NACCHO at the United Nations:Indigenous organisations from Australia on the world stage

IPO Delegation UNPFII 2013 low Res

Indigenous organisations from Australia are on the world stage as part of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City, USA.

Organisations represented include:

First Peoples Disability Network Australia – Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) – Foundation for Indigenous Recovery and Development, Australia (FIRDA) – National Aboriginal Community Controlled  Health Organisation (NACCHO) – National Congress of Australia’s First People’s – National Indigenous Higher Education Network (NIHEN) – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance Corporation (NATSIWAC) – National Native Title Council (NNTC) – New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) – Office of the Social Justice Commissioner.

NACCHO represented by

Matthew Cooke Deputy Chair, Lisa Briggs CEO and NACCHO PHMO Professor Ngiare Brown

Press release from IPO

The 12th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is being held at the United Nations in New York from 20-31 May 2013. As a review year, the focus of the Forum is on previous recommendations, such as progress made towards implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the upcoming World Conference of Indigenous Peoples to be held in New York in 2014.

The Indigenous People’s Organisation (IPO) Network is a broad affiliation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals, who engage with United Nations mechanisms and frameworks to advocate for the implementation of the Declaration.

Co-chairs at the Permanent Forum, Brian Wyatt and Sandra Creamer, assist in coordinating the activities with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations that make up the IPO attending this year’s forum.

 Discussion will take place on the status of previous recommendations around health, culture and education as well as future work of the Forum where the IPO will be delivering an intervention on justice and child protection.

 There has also been the opportunity for dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya and the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Chief Willie Littlechild where the IPO presented a number of questions relating to the rights of Indigenous Peoples and a range of issues including health, culture, impact of the mining boom in Australia on Indigenous peoples and their communities.

 According to Mr. Wyatt, this year’s Forum is a “unique opportunity for Indigenous peoples from around the world to assess the past work of the Permanent Forum and review UN Member States progress with the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

 Contacts and Social media

IPO Media:

IPO USA Ph: +1 646 267 2136 

IPO Facebook:

IPO Twitter:

IPO YouTube: IPOAustralia

NACCHO event alert: National Reconciliation Week is almost here!


VIEW the full National Reconciliation Newsletter here

There’s only a few days to go until the start of National Reconciliation Week but it’s not too late to get involved!

Let us know what you’re doing by joining the reconciliation buzz on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtags #NRW2013 and #recognition.

You can also organise an event and register it on the NRW events calendar or find out what’s on in your area.

National Reconciliation Week is the time to build better relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians—and a time to come together to acknowledge the enormous contributions that Australia’s First Peoples have made to shape our nation.

VIEW the full National Reconciliation Newsletter here

NACCHO health alert:Community solutions must be centre of strategy to address terrible Aboriginal suicide rates


A Federal Government strategy to address high suicide rates among Aboriginal people, particularly the younger generations, is a welcome step towards addressing the crisis in our communities, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said today.

READ previous NACCHO articles on suicide prevention here

 Federal Mental Health Minister Mark Butler today revealed the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy which aims to address Aboriginal suicide rates – which are as high as one a month is some remote Aboriginal communities.

 NACCHO Chair Justin Mohamed said the Federal Government’s focus on the issue, particularly the emphasis on local solutions and capacity building, is welcomed, however he said the detail of the plan still needs careful examination.

 “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience suicide at around twice the rate of the rest of the population. Aboriginal teenage men and women are up to 5.9 times more likely to take their own lives than non-Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.

 “This is a crisis affecting our young people. It’s critical real action is taken to urgently to address the issue and it’s heartening to see the Federal Government taking steps to do that.”

 However Mr Mohamed said that for any strategy to be effective, local, community-led healthcare needed to be at its core.

 “Historically, Aboriginal people have not had great experiences with the mental health system, so breaking down the barriers and building trust is going to be key and having Aboriginal people involved in the delivery of services is critical.

 “Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are already having the biggest impacts on holistic improvements in Aboriginal health, including mental health. We are already a trusted source of primary health care within our communities, so its important those centres play a pivotal role in any strategy.

 “The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector has always recommended that services be funded to offer an integrated social and emotional wellbeing program with Aboriginal family support workers, alcohol and substance abuse workers, social workers and psychologists available.

 “Up to 15 per cent of the 10-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians has been put down to mental health conditions. We look forward to working with the government to map out the best possible approach to addressing this crisis in our community.

 Media contact: Colin Cowell 0401 331 251, 

NACCHO condemns Aboriginal flag “skins for smokes” that covers up health warnings

Skins 2

NACCHO condems the use of “skins for smokes”  that uses cultural content and copyright imagery on cigarette packets to  negate health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and calls on the Federal Government to ban the sale under that legistlation

Authors: Karen McPhail-Bell, Chelsea Bond & Michelle Redman-MacLaren (see details Blow)

For just $5.29 Australians can now purchase “Skins” from local, independent grocers to cover their cigarette packet with the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag.

We argue that this use of cultural content and copyright[1] imagery on cigarette packets negates health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and the subsequent dismissal of a legal challenge from the tobacco industry.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke over twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians (ABS 2010). Health promotion practitioners working to reduce these smoking rates face the challenge of the broader historical and cultural context of smoking behaviour.

In response, health promotion efforts have endeavoured to shift, displace and resist the notion that unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, are inherently part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

Some examples of this approach include Queensland Health’s Smoke-free Support Program (Smoking: It could cost us our culture), the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s Deadly Choices campaign and other initiatives beyond Queensland (for example, Adams et al 2010; Basinkski and Parkinson 2001).

Brady (2002) has noted how throughout colonial contact, Europeans have exploited Aboriginal addiction to nicotine and therefore as health practitioners, we are concerned about what may be the continued exploitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for economic gain.

We also note that Skins are available with the Australian flag and are concerned that more broadly, cultural and national pride is being manipulated by these companies. In other words, the sale of products that appropriate cultural content and copyright imagery for the purpose of enhancing the appeal of cigarettes is cause for alarm for us.

As a practice, health promotion endeavours to secure equal opportunity and resources to enable people to achieve their full potential in life. Thus, we raise this issue for your awareness and welcome your analysis, comments and suggestions for action. We are also working on possible responses with advocacy organisations.

Acknowledgement: The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Arika Errington (NACCHO) to this article.


Adams K, Liebzeit A, Jakobi M. (2010). “How’s your sugar?: A deadly website for you, your family and your community.” Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Aug;34(5):2.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010). “The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, October 2010.” Journal ABS Cat No 4704.0(Issue)

Basinski D, Parkinson D. (2001). “’We saw we could do it ourselves’: Koorie Cultural Regeneration Project.” Australian Journal of Primary Health;7(1):111-5.

Brady, M. (2002) “Health inequalities: Historical and cultural roots of tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 26(2): 120-124

[1] We note that both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are copyrighted materials and therefore must be reproduced in accordance the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of the artists, respectively Harold Thomas and the Island Coordinating Council.

[i] School of Social Work and Public Health, Queensland University of Technology; ?

[ii] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit, University of Queensland;

[iii] School of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University;

NACCHO election 2013 alert: Macklin claims Abbott’s not-so-secret plan to cut $1.6 billion from Indigenous Australians

Tony Abbott

Throughout the election period NACCHO will present views from all sides of politics

The following is a release from the Hon Jenny Macklin

Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech last night didn’t include a single sentence on his priorities for Indigenous Australians – but that doesn’t mean Indigenous people aren’t in his sights.

Buried in his speech was Tony Abbott’s real plans for Indigenous programs and organisations:

“by not implementing any of the budget spending measures unless specified”

  • Tony Abbott, Budget in reply, 16 May 2013

Tony Abbott wants to keep it a secret, but the fact is he will make savage cuts to programs and organisations that improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

This week’s Budget continued the Gillard Labor Government’s unprecedented investments to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

The Budget included $1.6 billion in funding for improved health, education, essential services, welfare reform, recognition and advocacy.

Funding included:

  • $777 million for a new National Partnership Agreement to improve health services for Indigenous Australians;
  • $22 million to help young Indigenous people finish secondary school and go onto university, including a $10 million boost to the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation;
  • More than $24 million to continue the Cape York Welfare reform measures, building on the significant gains we’ve already made for Indigenous families in these communities;
  • $12 million to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, which assist people in the juvenile and criminal justice system and help Indigenous women to escape domestic violence;
  • More than $44 million to help deliver services in about 340 remote Indigenous communities, including power, water and road maintenance;
  • $15 million to continue supporting the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, which provides Indigenous people with a strong national voice;
  • More than $6 million to refurbish hostels that provide Indigenous people with safe and affordable temporary accommodation; and
  • $1.3 million to continue building support for the recognition of Indigenous people in our Constitution.

This funding directly improves the lives of Indigenous people – so why does Tony Abbott want to take it all away?

It’s clear that Tony Abbott will cut services to the bone if he is elected Prime Minister – and Indigenous people won’t be spared.

He wants to keep it a secret – but the truth is already out.

“Coalition sources confirm Aboriginal Affairs will see the axe wielded, should Tony Abbott take Government in September.”

  • Paul Bongiorno, Ten News, 19 April 2013

After years of underinvestment and neglect under the Howard Government, this Labor Government has made unprecedented investments to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, with more than $5.2 billion in funding for employment, education, health services, community development and community safety.

We have set out a clear pathway to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, and we’re making the investments that are needed to get there. The progress we’ve made over the past five years in partnership with Indigenous people has delivered encouraging results.

Mr Abbott puts all of this progress at risk.

Only Labor can be trusted to deliver for Indigenous Australians.

NACCHO good news:Aboriginal health initiative proves to be one real success story


“Governments need to step back a bit, they do need to facilitate it, there is a role for government funding and government services but it’s about decision-making and its about the control the communities take and NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) is a good example of that because it is community controlled.” Jody Broun, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Co-Chair of the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF),

One of the most successful of the Aboriginal community-controlled sectors in the country over recent decades has been the health sector and recently 30 Indigenous high school students from across the country converged on the nation’s capital to take one further step on their own paths to a career in health.

Out thanks to  National Indigenous Times reporter Geoff Bagnall for this report and picture below



Murra Mullangari, an initiative of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) and their partners in the Indigenous health field, brought the year 10, 11 and 12 students together for a week in Canberra that aimed to inspire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to pursue a career in health and to support them in their transition from secondary school to the health workforce.

Jilpia Napparljari was there at the very beginning of Aboriginal community-controlled health having been involved in the founding of the very first Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS), Redfern.

“I was involved in the Aboriginal Medical Service when it first started and worked with Fred Hollows at the National Trachoma and eye Health,” Ms Nappaljari said.

She sees programs like Murra Mullangari opening options for the young participants that Indigenous people had to fight much harder for previously.

“As I told some of the young people who came up and spoke to me ‘ just remember, the world is your oyster.”

Ms Nappaljari believes this and similar programs will secure the future of Aboriginal Self-determination.

“Its good as an old person we ‘re not going to live very long and its good to see it’s been taken on, ‘ she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda agrees saying events like this are “succession planning” and the inspiring thing is there were over 200 applicants for only 30 places available.

“This is part of succession planning and what we ‘re seeing now is our kids, you can see it here, leaving school and going straight into university whereas in the past a lot of our students have been mature age students, ‘ Mr gooda said.

“That’s an evolution that’s happening now and that’s an indication of the increase of achievement in the education field, so I think it’s pretty exciting. I think for this conference the thing that gets me is more than 200 kids applied for 30 places.

“How great is that to come down to talk about working as doctors working in the allied health areas, so I just think it’s so just deadly to see these kids here, and they will take over, “Mr gooda said.

Pat Anderson, one of the co-authors of the ‘Little Children are Sacred report and Chairperson of the Lowitja Institute Board, agrees with Mr Gooda the event is inspiring but said it showed the unevenness of Aboriginal Opportunity around the country.

“It’s a wonderful initiative by AIDA and they’re t be heartily congratulated on such a program and project and the fact they had more than 200 applicants is just amazing but also I think, a bit more controversially, it demonstrates very tellingly the unevenness of what’s happening in education for Aboriginal people, ‘Ms Anderson said.

“I’m from the Northern territory and its wonderful but there aren’t any kids from the Northern Territory here who are participants, I’ve checked the list.

‘In a lot of the more isolated communities we’re not doing so well but maybe some of these young people might take that on as one of their leadership tasks to try to tackle that unevenness there, she said.

Jody Broun, Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Co-Chair of the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF), sees events like this as a crucial part of the Closing the Gap strategy, a strategy few non-Indigenous people realise was actually started by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations before being taken over by the Council of Australian Governments.

“The issue with the Close the Gap, the actual Close the Gap was it came from the ground, it came from the communities, it’s really about us and our communities, taking the lead and taking control, Ms Broun said.

“This is great because you’ve got young people who want these jobs in communities and too often you go to an Aboriginal community and all the health providers are white fellas from outside the communities.

“Whether it’s teachers or health workers, we need to take control of that ourselves and see that these jobs in these communities are for our young people”, she said.

“There are people out there who want these skills and my view, and the Congress’ view, is the communities need the opportunity to take that control back and not be disempowered.

“Governments need to step back a bit, they do need to facilitate it, there is a role for government funding and government services but it’s about decision-making and its about the control the communities take and NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) is a good example of that because it is community controlled. They decide the services they deliver.

“These are young people who will be a part of that, you can see how much confidence they have got and some additional skills and having some belief in themselves is really important and the support they will get through this program and hopefully where will be development of that as well,” Ms Broun said.

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 international research alert: In Canada language, culture key to improving the health of Aboriginal children


Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill


Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill is a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, lives on Six Nations and is one of the founders of the indigenous studies program at McMaster University.

Improving the health of Aboriginal children requires teaching them about their traditional languages and culture, says anthropologist Dawn Martin-Hill.

Martin-Hill was speaking to an indigenous children’s health symposium put on by university medical students Saturday at McMaster Innovation Park.

Its purpose was to examine why the quality of health of aboriginal children is so much worse than other young Canadians — and to consider solutions.

Ongoing and systemic racism within the medical profession was a major reason raised.

So too was a deep distrust of doctors by Aboriginals, something passed down through generations that stems from trauma at their hands in residential schools, or in practices such as sterilizing native women, Martin-Hill said.

And yet there was a time in history when the colonizers relied on aboriginal medicines, ways and traditions to survive, Martin-Hill pointed out.

Children and youth make up more than 48 per cent of Canada’s aboriginal population.

They suffer from higher rates of infant mortality, poverty, diabetes, tuberculosis and fetal alcohol syndrome than non-aboriginal children and lag in access to health care.

A 2009 UNICEF report on children ranked Canada third out of 177 countries in prosperity and welfare, but if the First Nations communities were considered on their own, the ranking slips to 68th.

Martin-Hill is a Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, lives on Six Nations and is one of the founders of the indigenous studies program at McMaster University.

“Elders see traditional medicine as the primary tool for health restoration,” Martin-Hill said, adding that with youth forming almost half of Canada’s aboriginal population it is imperative changes happen now. “Traditional medicine and identity are important.”

Martin-Hill said the natives of Akwesasne territory have been the most proactive at restorative health so far by using traditional methods of intervention, bringing back rituals “to reseed our identity” and the rights of passage into manhood and womanhood where family and community lends support in much the way “a village” raises a child.

It’s about teaching children empowerment through traditional methods, she said.

“We need to start with the teenage population making healthy choices, and with all the supports they need.”

Through research and study, Martin-Hill said, it has become clear that native language is the primary protective factor of children’s health.

“I know it’s hard to fathom,” she said, adding that the B.C. interior communities able to keep their languages and traditions due to their remote locations, far from agents and missionaries, fared best in children’s health.

Martin-Hill said there are no biological reasons for suicides and diabetes being higher in aboriginal children — other than the historical trauma that has made its way through the generations, including children being torn from their homes and sent to residential schools.

“We need Canadians to really understand our history and our goals of being self-determining.”

With supports and following indigenous, community-driven initiatives, “we could start to lessen these disparities.”


NACCHO Aboriginal sexual health: Spreading positive sexual health messages with Facebook


How Facebook is helping Aboriginal youth in NSW learn about sexual health and other matters relating to personal responsibility.

From Matthew Rodgers AH&MRC


Facebook is playing a key role in the AH&MRC’s It’s Your Choice, Have a Voice: Rights, Respect and Responsibility campaign and helping to empower young Aboriginal people to make informed choices about sexual health and related issues.

Over the course of 2011, the It’s Your Choice Have a Voice: Rights, Respect and Responsibility campaign was rolled out to 14 communities in NSW and reached some 4,000 young people aged 12-19 years. The campaign included hip-hop workshops, music workshops, salsa workshops and Deadly Styles dance performances. Events were hosted in partnership with Indigenous Hip-hop Projects (IHHP), local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and Local Health Districts (LHDs).

Other key partners in rolling out the campaign were Aboriginal Sexual and Reproductive Health Workers and other Aboriginal Health Workers based in ACCHSs.

“At the start of the campaign we considered what would be the best way to involve young people in the program, because our focus was young Aboriginal people 12-19 years old,” says Dina Saulo, AH&MRC Project Officer, Sexual and Reproductive Health. “We decided we needed a Facebook page because that was where our target group was and determined that was the best way to interact with them.”

The AH&MRC provided pre-campaign workshops and support during the implementation phase of It’s Your Choice Have a Voice and also created and moderated social media over the course of the campaign’s roll-out to communities in NSW.

“It was six weeks in duration, with three days in each community and three workshops a day, so we were busy and on the road the whole time,” Saulo says. “While we were on the road working in one community, the social media aspect of the program was a great way to let people know where and when the next workshop was going to be.”

Saulo says social media was a natural fit for the campaign because the focus was on young people, who were eager to take photos and videos at the workshops they attended. “The reason why we have so much interaction with young people on our Facebook page is that we were encouraging them to join our network as we were doing the hip hop workshops with them,” she says.

“We’d say to the kids who attended, ‘Get on Facebook, tag yourself in photo and see the videos we’ve put up.’. We’ve generated a lot of content to put on there from the campaign, and that’s why so many young people visit the page.”

It also helps that Aboriginal people are well represented on social media sites, which many use to keep in touch with family and friends. “There are lots of Aboriginal people on Facebook in general, and from our target age group in particular,” Saulo says. “We found that a lot of people who weren’t participating in the campaign were liking our page and checking out our content because they had friends and family members who were taking part.”

Not surprisingly, the chief challenge the Sexual and Reproductive Health team faced with regard to Facebook was the time and resources required to manage everything, especially while on the move from town to town.

“The amount of time that social media took up was incredible, but it was one of the main drivers of the campaign and definitely a key reason why it was so successful,” Saulo says.

“Young people want their photos and videos instantly available to them – that’s what social media is about,” she says. “This generation wants things instantly so that’s what we do.

According to Saulo, a typical day on the It’s Your Choice, Have a Voice campaign went something like this: The team would host up to three workshops in the community and as soon as the they were finished, team members would upload about 10 photos from that day’s workshops and then catalogue the rest of the photos and videos into a specific area. Next, the team would provide updates about where the campaign would be in the following days. Lastly, team members would answer questions and respond to user comments.

“As soon as we were done, we would do it all again the next day,” Saulo says. “It was a full time job.”

As a result, Saulo says that when thinking about the allocation and funding and resources for campaigns there needs to be serious consideration given to how much time the social media side of things takes up.

“We didn’t realise just how much work it was going to be,” she says. “But we had to monitor the Facebook page constantly, because obviously young people were using it and interacting with us. We haven’t had any major issues with it so far, thankfully, but it is an ongoing process that requires constant attention.”

Due to the fact that the campaign was aimed at young people, a high level of vigilance was required to ensure only appropriate content was posted on the page and that all interactions were within acceptable boundaries.

“We put our profanity blocker up on high, so we never had any bad language on our wall,” Saulo says. “A lot of the young people also asked to add us as friends, but you have to have boundaries. Neither AH&MRC staff nor the dancers were allowed to add anyone from the workshops as friends.”

Saulo also claims that while privacy and appropriateness were concerns, when it comes to interacting with people on social media, consistency is the key to success. “Consistency is everything,” she says. “Be consistent in the amount you upload. Be consistent in the way you talk to people, so they feel like it is one person communicating with them rather than several different people.”

According to Saulo, young people actually noticed when different people were administrating the page, which necessitated the AH&MRC having to ensure a consistent tone was maintained in all interactions. “It’s all about knowing who your target audience is, which means working out what your online persona will be during the planning stages, before you go online,” Saulo says.

Similarly, the information the was fed back to the AH&MRC from Facebook’s usage statistics proved to be very useful, both for those running the workshop and the organisations which were the campaign’s funding partners.

“Age, geography, sex, these kind of statistics were very useful,” says Saulo. “The geographical information we received sorted data according to all the little communities we went to, so we could look at all the places we’d been and see how many people from those communities liked our page.”

The Facebook page was also a useful tool for enabling funding bodies track the progress of the campaign. “It was a good way of feeding back to our funders,” says Saulo. “It was good to be able to provide them with the numbers for things like YouTube views, SoundCloud listens and other information that proved how effective we’d been in reaching the youth in these particular communities.”

Clearly, Facebook helped the It’s Your Choice Have a Voice campaign to achieve all this and more. The program was evaluated in 2012 and judged to have met all key performance indicators, leading to it being refunded for another two years.

NACCHO NEWS: How the NSW Aboriginal health mob is using social media to “kick the habit” of smoking


Social Media and Tobacco Resistance and Control

From Matthew Rodgers AH&MRC

Facebook is helping the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW spread anti-smoking messages to communities across the state.

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW’s Tobacco Resistance and Control (A-TRAC) team created a Facebook page to help promote the Kick the Habit anti-smoking campaign.


So far, the use of the social media site has delivered many benefits to the AH&MRC, it’s member ACCHSs and the communities they serve by helping to spread information about tobacco resistance and control, and encouraging Aboriginal people from communities across NSW to engage with the project.

Kick the Habit is a social marketing campaign funded by the NSW Ministry of Health that involves working with Aboriginal communities to develop resources that encourage members of the community to quit smoking.

It is managed by the AH&MRC’s A-TRAC Program, which has the broad goal of reducing tobacco use among Aboriginal people by integrating tobacco control and smoking cessation activities into the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) model of comprehensive primary health care.

Launched in 2011, the Kick the Habit Facebook page marked the AH&MRC’s first foray into social media. According to A-TRAC Senior Project Officer Summer Finlay, the Kick the Habit Facebook page has been an effective way of connecting with community members and workers in ACCHSs to help spread the anti-tobacco message.

“There are about 50 ACCHSs in NSW and we can’t go to every community as much as we’d like, so Facebook helps us maintain relationships, connect with communities and sustain a presence, despite not being able to be there physically,” she says.

Right from Kick the Habit’s inception, social media was a key component in the social marketing campaign’s overall strategy.

In 2010, the AH&MRC began Phase One of the campaign, which was a pilot program involving six communities in NSW. During Phase One, these communities worked to develop resources to increase awareness of smoking cessation options and reduce the prevalence of smoking in Aboriginal communities.

After the pilot project was complete, Kick the Habit Phase Two was initiated and the program was rolled out to three communities in NSW with active participation by the local ACCHSs.

A film starring local role models was made specifically for each community, and a state-wide compilation film was generated from each of the three community’s films. The communities also created a number of additional resources, including brochures, banners and posters, as well as a range of print and radio advertising materials. All of these were tied together using Facebook as a promotional tool.

“Back in 2010, when we were planning Phase One, I don’t think there were many NGOs using social media to promote campaigns, or at least not that we were aware of,” says Finlay. “There was a bit of trial and error but we took what we learnt in that pilot phase and applied that to Phase Two.”

Those lessons formed the basis for a series of social media usage guidelines created by the A-TRAC team. “We had a look at what was working and what wasn’t, and we used that to create the guidelines,” Finlay says. “It was a bit of a learning curve, but it was important that we addressed concerns about things like privacy and security, as well as established what we considered to be boundaries for acceptable use of social media.”

Chief among the issues that had to be addressed was how to moderate the site, especially with regard to dealing with inappropriate comments and other material. According to Finlay, Facebook makes it managing the site simple by allowing administrators to specify keywords that moderate posts automatically, which meant that if a user tried to post offensive material it would be blocked instantly.

“I think Facebook has gotten quite smart with security in recent years, so if people use the inbuilt security controls properly, they shouldn’t encounter significant issues.” Finlay says.

“Another good thing about Facebook is that you can approve people as they add you to their network, which allows us to reject inappropriate friend requests,” she says. “This hasn’t been a major issue for us, but you do have to be aware all the time. For example, we did have an issue with someone trying to use our page to promote a quit smoking program for financial gain, so of course we blocked them.”

Finlay says that of the many challenges associated with using social media to assist with health promotion campaigns, sourcing the right content and finding the time and resources to manage social media effectively are at the top her list.

“Social media is time consuming,” she says. “You really have to put work into the overall look and feel of your page.”

Content is another issue, both the type of material posted and the frequency with which the Facebook page is updated. “Sourcing material to put up can be quite difficult, particularly finding content that is Aboriginal-specific,” Finlay says.

“Having good content is only half the battle,” she adds . “You’ve also got to get the timing right. We found that if you posted multiple things on one day, there was too much material appearing in people’s news streams and they were ‘un-liking’ us, which was counterproductive. With Twitter it is different because people use keyword searches and don’t care if you post multiple times a day, but Facebook users seem to be much more cautious about content.”

Finlay says the A-TRAC team found it was better to provide a steady stream of content rather than post a large amount of material at one time, an issue she addressed in the AH&MRC social media guidelines. She also says there was a some of initial reluctance on the part of ACCHSs to send in content, due largely to concerns about consent. “That’s changed now, thanks to some encouragement and hard work on our part,” Finlay says.

“The guidelines also really help, because they outline with how to use the page and explain what to do and what not to do,” she says.

Consistency is also of paramount importance. “You also have to make sure that if there are multiple people acting as administrators on the account that you all use it in the same way,” Finlay says.

“That was one of the bigger challenges we faced. We had several people who were administrators and it had to have a consistent feel – it’s the Kick the Habit page, not a page for team members to express their individual personalities.”

In October 2011, Facebook created Insights, which provides measurements on a page’s performance and includes anonymous demographic data about the audience, enabling those administering the site to see how people are discovering and responding to posts. The data provided includes statistics on the reach of content (how ‘viral’ it goes), as well as breakdowns of who is using the page according to gender and region.

“As long as you have more than 30 people engaging on your page during a week, Insights can give you quite a comprehensive breakdown,” Finlay says.

“In addition to information about who is using the page, and which town or city they’re from, we’ve found the gender statistics to be particularly useful. For instance, we learnt that there are a lot more females engaging with the program than the males, some 67% as opposed to 33% for men. This kind of feedback is invaluable both for planning future campaigns and tailoring our messages to ensure we reach our target audience”

Finlay’s advice to others in the health sector who might be looking to social media to help advance their health campaigns is very straightforward: plan ahead and be prepared to put in a lot of time to make your page successful.

“Everyone involved has to be really clear on what you’re trying to achieve with social media, because there has to be a high level of consistency in the look and feel, and most importantly in your communications with people,” she says.

“Once you have established your goals, you need to understand that running the site is going to take time. Everyone must be prepared to put in the effort that’s required to make it happen.”