of the organisation?
A lot of my background has been around [strategic] long-term outcome focus, around where we want to be in a number of years from now as opposed to where we are now. So my type of day as I see it, [will involve] a lot of time spent with an external focus, building up critical relationships and ensuring we’re well engaged with the members, because VACCHO exists by right of its membership. So ensuring that we have good and productive relationships with our members [is vital] and we’re supporting them in what they do.
I’ll obviously be having an oversight of the organisation but leaving the day-to-day operating, the daily grind as you might call it, to the people who are much better and much more skilled at that type of work than I am within the organisation. So a typical day for me will probably be in a number of meetings, making sure that at a higher level I’m across stuff around the operating of the organisation and probably talking to the chair of the organisation once a week or a fortnight just to make sure that the leader of the board is across stuff. So it’ll be a mixed bag of things that CEOs do, that you can never quite put your finger on when somebody asks you “what is it that you do exactly?”
You have spoken in the past about how your sister Cherie has a special connection to VACCHO, what does this mean to you?
My sister Cherie worked at VACCHO for many years, for 10 years if not longer. She not only was a worker there but she was part of the soul of the place. And she did a lot of work particularly around palliative care. She confronted the difficult issue of when Aboriginal people are passing and not just looking at health improvement, but dealing with the dreadful reality that people die.
She herself died of breast cancer in 2014. She was well loved by the VACCHO people, the VACCHO staff and the VACCHO community as a whole. So to be CEO of the organisation that she was such an intimate part of, not just in a work sense but in a soul sense, is an additional thing for me that was one of the reasons I took this job.
Amongst all the work that you do, how do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do in your spare time?
I learnt a new word in 2017. It’s called “no”, as in “no I cannot go onto another board, no I cannot do this”. I’m actually on seven boards in addition to being CEO of VACCHO now, and I do other stuff outside of that. So when I do find the time just to myself, I like to cook, and I still play cricket at the age of 53. So I’m still going around on a Saturday playing in a 4th XI as a wicketkeeper, which I should have given away many years ago, but I get to play cricket with a bunch of blokes who have no idea what I do for a living.
So there’s that kind of stuff. Obviously my pride and joy are my children Jasper and Isabel. I have a special relationship with my niece Narita, Cherie’s daughter, and she’s just had a little boy. So I enjoy being part of his life, [even though] he’s only about three months old. That’s the type of thing I do privately and is my little piece of paradise.
You’ve been advocating for Indigenous causes for a long time. How do you remain motivated and optimistic despite all the challenges that arise?
It’s just a fundamental thing inside me that I can’t stand inequity, I can’t stand people not being given the opportunity to be the best that they can be. I can’t actually describe it any deeper than that, but particularly with our own community, I have a deep commitment to us finding what I believe is our rightful place in the great Australian community. That to me is what drives me. It’s something that I find hard to describe. It just is. It’s just what makes me get out of bed in the morning.
It’s what makes me do work which is essentially really hard. But I wouldn’t do anything else. There are a lot easier ways to make more money than this, but for me and everyone else in this sector, it’s not just about job satisfaction or what you get out of it as a job. It’s a much deeper thing, this isn’t about me this is about everyone. So that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me do what I do.
What kind of future would you like to see for the Indigenous community in the years ahead?
One of the things which I’ve always had in my mind around what I try to do with anything [regarding] the Aboriginal community, is not just looking at what are the problems we have now and how do we fix them. If you just focus on that you never get ahead. I’ve always said in my mind, “What does Aboriginal Victoria look like in 20 years from now?” So if I jump forward a generation, Aboriginal Victoria will have equity on most things which we measure.
So economic equity, health equity, education equity etc. Most critically, Aboriginal community identity will be a confident one. It will be not only culturally strong, but culturally confident in itself and its place in the wider Victorian community. It will be universally respected and in fact, may even be the thing that the rest of the Victorian community aspires to. That is where I want to see Aboriginal Victoria as a whole 20 years from now.
Do you have any particular people that inspire the work that you do?
Oh there’s a number of people. So William Cooper, my great uncle, he inspires me. There’s Doug Nicholls, and Alf Bamblett who I knew quite well. Those three people inspire me. I went into government 30 years ago and decided to stay there to work for Aboriginal people. Charlie Perkins, he inspires me to no end. And he got sacked a couple of times, but he did what he thought was right for the Aboriginal community.
I got sacked once for doing what I thought was right for the Aboriginal community, and getting sacked from high profile positions is never fun, but you know what, I could sleep at night because I knew I had done the right thing. So those type of people inspire me and there’s a whole range of others. My own family inspire me, my aunty Claire, she’s one of those people who inspired me and there’s a whole range of people.
Part 2 Manager Cultural Safety Training job opportunity
• Be a part of the change you want to see in the world
• Take on a leadership role
• This is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identified position
VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal health in Victoria and champions community control and health equality for Aboriginal communities. We are a centre of expertise, policy advice, training, innovation and leadership in Aboriginal health. VACCHO advocates for the health equality and optimum health of all Aboriginal people in Victoria.
VACCHO’s cultural safety training incorporates cultural awareness training and builds on this learning to provide practical tips and skills that can be utilised to improve practice and behaviour, which assist in making Aboriginal people feel safe. In shifting the focus to health systems, our participants begin to learn how to strengthen relationships with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations so that access is improved.
We are looking for someone to provide leadership in the sustainability, development, coordination and delivery of our Cultural Safety training.
You will need to be comfortable presenting to other people, be good at networking and building relationships and have an understanding of cultural awareness issues as it relates to Aboriginal communities and individuals as well as experience in managing and leading a team.
You will be joining a great team and will be provided with guidance and support to learn the training packages.
If this sounds like the job you are looking for then you can download the Position Description and Application Form from our website http://www.vaccho.org.au/jobs.
” Having a Treaty will be a positive step for our mob. It will change the way people think about us, formally recognise what has been done to us in the past, and it will help us heal and overcome so much of this hurt, to achieve better social, emotional, health and wellbeing outcomes for our people.
I want my grandchildren, everyone’s grandchildren, and the generations to come to be happier and healthier. I want us to Close the Gap in all ways possible, and reaching a Treaty in Victoria is part of achieving this critical goal.
Jill Gallagher AO, is CEO of VACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group and now Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.
Read Jill’s Opinion piece in full Part 2 below Victorian Treaty an opportunity to heal and overcome intergenerational trauma
” I believe a Treaty with the Victorian Government will pave the way for a lot of the work VACCHO does around the holistic approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people.
VACCHO has this holistic approach because we know you can’t just deal with health without dealing with housing and other aspects of life. If you haven’t got a roof over your head you can’t be healthy. If you haven’t got a job, that is going to have a negative impact on your health.
If you or your family are unfairly caught up in the justice system it makes it hard to build a life.
The social determinants of health need to be addressed in a holistic way, and we advocate to Government for that. “
Aged 62, Jill Gallagher has lived long enough to have had her sense of the world shaped by some of the sorriest historical aspects of Victoria’s treatment of Aboriginal people.
As a child she accompanied her mother all over the state as she chased seasonal work picking vegetables on farms, one of few lines of employment Aboriginal people were permitted to do.
As Reported in the AGE : Jill Gallagher has been named Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner. Photo: Jason South
And she has an early memory, painful still, of her mother being asked to leave the whites-only Warrnambool hotel.
It was Australia in the early 1960s, before Aboriginal people had been recognised in the constitution or been given the right to vote.
On Tuesday Ms Gallagher took on a job that is meant to shape a much more equal future between the state’s first people and the rest of us, when she was named Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.
It is the new, leading role in preparing to negotiate the first ever treaty between Aboriginal people and an Australian government.
“What’s happening in Victoria is history making,” Ms Gallagher says of the $28.5 million treaty process.
“It’s never happened before, for any government to actually be serious about wanting to talk to Aboriginal people about treaties.” As commissioner, Ms Gallagher will lead the task of bringing Aboriginal representatives to the negotiating table with government and ensuring everyday Aboriginal voices are heard.
“My role is not to negotiate a treaty or treaties,” she says. “My role is to establish a voice, or representative body, that government can negotiate with.”
By the time treaty negotiations commence, her work as commissioner will have been done and the role will have ceased to exist.
For now the treaty’s terms of reference is a blank sheet of paper.
Its eventual signing could involve years of negotiations between the Aboriginal community and state government.
Aspects of treaties from other nations, such as Canada or New Zealand, may be borrowed from but Ms Gallagher says she hopes Victoria’s model will “stay true to what the need is here in Victoria”. “Treaty is about righting the wrongs of the past but also having the ability to tell the truth,” Ms Gallagher says.
As head of Aboriginal health organisation VACCHO, Ms Gallagher grapples with the lingering failure to “close the gap” of disadvantage between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Victorians, who statistically live shorter lives and in poorer health than the general population.
A report last month by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria acknowledged the inter-generational damage European colonisation did to Aboriginal people, entrenching poverty, racism and disadvantage.
“I see the devastation that colonisation had on my people,” she says.
“I see how it manifests today in many ways such as overrepresentation in the justice system, overrepresentation of children in out-of-home care … So for me treaty is trying to rectify that.”
And as for non-Aboriginals uncertain about what a treaty means for them, Ms Gallagher offers this piece of reassurance: we don’t want your backyard.
Rather, it’s about creating a shared identity.
“I think it will add value to the non-Aboriginal community here in Victoria,” Ms Gallagher says.
“Treaty is about us having the ability to share our very rich, ancient culture, so all Victorians can be proud of our culture.”
Victorian Treaty an opportunity to heal and overcome intergenerational trauma
*Jill Gallagher AO, is CEO of VACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group
As the end of the year rapidly approaches there is a bright ray of hope on the horizon for Aboriginal people living in Victoria, in the form of Treaty.
Working towards Treaty
For almost two years we have been working as a community towards the goal of a Treaty between the First Nations people and the Victorian Government. It’s an historic process, and one that we hope will inspire and guide the rest of Australia, both at a state and national level.
I’ve been honoured to be a part of the process as Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group. Our role in this group is not to negotiate a Treaty, but to consult the Aboriginal community on what we would like to see in a representative structure.
As CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) I’ve been working for the past two decades towards improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I see a Treaty as fundamental to reaching the goal of Closing the Gap on many of our poor health outcomes as Aboriginal people.
Our mob, as we well know, has been disempowered for many, many generations and with disempowerment comes distress, and comes a lack of resilience. Our self-esteem has suffered and there have been so many social, emotional and wellbeing issues
in our community as a result of that disempowerment.
I believe if we are successful in reaching a Treaty it will make a humongous difference in the wellbeing of our people across Victoria. This is about truth telling and healing the past for a better future for Aboriginal people.
Intergenerational trauma is deeply felt in our community from myriad past practices, including the relatively recent Stolen Generations – I work with people born to parents who were stolen, many of my friends were stolen or come from families affected by the woeful policies of the past. In fact, almost 50 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians have a relative who was forcibly removed from their family through the Stolen Generations.
Without doubt intergenerational trauma and a lack of empowerment and resilience leads to inevitable mental illness; we currently have 32 per cent of the Victorian Aboriginal community suffering very high psychological distress, which is three times the non-Aboriginal rate.
Social and emotional wellbeing
But while improving mental health outcomes is incredibly important to our people, it is something that cannot be done in isolation; improving social and emotional wellbeing is also important.
The Aboriginal concept of social and emotional wellbeing is an inclusive term that enables concepts of mental health to be recognised as part of a holistic and interconnected Aboriginal view of health that embraces social, emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of wellbeing.
Social and emotional wellbeing emphasises the importance of individual, family and community strengths and resilience, feelings of cultural safety and connection to culture, and the importance of realising aspirations, and experiencing satisfaction and purpose in life.
Importantly, social and emotional wellbeing is a source of resilience that can help protect against the worst impacts of stressful life events for Aboriginal people, and provide a buffer to mitigate risks of poor mental health.
Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of, and mental health outcomes for, Aboriginal people cannot be achieved by any one measure, one agency or sector, or by Aboriginal people alone. It needs to be shaped and led through Aboriginal self-determination with support from government, and that is where Treaty comes in.
A Treaty for healing
I know that many people will dismiss Treaty as a political or public relations stunt. Just look at how the Federal Government has dismissed us on Makaratta. Makarrata is a complex Yolngu word describing a process of conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice. It’s a philosophy that helped develop and maintain lasting peace among the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land.
Reaching a Makarrata is the goal of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was agreed in May this year. It’s hurtful and disrespectful to be asked your opinion on something as important as Makarrata and then to have your ideas and solutions be dismissed.
I am glad to say the Victorian Government is, however, listening to us. I believe a Treaty with the Victorian Government will pave the way for a lot of the work VACCHO does around the holistic approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people.
VACCHO has this holistic approach because we know you can’t just deal with health without dealing with housing and other aspects of life. If you haven’t got a roof over your head you can’t be healthy. If you haven’t got a job, that is going to have a negative impact on your health. If you or your family are unfairly caught up in the justice system it makes it hard to build a life. The social determinants of health need to be addressed in a holistic way, and we advocate to Government for that.
Having a Treaty will be a positive step for our mob. It will change the way people think about us, formally recognise what has been done to us in the past, and it will help us heal and overcome so much of this hurt, to achieve better social, emotional, health and wellbeing outcomes for our people.
I want my grandchildren, everyone’s grandchildren, and the generations to come to be happier and healthier. I want us to Close the Gap in all ways possible, and reaching a Treaty in Victoria is part of achieving this critical goal.