NACCHO Aboriginal health news; Aboriginal organisations to put communities back in control

131031 - Media Release re NGO principles endorsement (EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDNIGHT 30 October)_Page_1

An alliance of Aboriginal organisations and non-Aboriginal NGOs will today launch a set of principles aimed at empowering Aboriginal organisations and communities in the NT to take control of their futures.


“Today a number of local, national and international NGOs have publically endorsed a set of principles which will guide partnership centred approaches for NGOs working in Aboriginal communities” said Ms Priscilla Collins, spokesperson for Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT). (A copy of the principles is attached.)

“These non-Aboriginal NGOs have agreed to work together with Aboriginal organisations and communities to promote Aboriginal community-control of service delivery. It’s about putting Aboriginal people back in the driver’s seat”, said Mr John Paterson, spokesperson for APO NT.

Organisations endorsing the principles include national and international NGOs engaged in delivery of health and community services in the Northern Territory. A full list of NGOs that have endorsed the principles is below.

Development of the principles was informed by a forum in Alice Springs in February that brought together sixty participants from twenty-seven non-Aboriginal NGOs and six NT Aboriginal representative organisations – the first gathering of its kind in the NT. The forum acknowledged that there are a number of NGOs that already have good working relationships with Aboriginal organisations, but this is not systematic.

The principles present significant opportunities for these organisations to learn from each other, create better partnerships and working relations with Aboriginal organisations operating at the ground level and achieve better outcomes for communities.

Organisations leading the initiative include APO NT, Strong Aboriginal Families, Together (SAF,T), the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the NT Council of Social Service (NTCOSS).

“It is important that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations work side by side in partnership to put Aboriginal people back in control of service delivery in their communities,” said Mr Lindon Coombes, CEO of The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress).

The general consensus reached at the Alice Springs Forum was that the formal endorsement of the principles by organisations should effectively operate as a voluntary code.

“This work represents significant leadership and partnership from both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal NGO sector, in pioneering new ways to work together to get the best possible outcomes for Aboriginal people in remote NT communities,” said Mr Simon Schrapel, President of ACOSS.

The next stage of the collaboration will be to operationalise the principles.

“We look forward to working together to develop operational guidelines for how these important principles will work in practice,” said Ms Wendy Morton, Executive Director of NTCOSS.

“This is something that Aboriginal agencies have been wanting for a long time. These principles will guide the development of true partnerships that will result in better understanding and outcomes for all concerned,” said Terry Chenery, Acting CEO of SAF,T.

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NACCHO health news: Aboriginal peak calls for joint Territory/Commonwealth Board of Inquiry into Alcohol

John Paterson

“Alcohol related harm is killing our people, and we urgently need an evidence-based approach on how to make real change,”

said APO NT spokesperson AMSANT CEO John Paterson (pictured above at NACCHO launch Parliament House)

Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT (APO NT) today called for a joint Territory/Commonwealth government Board of Inquiry into Alcohol in the Northern Territory to provide a roadmap for action by communities, professionals, and Government to work together to solve the problems of alcohol related harm in our communities.

“Alcohol related harm is killing our people, and we urgently need an evidence-based approach on how to make real change,” said APO NT spokesperson John Paterson.

“The way forward must be based on alcohol policy evidence not politics.

“This is a chance for both governments to dump the politics and work together to solve a social crisis which is killing our people, destroying our families and damaging the wider community.

The proposed terms of reference for the Inquiry are framed to provide the data and evidence that is needed to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based blueprint for tackling alcohol harm. They will provide for the development of recommendations that include effective alcohol supply controls as well as strong preventative and early intervention measures that address harm minimisation and the need to reduce the demand for alcohol consumption.

Since the last election, the current NT Government has taken a radical approach to laws relating to alcohol. This has included the abolition of the Banned Drinkers’ Register and the SMART Court. The Government is also introducing mandatory rehabilitation for people who are put into protective custody for drunkenness, and proposing the introduction of Alcohol Protection Orders (APOs).

The Commonwealth meanwhile has been working on the kinds of Alcohol Management Plans that were subject of a High Court decision last week.

“In November 2012, APO NT Grog Summit participants called on Governments to involve Aboriginal peoples in all levels of decision-making regarding alcohol policy, program development and resourcing in the NT.

“Alcohol is harming our communities, and having a devastating effect on the future for our children,” said Mr. Paterson.

“Our peoples must be supported to develop our own solutions to tackle issues around alcohol related harm.

APO NT is publically calling for a Board of Inquiry into Alcohol in the Northern Territory to be held jointly by the NT and Commonwealth Governments. A proposed Terms of Reference for the Board of Inquiry has been developed and is attached.

For further information, contact Sarah Barr on 0487 341 117.

NACCHO health news:AMSANT Kidney Action: It is all about life!

John Paterson AMSANT photo by Simon Hewson

John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory

Speaking at the launch of Kidney Action Network, Alice Springs 14 March 2013

 We are here  to give one simple message: an absolute affirmation of life, and lives well lived with family and friends.

Kidney disease is increasingly affecting Australians – from Darwin to Hobart, from Perth to Sydney.

But, it is something that affects Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory – and in the traditional lands that lie just beyond our borders – at greater rates than anywhere else in the nation. In some areas, at greater rates than anywhere internationally.

And its impact is felt most acutely in our remote communities, where the social and cultural structures and everyday wellbeing of our communities depends on the presence of our old people – we need them to be present as long as possible.

So, when our old people are forced to move hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from kin and country, families get torn apart.

Families spend most of their time travelling out of their home communities to visit their loved ones in faraway places, and attending court cases and prison visit for their members who get caught up in problems when they are away in these faraway places.

Old people are the social and cultural glue which holds communities together – but many other people have died when they are young or middle aged.

The remaining old people are truly precious to everyone.

The recommendations of the Central Australian Renal Planning Study were supposed to be implemented so they could deal with these problems, but they have been ignored.

AMSANT is absolutely disgusted by the refusal of the state and Territory governments to engage with the key recommendations of the 2010 Central Australian Renal Planning Study.

The Commonwealth has shown some inclination to try and sort these problems out, but has been met with complete disinterest from the SA, WA and NT governments. These governments refuse to acknowledge the gravity and importance of the situation.

To put it bluntly, these governments are behaving irresponsibly, with little regard for the people they are elected to represent.

The state and Territory governments must begin to work sincerely with the Commonwealth and the community sector to engage in proper planning and provide the extra services and infrastructure that are essential for a fair deal for remote area kidney patients.

The SA and WA state governments must also begin to provide accommodation in Alice Springs for their clients who need to be here for health reasons.

The NT government must provide more accommodation for NT patients who have to live in its regional centres, including Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and Katherine, to receive dialysis services and while they are waiting for kidney transplants.

As I said a moment ago, today is about delivering a message about the preciousness of life. That is why the Kidney Action Network has been established: to put life at the front and centre of health policy here in the Northern Territory.

It is important to remember, that the partners who have joined in the Kidney Action Network see their work as part of a broader, comprehensive approach to health. We are not a “one disease at a time” movement; we recognise the full complexities of the social determinants of health.

Lives well lived, with families and friends, means having access to good primary health care, for all our people.

Aboriginal community controlled medical group wants politics taken out of alcohol debate


Interview with AMSANT CEO John Paterson

Listen to ABC radio interview full story

TONY EASTLEY: The peak body for Aboriginal-run health services in the Northern Territory wants governments to take the political point scoring out of Indigenous affairs.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said she feared the rivers of grog were returning in the Northern Territory, partly because the Country Liberals Government there had scrapped a policy for alcohol offenders.

The chief executive of the medical services group says too often Indigenous affairs are only mentioned in the lead-up to elections.

Sara Everingham reports from Darwin.

SARA EVERINGHAM: John Paterson is the chief executive of the group which represents Aboriginal-controlled medical services in the Northern Territory.

He welcomes the national attention on alcohol-related harm in the territory but hopes it’s not short-lived.

JOHN PATERSON: It’s unfortunate that these sorts of issues tend to get more attention in the lead-up of elections. Within our sector and the people at the coal face, governments need to be reminded that these people deal with these sorts of issues, alcohol-related and other issues, on a day to day basis. They don’t come around every election cycle.

SARA EVERINGHAM: What were health workers in the Northern Territory telling you about the Banned Drinker Register?

JOHN PATERSON: The feedback we’ve been getting from our clinicians and general people in the community is that there has been an increase of humbug again. I’ve had representation to me personally by mums with kiddies saying since the dismantling of the Banned Drinkers Register it’s back to what it was prior to the introduction of the BDR in that money was being used to purchase alcohol and kids left hungry and going to school with no school lunch.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Under the Banned Drinker Register anyone buying take-away alcohol had to show photo ID so retailers could check whether customers were on a banned drinker list.

When the Country Liberals came to power last August they fulfilled their election promise of scrapping the scheme. The Territory Government argues the register did not stop alcohol offenders getting access to grog.

John Paterson says the Banned Drinker Register should have been evaluated before it was dropped.

JOHN PATERSON: Unfortunately there wasn’t a review, an evaluation undertaken during the implementation of the Banned Drinkers Register so we can only go on anecdotal evidence that we’ve received and some of the statistics that we’ve been able to get from other service providing agencies including hospitals and other organisations.

And I think there’s some element of truth there when I was approached by families saying, you know, that the clock’s been turned back.

SARA EVERINGHAM: John Paterson says the Banned Drinker Register should be reinstated but is not a silver bullet.

He’s repeated his call for the federal and territory governments to commit to a minimum price on alcohol and he wants more funding for long term programs such as rehabilitation for alcohol addicts.

JOHN PATERSON: We also need to ensure that there’s appropriate services and programs funded and governments’ commitment to ensuring that those programs and services are funded on a realistic basis, not six month, 12 month piecemeal timelines.

These are long term social problems that we all face and we all have a responsibility for.

TONY EASTLEY: John Paterson from the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory ending Sara Everingham’s

What are the priorities of Aboriginal people and communities in alcohol control? A report from the NT summit


Sarah Barr and Chips Mackinolty write:

Grog has long been a part of life in the Northern Territory—with the NT having a per capita consumption twice the rate of the rest of the nation.

For a summary of key messages and resolutions

The “rivers of grog” described by Pat Anderson, co-author of the Little Children are Sacred (PDF alert) report into child abuse, has barely abated since the release of that report in 2007. Grog, and its impact on Aboriginal communities—particularly women and children—led in turn to the Northern Territory Emergency Response in the same year.

The election of a new government in the Northern Territory, with a mandate to wind back on alcohol controls, and supportive of opening alcohol outlets in remote communities, sent a sharp message to the bush electorates that voted in the new government: unless they spoke out, their views on alcohol on communities might be wiped out.

In announcing the Grog Summit, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Collins summed up the widespread fears about the devastating effects of alcohol on Aboriginal communities in the NT.

“The effects of grog on our people here in the Territory cannot be denied. It is reflected in the health of our people, in the levels of alcohol-related family and communal violence, and our encounters with the justice and jail systems,” she said.

“Yes, the so-called right to drink alcohol can be—and is—touted still as a civil rights issue. Our people still get refused service in pubs and clubs because of the colour of their skin.

“But missing from the debate is our peoples’ right, collectively and individually, to choose not to suffer the ill effects of grog.

“We believe that if we were to balance the scales of so-called drinking rights with the damage caused by ‘the rivers of grog’, we come out on the side of the women and kids.”

The Grog Summit is one of a series of forums being organised by APO NT, but one that was rushed ahead of schedule to get Aboriginal views in front of the public before key sittings of the new parliament.

APO NT holds the position that alcohol disproportionately affects Aboriginal families and communities. Those sittings involved the abolition of the previous Labor government’s Banned Drinkers Register, and laying the groundwork for the CLP’s proposals to establish mandatory rehabilitation “farms” to get drunks off the suburban streets of Territory towns.

June Oscar and Emily Carter of the Marninwarntikura Womens Resource Centre and Patrick Davies from the Fitzroy Crossing Men’s Shed travelled from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia to share their story. The group opened up about the appalling alcohol-related harm in their community. “There was a cloud of alcohol which prevented our community moving forward,” said Ms Oscar.

“Aboriginal families are most affected by the destructive impacts of alcohol. This includes domestic violence, suicide, and removal of children from their families in high levels.”

The Fitzroy mob described the positive impacts which alcohol restrictions had on their small community. They were, however, careful to point out that restrictions were just the start of their journey.

“The restrictions are just to start the healing, and act as a ‘circuit breaker’ to start conversations about alcohol,” said Ms Oscar.

“Restrictions are only one part of the approach in Fitzroy Crossing. But you also need programs to assist the community in recovery, healing and to get back in touch with culture.”

Fitzroy Crossing now has programs for men and boys, such as the run by Patrick Davies. The community also have improved relationships with police. The Police in Fitzroy Crossing have expanded their role to community policing, not just law enforcement.

June Oscar noted that: “There was a chronic over-supply of alcohol, and their community felt different after restrictions. The restrictions allowed for a bit of respite and grieving time to consider how they move forward.”

The theme of breaking the cycle—and not giving in to pressures to bring grog into Aboriginal communities—was strong through the Summit.

The problem of drinkers dominating discussions on alcohol was a recurring refrain. “Drinkers always out vote the non-drinkers,” said Samuel Bush-Blanasi from Wugularr, and a member of the Northern Land Council Executive. “Drinkers always win – and the kids and the non-drinkers are the ones being hurt. The kids don’t get to vote.”

A key resolution from the Summit was to ensure that community consultation processes are not dominated by drinkers but give voice to women, non-drinkers, elders and particularly children—and a push towards community control over the process.

Marius Puruntatameri from the Tiwi Islands spoke passionately about the need for Aboriginal community control.

“We need to empower our people to solve our own problems,” said Mr Puruntatameri.

“We need to include Aboriginal people – be genuine and engage Aboriginal peoples in these processes.”

“Aboriginal people know their communities and we need to resolve problems in our own way”.

This sentiment was echoed by Peter d’Abbs from the Menzies School of Health. Professor d’Abb has extensive experience of the alcohol problems in the NT. He conducted evaluations of alcohol management plans and other initiatives to reduce alcohol problems in Tennant Creek, Katherine, Groote Eylandt and Gove Peninsula.

He said: “Whatever Government does around alcohol must be done with Aboriginal people, not for them, for it to be effective.”

A strong theme running through the meeting was the need to consider children and future generations. As Helen Fejo-Frith from Bagot Community pointed out, “We need to think about our kids and the next generation.”

Dr John Boffa, Public Health Medical Officer at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress spoke about the importance of early intervention. “The scientific rationale for early intervention is overwhelming,” he said.

“Adults who had adverse childhoods showed higher levels of violence and antisocial behaviour, adult mental health problems, school underperformance and lower IQs, economic underperformance and poor physical health,” said Dr Boffa.

Dr Boffa described the Nurse Family Partnerships program operating at Congress. The program aims to improve pregnancy outcomes, child health and development and parent’s economic self-sufficiency. The program is already having positive results.

There are no easy solutions to the complex problem of alcohol in NT communities. What is clear is a new approach is needed. A key message from the Summit is that alcohol restrictions will break through the haze, but what happens next is vital. And whatever happens, Aboriginal people need to be in control.

The alternatives are unthinkable, according to Mildred Inkamala from Ntaria in Central Australia.

“Grog is killing our people,” she told the summit.

“It means people no longer show respect for each other and culture. Grog is affecting their brains, and connection to culture.”

A further Grog Summit will be held in Alice Springs in the new year.

alcohol, Indigenous health, rural and remote health                               , , , ,