“Receiving this award is great recognition of what can be achieved through the combination of a Workforce Engagement and Development Plan, a dedicated Leadership team and an Aboriginal Staff Advisory Committee.
With a workforce of 399 staff and over 50% Aboriginal employment, training is critical to achieving Congress’ strategic objectives through building a skilled workforce that has appropriate clinical and non-clinical skills to deliver culturally‑safe and responsive health care to Aboriginal people .
Accredited and non-accredited training remains a commitment across our entire workforce, establishing an Aboriginal workforce is critical to closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal people and Congress strategic plan. “
Photo above : Tracey Donnellan Brand : General Manager Health Services Division CACC accepting the award in Darwin
Congress is thrilled to be named 2017 Large Employer of the Year at the NT Training Awards.
The Large Employer of the Year Award recognises organisations with a workforce of 200+ employees that has achieved excellence in the provision of nationally recognised training to its employees.
Congress has a proud 43 year history of providing comprehensive Aboriginal community controlled health care to over 15,000 Aboriginal people in Alice Springs and across six remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia.
The Congress Workforce Engagement and Development Plan was precipitated by the Congress Board of Directors establishing a benchmark of 60% Aboriginal employment. The Plan builds on a number of innovative strategies to support Aboriginal people to gain employment and qualifications and to build on our existing workforce including:
A cadetship program that supports Aboriginal people to attain undergraduate tertiary qualifications in a health, early childhood or commerce field.
A traineeship program employing trainees across a number of health, early childhood and administrative positions, providing on the job and accredited Certificate IV training and career in Congress.
An Aboriginal Health Practitioner (AHP) focused traineeship program with 13 AHP trainees progressing towards Certificate IV in Aboriginal Primary Health Care with a pathway to an AHP career in Congress.
A Diploma of Leadership and Management program focused on supporting Aboriginal staff into management positions.
Provision of nationally accredited mentoring set skill set for Managers and mentors.
63 staff currently actively engaged in training from Certificate III to post graduate qualifications, with the predominate focus on investing in our Aboriginal workforce.
Strategic focus on Professional Development, training and study across our entire workforce with generous paid leave available to staff.
Accredited and non-accredited training remains a commitment across our entire workforce, establishing an Aboriginal workforce is critical to closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal people and Congress strategic plan” said Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee.
Congress acknowledges our training partners, Central Australian Remote Health Development Service and Batchelor Institute.
Congress delivers comprehensive health care across 13 Health Services in Alice Springs and six remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia
Part 2 Congress Education & Training Service
What do we do?
Our Education and Training Service provides a range of education and training opportunities to Aboriginal people interested in pursuing a rewarding and meaningful career in Aboriginal health.
HLT40213 Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice
Congress traineeships are offered to Aboriginal school leavers seeking work experience and/or Aboriginal people looking to return to work and or a career change, who are interested in building career in the field of Aboriginal health or related administrative and corporate service.
Congress traineeships provide full-time employment for 12-18 months (role dependant) leading to a nationally accredited qualification (Certificate III or IV) on completion.
Congress offers cadetships to Aboriginal people who are undertaking full-time study at university in a health, social services or business administrative field and who are seeking on the job training in their field.
Cadetships are offered on a fixed-term basis for the duration of the university course length.
full-time study on campus;
12 weeks full-time per year paid Congress placement;
mentoring and coaching with Congress professional;
allowance for text books/equipment;
weekly allowance paid for study periods; and
allowance for accommodation and travel costs.
Course fees and HELP fees are the responsibility of the cadet.
Congress works in partnership with Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) to provide accredited training to Congress students and trainees, specifically the HLT40213 Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice course.
The training component is delivered by BITE through its workshop program based at the Desert Peoples Centre (DPC) in Alice Springs.
Congress supports this training through students undertaking clinical practice within their own services. Congress will also accept other BIITE students on clinical placement and will share with BIITE resources to provide access to the Communicare system.
For more information regarding the HLT40213 Certificate IV visit the BIITE website here.
How to apply:
For more information on available positions, eligibility and how to apply visit the Jobs page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm
(08) 8959 4771
Traineeships and Cadetships – Training & Development Coordinator
(08) 8959 4771
“One of the clear innovations that our Centre already offers is acknowledging that the principle of Aboriginal community control is fundamental to research, university and health care partnerships with regional and remote Aboriginal communities,”
Ms Donna Ah Chee Congress CEO said it was satisfying to achieve recognition for the strong health leadership and collaboration that already exists in Central Australia ( see editorial Part 3 below)
” The centre’s accreditation this week with the National Health and Medical Research Council proved the “landmark research” by consortium members had “huge potential” to address serious indigenous health issues.
The objective is to evaluate problems and find practical solutions fast, to prevent health problems and give speedy but lasting benefits to patients within community,”
Announcing $222,000 in seed funding, Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt see full story PART 2 from the Australian below
Photo above : Traditional Arrernte owners welcome Ken Wyatt MP to Alice Springs to launch the Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre
An academic health science centre in Central Australia is the first Aboriginal-led collaboration to achieve Federal Government recognition for leadership in health research and delivery of evidence-based health care.
The Federal Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, today announced that the Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre (CAAHSC) was one of only two consortia nationally to be recognised as a Centre for Innovation in Regional Health (CIRH) by Australia’s peak funding body for medical research, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
To be successful in their bid, the 11-member consortium was required to demonstrate competitiveness at the highest international levels across all relevant areas of health research and translation of research findings into health care practice.
With NHMRC recognition, the CAAHSC joins an elite group of Australian academic health science centres that have so far all been based in metropolitan areas including Melbourne,
Sydney and Adelaide. The CAAHSC is also in good company internationally, with long established collaborations including Imperial College Healthcare in the UK and Johns Hopkins Medicine in the USA.
The CAAHSC, whose membership includes Aboriginal community controlled and government-run health services, universities and medical research institutes, was formally established in 2014 to improve collaboration across the sectors in support of health.
Such synergy is vital in order to make an impact in remote central Australia, considering the vast geographical area (over 1 million square kilometres) and the health challenges experienced particularly by Aboriginal residents.
The CAAHSC consortium reflects the importance of Aboriginal leadership in successful research and health improvement in Central Australia.
The Chairperson of CAAHSC is Mr John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, the peak body for the Aboriginal community controlled health services sector in the NT.
With the leadership of CEO Ms Donna Ah Chee, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress was the lead partner on the group’s bid to become a CIRH.
The CAAHSC is a community driven partnership, where Aboriginal people themselves have taken the lead in identifying and defining viable solutions for the health inequities experienced in the Central Australia region.
The CAAHSC partners have a long and successful track record of working together on innovative, evidence-based projects to improve health care policy and practice in the region.
Such projects include a study that examined high rates of self-discharge by Aboriginal patients at the Alice Springs Hospital, which in many cases can lead to poor health outcomes.
This research was used to develop a tool to assess self-discharge risk which is now routinely used in care, and to expand the role of Aboriginal Liaison Officers within the hospital.
Another collaborative project designed to address the rising rates of diabetes in pregnant women involves the establishment of a patient register and birth cohort in the
Northern Territory to improve antenatal care in the Aboriginal population.
CAAHSC Chair, Mr John Paterson agrees, saying the CIRH would serve as a model for other regional and remote areas both nationally and internationally, particularly in its governance, capacity building, and culturally appropriate approaches to translational research.
Mr Paterson said he hoped NHMRC recognition would attract greater numbers of highly skilled researchers and health professionals to work in Central Australia, and that local Aboriginal people would become more engaged in medical education, research and health care delivery.
He also hopes that achieving status as a CIRH will be instrumental in attracting further resources to the region, including government, corporate and philanthropic support.
Mr Paterson said the consortium is now focussed on building a plan across its five priority areas: workforce and capacity building; policy research and evaluation; health services research; health determinants and risk factors; and chronic and communicable disease.
This will include development of research support ‘apprenticeships’ for Aboriginal people and pursuit of long-term financial sustainability.
The partners of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre include: Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT); Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute; Charles Darwin University; Centre for Remote Health (A joint centre of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University); Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; Menzies School of Health Research; Central Australia Health Service (Northern Territory Health); CRANAplus; Flinders University; Ngaanyatjarra Health Service and the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing.
Chronic diseases are the most important contributor to the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Given their impact on premature mortality, disability and health care utilisation in Central Australia it is unsurprising that chronic disease has become the primary focus for addressing Indigenous Australian health disadvantage.
The Central Australia AHSC has considerable research and translation expertise with those chronic conditions that most impact the Aboriginal Australian population, including diabetes, heart disease, renal disease and depression.
Some of our focus areas are: understanding the developmental origins of adult chronic disease through targeted multi-disciplinary research focused on in-utero, maternal and early life determinants; understanding and preventing the early onset and rapid progression of heart, lung and kidney disease and diabetes within Aboriginal people, and developing and supporting capacity development of the chronic disease workforce within Aboriginal communities and health services.
2.Health Determinants and Risk Factors
In order to support the health of Central Australians, we recognise the importance of transcending boundaries between the biological, social and clinical sciences. The Central Australia AHSC takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding social gradients, their determinants, and pathways by which these determinants contribute to illness, and consequently to forwarding policy responses to reduce health inequalities.
The Central Australia AHSC is interested in exploring the role of stress, intergenerational trauma and other psychosocial factors, as well as uncovering the biological pathways by which social factors impact on cardiometabolic risk, mental illness and other conditions of relevance to Indigenous communities.
3.Health Services Research
As a regional hub servicing a high proportion of Aboriginal people spread across an extensive area, Central Australia serves as an exemplar environment through which to address critical issues of national importance – for instance, targeted and practical research focused on the National Health and Hospital Reform agenda, the ‘Close the Gap’ reforms and the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
Through health services research, the Central Australia AHSC is chiefly interested in developing and equipping primary care and hospital services with the skills, methods and tools by which to improve health care quality, appropriateness and accessibility.
Towards this goal, we are involved in developing, trialling, evaluating and establishing the cost-effectiveness of novel health system approaches to the identification, management and prevention of acute care, chronic disease and mental illness
4.Policy Research and Evaluation
The Central Australia AHSC brings together the expertise of leading clinician researchers, public health specialists and health service decision makers.
The Central Australia AHSC provides the capacity to evaluate the systems that underpin change management in health care through policy, protocol and evaluation research, and to support quality improvement processes through health provider training.
While being locally relevant, our works also informs jurisdictional and national health policy and practice in Aboriginal and remote health and implementation of national health reforms.
5.Workforce and Capacity Building
Central Australia’s health care workforce encompasses health care providers in hospitals, remote Aboriginal communities, and outreach services, including Aboriginal health practitioners, nurses, allied health providers, general practitioners and specialists.
Remoteness and the challenging work environment often translate to high levels of health provider staff turnover.
The Central Australia AHSC’s ongoing focus on professional development and capacity building facilitates health work force sustainability by providing relevant training and support and by attracting new health care providers who are also involved in research.
Workforce and capacity building undertaken by the AHSC partners includes the delivery of education programs (including tailored remote and Indigenous health postgraduate awards for doctors, nurses and allied health practitioners), growing research capacity (supervised formal academic qualifications and informal mentoring), and conducting research to inform workforce recruitment and retention.
Part 2World-class focus on boosting remote health
Alice Springs mother Nellie Impu is part of a grim health statistic profoundly out of place in a first-world nation: one in five pregnant Aboriginal women in the Northern Territory has diabetes.
Photo : Nellie Impu, left, with Wayne, Wayne Jr and nurse Paula Van Dokkum in Alice Springs. Picture: Chloe Erlich
For pre-existing type 2 diabetes, that’s at a rate 10 times higher than for non-indigenous women; more common gestational diabetes is 1.5 times the rate.
Mrs Impu became part of that statistic almost five years ago when she was pregnant with son Wayne. So the announcement of a new central Australian academic health science centre, led by the Aboriginal community-controlled health service sector and bringing together a consortium of 11 clinical and research groups, is a big deal for her and many women like her.
The diabetes treatment she underwent while carrying Wayne will continue for more than a decade as part of a longitudinal study.
“We know there is a link between mums with diabetes in pregnancy and outcomes for their babies as they grow, including future possibilities of type 2 diabetes, which work like this can help us track,” said research nurse Paula Van Dokkum, who works with consortium member Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
Wayne is meeting all his childhood development targets, and his mother said the ongoing association with the centre would help her in “trying to make sure he grows up healthy and strong”.
Announcing $222,000 in seed funding, federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said the centre’s accreditation this week with the National Health and Medical Research Council proved the “landmark research” by consortium members had “huge potential” to address serious indigenous health issues.
“The objective is to evaluate problems and find practical solutions fast, to prevent health problems and give speedy but lasting benefits to patients within community,” Mr Wyatt said.
The academic health science centre model, well established internationally, brings together health services, universities and medical research institutes to better produce evidence-based care.
The Alice Springs-based enterprise will aim to tackle a cancer-causing virus endemic in indigenous central Australia, its only significant instance outside South America and central Africa.
The human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 causes a slow death over 20 years with leukaemia, chronic cough, respiratory problems and respiratory failure. It can be acquired through breast milk in early childhood as well as through blood or sexual contact.
A recent study found HTLV-1 infection rates in a central Australian indigenous community of more than 40 per cent. One result, the inflammatory disease bronchiectasis, is a leading cause of death for young adults at the Alice Springs hospital.
The program will also address the soaring demand for dialysis in remote communities, with indigenous Australians five times as likely to have end-stage kidney disease than other Australians.
Alice Springs hospital is home to the largest single-standing dialysis service in the southern hemisphere, with 360 patients.
Part 3 Alice Springs: the Red Centre of medical innovation
London, Boston, Toronto, Melbourne … and Alice Springs.
Although there may be little in common between these major cities and the heart of Australia’s outback, an announcement this week brings the Red Centre into the company of international players in translational health research, including prestigious institutions such as Imperial College Healthcare in Britain and Johns Hopkins Medicine in the US.
This week, the Central Australia Academic Health Science Centre was given the official seal of approval by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The Central Australia consortium was one of only two centres recognised as a centre of innovation in regional health for its leadership in health research and delivery of evidence-based healthcare.
And now there’s opportunity in the Red Centre to do even more.
It may well be the most remote academic health science centre in the world, and perhaps the only academic health science centre in the world led by Aboriginal people. With such esteemed recognition for this remote, Aboriginal-led, evidence-based healthcare collaboration, it is hoped that public and private support will also follow.
As a model well established abroad and gaining momentum in Australia, academic health science centres are partnerships between health services, universities and medical research institutes whose collaborative work ensures that translational health research leads to evidence-based care and better health outcomes for patients.
For the 11 partners behind the Central Australia partnership, recognition as a centre for innovation in regional health acknowledges the outstanding collaboration that has existed in this region for several years, and particularly the leadership offered by the Aboriginal sector.
Working with the other partners in the consortium, Aboriginal community-controlled health services are taking the lead in identifying and defining viable solutions for the health inequities experienced in the region.
The work of the Central Australia partners is practical and responsive.
Interested in resolving what had become a troubling issue at Alice Springs Hospital, a resident physician researcher initiated a study that found nearly half of all admitted Aboriginal patients had self-discharged from the hospital in the past, with physician, hospital and patient factors contributing to this practice.
The research findings were used to develop a self-discharge risk assessment tool that is now routinely used in hospital care, and to expand the role of Aboriginal liaison officers within the hospital.
Considering the vast and remote geographical area — more than one million square kilometres — and the health challenges experienced particularly by Aboriginal residents who make up about 45 per cent of the region’s population of about 55,000 people, the Central Australia consortium faces unique and significant challenges. In this respect, Alice Springs may be more like Iqaluit in the Canadian Arctic than London or Baltimore.
But in other ways this relatively small academic health science centre may be at an advantage.
With its closely knit network of healthcare providers, medical researchers, medical education providers and public health experts working together, community-driven approaches to identifying issues and developing evidence-based solutions have become a standard approach in Central Australia.
In this setting of high need and limited resources, working collectively is sensible, practical and necessary.
Importantly, there is the possibility to do a lot more.
The consortium hopes such recognition will help to attract top healthcare providers and researchers, to increase educational offerings and to develop local talent, especially Aboriginal people.
The evidence is resounding. A research oasis in the desert, this centre for innovation is fertile ground for investment by government, corporations and philanthropists alike.
Donna Ah Chee is chief executive of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. John Paterson is chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory.
” There is an urgent need to do more to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage that is affecting many of our children
Congress has developed an integrated model for child and family services that provides a holistic service and program response to this issue within a comprehensive primary health care service.
In addition to making Australia a more equal and fairer society through redistributive policies, including taxation reforms, there is an urgent need to provide key evidence based early childhood programs for disadvantaged children.
This is the “bottom up” pathway to greater individual and collective control, equality and social inclusion,
The Conference is an opportunity to bring attention to proposed strategies key to addressing prevalent health issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation’s (Congress) CEO Ms Donna Ah Chee.
On the second day of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) 44th Annual and 20th Chronic Diseases Network Conference in Alice Springs, the primary focus is on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and strategies to address the cycle of ill health, chronic conditions and low life expectancy.
“A major priority in the prevention of premature death and chronic disease among Aboriginal people in Australia is the prevention of harm caused by alcohol through adopting effective strategies proven to reduce the levels of dangerous consumption at a population level,” continued Ms Ah Chee.
The latest Australia’s health 2016 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released last week shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are 3.5 times more likely to have diabetes and twice as likely to have coronary heart disease.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples living in remote and low socioeconomic areas have an even greater chance of developing a chronic disease and dying from it.
This Conference addresses the link between public health and chronic conditions while considering the social determinants of health. Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are being affected by these determinants and the cycle needs to stop,” said PHAA CEO Michael Moore.
“Prevention initiatives to deter tobacco and alcohol use and improve nutrition and physical activity need to be implemented to reduce the preventable diseases like type II diabetes in these communities. The cycle needs to be broken for the adults currently managing their symptoms and for their children who have not yet been affected,” said Mr Moore.
Ms Ah Chee says the Conference is an opportunity to bring attention to proposed strategies key to addressing prevalent health issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
“So much of the adverse impacts of poverty and other social determinants of health are mediated to children through the care and stimulation they receive in their early years. Many parents struggle to overcome their own health issues and the impact of their own poverty and they need additional support for their children,” said Ms Ah Chee.
“Congress has developed an integrated model for child and family services that provides a holistic service and program response to this issue within a comprehensive primary health care service.
In addition to making Australia a more equal and fairer society through redistributive policies, including taxation reforms, there is an urgent need to provide key evidence based early childhood programs for disadvantaged children. This is the “bottom up” pathway to greater individual and collective control, equality and social inclusion,” said Ms Ah Chee.
The joint PHAA 44th Annual Conference and 20th Chronic Diseases Network Conference will be held from 18 – 21 September 2016 in Alice Springs, NT. The theme is Protection, Prevention, Promotion, Healthy Futures: Chronic Conditions and Public Health. #PHAACDN2016
“There are two separate but interdependent health systems, the hospital for the really sick, and Congress for primary health care, minimising the need for hospital admissions. In that way the primary health care of Congress, identifying patients’ health issues early, works hand in glove with the NT’s hospital system.
This “effective partnership” in health between the NT and Federal governments and the Aboriginal community controlled health sector could readily be copied in the housing and employment fields, leading to equally positive results.
Donna Ah Chee, (pictured above left with Pat Anderson ) CEO of the $38m a year Central Australian Aboriginal Congress,
“Investing in Aboriginal community controlled health makes economic $ense”
The meeting was not open to the public but Donna Ah Chee, CEO of the $38m a year Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, says her organisation’s role in the health system showed how an NGO can complement – not duplicate – state providers.
The collaboration between the Territory’s health services, the Commonwealth Health Department and Aboriginal community controlled health services including Congress makes the NT the only jurisdiction on target to “close the gap” in life expectancy by 2031.
As a result of this successful partnership Ms Ah Chee says there had been about a 30% reduction in “all causes” of early death with the death rate declining from 2000 to 1400 people per 100,000,” says Ms Ah Chee.
The partnership on the ground means that services like Congress works on preventative health – keeping as many people as possible out of hospital – and if they have to go there, take care of them when they come out.
“There are two separate but interdependent health systems,” says Ms Ah Chee, “he hospital for the really sick, and Congress for primary health care, minimising the need for hospital admissions.”
In that way the primary health care of Congress, identifying patients’ health issues early, works hand in glove with the NT’s hospital system.
This “effective partnership” in health between the NT and Federal governments and the Aboriginal community controlled health sector could readily be copied in the housing and employment fields, leading to equally positive results.
Ms Ah Chee says the competitive tendering for government money is at the root of much of much dysfunction, causing “fragmentation of services, a multitude of services on the ground”.
She says in one small bush community there are about 17 providers just in the mental health field: “It’s bureaucracy gone mad. Everyone goes for the dollar. Better needs based planning is what’s urgently required.”
Ms Ah Chee says the meeting, called by the Department of the Chief Minister, has shown up the potentials and the problems of the system. It now remains to be seen what is done about them
The importance of our NACCHO member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS) is not fully recognised by governments.
The economic benefits of ACCHS has not been recognised at all.
We provide employment, income and a range of broader community benefits that mainstream health services and mainstream labour markets do not. ACCHS need more financial support from government, to provide not only quality health and wellbeing services to communities, but jobs, income and broader community economic benefits.
A good way of demonstrating how economically valuable ACCHS are is to showcase our success at a national summit.
“Overall there has only been a small improvement across the nation in closing the life expectancy gap for Aboriginal people. However, looking at averages across the nation does not tell the story of significant improvement in Aboriginal life expectancy rates in the Northern Territory. The NT is the only jurisdiction currently on track to close the gap by 2031. This achievement is in large part, the result of governments working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled health services and investing new funds where they are most needed. This is strong evidence that the significant investment in the NT, especially the investment in Aboriginal primary health care, is working”, said Ms Donna Ah Chee the CEO of Congress.
“The fact that the nation is on track to achieve its goal to halve the gap in year 12 educational attainment by 2020 is important. Achieving better educational outcomes is largely a precursor to stable, meaningful employment at a reasonable income level. However, the improvement in education is not uniform and a lot more needs to be done in remote communities across the NT.
“Although the addition of a new target on closing the gap in school attendance rates may be useful, Congress is disappointed that the new target was not more directly focused on closing the gap in actual Educational outcomes. Attendance at school is important but it it’s only a means to a successful outcome which is completing year 12 studies and being fully literate and numerate. If children have entered school without the developmental capacity to learn and do well then attendance alone will not be sufficient to address the gap in educational and employment outcomes.
“Congress suggested that the new target could have been to close the gap in the Australian Early Development Index scores of children aged five years, as this is the key to closing the gap in both school attendance and successful educational outcomes. We need a “bottom up” strategy to addressing school attendance which ensures our kids enter school capable and ready so that school is where they want to be not where they have to be.
“Congress also welcomed the improvement in Aboriginal child mortality rates.
“It is a concern that there has been no progress on some targets, especially the employment target, but there is a wide ranging review currently underway on this issue which will hopefully lead to some useful new approaches. In the meantime, it is vital that all Australian governments, through COAG, recommit to the long term cooperation and investment that is clearly working though the Closing the Gap National Partnership Agreements”, said Ms Ah Chee.
For more information, contact Emily MacKenzie, Communications Officer, on 8953 7814 or by email at email@example.com.
“Both major parties say they are committed to Aboriginal health care – the NGO’s major activity – but until the dollar numbers are made public, there’s a question mark over the size of their commitment.
There are something like 15 health providers. This is ridiculous. We need to be working in partnership. I don’t give a hoot who gets the kudos out of that, as long as the outcomes for our clients is better.” Des Rogers
Des Rogers pictured above left with Dr Mark Wenitong and Kevin from Jimmy Little Foundation making recommendations at a recent Male health summit.
The wish list of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, for whomever will gain power in Canberra, contains not what it wants to get, but what it doesn’t want taken away.
In a swirl of rumored spending cuts, where will the money come from to drive the NGO’s newly chosen direction?
It is 40 years old, has a budget of $38m a year, for both town and “auspiced” services. More than 70% comes from the Feds. Congress has 300 employees, half of them Aboriginal. It has a new chairman (William Tilmouth), a new CEO (Donna Ah Chee) and a new Deputy CEO
The NGO has emerged from the bunker where the previous regime resided, until it got its marching orders after a string of scandals and a Federal review.
Both major parties say they are committed to Aboriginal health care – the NGO’s major activity – but until the dollar numbers are made public, there’s a question mark over the size of their commitment.
Congress now wants to go further, earning back a place in town it occupied decades ago, not only as the voice of Aboriginal people, but engaging with the broad community and economy.
On the health scene, care for children from conception to age four is a key part of the main mission, in tandem with an attack on domestic violence where the facts are horrendous, mostly “Aboriginal male violence on Aboriginal women,” says Mr Rogers.
“You only need to go to the hospital emergency department, or sit in the mall, and you’ll see young and old Aboriginal women who are bruised, battered and in some cases disabled because of violence.
“Because of customs, kinship and cultural law, particularly Aboriginal women on a community attract violence. They either end up dead or they walk into the desert and end up dead. We’ve got to do something about that.
“There are plenty of Aboriginal men who would love to stand up for Aboriginal women but they don’t get the opportunity.”
Mr Rogers quotes some figures from the Justice Department: mothers of NT children are 48 times more likely to be admitted to hospital for reasons of assault than all Australian women.
In 2009/10, more than 840 Aboriginal women had assault-related admissions to hospital in the NT, compared with 27 “other” women. In the year ending June 2012, the rate of “assault offences” recorded in Alice Springs was nearly six per 100 people (almost double the NT average). 68% of domestic violence is alcohol related. The rate of domestic violence assaults is 98% greater than the NT average.
Aboriginal women in the NT are 80 times more likely than other Australian women to be hospitalised as a result of assault.
But the news is not all bad, says Mr Rogers: “In the NT, in terms of Aboriginal health improvement, there has been a 30% decline in the all-cause mortality rate over the last decade or so, and we want to build on what is working, and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Congress has a major clinic, open seven days a week; a male health unit, family partnership program, birthing centre and other programs. It has spread beyond the town limits, “auspicing” five bush clinics at Amoonguna, Santa Theresa, Areyonga, Hermannsburg and Mutitjulu.
Congress is seeking Aboriginal Benefits Account money for a truck carrying three small offices on the back for doctors, paramedics or social workers, which will do the rounds of communities, spending several weeks in each one, as long as it takes, finding out from the locals what their issues and concerns are.
“It could be alcohol, suicide, violence,” says Mr Rogers. “We’ll let the community come to us, encourage them through activities, kids, women, fellas.
“Then we would encourage other agencies which have the expertise to come out and talk to the community. It’s grassroots stuff. You might say it’s an Aboriginal problem. In fact it affects all of us, the town, the economy.”
Mr Rogers, currently on three months’ probation but willing to serve Congress for five years, says he has never been on the dole, has run a produce business for 13 years, “trained, employed and mentored more than 200 Aboriginal people” most of whom “went on to bigger and better things”.
He says some of his employees left because they didn’t like the hours – 4am starts: “On the Mondays, during footy season, I employed backpackers,” he says. “You needed to be flexible as an employer.”
He was briefly a town council alderman, and the Labor Party candidate last year in the NT seat of Namatjira. He’s had a hand in several other businesses, including hospitality and security services.
NEWS: What about self-help to end the blight of welfare dependency? Drinking, not taking children to school, not feeding them properly – isn’t all of this up to the individual, or the community?
ROGERS: Yes and no. The main problem with Aboriginal children is neglect. It’s not deliberate neglect. It’s partly because young mothers and families don’t know how to look after young people, it is partly due to addictions and other mental health conditions and it is partly due to the often very adverse social environment that parents are trying to raise their children in. It is also a lack of knowledge caused by low levels of education.
A couple of my daughters are foster carers. Young babies, one or two years old, they certainly know what a straw is but you try to bottle feed them and they have never been bottle fed.
NEWS: How can that be changed?
ROGERS: It’s about education. We can blame us mob for everything – we drink and we fight and we argue, we smell and we’re untidy, we don’t want to be part of society. My view has been for a long time that it’s the system that has created that.
If you sit under that tree over there, regardless of what colour you are, and all the service providers come to you – as hard as it is to comprehend – you accept that as normal behaviour. And the media perpetuate that.
I’ve had a fortunate life, in a sense. I was sent to school down south, to Gawler, north of Adelaide. They were establishing Elizabeth at that time, for “ten pound Poms”. You go back there today, and you see four generations of welfare recipients. And I would strongly suggest that if you went to any major city in this country, you would find suburbs with welfare recipients.
The media is quite quick to point the finger of blame at the blackfellas, look how lazy they are, ripping off the welfare system. But the system has created that, nationally.
NEWS: Isn’t this the litany we’ve heard for decades? Should the dole be withdrawn for people not reasonably accepting employment offered?
ROGERS: It’s hard when your mum and dad have never worked, your grandparents have never worked. As a welfare recipient – going back to Elizabeth, you learn to manipulate the system.
But the days of sitting on your bum and having all the services come to you are over. We’re not going to come and wake you up in the morning. But we can demonstrate we are a good employer, we have a good process in place, you show potential and we’ll mentor you into senior positions. I think that’s a great outcome.
NEWS: Could that be exported to other companies?
ROGERS: Yes, it can.
NEWS: Is such a process under way? Are you in touch with the Chamber of Commerce, for example?
ROGERS: I must say, no.
NEWS: This is the number one question today: How do you put an end to passive welfare, the issue often spoken of by Noel Pearson?
ROGERS: Sitting under that tree – if you start to withdraw some of those services, for example, the doctor and nurses, then I’ll have to get off my bum and go and see them.
What that does is instil a bit of responsibility. And I think that’s what we have to do, change the system, change the mentality. The Toyota dreaming – whitefellas coming in and out every day, yet making very little difference.
NEWS: How do you translate that into reality?
ROGERS: In this organisation, through the cross-cultural awareness program for staff.
NEWS: But these are people who have a job. What about the recipients of Congress services, how can they be motivated to help themselves?
ROGERS: Pre-birth to four, these are the formative years in terms of the development of responsibility and initiative, no matter what colour you are. We’ve got a number of generations out there who, to be honest, are a bit of a lost cause. And I’m not saying we should forget about them.
Congress does a whole bunch of stuff but we can drill it down to basically three things: we look after the elderly, we try to help the sick, and the other thing we do is preventative care. And it’s that which in the next couple of generations will make the difference. Give people a healthy upbringing then they can make choices.
NEWS: How grave is your fear that funding cuts will affect Congress work?
ROGERS: Taxation revenue is now less than 22% of GDP which is almost the lowest in the OECD and both sides want to reduce taxes further although the Coalition is planning bigger cuts than the ALP in this regard. Where is the money going to come from?
NEWS: Can the funding be streamlined?
ROGERS: There are something like 15 health providers. This is ridiculous. We need to be working in partnership. I don’t give a hoot who gets the kudos out of that, as long as the outcomes for our clients is better.
We are adopting the “collective impact” model, promoted here by Desert Knowledge here but in use world-wide now. It is about everyone working together. Here in Alice Springs, perhaps because of the funding models, we’ve had everyone working in parallel, especially Aboriginal organisations, diving into the same bucket, trying to get hold of the same money, being possessive about that as well, but serving the same clients.
That’s changing. For example, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is changing their funding model from something like 100 different funding contracts down to six. That alone is fantastic. Congress is currently dealing with some 160 projects with a string of agencies, this will cut down on a mountain of paperwork.
NEWS: Are there too many NGOs?
ROGERS: It’s up to the government. It’s a question of compliance. Are NGOs actually spending the money they get appropriately and effectively?
NEWS: How do they decide what’s working and what’s not?
ROGERS: We have an open book policy with our funding providers, and I think that needs to occur. If we get money for a specific program and we see it’s not working, we want to have the ability to say to the funding agency, we think you need to change the parameters, because we can get better results by doing it this way.
Congress is very good at presenting evidence data, we can back our outcomes or outputs with evidence. There are problems when funding agencies allow their money to be spent willy nilly. The Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, which is part of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, have been very good with us. We have built a very good, honest, open relationship with them.
NEWS: What are the job opportunities right now? There used to be a cattle industry on what is now Aboriginal land, there are wild horses, camels, lots of land, idle labour and enough water. Road trains are going empty one way and could provide cheap transport of produce to markets. Should Congress develop some of these opportunities? Congress is picking up where people are already damaged. Is there not a case for that damage to be prevented?
ROGERS: Primary production has been tried here in the past but it has failed because it is a foreign industry, so to speak. We are hunters and gatherers. Where do you start? Is it housing, is it education? I’ve had a long time to think about this, and I think it starts from a health perspective. If you are a healthy child, regardless of your race, the other things will come.
NEWS: Could primary health care not include having a purpose in life, a job?
ROGERS: We are the largest primary health care provider in the NT but we’re not going to be able to fix all the problems.
NEWS: What changes is Congress making to its structure?
ROGERS: We now require people with tertiary qualifications to be in the top positions, not appointing Aboriginal people into management positions, irrespective of qualification, as a report 20 years ago recommended.
Unfortunately, that set some Aboriginal people up to fail. We are mentoring Aboriginal people into management roles. This is big business, and needs to be treated like big business.
IMAGES from the Congress annual report 2010-11, as published on the World Wide Web.
“Congress Alice Springs fully understands that the task of supporting young people to develop in healthy ways and adopt a healthy lifestyle is complex and requires a multifaceted approach,” Congress Ms Donna Ah Chee
A new Aboriginal youth sexual health education resource package was launched last week in Alice Springs.
The package is part of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress’ Community Health Education Program (‘CCHEP’). The CCHEP Program has been delivering holistic sexual health education to young Indigenous women living in and around Central Australia since 1998 and to young males since 2011.
CCHEP coordinator Donna Lemon says that the program has provided an insight into the way that sex education has changed.
“The CCHEP program provides awareness and basic holistic sexual health education to young people in our local schools,” Ms Lemon explained. “We also run educator training four times a year to enable community-based workers, such as Aboriginal health practitioners and teachers, to confidently deliver the program to their own target groups.”
As well as local schools, the program has been delivered to organisations such as Owen Springs Detention Centre, CAAAPU, Mission Australia, Tangentyere Council and the Midnight Basketball program.
Education is provided to young people through a series of learning activities in a way that is fun and interactive, so that the learning experience is memorable.
Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee said that the manuals will provide teachers with confidence to deliver health education, as part of a holistic approach.
“The new manuals will help ensure that teachers and other educators are really well prepared and confident in their ability to educate young people in areas that many find difficult and challenging.
“Congress fully understands that the task of supporting young people to develop in healthy ways and adopt a healthy lifestyle is complex and requires a multifaceted approach,” Ms Ah Chee commented.
“Healthy lifestyle education at age 12 and beyond is one part of this approach. However it’s also important to recognise the critical importance of the early years in the healthy development of young people as well.
“We know that the development of self-regulation and self-control by age four is crucial to the subsequent development of an active healthy lifestyle.
“We also know that interventions in early childhood that support responsive parenting and child stimulation can have a big difference on the subsequent development of a healthy lifestyle including fewer addictions, fewer sexual partners with safer sex and higher levels of physical activity.
“The resource that we are here to launch today is part of this overall, multifaceted approach.”
Recognition was given to the elders—including the Alukura women’s health Grandmothers and Aunties—who have provided input and cultural knowledge into the development of this and other health education resources throughout the years. Acknowledgment was also given to the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH), the Northern Territory Sexual Health Program and the NT Sexual Health Advisory Group, all of which have provided support in the development and implementation of the resources.
Listen to Me: Summit to unite bush voices for change
Kurunna Mwarre: Making my spirit inside me good,
A summit in Central Australia will bring Aboriginal people together to identify positive solutions to local problems faced in their home communities and the wider community of Alice Springs.
Around 200 delegates will travel from communities and town camps to Ross River to take part in the summit, Kurunna Mwarre: Making my spirit inside me good, which is being held from 14-16 May 2013.
Photo above previous Congress Alice springs community action 2010 to Stop the Violence
“The summit gives people the opportunity to talk about violence and anti-social behaviour,” explained John Liddle, Ingkintja Male Health Manager (picture below) at Congress and one of the summit organisers.
“People genuinely want to see change and they want to be empowered to be part of that change.
“This summit is about taking responsibility for the past and taking local ownership to bring about and sustain positive change and healing of spirits.”
The summit is co-facilitated by health service, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Creating a Safe Supportive Environment Inc. (CASSE) and follows on from previous summits facilitated by Congress’ Ingkintja male health branch, held in 2008 and 2010, where hundreds of Aboriginal males came together to address issues of violence and hurt in Aboriginal communities.
From the initial 2008 summit came the momentous ‘Inteyerrkwe Statement’, which gave a decisive proclamation that Aboriginal males from Central Australia were committed to ensuring safe and happy community environment for their families:
We the Aboriginal males from Central Australia and our visitor brothers from around Australia gathered at Inteyerrkwe in July 2008 to develop strategies to ensure our future roles as grandfathers, fathers, uncles, nephews, brothers, grandsons, and sons in caring for our children in a safe family environment that will lead to a happier, longer life that reflects opportunities experienced by the wider community.
“We acknowledge and say sorry for the hurt, pain and suffering caused by Aboriginal males to our wives, to our children, to our mothers, to our grandmothers, to our granddaughters, to our aunties, to our nieces and to our sisters.“We also acknowledge that we need the love and support of our Aboriginal women to help us move forward.”
Now, in 2013, both males and females will gather together to put forward positive solutions to help facilitate change.
“We talk a lot about what the problems are,” Mr Liddle said. “Now we want to focus on the solutions.”
“We want our voices to be heard.”
The Kurunna mwarre: Making my spirit inside me good Summit will be held at Ross River from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 May 2013. It is for Aboriginal people only.
A Summit Open Day will be held on Thursday 16 May for politicians, media and stakeholders to attend and be presented with the solutions emanating from the summit. (See details below)
Emma Ringer, Communications Officer, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
NT Minister for Education, Peter Chandler, today announced the development of programs that will educate students about the problems of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and support affected children.
“While there are already significant resources in schools to assist with education about alcohol these programs will focus on the disorder.
“New educational programs will address the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy as a way to prevent further cases.
“The Department of Education and Children’s Services will work with non-government organisations to deliver programs to middle and senior school students on the consequences of drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
“An educational psychologist will be employed to work with schools on programs to support children affected by the disorder,” Mr Chandler said during a visit to Centralian Senior College in Alice Springs.
“The Government is taking a broad approach to addressing the effects of alcohol, which includes this week’s announcement of mandatory rehabilitation for problem drunks and education in schools.
“The Country Liberals understands we need to address the cause of alcoholism and support prevention efforts.”
Member for Stuart, Bess Price, who also visited Centralian Senior College, said Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which has lifelong complications for children, is preventable by avoiding the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
“There are a range of effects on children whose mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy.
“These include physical, mental, behavioural and learning disabilities.
“School programs are unable to reverse these problems but can do a lot to support children in their social and learning development.”
John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory
Speaking at the launch of Kidney Action Network, Alice Springs 14 March 2013
We are here to give one simple message: an absolute affirmation of life, and lives well lived with family and friends.
Kidney disease is increasingly affecting Australians – from Darwin to Hobart, from Perth to Sydney.
But, it is something that affects Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory – and in the traditional lands that lie just beyond our borders – at greater rates than anywhere else in the nation. In some areas, at greater rates than anywhere internationally.
And its impact is felt most acutely in our remote communities, where the social and cultural structures and everyday wellbeing of our communities depends on the presence of our old people – we need them to be present as long as possible.
So, when our old people are forced to move hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from kin and country, families get torn apart.
Families spend most of their time travelling out of their home communities to visit their loved ones in faraway places, and attending court cases and prison visit for their members who get caught up in problems when they are away in these faraway places.
Old people are the social and cultural glue which holds communities together – but many other people have died when they are young or middle aged.
The remaining old people are truly precious to everyone.
The recommendations of the Central Australian Renal Planning Study were supposed to be implemented so they could deal with these problems, but they have been ignored.
AMSANT is absolutely disgusted by the refusal of the state and Territory governments to engage with the key recommendations of the 2010 Central Australian Renal Planning Study.
The Commonwealth has shown some inclination to try and sort these problems out, but has been met with complete disinterest from the SA, WA and NT governments. These governments refuse to acknowledge the gravity and importance of the situation.
To put it bluntly, these governments are behaving irresponsibly, with little regard for the people they are elected to represent.
The state and Territory governments must begin to work sincerely with the Commonwealth and the community sector to engage in proper planning and provide the extra services and infrastructure that are essential for a fair deal for remote area kidney patients.
The SA and WA state governments must also begin to provide accommodation in Alice Springs for their clients who need to be here for health reasons.
The NT government must provide more accommodation for NT patients who have to live in its regional centres, including Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and Katherine, to receive dialysis services and while they are waiting for kidney transplants.
As I said a moment ago, today is about delivering a message about the preciousness of life. That is why the Kidney Action Network has been established: to put life at the front and centre of health policy here in the Northern Territory.
It is important to remember, that the partners who have joined in the Kidney Action Network see their work as part of a broader, comprehensive approach to health. We are not a “one disease at a time” movement; we recognise the full complexities of the social determinants of health.
Lives well lived, with families and friends, means having access to good primary health care, for all our people.