NACCHO 2013 budget alert: Aboriginal health spending: Where does the money go?


NACCHO’s chairman Justin Mohamed is concerned state governments are waiting until tonights Budget announcement before making a call on Indigenous health funding.

“I would say at this stage, we haven’t had the confirmed numbers, and we do need every state and territory to come and recommit to closing the gap with their funding, to ensure the whole of Australia – every single Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person can have life expectancy similar to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Source SBS


With an election looming, the future of the government’s Closing the Gap policies remain uncertain. (AAP)

Building a clear picture of how the government spends money on Indigenous-specific programs is a problem so complex even seasoned economists struggle with it.
Part of the problem, as health researchers Dr Lesley Russell and Sebastian Rosenberg note in detail here, is the split in funding, delivery and administration between state and federal governments across more than 100 different initiatives.

There is also the question of funding announcements, which tend to dribble out throughout the year rather than forming a part of the federal budget.

Economist Jon Altman says he doesn’t expect to see “anything new” for Indigenous Australia in Wayne Swan’s budget announcement tomorrow.

“They’ve more or less fired all their fiscal bullets as far as  Indigenous Australia is concerned,” he says.
“They’ve made their forward  commitments to Stronger Futures, to Cape York, to Creative Australia to  Carbon Farming Initiative; it has all been sign-posted.”

Justin Mohamed, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), agrees.

“On  previous budget nights and when the announcements are being made, you  know you sometimes walk out of there a little bit flat because  Aboriginal health or Aboriginal affairs probably doesn’t get the  concentrated attention it needs,” he says.

The federal government funds a number of Indigenous-specific programs under National Partnership Agreements (NPAs) in partnership with state and territory governments, based on six policy initiatives known as ‘Closing the Gap’.

These six measures were set down by Kevin Rudd in 2008 at the same time he gave a formal apology to the Stolen Generations. They cover the broad areas of health, education, infant mortality, life expectancy, literacy and employment.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s report on Closing the Gap issued in February this year noted that only three out of the six areas were on track for achievement.

This is despite funding for some key areas nearing their initial expiry date.


In 2009, the federal government allocated $1.57 billion for Indigenous health initiatives. This funding agreement expires in June, although this has been buffered by a further commitment of $777 million over three years from the federal government — along with an expectation that state and territory governments will also contribute.

Victoria has already committed to $61.7 million over four years, and while other states have until June 30 to declare their funding commitments, none have so far declared their support.

The federal commitment, as Lesley Russell has written previously, is an increase in per annum expenditure, but because of a bump in funding for the year 2012-13, will actually result in a drop in funding for the year ahead.

“We await news of which programs will be cut, and where,” she wrote.

NACCHO’s Justin Mohamed is concerned state governments are waiting until tomorrow’s Budget announcement before making a call on Indigenous health funding.

“I would say at this stage, we haven’t had the confirmed numbers, and we do need every state and territory to come and recommit to closing the gap with their funding, to ensure the whole of Australia – every single Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person can have life expectancy similar to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The total amount of funding has been increasing since Closing the Gap initiatives were first announced in 2008, but the dollar figure is also only one part of the story. How effectively the money is being used is a question raised repeatedly by those keeping a close eye on the government’s Indigenous expenditure.

“It’s really about how that money is administered, and where the money goes,”  says Mohamed.


With an election looming, the future of the government’s Closing the Gap policies remain uncertain.

The federal opposition has been vocally critical of current state and federal programs, with Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion saying the efficiency and effectiveness of current programs needed to addressed.

A change of government could also clear out any partisan issues potentially hampering cooperation at state and federal levels, says Jon Altman.

“We’ve got to remember when we had multi-partisan agreement through COAG  on these National Partnership agreements, it was coast-to-coast Labor,  and since then we’ve had a change and a number of state governments and  territory governments are non-Labor, so the possibility of contested federalism has increased,” he says.

“Of course,  that could flip right round if you had a change of federal government,  and suddenly you might see a new cooperative federalism between an  Abbott government and at least those states and territories that are now  conservative.”


Indigenous early childhood development $564.6 over six years from July 2009 Remote service delivery $291.2 over six years from July 2009 Indigenous economic participation $228.8 over five years from July 2008 Remote indigenous housing $1.94 billion over ten years. New funding on top of $3.55 billion already committed, so total funding of $5.5. billion over ten years from Dec 08 Indigenous health outcomes $1.57 billion over four years from July 1, 2009 Remote Indigenous public internet access $6.967 million over four years

Q&A: What next for Indigenous funding?

Source SBS with thanks

With an election looming and some key Indigenous funding policies nearing expiry, is the pattern of government investment for Indigenous policies set to change?

Jon Altman of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University tells SBS reporter Rhiannon Elston why he doesn’t expect to see Indigenous spending on the agenda on budget night.

Q: To start with a broad picture, has funding been increasing for government-based ‘Closing the Gap’ initiatives since they were first drawn up in 2008? 

It most certainly has. There has been a series of a National Partnership Agreements (NPAs) that I think have certainly increased allocations to Indigenous policy, Indigenous Affairs. One of the problems, of course, that the government has is that the last census showed a greater than expected increase in Indigenous population. And so on a per capita basis, that puts some pressure on Indigenous funding. But nevertheless, the funding has increased. Paradoxically, perhaps, a lot of that funding is being allocated to remote Australia where need is seen to be the greatest.

And particularly, of course, the Northern Territory and Cape York are major beneficiaries. But the majority of the Indigenous population lives in non-remote Australia. Probably around 75 to 80 per cent live in non-remote Australia. So in a sense, the paradox is that government is… putting most of the money into remote Australia, where I think gaps are going to be the hardest to close.

And they’re assuming that mainstream provision of services will look after Indigenous people in non-remote Australia, where gaps are most likely to close. I think it’s a very brave assumption that people will get equitable needs-based access to services in non-remote Australia if they’re disadvantaged.

Q: That appears to be a recurring criticism; that the bulk of Indigenous funding lands in the Northern Territory and not enough is left for the other states. 

The first thing the government really needs to do, and it’s never done, is actually undertake some audit of what is needed. Because what we don’t hear a lot about in Indigenous policy making is the historical legacy. In some sense what happened post the 2007 intervention is the extent of the legacy in very visible remote Indigenous  communities was there for everybody to see, and the obvious government response to that was to try and band-aid what was very visible.

Poor housing, poor school facilities, poor community infrastructure. Poor medical centres. So the government has certainly tried to address some of that in those very visible places. But the truth is, to meet that historical legacy which has being growing exponentially for decades, is going to require very significant investments, very significant commitments, running into billions of dollars.

Q: With the Indigenous Health Outcomes NPA due to expire in June, we’ve seen the federal government recommit $777 million over three years with an expectation that the states and territories will also come to the table, and they have until June 30 to do that. So far, we haven’t seen broad state-based commitment. What kind of implications could that have?

I think it will depend on the next government. We’ve got to remember when we had multi-partisan agreement through COAG on these National Partnership agreements, it was coast-to-coast Labor, and since then we’ve had a change and a number of state governments and territory governments are non-Labor. So the possibility of contested federalism has increased, and of course that could flip right round if you had a change of federal government, and suddenly you might see a new cooperative federalism between an Abbott government and at least those states and territories that are now conservative.

Whatever the case, I think there will be some very hard questions asked about the National Partnership Agreements when they come up for renegotiation in terms of their effectiveness. And one of the things we’ve found with Closing the Gap in terms of their track record at least for the period 2006-2011, has been quite patchy. Some of the gaps are closing quite slowly. Some of the gaps are widening, and some of them are proving very difficult to shift. So in a sense, there might be scepticism about both the targets and about the efficacy of the national partnership agreements in helping to close them.

Q: Do you expect to see any major Indigenous funding announcements in next week’s budget?

I think the current government, it seems to be the new mode of operation, they’ve more or less fired all their fiscal bullets as far as Indigenous Australia is concerned. They’ve made their forward commitments to Stronger Futures, to Cape York, to Creative Australia to Carbon Farming Initiative; it has all been sign-posted so I actually don’t expect to see anything new for Indigenous Australia in the budget.

The question is, what will the government do to make sure that when we have new schemes like DisabilityCare Australia… what mechanisms do we have in place to make sure that those people who are most in need and I think it’s likely that even in relation to DC Indigenous People who will be most in need get the greatest access? And it seems to me that one of the problems we have with this notion of normalisation and needs-based equitable access to services including disability support, superannuation, jobs and so on, is that we assume the playing field is level, whereas clearly that’s not the case.

Not just in terms of historical legacy and the poor physical, psychological, emotional condition of many Indigenous people but also that our institutions aren’t very well tailored to respond to people from fundamentally different cultural backgrounds, and we just don’t want to recognise that racially based discrimination is still a problem when it comes to accessing services

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NACCHO health news:More action needed on alcohol misuse among Aboriginal people in Ceduna SA

The CEO of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), Mrs Mary Buckskin (pictured above)  has called for more action to address the problem of alcohol misuse among Aboriginal people in the Ceduna area in the far west of South Australia.

“AHCSA supported the findings and recommendation of the 2011 report of the State Coroner following the inquest into a number of alcohol-related deaths in the area,” she said.

“We are pleased that some of the recommendations have been implemented. In particular, the expansion of the sobering-up shelter managed by Ceduna-Koonibba Aboriginal Health Service is clearly better meeting the need.”

However, Mrs Buckskin stressed that much more must be done, as clearly problems persist. “There is a need for a more strategic approach involving Aboriginal communities and their organisations in Ceduna and surrounding areas, as well as Yalata and Oak Valley.

“Currently, some actions taken by some agencies are ad hoc rather than being part of an overall strategy, and are not necessarily helping the problem.

“There is no single magic bullet to address it. What is required is a range of strategies developed with appropriate consultation, and introduced in a coordinated way.

“We need strategies to reduce the availability of alcohol; we need strategies to ensure that people with alcohol problems have access to health services where they can be properly assessed and offered treatment; we need appropriate rehabilitation services for individuals and families,” Mrs Buckskin said.

She added that people who have alcohol-related brain damage need to be properly assessed and provided with appropriate services.

“Above all, it must be recognised that the people at most risk of alcohol-related harm or death come from the communities further west. A comprehensive strategy to deal with alcohol problems in the Ceduna area must include supporting people to return to their country and ensuring that the communities concerned are adequately resourced to support this happening.

“While this will require significant resources, in the long run a coordinated comprehensive strategy will save lives and money. And this is really an issue of human dignity,” Mrs Buckskin said.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. (AHCSA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health and substance misuse services, and Aboriginal health advisory committees across South Australia. AHCSA is an affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

ENDS. For further information contact: Mrs Mary Buckskin, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Inc., 08 8273 7200.

NACCHO male health:Brewarrina Rugby League “golden oldies” concerns about Aboriginal male health


Brewarrina has the lowest life expectancy for males in the whole state, so to go out there and play in a game like that with the men and boys from the local community was very rewarding.

Picture above Sean Gordon, David Peachey and Ashley Gordon (NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services manager)  the Googars “golden oldies” reunion in Brewarrina.

FORMER Knights winger Ashley Gordon hopes a rugby league game he played in Brewarrina last weekend becomes an annual event to motivate the men from the mostly Aboriginal community in his one-time home town.

Photo and story Newscastle Herald

Gordon and former Cronulla and NSW fullback David Peachey were the star attractions at the Googars “golden oldies” reunion match at Geoff New Oval on Sunday as Brewarrina’s 150th birthday celebrations reached their climax.

Contact the David Peachey Foundation

“Googar” is Koori for goanna.

The eight-day “Be in Bre” festival was a one-off for the town’s sesquicentenary, but Gordon, the first player the Knights signed for their inaugural premiership season in 1988, wants to go back to Brewarrina next year and build a tradition.

“It was the highlight of the week for the whole town,” Gordon said.

“Brewarrina has the lowest life expectancy for males in the whole state, so to go out there and play in a game like that with the men and boys from the local community was very rewarding.

“It was very emotional for a lot of players who used to live there and went back and played, and Dave Peachey was in town by coincidence so he came and had a run too, and he loved it.”

As the NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services manager, and a researcher in the same field for Southern Cross University, Gordon is passionate about helping indigenous Australians make better life choices.

The 44-year-old, who was the 1990 Dally M winger of the year, has maintained his fitness long after retiring as a professional rugby league player but said he was disheartened to see men younger than him unable to play on Sunday due to poor health.

Gordon said he was not born in Brewarrina but lived in the north-western NSW town for 10 years before moving to Newcastle as a teenager.

“There were festivities on all week – carnivals, rodeos, a ball, street parades – to celebrate 150 years of Brewarrina’s existence, so the focus was back to Bre,” Gordon said.

“I arranged for jerseys, shorts and socks for 40 players, so everyone looked a million dollars, and we acknowledged some of the community’s elders on the day.

“One of them was Charlie King, who I used to watch as a kid and he was a brilliant player – an absolute legend – and he kicked off for us.

“Brewarrina is a community that needs some positive role models, and the thing I took from it was there were so many people my age and younger who couldn’t play, because of their health.

“A lot of them said to me after the game that they’d love to play, and if we put it on again they’d get fit so they can play. So it was a one-off, but everyone wants to play again next year.

“Towards the end of the game, we brought on some of the young kids to play with us and they thought that was great.”

Gordon hoped other regional towns followed Brewarinna’s example and organised similar games.

“I’d like to see some other communities pick up the ball and run with it, because rugby league is so important to those remote areas out there. Out bush, it’s the number one sport by a mile, and that’s why we had such a huge crowd and everyone was supporting it,” he said.

“That’s why the boys who weren’t healthy enough to play this year want to play next year.

“It was a pretty hot day out there, and the boys were dropping like flies by the end of it, but everyone loved it – the players and the spectators – so we want to make it happen every year.”

NACCHO health news:Governments failing to close the gap in the indigenous youth justice system

Close The gap

The policy is called ‘closing the gap’ and we’re not moving in the direction we need to.

STATES and territories have not only failed to close the gap in the indigenous youth justice system, but have overseen a widening in the past four years despite efforts to stop young Aborigines being jailed more often than their peers.

Data from various jurisdictions captures youth aged 10 to 17 and reveals Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children become part of the justice system earlier, are 16 times as likely to be under community supervision and 25 times as likely to be in detention than non-indigenous young.

But the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, Youth Justice in Australia 2011-12, released today, might have been compromised by the refusal of the West Australian Department of Corrective Services to participate and the failure of the Northern Territory’s Department of Correctional Services to find the data.

The jurisdictions have two of the largest indigenous populations, and the institute’s head of child welfare and prisoner health unit, Tim Beard, said the indigenous problem may have been larger had accurate data been obtained. “We’ve had discussions, given the nature of the demographies of these states, that this data would have been useful for an even more complete picture,” he said.

“We have relied on estimates where we can to form a national picture, which shows the supervision rates for indigenous youth have increased slightly, but not to the extent that you’d say the gap has significantly widened.

“But the policy is called ‘closing the gap’ and we’re not moving in the direction we need to.”

In 2011-12 there were 6940 young people under supervision for a crime or alleged crime on an average day in Australia, 13,830 throughout the year.

Although they account for 5 per cent of young Australians, 39 per cent of those under supervision were indigenous. On an average day there were 236 indigenous youth per 10,000 — up from 226 in 2008-09 — under community supervision, compared with 23 per 10,000 across the board. There were 42 indigenous youths under supervision in detention for every 10,000, compared with 1.7 for young Australians. This figure has worsened since a “best” result in 2010-11 where Aboriginal youth were 23 times as likely to be in detention compared with 25 times as likely today than non-indigenous youth.

They spent almost two weeks more in unsentenced detention and two weeks less in sentenced detention — possibly due to time served — but similar time in community-based supervision: 183 days on average.

“These are kids who are in detention with allegations that are basically unproven,” Mr Beard said. “It’s reasonable to assume that may be because of some prejudice against their race, and it may also be due to resourcing issues in remote areas where they are predominantly from.”

Mr Beard said the data indicated youth in detention were more likely to have multiple returns to the system, which could pose problems for the Queensland government, which is considering removing “detention as a last resort” policies.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said no decision had been made on the review of the principle. “If the principle was changed, it may allow courts to consider a broader range of options when sentencing young offenders,” he said.

NACCHO report: Anzac Day’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemoration Ceremony

Anzac 095 john Lov etc

When freedom calls

Gunditjmara soldier Herbert Stahle Lovett served as a machine gunner on the Western Front during the First World War and then signed up again for the Second World War. After returning from service his father was denied land under a Soldier Settlement Scheme administered by the Victorian Government, despite meeting all of the selection criteria. He watched on as his traditional homeland around Lake Condah was divided and distributed to white soldiers.

Picture above: From right John Lovett (son of  Herbert Stahle Lovett who fought in two world wars) Royal Australian Navy veteran (35 years) Gary Oakley and Dave Arden (great nephew of Lt Reg Saunders)

Includes features on

kath-walkerLT reg Saunders 2

Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, (Ooderoo Noomuccal) and Lt Reg Saunders

Report on the Anzac Day Commemoration Ceremony April 25 2013

Thank you to Ian Warden Columnist for The Canberra Times for most of this narrative /Photos and Video Colin Cowell NACCHO media

As if the bush setting on the slopes of Mount Ainslie wasn’t already  authentic enough, a big mob of kangaroos bounded past the clearing where we all  (about 250 of us) were gathered for the Anzac Day Aboriginal And Torres Strait  Islander Commemoration Ceremony.

We didn’t see any echidnas but master of ceremonies Garth O’Connell swore  he’d seen one there one Anzac Day and that it was a good place for snakes  too.

“They’re in bed. It’s too cold for them!” one of the many beanie-wearers  ventured. Yes, as the sky lightened (the ceremony began at 6.30am, giving people  time to troop up to this modest occasion from the grand occasion of the Dawn  Service at the Australian War Memorial) the still air had some bracingly  Siberian qualities about it

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association  is beginning to lobby for a grander memorial than the simple one we were meeting  at.

Anzac 074 Low res

The present one is modest to the point of being almost obscure. There are no  signs pointing to it (until you’re almost upon it) and the path up to it from  behind the Australian War Memorial is narrow and steep, the kind of track  favoured by the sorts of runners and joggers who like to torture themselves.

After about 250 metres of this, a signposted path veers left and 70 metres  later you are in a small bush clearing not as big as a tennis court and beside  which, in an outcrop of lichen-upholstered boulders, there’s a plaque indicating  that this place is the memorial.

There are just two park benches there and ANZAC DAYS congregation (arriving  in single file to the tuneful growlings Jeff Timbery’s didgeridoo) filled the  clearing and then also spilled and arranged itself among the trees and the  boulders.

The contrast with the spaciousness and grandeur of the Australian War  Memorial and its surrounds was extreme and yet the simplicity and intimacy and  leafiness of the space was really rather lovely.

When the one magpie there warbled and trilled and when the one raven there  sighed these soloists felt like our little event’s very own magpie and raven  performing just for us. The mob of kangaroos (some of its members beefy and  enormous), hurtling uphill, felt like our very own mob and certainly gave us  something the Dawn Service clientele had missed out on.

Bemedalled Royal Australian Navy veteran (35 years) Gary Oakley, gave the  Commemorative Address, giving it very informally, conversationally and  engagingly. He works at the Australian War Memorial now on the history of  indigenous service in the Australian Defence Force.

“I always tells people the ADF was the first equal opportunity employer of  indigenous Australians, and it was … In the Western Mail in 1932 it  was said that ‘The A.I.F.  judges a man not by his colour but by his worth,’  which I think sums it up about indigenous service in the ADF.

“We [indigenous people] have been in uniform now, for, golly!, since before  Federation. Now, you wonder why we serve. I ask myself that question. In my case  I joined [at 15] because I wanted a job, because I wanted to see the world, I  wanted to do things. But what went through the heads of [indigenous] people in  1914?  I mean, you’re not a citizen of your own country. You’ve really got no  rights. And yet you fly to the colours! Why?

“One of my jobs at the War Memorial is to research the over 1000 Aboriginal  people who joined up in the First World War … and out of that 1000, over 100  were killed. That’s a big percentage. And of that 1000 some 22 or 23 won awards  for bravery, including two winners of the DCM (the poor man’s VC). As a people  we punch well above out weight.

“But why did they join? The wages for a start. Six shillings a day was good  money, especially when you consider the average British soldier got six  shillings a week. So for us it was probably a chance to send money home as  well.

“But there was also the possibility that after the war when you came back  home you’d be looked upon as something different, that people might [at last]  look upon your race of people differently.”

Oakley told us, to the soft accompaniment of our virtuoso magpie, that in the  Great War records of indigenous people he finds a great determination to enlist,  against all the odds (some medical officers knocked them back because they  suffered the “affliction” of being Aboriginal) with some men trying again and  again and even going interstate to try to clear more sympathetic hurdles.

“And you wonder why the hell would they do that? After all some of them are  nearly traditional or they’re one generation away from being traditional.  They’ve been disenfranchised. But they’re warriors. They want to serve. They  want to prove themselves. And prove themselves they did … We [indigenous  people] have been in this game [wearing the nation’s uniforms] a long time.  We’ve served this country honourably and nobly, though the country hasn’t served  us honourably and nobly at every stage. But it’s changing.”

He said that the ADF had changed considerably, too, and that he was proud,  now, of the way the ADF looked at its indigenous men and women; and that with  that he’d stop because he knew we were all freezing and needed to get on with  things.

Anzac 090 TSI

Flight Sergeant Mick Enchong,Trooper Jason Enchong and LACW Tara Enchong at the Anzac Day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commemoration Ceremony

The things got on with included the laying of wreaths and poppies at the  ceremonial stones with people coming and going to the soulful yodellings of the  didgeridoo. The bright red poppies contrasted beautifully with the grey/green  lichen of the rocks. One young woman placed among the wreaths a framed portrait  of a touchingly boyish-looking young man in uniform.

There were no hymns and prayers and the God so much involved and invoked in  the Dawn Service was not bothered at all in this ceremony. But Dave Arden sang,  to his guitar accompaniment, a hymn-like song Freedom Called he’d  co-written with the famous Paul Kelly.


And Garth O’Connell recited, as if it were scripture, the passionate WW2 poem  The Coloured Digger that a non-Aboriginal servicemen wrote to honour an  Aboriginal soldier he knew in New Guinea. It’s feisty sentiments rang in our  chilly little glade, and included:

Poem “The Coloured digger”

Anzac 101

He came and joined the colours, when the War God’s anvil rang,

He took up modern weapons to replace his boomerang,

He waited for no call-up, he didn’t need a push,

He came in from the stations, and the townships of the bush.

He helped when help was wanting, just because he wasn’t deaf ;

He is right amongst the columns of the fighting A.I.F.

He is always there when wanted, with his Owen gun or Bren,

He is in the forward area, the place where men are men.

He proved he’s still a warrior, in action not afraid,

He faced the blasting red hot fire from mortar and grenade;

He didn’t mind when food was low, or were getting thin,

He didn’t growl or worry then, he’d cheer us with his grin.

He’d heard us talk democracy, they preach it to his face

Yet knows that in our Federal House there’s no one of his race.

He feels we push his kinsmen out, where cities do not reach,

And Parliament has yet to hear the Abo’s maiden speech.

One day he will leave the Army, then join the League he shall,

And he hope’s well give a better deal to the Aboriginal.

The author, sapper Bert Beros was a non-Aboriginal soldier. This poem was written about an Aboriginal soldier whom he met in New Guinea, Private Harold West of the 2/1st Battalion AIF.

After our heartfelt “We will remember them,” the one minute’s silence was  especially deep and profound up there on Mount Ainslie’s bushy slopes although  our very own raven did mutter to himself a little during it.

LT reg Saunders 2

Lt Reg Saunders

25 November 1944, Lieutenant (Lt) Tom “Driver” Derrick, VC DCM (right) shaking hands with Lt Reg Saunders (left), as they congratulate each other following their successful graduation from the Officer’s  Cadet Training Unit at Seymour, Victoria Lt Saunders was the first Aboriginal commissioned in the Australian Army and later served with further distinction during the Korean War. He later became the first Aboriginal Council member of the Australian War Memorial. Reg is the great uncle of   Mr David Arden


Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker

Studio portrait of Lance Corporal Kathleen Jean Mary (Kath) Walker, of Stradbroke Island, QLD Kath Walker enlisted in 1942 with the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). She later changed her name to Ooderoo Noomuccal and is a well known and respected Australian poet, actress, writer, teacher, artist and campaigner for Aboriginal rights. Oodgeroo was best known for her poetry and was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse. Two of her brothers were captured at Singapore in 1942 .

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association (ATSIVSA)

This commemorative ceremony is conducted to remember those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who have served in the Australian forces since federation in 1901.

It is hosted by members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans and Services Association an Indigenous Veterans Advocacy group, and is open to all members of the public. ATSIVSA wishes to thank the Australian War Memorial the Returned and Services League and the Department of Veterans Affairs for their support of our Association and with the conduct of this ceremony today. Thank you also to the various media outlets for their live coverage of the ceremony again.

For further information contact Mr. Gary Oakley National President ATSIVSA on 02  62434532 or email

Anzac 074 Low res

Read and see more picture more CANBERRA TIMES WEBSITE :

NACCHO tribute :Aboriginal Health Council of SA in ANZAC DAY tributes

 CEO Mary Buckskin thanks Board Member Les Kropinyeri

CEO Mary Buckskin thanks Les Kropinyeri

$1 million has been fundraised to erect a Memorial for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia at the Torrens Parade Ground in South Australia.

“When Australia went to war, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people went to war voluntarily to fight for our own country,” said Corporal Les Kropinyeri, returned serviceman and Board Member of the Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people used Afghan names or any other name to enlist as service men and women.

“We didn’t have to go to war – we wanted to go to war to fight for our country and to protect what we have for all Australians,” Les Kropinyeri said.

This is the story that is often unheard – the story of our Indigenous Australians who numbered in their thousands to fight for freedom.

According to Reconciliation Australia, over 3,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women enlisted in World War II and over 800 are known to have served in World War I. The true number is likely to be much higher. There are up to 7,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans and war widows in the Australian community today, and more than 800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians currently serve with distinction in the Australian Defence Forces.

Les Kropinyeri who went into the Defence Force in April 1967, served in Vietnam from 1968-69 in the 9th Batallion of the Royal Australian Regiment, five months before the end of his voluntary 2-year national service.

He recalls the infantry, ‘Charlie Company’, where he was in charge of a section of men within the 7th Platoon, comprising ten in all, including a rifle section, a gun section and forward scouts.  Les Kropinyeri was a Section Commander and proud of it.

Les Kropinyeri has since served his community and all Australians well including as a Board Member of the Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc.

Chairperson of the Council Mr John Singer pays particular respect on behalf of the Board to Les Kropinyeri and his fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women on this ANZAC Day, 25 April 2013.

Led by Sir Eric Neale, $1 million has been fundraised to erect a Memorial for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia at the Torrens Parade Ground in South Australia. Les Kropinyeri says this is a first because most other states have only erected memorials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of their own states.

A Committee was formed comprising retired, non-active service men and service women including Les Kropinyeri, Gill Green, Frank Clarke, Francis Lampard (Deputy Chairperson), Marj Tripp (Chairperson), Bill Hignett, Bill Denny, Mike Mummery, Garth Dodd (representing Janine Haynes), Elaine Lomas, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Rossalyn Cox, Mark Waters, Eunmi Parke, Ian Smith, and Barry Forrest. This Committee decided to record all the names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia who served on any war, and the list is growing.

Names have been gathered from everywhere with Elders Groups being the main contributors. “There will be a roll somewhere in time when we have completed the list,” said Les Kropinyeri.

Considering the funds raised through Sir Eric Neale, it was decided to erect a Memorial and now the Committee is concentrating on completing the bronze statues of male and female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who served in the wars. It is expected that the Memorial will be unveiled in November 2013.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. would like to honour Les Kropinyeri and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans on this ANZAC Day 2013. Mr John Singer, Chairperson said, “We are suitably proud of Les Kropinyeri and his fellow returned service men and women, and the fact that they voluntarily fought for our country and freedom.”

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. (AHCSA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health and substance misuse services, and Aboriginal health advisory committees across South Australia. AHCSA is an affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

ENDS. For further information contact: Mrs Mary Buckskin, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Inc., 08 8273 7200.

NACCHO ANZAC day tribute:Our black history: Lest We Forget Aboriginal veterans


About 1000 Aboriginal men  served in World War I.

They fought for an Australia and a British Empire that denied them rights at home, including freedom of movement, the vote, control of their own finances and custody of their children.


In August 1916, Private Douglas Grant departed Australia on a troop carrier bound for the United Kingdom. Like thousands of other young Australian men, Grant had signed up for the AIF and wound up fighting in the trenches on the Western Front in France.

The Germans captured Grant in June 1917 and he spent the rest of the war as a POW. The Germans recognised he was quite intelligent, so they put him in charge of Red Cross parcels. In one letter to the Red Cross, Grant wrote: ”Could I also get a copy each in book form the poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon, Henry Lawson, and Robert Louis Stevenson, or some books of Australian life … something in which to pass away a few leisure moments which are generally filled with longing for home sweet home far across the sea.”

At the end of the war Grant was repatriated to the UK and then returned to Australia. There is one other critical detail of interest about Grant’s war story: Douglas Grant was an Aborigine.

Grant’s story is one of about 1000 Aboriginal men who served in World War I. These men came from all states and territories, and they served in all theatres of war including Gallipoli, the Western Front and Palestine. Like non-indigenous Anzacs, they too experienced the horrors of war, died on foreign soil, were maimed, suffered shell shock and lived in foreign POW camp


They also forged the bonds of mateship with non-indigenous servicemen. They fought for an Australia and a British Empire that denied them rights at home, including freedom of movement, the vote, control of their own finances and custody of their children.

Even the AIF initially refused to accept Aboriginal servicemen; early in the war the government decreed that men ”not substantially of European origin or descent” would not be permitted to enlist. Grant was almost refused permission to travel overseas until his adopted white father pulled some strings with the NSW Aborigines’ Protection Board.

Other Aboriginal men managed to skirt the rules and enlist by pretending to be Italian or Maori (which, while not European, was acceptable). The majority of Aboriginal soldiers enlisted later in the war, when the manpower shortage and failure of the conscription referendums led the government to loosen its restrictions.

Why Aborigines chose to fight for a country that had denied them rights is a difficult question to answer, and of course each man had his own reasons to serve. Some signed up because they saw the AIF as an employment opportunity with a steady wage that was higher than they could earn in civilian life. Others joined for the sense of adventure, as it was an opportunity to leave the mission or reserve.

Many others hoped that by serving in the Australian military they would be rewarded with civil rights after the war. Sadly these men’s hopes were crushed. When they returned from overseas, their service was widely forgotten. Aboriginal veterans and their families continued to face inequalities including segregation, no right to vote and unequal wages.

State welfare departments quarantined veterans’ benefits and denied Aboriginal veterans access to soldier settlement schemes. Being a veteran did not even protect Aboriginal fathers from having their children removed.

The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (present-day RSL) had a mixed record with indigenous ex-servicemen. Some RSL branches advocated for equal rights for Aboriginal veterans, while others refused to admit Aborigines into their branches.A friend of Grant remembers: ”He became a sadder, progressively more dejected figure as each April the 25th went by. One day, in the late ’40s, I saw him sitting under a tree … ‘I’m not wanted any more,’ Grant told me. ‘I don’t want to join in. I don’t belong. I’ve lived long enough’.”

During and after World War II this process repeated itself, affecting even more indigenous Australians. At least 4000 Aborigines and 850 Torres Strait Islanders served in the war. This time women also served, and thousands more participated as civilians in the war effort. Indigenous men and women in remote areas across the Top End patrolled the coast, rescued crashed Australian and American pilots, prepared for guerilla defence against Japan, worked in army labour camps and even captured the first Japanese prisoner of war on Australian soil.

They, too, would be forgotten after the war and denied benefits, which the government only began to rectify from the early 1980s.

Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women continued to serve Australia. They were in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have served on peacekeeping missions in places as diverse as Somalia, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and Rwanda. They have also served in units patrolling the Top End in the Pilbara, Northern Territory and far north Queensland.

Anzac Day is a time when all Australians pause to remember the sacrifices service members have made to defend this land. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributions to defence of country are part of that history, and they, too, must be remembered, honoured and thanked.

This is not about special treatment; it is about remembering that among the ranks of the Anzacs and the many other men and women who defended Australia, some of them were black.

Dr Noah Riseman is a senior lecturer in history at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. He is the author of the book Defending Whose Country? Indigenous Soldiers in the Pacific War.

Read more:

NACCHO dental health news:NACCHO wants fluoride added to the water supplies of all Aboriginal communities.


NACCHO- the National Authority for comprehensive Aboriginal Primary Health  wants fluoride added to the water supplies of all Aboriginal communities.

 The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Lisa Briggs  gave evidence to a House of Representatives inquiry hearing into adult dental services today.

Download the NACCHO submission

In its submission NACCHO called on the federal government to provide money to Aboriginal-controlled health organisations so they could provide dental services.

Aboriginal people were more likely than non-indigenous Australians to have lost all their teeth, it said.

The organisation urged state and territory government to fluoridate all town, city and Aboriginal community water supplies.

As well more work was needed to attract dental workers to remote Aboriginal communities.

“There are concerns among dental health professionals that positions in Aboriginal communities are not seen as part of the usual career ladder,” NACCHO said.

Exposure to Aboriginal controlled health organisations during training would help attract more young dentists.

Proper funding would allow organisations to offer competitive remuneration packages that would encourage dentists to remote and rural areas


NACCHO recommends that the NPA for adult public dental services:

1. Provide culturally appropriate oral health services to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

2. Increase the oral health workforce available to improve the oral health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

3. Increase oral health promotion activity with the aim of improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

4. Improve the collection, quality and dissemination of oral health information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and

5. Foster the integration of oral health within health systems and services, particularly with respect to primary health care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In addition, NACCHO asserts that:

 1) Oral Health is a priority health issue for Aboriginal peoples.

2) Oral health is a core part of the holistic health that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services aim to provide.

3) Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services should provide primary oral health care services including emergency and preventative oral health care and oral health promotion.

4) Australia’s National Partnership Agreement to come into effect June 2014 should be fully funded and implemented, in particular in relation to measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in particular.

5) The Patient-assisted Transport Scheme (PATS) must be extended to dental patients.

6) Dental services should be subsidised to all needy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients to reduce or eliminate cost as a barrier to accessing services..

7) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in correctional facilities should have access to culturally appropriate oral health programs.

8) All oral health workers must receive cultural awareness training either as part of their initial training or through on-going professional development. This will increase the level of culturally accessible oral health services.

9) There should be support for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals to be trained in all the oral health profession: dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, etc.

10) The Australian Dental Council (ADC) should include performance indicators for training schools for recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees and have a target of 2.4% of each profession being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander individuals.

11) Oral health should be included in the core training of all health workers including Aboriginal Health Workers.

12) Fluoridation of drinking water supplies is an effective strategy to reduce oral health problems.

13) Culturally appropriate Oral Health promotion materials need to be developed, tested for impact, and widely disseminated if effective.

14) Improved and regular collection of data on Aboriginal oral health status and use of services is needed to allow monitoring of the impact of interventions and assessment of achievement of oral health goals and targets.

NACCHO will:

15) Work with all Australian governments to develop oral health service provision at all its member health services.

16) Work with stakeholders to develop cultural awareness training for all oral health workers.

17) Campaign in support of fluoridation of city, town and community water supplies.

18) Improve the level of useful Aboriginal oral health data initially by influencing the capacity for the sector to collect national data collection in those Aboriginal Community Controlled Services with an existing oral health service – e.g periodontal and dental caries status, oral hygiene knowledge and periodontal disease links with Diabetes etc.

19) Support research to collect information on the areas of individual oral health behaviours, knowledge and barriers in regards to oral health including the availability and affordability of oral hygiene items.

 NACCHO calls upon the Federal Government, in collaboration with state and territory governments and NACCHO, to:

20) Fully fund and implement the 2014 National Partnership Agreement

21) Set and monitor goals and time specific targets in relation to meeting a range of oral health outcomes such as caries rates, periodontal disease rates and tooth extraction rates.

22) Formally recognise oral health as a key part of Aboriginal holistic health care to be provided by ACCHSs.

23) Allocate resources specifically for oral health services for Aboriginal peoples.

24) Increase oral health promotion activities in ACCHSs. This would require both increased financing for the development and testing of suitable materials, service provision and training of the AHW workforce.

25) Provide subsidised tooth brushes, tooth paste and floss to all remote communities in the first place and extend this as necessary to other communities where data collection indicates there is an access issue for these items.

NACCHO calls upon state and territory governments to:

26) Fluoridate all town, city and Aboriginal community water supplies that do not naturally contain a level of fluoride sufficient to prevent dental caries and immediately fluoridisation where this has ceased.

We welcome feedback on this recommendations

NACCHO health news:For true primary healthcare and better outcomes, support Aboriginal community controlled healthcare

Selwyn B

Selwyn Button, CEO of the NACCHO affiliates QAIHC (Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council.) writes

As published this week in Melissa Sweet’s health blog that we highly recommend you follow


Over the past few weeks, authorities have released a number of reports about the performance and expenditure of our national health system, and some of these relate directly to efforts aimed at improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

View reports here

This might seem a good thing on face value, as we need to know whether our efforts are making any difference, and where to direct resources in future to ensure ongoing outcomes.

But if this information is used without the appropriate context, it may be used as a means of reducing expenditure on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, in the name of creating ”efficiencies”.

This presents a significant risk for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as we continue efforts in improving the health of our people, while remaining at the whim of Ministers and government officials who rely on this information to determine policy priorities and resource investments.

What is needed now is for governments to re-think how we analyse, interpret and use data to inform ongoing priorities, practice and future innovation.

Firstly, let’s take the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework report released in early 2013. and used as the main body of evidence for the Prime Minister’s Close the Gap Report card.

This report clearly demonstrated that the most significant gains in access to care and improvement of outcomes is and continues to be achieved through the national network of community controlled health services.

Upward of 75% of health improvements outlined in the report were directly attributed to the community controlled sector, and clearly justifies the increased investment into community controlled services as the most appropriate provider of healthcare for Indigenous people as they are making the best health gains.

Secondly, let’s consider the most recent Indigenous Expenditure report of 2012 produced by the Productivity Commission, that averages overall Medicare expenditure on Indigenous people as 60 cents in the dollar compared to the rest of the Australian population.

As many readers would be aware, Medicare was created as a safety net to ensure that all Australians get access to required care and benefits through quality primary health care services.

With community controlled services focused on providing comprehensive primary health care to our people, efforts in increasing access to an individual’s entitlements through Medicare can and will be best achieved by our organisations.

In spite of this data, we now have more recent releases stating the overall expenditure of the National health budget is 1.5 times greater for Indigenous people than the broader population.

Additionally, we have received further data stating that mortality rates for certain illnesses are only reducing by slight amounts and chronic diseases are still high placing burden upon the public health system.

Although much of this information is already 2 years old by the time it is released, it fails to identify why much of the burden is borne by secondary and tertiary public health systems, as access to comprehensive primary health care is still limited for our people nationally.

Consequently, when you don’t have access to quality primary health care, many of our people will present at secondary and tertiary facilities when their issues have escalated to a point where hospital is the last resort, requiring treatment for not only one health condition, but generally 2 or 3 issues.

Even though we have over 150 community controlled organisations across the country, our services do not exist in every corner of the nation, and fundamentally this would be impossible to achieve without enormous costs involved.

Alternatively, what we should be aiming to achieve is to have a strong community controlled presence providing quality care to our communities in all areas with populations greater than 900 residents focused on increasing access to comprehensive primary health care.

Why primary health care? Current and historical research by credible researchers have proven that the most effective means of delivering care and improving outcomes for Indigenous people is through community controlled services.

Health economists such as Professor Theo Vos and colleagues identified this in their work in assessing cost effectiveness of primary prevention activities across all health providers. This work clearly highlighted that compared with government-run, mainstream and private services, community controlled organisations achieve close to 50% better outcomes than other providers in delivering care to our own people.

Although this method was documented to be more expensive than other models, the focus on outcomes should not be lost, as the only variable included in his analysis that increased the overall expenditure against the model was transportation services for clients.

Due to the implementation of a comprehensive primary health care model, transport services are a core component and will always be included within the community controlled delivery of care, which does not diminish the model but does and will continue to achieve far greater outcomes.

Unfortunately, the notion of ‘If you build it he will come..’ only works for Kevin Costner in the movies, and does not work to improve health outcomes for our people.

With all this data now publicly available for all to review and analyse, we must hope that in determining future policy and funding priorities for Indigenous health care, consideration is given to understanding the context and reliablity of the information.

Importantly, there already exists some credible evidence that encapsulates comprehensive primary health care delivery into a set of core functions. This research was conducted and undertaken as a partnership between all healthcare providers, and should be the central component of any current and future policy debate about improving the health of Indigenous people, as it is widely accepted within the community controlled sector as the gold-standard in health service delivery for our people.

This work is the Core Functions of Primary Health Care in the Northern Territory, and with minimal adjustments to ensure local contexts are considered can and is applicable across all parts of the country. Utilising the Core Functions as a means to support improving outcomes goes a long way to encapsulate high quality service delivery standards with current data and information to ensure that we are all targeting the right priorities, through appropriate mechanisms.

This was not evident at start of the COAG investment to support overall Indigenous improvements, which saw over 65% of the entire $1.6B commitment channelled into mainstream and government-run service providers, as it was determined the most effective way to improve outcomes. Data was used showing that 70% of our people access care through government-run and mainstream services.

New data and information available now rebuts this myth that community controlled services have struggled with over the last 4 years.

Information now available within the community controlled sector shows that over 40% of Indigenous Queenslanders access care regularly through community controlled services, yet we are not in every part of the state.

With the end of the current Indigenous Health National Partnership Agreement set for 30 June 2013, we need to ensure that all of the relevant information and context is considered as part of ongoing discussions, policy setting and resource allocations to improve the health of our people.

Consequently, we are confident that this evidence will lead to what we have been seeking for many years – an increased investment in those services known to make a difference to the health of our people. That is community controlled organisations.

• Follow Selwyn Button on Twitter @qaihc