NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : After 8 and half years editing this communique and managing NACCHO social media , @ColinCowell is retiring

” Every workday morning for the past 8 and half years I have been in the office at 6.30 am to produce and publish this Aboriginal Health News Alert.

But tomorrow 31 July 2020 will be my last day as I have just announced my retirement from NACCHO to take up a role of mentor . (see part 2 below )

Since 1970 when I started advertising at Channel 10 I have had over 50 years extensive national and international media experience specifically in the last thirty years in Indigenous communication.

This includes Torres News (Editor), ICC Torres Strait (PR), Arrernte Council Alice Springs (media advisor), Congress ACCHO / CAAMA (radio production), KOORI MAIL (contributor) , PMC Canberra (Indigenous communication), Department of Health Canberra (Indigenous communication), NITV (NACCHO TV series).

With this background I was honoured to develop a wide range of internet based communication platforms over the past 8 years to ensure the positive work of NACCHO and its members to Close the Gap was better recognised and supported by all sides of politics and the broader community.

I thank you for your support over years.”

Colin Cowell Social Media Editor NACCHO 2012-2020

Contact email

Follow on Twitter @ColinCowell

Or Contact 0401 331 251 

History of NACCHO Social media 2012-2020

Back in March 2012 the NACCHO CEO at the time Donna Ah Chee and the board had a need to improve the understanding and communication with the main groups involved  in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy process: government, politicians, academics, stakeholders, the media and the community sector.

As part of NACCHO’s 2012 Strategic plan social media was identified as an effective means of communicating key corporate objectives to connect, engage and inform members, their communities and stakeholders into the future.

NACCHO wanted to use social media to keep a focus on the battle to  ” Close the Gap within a generation”  and to ensure governments at all levels addressed the wide range of social issues faced by many Aboriginal Australians.

NACCHO’s social media communications strategy then supported these objectives:

  • Promoting, developing and expanding the provision of health and wellbeing services through local Aboriginal Community controlled Health services.
  • Liaison with organisations and governments within both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community on health and wellbeing policy and planning issues.
  • Representation and advocacy relating to health service delivery, health information, research, public health, health financing and health programs.
  • Fostering cooperative partnerships and working relationships with agencies that respect Aboriginal community control and holistic concepts of health and wellbeing.

The depth and complexity of our Aboriginal controlled health services provided to our communities and the professionalism of the staff across all member services is inspirational and it is that message NACCHO went on to share with the broader non-Aboriginal community in the social media space now totaling approx. 65,000 followers on all our social media platforms

Highlights of my NACCHO contributions 2012-2020

1.New NACCHO website: In 2012 and 2014 designed and edited a new corporate website that was full of Aboriginal health content, history and about NACCHO’s role as the national authority to reform, promote and research.

2.New Daily Aboriginal Health News Alert site: Since established in 2012 I have I published 3,053 communiques shared daily with 5,822  readers / subscribers and in addition had over 1,159,000 views

Example : Since January 2020 we have published over 90 COVID-19 Aboriginal Health Alerts 

3.Integration : All content at the time was integrated with the NACCHO website by subject and had the ability to be shared in all social media platforms.

4.Established new NACCHO Branding: Designed a new corporate branding for all communications

5.Established new NACCHO Twitter account: Developed one of the most influential Indigenous health accounts with 96,500 tweets to 35,900 followers.

Record breaking tweet : Our Aboriginal communities should take health advice from the fast food industry’ campaign eventually  went global, reaching more than  20 million Twitter followers worldwide

6.Established new NACCHO Facebook account : Developed 20,000 followers with record breaking 185,000 engagements per month .

7.Established NACCHO Instagram Account : Now with over 3,000 followers

8. Established NACCHO newspaper: In conjunction with the Koori Mail introduced and published 2013-15 Australia’s first printed Aboriginal Health newspaper that was available also online as a download.

Read Download Here 

9.NACCHO TV: Created in YouTube to share NACCHO videos.

11.NACCHO APP 2013-15 : Designed Aboriginal health app with geo location system and access online to support networks for issues such as depression, suicide, alcohol, smoking, healthy lifestyles etc

12 .NACCHO Ochre Day : Working with Mark Saunders founded the concept of Ochre Day and wrote the strategy to promote Aboriginal Men’s Health

 Part 2 : My future role as a mentor

Mervyn Fernando is the Founding Director of Claystone Marketing.

As a proud Indigenous man with a career beginning with years of study across a broad range of qualifications.

In 2017, he completed his Bachelor of Business with Latrobe University and have since studied a Master of Marketing.

Through his work as a Consultant, he has been responsible for planning and delivering high level marketing strategies across small to large travel management companies, renewable energy providers, commercial cleaning companies, insurance, tech and a range of other commercial entities.

He has a strong passion for marketing and what he loves most about his career in the field of marketing is working with unique stories.

  • Social Media Marketing
  • Websites
  • Graphic Design
  • Workshops
  • Video Production
  • Email Marketing
  • Small Business Mentoring
  • Marketing Consultancy

Contact Merv via website 

NACCHO Health News Alert: Incentive scheme for bush doctors failing, funds to be redirected



In a Robin Hood style overhaul of the botched $113 million General Practice Rural Incentive Payment Scheme, doctors in 14 large towns like Cairns will be stripped of subsidies.

The money saved from enticing doctors to large coastal towns will instead be put towards much larger subsidies to attract doctors to tiny towns like Gundagai, Kingaroy, Echuca and Northam.

From Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter From: News Corp Australia Network (full details below)



A Government incentive scheme to try to lure more doctors to the bush is falling short of the mark, with too much money going towards large regional centres and not enough to smaller towns, .

The retargeted money does not include a target for bolstering health services in Indigenous communities, but Senator Nash said she wanted to see more Aboriginal health workers in place.

She said that would be a focus for future policy development.

Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash says the current incentive scheme is not luring doctors to small towns. (Credit: ABC)

Incentive scheme for bush doctors failing, funds to be redirected, Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash says in Radio Australia Report

A Government incentive scheme to try to lure more doctors to the bush is falling short of the mark, with too much money going towards large regional centres and not enough to smaller towns, the Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash says.

Rural and remote towns with fewer than 50,000 people will benefit from $50 million being diverted from the General Practice Rural Incentive Payment Scheme, which originally targeted larger coastal cities like Cairns and Townsville, according to Senator Nash.

Doctors in the rural and remote areas will receive increased subsidy payments from July this year.

Senator Nash said the program would help reduce the gap between rural Australia and the cities.

She said 450 rural towns would benefit from the revised scheme.

“There’s an unfair distribution of the resources,” she said.

“We’re currently seeing funding go to doctors who have chosen to practice in large regional centres, so towns over 50,000 population.

“So doctors moving to those areas will no longer be able to receive the incentive payments.”

Senator Nash said the change would help attract doctors to smaller centres that needed them.

“We were having the same payments going to doctors in large towns as to doctors in the smaller towns. [This will get] the right doctors, with the right skills to the right places.”

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler said the plan was a step in the right direction.

“We’ve known for some time that the geographical locations and rules around these payments had a lot of discrepancies in them and the new model is certainly an improved model,” he said.

“Our main objective is to make sure that we don’t see the Rural Incentive Payment changes disadvantage important services and that we make sure that we maintain those services where they are needed in rural communities.

“I’m sure this will go a long way towards improving things, but obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all for this sort of problem.”

The retargeted money does not include a target for bolstering health services in Indigenous communities, but Senator Nash said she wanted to see more Aboriginal health workers in place.

She said that would be a focus for future policy development.

Ms Nash made the announcement ahead of attending the 13th national remote health conference in Darwin


Subsidies to attract doctors to tiny towns nearly double

Sue Dunlevy National Health Reporter From: News Corp Australia Network


Small rural towns will attract subsidies of up to $60,000 to attract and keep doctors in a massive win from News Corp Australia’s Health the Bush campaign.

In a Robin Hood style overhaul of the botched $113 million General Practice Rural Incentive Payment Scheme, doctors in 14 large towns like Cairns will be stripped of subsidies.

The money saved from enticing doctors to large coastal towns will instead be put towards much larger subsidies to attract doctors to tiny towns like Gundagai, Kingaroy, Echuca and Northam.

Under a revamp of the scheme to be announced by Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash on Sunday, subsidies for towns with a population of less than 5,000 will jump by between $4,000 and $13,000 a year.

Under the old scheme, the maximum subsidy available to a doctor working in a very remote area for five years was $47,000. That will jump to $60,000 after the new scheme begins in July.

Currently doctors only have to work in a town for six months to begin receiving subsidies; now, they will have to spend at least two years before the allowance flows.

The increases for 450 towns were a key demand in News Corp Australia’s Health the Bush campaign aimed at improving poor health systems in the bush that see rural residents die three years earlier than those in the city.


Doctors in the tiny town of Gundagai NSW will see their subsidies nearly double from $12,000 to $23,000 after they serve for five years.

Doctors in the tiny town of Rutherglen Victoria will see their subsidies nearly double from $12,000 to $23,000 after they serve for five years.

Doctors in the tiny town of Gleneagle in Queensland will see their subsidies increase from $12,000 to $18,000 after five years service.

Doctors in Ceduna, South Australia will see their subsidies increase from $47,000 to $60,000 after five years service.

Doctors in Strahan Tasmania will see their subsidies increase from $27,000 to $35,000 after five years service.

Doctors in the tiny town of Northam in Queensland will see their subsidies increase from $12,000 to $18,000 after five years service.


Under the existing system introduced by the previous Labor Government in 2010, 5706 doctors got taxpayer subsidies to move to towns with a population over 50,000.

Some $50 million was being used to pay incentives for doctors to live in very large regional cities, including Townsville (population 175,000) and Cairns (population 145,000).

They received the same $30,000 relocation grant and $18,000-a-year retention incentive as doctors in Hay and Deniliquin in NSW, Ingham and Tully in Queensland and Warnertown in South Australia.

Doctors who relocated to Hobart (population 106,153) and Launceston got the same $15,000 relocation grant and $12,000 a year retention grant as doctors who moved to Tumut in NSW (population 6,000) or Benalla in Victoria (population 9,328).

“The new GPRIP system has redirected money to attract more doctors to rural areas that have genuine difficulty attracting and retaining doctors,” Minister Nash said.

“It makes more sense to use that money to attract doctors to where the greatest shortages are — small rural and remote communities, not big regional cities.

“We’ve taken that money which was being used to attract doctors to Cairns and Townsville and we’re using it to get doctors to towns like Cowra and Cobram.

More than 100 towns will benefit from increased incentive payments to attract doctors.

Towns that will lose access to any subsidies under the scheme include Albury, Darwin, Cairns, Hervey Bay, Townsville, Hobart, Mackay, Rockhampton, Ballarat and Bunbury.

The new GP rural incentive payment will not be available to doctors working in large regional cities with a population of more than 50,000

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NACCHO Aboriginal health: Dr Charles Perkins 1993 speech “Aboriginal people and a healthy economy”

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Importantly Aboriginal people should be aware of this false economy which forms the basis of Aboriginal affairs in this country.

The economic lifeline is maintained only at the discretion of politicians and a fickle public.

We must therefore develop and consolidate a viable economy for our various communities and organisations that will sustain us into the future.

We must create short and long-term economic strategies now and thus create a more independent and secure base for ourselves and our children. The reality is that Aboriginal people under utilise, to put it kindly, their current economic and personnel resources. The potential for economic viability for our people is available now if only we could awake to the opportunity and not be blinded largely by employment survival economics

Unless the approaches to Aboriginal health are broadened to include greater attention to the health problems of adults, and are matched by broad ranging strategies aimed at redressing Aboriginal social and economic disadvantages, it is likely that overall mortality will remain high.

Dr Charles Perkins opening the Australia’s First National /International Indigenous and Economic Conference (NIBEC 1993) Alice Springs.  1993 International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and Paul Keating was Prime Minister

NACCHO editor note from Colin Cowell pictured above with Charles Perkins :

June 3 1992 at the Koori Mail first anniversary conference also the day of the Mabo Decision

In 1993 I project managed for Charlie’s Arrernte mob in Alice Springs Australia’s First National /International Indigenous and Economic Conference and part of my role was assisting Charlie to communicate his vision about Aboriginal people and a healthy economic future.

“Creating an economic template for our  healthy futures.” Dr Charles Perkins

As Australia enters the decade of the 90’s we find ourselves as a nation struggling to maintain our equilibrium in a rapidly changing world.

There is no doubt Australia has lost its relatively high standard of living and has become increasingly debt burdened, both to overseas creditors and within Australia itself.

It is also clear that other countries, particularly many of our Asian neighbours, have a booming and immensely competitive industrial and commercial society. From a layman’s point of view something is drastically wrong with current economic policy and planning that has allowed this nation to become extremely vulnerable in an increasingly complex, competitive and fast changing world.

It is clear the time has come, in consideration of our high unemployment, high overseas debt, falling living standards, rising prices and decreasing productivity, for the Australian people to decide that in the future we must elect politicians of competence, vision and integrity.

Surely the greatest public health pollution that exists in Australia today can be seen in the conduct of a number of our politicians – past and present of all parties. They take up needed space. This is the pollution that is the most insidious and ultimately fatal to any society of people.

The many poor quality politicians operating in many of our parliaments is a disgrace. The irony is that we, the Aboriginal people, voted for them.

Aboriginal people like everyone else in Australia have felt the negative outcomes of the economic scandals that have affected and still affects most states in the Commonwealth in recent years. Subsequently such economic activity must have reverberations throughout the world, not only with our trading partners and our competitors, but also with the nations at large. It must be difficult for them and as it is with us to understand the often unsavoury activities of some our banks, previously of high reputation, and our many once high flying extravagant entrepreneurs. Surely our international reputation has been damaged for generations to come. Sad to say they are all whites. In this context is Mabo such a calamity as some suggest.

What bewilders me, as an Aboriginal, is how people who have power, education, authority and collective responsibility, could do this to our young and dynamic nation.

They are destroying our future – for both blacks and whites.

In all of this economic turmoil it remains patently clear that the Aboriginal people of this country are seeking remedies for the solution of our problems from governments, politicians and bureaucrats who cannot even manage their own responsibilities, even with the best of facilities, education, financial and personnel services.

From an Aboriginal view point, our mistake over the years has been to look towards the white people in positions of influence, to solve our problems. This has been our fundamental error. Recent history tells us what we should have known over 200 years ago. It is amazing to me, that we, the Aboriginal people, have not yet absorbed this fundamental fact. The point is that white people in responsible positions are no better than us, in fact worse, considering educational background, at managing or solving difficult individual or community problems.

In regard to Aboriginal groups in Australia it is clear that since the early 1980’s Aboriginal organisations have become preoccupied with following agendas established by others.

For example, the economic agenda has been established by the federal and state governments, while the political agenda has been set by the media and other sectional interests. In the case of the bureaucracy, it is obvious that where once Aboriginal groups were able to display a self-interest separate from the mainstream Australian society : today their social consciousness has been totally absorbed by the government, and as such, by government processes.

In that sense, it seems that we Aboriginal people have lost both our identity and our purpose and have contributed to our own alienation and dependency.

This is due, in part, to the pursuit of survival economic goals. In addition, the blame is partly contained within the role monopolised by government (consciously or otherwise) which determines the political processes which purge the political and democratic aggression from those organisations and individuals through which it most achieves its goals.

Likewise, the silence from many Aboriginal organisations and individuals, most able to protest on a broad range of issues, shows clearly their dependency on government monies for their survival. The later effect of such a coercive process is that, Aboriginal affairs policies, are not properly debated, and, as such impossible to articulate. We are a captive peoples as never before in our history. A clear expression in the negative of this point is the lack of a national representative independent organisation for our people.

Considering the previous scenario let me now suggest some strategies for consideration which may assist to create a template for our future the healthy Australia.

The key elements are all interconnected in a total mosaic of Aboriginal affairs underpinned on the one hand with our culture and on the other with Aboriginal affairs economics.

1.The first is the Aboriginal economy specifically and what we can do to remove the concept and perception of “welfare” from Aboriginal affairs.

Obviously in the general welfare services area this is not entirely possible – nor should it be.

In almost all areas of Aboriginal activity we are funded by the government, or quasi-government bodies. We have scarcely moved away from the annual dependent and humiliating welfare budget process. Our economy is in reality a false economy. This arrangement can be terminated or drastically reduced at any time by any government. We must therefore consider several options.

Importantly Aboriginal people should be aware of this false economy which forms the basis of Aboriginal affairs in this country. The economic lifeline is maintained only at the discretion of politicians and a fickle public. We must therefore develop and consolidate a viable economy for our various communities and organisations that will sustain us into the future.

We must create short and long term economic strategies now and thus create a more independent and secure base for ourselves and our children. The reality is that Aboriginal people under utilise, to put it kindly, their current economic and personnel resources. The potential for economic viability for our people is available now if only we could awake to the opportunity and not be blinded largely by employment survival economics.

My main point on this principle is that Aboriginal people must now begin to re-create the economic base that will provide the springboard for our very survival. We have no real asset ownership or financial control in the investment context. Assets now held by governments, State of Federal and government bodies such as the land councils in the NT, ATSIC, CDC and others – this means land, buildings, businesses, cash and pastoral properties must be transferred to local Aboriginal ownership freehold. This is real empowerment and real self determination for both communities and individuals.

An essential element in all of this financial rearrangement is the psychology and public perception, not forgetting the practice, of removing Aboriginal affairs funding out of the context of “welfare”. The annual appropriation of over one billion dollars through the federal government should be placed under the direct control of Aboriginal people but obviously this body, (eg ATSIC), would have no connection whatsoever with the government. Such an arrangement can be concluded between Aboriginal people and the Australian Government, in the context of a Treaty, that will provide for a “sunset Clause”, and of course democratic elections and appropriate accountability for funds expenditure.

A further point revolves around the need for a national program that allows for the employment for all Aborigines of working age, providing they are physically capable. Aboriginal people should be given the opportunity to undergo relevant and proper training, where required, to allow them to obtain such reasonable employment that may exist. Most Australians would be surprised to realise that Aboriginal people numbering some eighteen thousand in over 136 communities actually work for the dole. Aboriginal people are not lazy, have never resisted work opportunities and have always been fully cognisant of the benefits proper employment brings to health, happiness and general well-being of their own family and their community. It is clear such an initiative would reduce alcoholism and it detrimental effects drastically. This is preventative health – not curative. There is a positive correlation as we all know between jobs and dignity, self respect and confidence.

2.My second major suggestion toward our survival as Aborigines, is cultural renaissance.

To survive as a nation within Australia we must re-establish our Aboriginal Cultural base throughout Australia. Aboriginal culture is the raison d’etre for our existence.

It was our anchor in the past. It should be our anchor in the future. It provides the purpose and the passion. It should be our uniting force. We need our culture, to bring us together (is) once again as a people. Today we are divided and disorganised.

There has never been so much bitterness between Aboriginal people as there is today. We fight like hungry black dogs over a diminishing budgetary bone thrown to us by our white and black manipulators. To this end, of establishing our cultural base nationally, I would suggest traditional and urban Aboriginal people should engage in organised cultural/social exchange programs. This means Aboriginal people from the cities and towns should spend time living out bush with traditional groups to learn their law, dance, customs and songs.

The reverse, should of course apply. We can thus build up our cultural base nationally to give us confidence and greater credibility. For example, we should begin to learn our own, or other Aboriginal languages, and further ensure such languages are taught as an accredited course in schools and tertiary institutions.

In addition, Aboriginal dance and music should be part of the general education curriculum throughout the nation in primary and secondary schools.

3.Thirdly, We must “free up”, for want of a better word, our numerous Aboriginal organisations.

There are nearly 2000 operating in Australia today in a variety of areas. We should realise, as indicated previously, that many Aboriginal organisations have become so institutionalised they are just part of the oppressing system, and as such, resistant to change. They have become in fact, an end in themselves, and not as originally intended, a means to another end, this being the well-being and economic independence of Aboriginal people. To put it bluntly, some of the organisations live for themselves alone. They have not evolved with time. They no longer serve the basic needs of the Aboriginal people to the degree that warrants their existence.

Reference made to Multi-Culturalism in Australia is Institutionalised and Resistant to change.

Clearly Aboriginal organisations in the 1960’s / 1970’s and early 1980’s were established to help Aboriginal people overcome disadvantages in identified areas of concern.

It should be said that many have basically performed creditably over the years and served the Aboriginal people and Australia well. However, the last ten years have seen a withering away of effort and commitment. Many, including some leaders, have lost their commitment, purpose and the “fire” in their organisational belly. They have become areas of employment per se, and ultimately conservative and somewhat reactive – once again survival economics.

What we desperately need is for the passion and commitment for the course of our people in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s to be re-ignited. Clearly not all Aboriginal organisations or individuals are at fault, or sections of the media, unions and governments. However, there is no doubt the scenario condemns us all.

We must go back to the basics and the grass roots, we must build up at the local level and then move to the state and then national. Perhaps a revamped, reorganised, streamlined ATSIC may be our salvation. Once again the quality of people is the key element.

4.The future is ours to create. Today is our tomorrow

Fourthly as we are all aware this is The International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which was launched in December 1992 in New York at the United Nations. It is a significant beginning to this decade of the 90o. the time is right, the scene is set, our people are ready and willing – this is or could be the decade for the renaissance of the Indigenous people in this country we now call Australia. History is  a guide but still a memory.

The future is ours to create. Today is our tomorrow. All societies have it seem to have one or two opportunities to fulfil their dreams and ours has arrived. We are on the threshold of our great national dream. The just, the good, the compassionate, the prosperous society.

The catalyst to move our people collectively towards this greater future has been granted to us the High Court in the recent Mabo decision. It could not come at a more opportune time, It is our once in a lifetime chance to recreate the society that we all desire.

As the Prime Minister stated in Sydney in December 1992, “We need these practical building blocks of change.

The Mabo judgement should be seen as one of these. By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to settlement of Europeans. Mabo establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice … Mabo is an historic decision – we can make it an historic turning point, the basis of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Aboriginal Australians. The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, of the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include Indigenous Australians”.

Within this context the federal government must pursue, as they promised some years ago, the concept of a treaty.

This government must keep its promise to enter into a Treaty with the Indigenous people, particularly in this U.N. Year of the Indigenous People. This would demonstrate to the world that Australians – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, can exist in cultural harmony and celebrate our common humanity.

History must not be a cross we should carry as a nation, into the future. Our children must inherit a society better than the one we inherited. A treaty is not so much a matter of dollars and cents, it is more spiritual and symbolic. It can be a catalyst which binds us together as a nation, respecting our past but building for the future. Australians must never forget that Australia was Aboriginal land and still is Aboriginal land. A Treaty is the appropriate mechanism for such negotiations. Naturally, such a Treaty can be one of the basic principles for discussions and conclusion with the framework of the recent and further Mabo High Court decision.

As is public knowledge, on 3 June 1992, the High Court made the great leap forward in recognising that Australia and the Torres Strait Islands were not empty “terra Nullius” before the British invasion of 1788, but were peopled by hundreds of Aboriginal nations, each with a distinct, rich and complex culture. The Mabo decision thus take recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at its starting point, and establishes that Aboriginal and TSI peoples have rights which have their source in traditional customary law rather than the British common law imposed on us in 1788. In this respect, the decision is empowering, as Aboriginal people are not starting with nothing and waiting for rights to be handed out piecemeal at the political him of the government of the day.

The Mabo decision represents an opportunity for some measure of justice to be gained for Aboriginal Peoples who are the most dispossessed of Indigenous peoples of all former British colonies, who are the most jailed race in the world and who have suffered and continue to suffer cultural genocide. However, Mabo is very limited in its “context”, it only addresses the narrow concept of native title and thus is defined in traditional areas.

It is also important to recognise the limitations of the case. Firstly, Aboriginal and TSI Sovereignty is a demand by Aboriginal people that the courts and Parliament of Australia recognise and acknowledge that the “acquisition” of sovereignty by the British in 1788 was illegal under English law at the time and also international law.

And that the acquiring of the land was by dispossession, genocide, ethnocide and it was consequently unlawful, illegal and immoral. Plus the demand that the government of Australia as the inheritors of the British Crown, compensate Aboriginal people for the loss and the damage done to our land and our culture. It is not a demand upon Australian individuals to surrender their land but rather a demand for recognition and compensation by the community as a whole. Sovereignity was not argued by the plaintiffs in Mabo, and therefore Commonwealth and State governments, according to the decision, have ultimate power to extinguish native title at will, subject to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth).

Given these limitations, the hysteria and scare mongering currently seen in the media is put into perspective. Australians will not lose their homes and backyards. One of the most basic principles of Mabo is that once a State Government grants freehold title to a third party (ie. A person or company) , and native title to that area is automatically extinguished. In lay language, once any person buys a bit of land, native title is completely wiped out.

You can see that far from Australia being on the brink of a black coup d’etat, native title is actually quite limited and vulnerable.

The question then arises, where do we go from here ?. The notion of native title coinciding with other interests in land points us toward the answer.

Mabo is about working together, about balance and recognition of Aboriginal and TSI culture as a source of strength and wisdom from which all Australians can learn.

Mabo is also about self-determination – giving Aboriginal and TSI peoples the space and resources to enjoy our culture, work out our own solutions and control our own lives. The imposition of successive waves of government policy has not solved anything for us, but only created more problems.

Some of the most difficult aspects of post-Mabo relations will stem from competing land use in the form of resource development and native title. I do not believe that Aboriginal And TSI peoples are anti-development, if it is done in a way which respects them.

The history of conflict between mining companies and Aboriginal people has largely resulted form the formers deceit, lack of proper consultation and negociation, marginalisation of Aboriginal people from benefits flowing from projects undertaken on their land and disrespect for the wishes of Aboriginal people, for example; in relation to the protection of sacred sites.

Today, Aboriginal people must be equal partners at the negotiating table, we must have our say and governments and resource developers must listen and work out with us proper solutions to these vexed problems in a faire, reasoned and balanced way. I believe that Mabo gives Australia the opportunity to mature as a nation. Just as there is no economy without environment, development must include justice and human rights.

I am not supposing a utopian dream where in all parties are completely happy and negotiate the perfect solution, but a way ahead toward fair and just solutions which all parties can live with and which do not sacrifice the interest of one over the other.

Most important of all, in the Federal Constitution, it is necessary that there be a recognition of Sovereignty as by that recognition and resulting compensation so that Aboriginal people can regain our dignity and be treated as equal partners in any future development of our land.

5.Fifthly a major element which would allow us to move away from the dependency situation, is free education for all Aboriginal people at all levels.

This would give us the basis for true self-determination.

This free education would be from pre-school, though to the tertiary level. As I have previously indicated, in other places, the current education and training policies of the federal government are not effective. The costs are too high and the results very poor. We must have flowing through the universities and the schools, educated and competent Aboriginal people, young and old. Men and women who can lead us.

We need articulate, intelligent community based leaders. This is not entirely the case at the moment.

At least 3000 Aboriginal graduates per year will dramatically change the face of Aboriginal affairs within five years. It will cost more in the short term but less in the long term. The cost benefit to the Australian economy over ten years will be enormous.

Education at an appropriate level, and nature, can provide our people with the confidence, the competence and ability to compete with white Australians on an equal basis. We can eyeball other Australians with dignity and respect. We can create our own options in whatever sphere of activity we so wish.

6.My sixth point is that there is an urgent need to establish an effective, independent, non-government sponsored national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island organisation.

This organisation should be funded by the Aboriginal people, and others, through voluntary subscription with a charter to express strongly the political, social and cultural opinions of Aboriginal people, free of any government or other sectional influence. This is no adverse reflection on ATSIC-ATSIC is government – this is not. The both bodies can complement each other. At present there is no national organisation since the demise of FCAATSI in the 1970’s. It should, obviously, be democratically elected and thus accountable to the Aboriginal people. It has been clear for some time that Aboriginal people in Australia have no focal point of reference for independent opinion on our issues. Our opinions are largely reflected to the nation by our need for economic survival in the workplace as funded by government or by churches, sectional interests, unions, media or a nervous general public. There is no doubt we need a national independent body as never before in our history.

However, critical to the establishment of this independent political voice for Aboriginal people must come the realisation that we now in Australia operate within the framework of a dynamic multicultural society. We, Aboriginal people must now cultivate vigorously the understanding and support of the many ethnic groups in this country. We cannot stand alone. Their support is vital and a natural development.

7.My seventh point is Health, Sport and Recreation.

Despite the world wide recession the majority of Australian people live in relative affluence. This can not be said of the Aborigines living in Australia whose life expectancy still remains comparable with that of countries like India, Papua New Guinea and Ghana.

It is this indicator more than any other that clearly summarises the extent of Aboriginal health disadvantages.

Finally unless the approaches to Aboriginal health are broadened to include greater attention to the health problems of adults, and are matched by broad ranging strategies aimed at redressing Aboriginal social and economic disadvantages, it is likely that overall mortality will remain high.

Aboriginal Social Media #NACCHOSummit news: A case study of Twitter-power for Aboriginal health advocacy and self-determination


Social media and particularly Twitter had a huge impact in amplifying the discussions and reach of the NACCHO Summit in Adelaide this week.

As at 25 August there were 5,563,625 Impressions from 3,097 Tweets

As you can see from the tweet below, NACCHO is heading to next Tuesday’s National Press Club debate on health with an arsenal of tweeters. (Heaven help hope those politicians if they don’t focus on their plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health – their names will be mud in the Twitterverse.)

In the article below journalist John Thompson-Mills reports on the social media impact factor – perhaps it was no coincidence that #NACCHOSummit was trending on Twitter and that a senior government official turned up for the last day of the Summit.

At the bottom of his article are some further conference tweets, showing that “pride” emerged very strongly as a Summit theme, as well as a grab of the conference’s Twitter analytics (which doesn’t include today’s tweet-coverage).

If you would like assistance with Social media such as TWITTER  contact the person who put this project together

NACCHO Media and Communications advisor :Colin Cowell who you can follow @NACCHOAustralia



Twitter extends the reach of #NACCHOSummit

John Thompson-Mills writes:

One of the foundation stones of NACCHO and Aboriginal self-determination is community control. The community provides the expertise, drives the program and controls the message.

This makes social media a perfect fit for an event like the inaugural NACCHO summit.

Experienced social media users may have been fully prepared to use Twitter to talk about the #NACCHOSummit but many, including senior NACCHO people, were taken aback by what social media managed to achieve this week.

NACCHO’s CEO, Lisa Briggs, says:

“I think the social media coverage has been absolutely fantastic and taken the conference to places it probably wouldn’t have been able to reach, just with newspapers and radio. So I think it’s a very important and effective tool.

“The viralness (sic) of Twitter certainly surprised me, absolutely, and I think it’s the attraction and the interest. Finding peoples’ interests and them tweeting back; ‘that’s really good, can I hear more about those stories?’, and then getting in touch with others who are presenting them. I think I know more people on social media than I do face to face.” 

The summit convinced a number of NACCHO staff to join the Twitterverse and, with thousands of tweets generated by the end of the conference, there was plenty to inspire the “Twitter-virgins”.

NACCHO Summit attendee Jake Byrne isn’t a Twitter virgin. He tends to observe the space rather than join in the debate. Not now though. He says:

“I’m probably going to have to get an account that’s a bit more focused and work specific. I have to try and get a bit more active in the space, promoting different programs and ideas and things that I’ve been seeing.

“I reckon the more we spread the word, the better it is for everyone in promoting those really good stories that all too often in Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal health are the ones that don’t get the spotlight shone on them.”

Lisa Briggs expected social media at the NACCHO Summit to stay within the realms it already occupied, but in the middle of an election campaign there was too much going on for it to stay contained.

A couple of times this week, the conference’s Twitter hashtag (#NACCHOSummit) was “trending” nationally (ie: the top subjects on the Twitter platform), which, along with the sheer numbers of tweets, helped convince a government bureaucrat to make a hasty trip to Adelaide from Canberra to see what was going on.

Samantha Palmer is the First Assistant Secretary, in the Office for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health and she sat in on the final day of the conference.

With the election campaign in full swing, and the Federal Government in caretaker mode, Palmer wasn’t able to speak publicly, but did spend private time with NACCHO members.

Jake Byrne could also see the value in Twitter influencing political circles.

“I was impressed to see all the Tweets coming from the summit did put some pressure on the pollies and brought it to national attention, and we were “trending”. I actually got to understand what trending was and the power it has, which I wasn’t really aware of before coming here,” he said.

NACCHO CEO Lisa Briggs didn’t mind that Samantha Palmer couldn’t talk publicly at the summit. For her the coincidental timing of the election campaign and the conference was perfect.

“I think it’s been a fantastic opportunity to get the good stories and inform wider Australia what’s going on,” she said. “Through social media we’ve kept it on a political platform, asking questions about how they’re contributing to Aboriginal Community Control and health in particular.

“Today you would’ve seen more tweets directed at Tanya Plibersek (Federal Health Minister) and Peter Dutton (Shadow Health Minister). They may not be here physically but there are other ways of getting to them,” she said.

At the other end of the political scale, NACCHO conference attendee, Marlee Ramp, a 19 year-old medical student from Cairns, has now seen the potential of Twitter up close.

“…this week with all the hash tags, I started an account and followed the feed,” she said. “Obviously this week is all health focused, but it gives me a broader perspective of health and what my role may be in the future, and who I can get involved with.”

Young, active, aware people like Marlee Ramp represent the future for Aboriginal self-determination but so it seems does social media because it empowers the storytellers.

Jake Byrne is 30 and he can see the relative power social media gives him and other Aboriginal people. He says:

“If we can control our message, that’s brilliant. We’ve heard a lot in the past few days about myths that were being smashed through the evidence that’s been collected so far, but I think those myths are propagated by other people sending messages about our community. If we can get our stories out there the way we want them to be told, that’s really empowering.”

The next NACCHO Summit is scheduled for April or May next year. That means organisers and delegates will be filling social media just as budgets are being finalised by what’s anticipated to be a new Coalition Government.

Coincidence or clever timing?

No doubt we’ll get a clear idea by what’s said on social media.


Twitter stream shows up a strong theme of Pride


Twitter Analytics