NACCHO Aboriginal health funding alert :Health Minister Peter Dutton to review troubled e-health

Peter Dutton

According to reports in The Australian  HEALTH Minister Peter Dutton has moved swiftly to initiate a review of the troubled $1 billion personally controlled e-health record system at the behest of Tony Abbott.

Mr Dutton has received initial briefings on the PCEHR from key stakeholders such as the Department of Health.

NACCHO has supported the introduction of a national eHealth record system. Through AMSANT our sector has directly experienced the benefits that have been gleaned from a shared electronic health record system (SEHR).

Our sector has been early adopters of eHealth initiatives for many years. More recent examples include: AMSANT and AHCSA integration with the NT Department of Health and Families eHealth site (wave 2) project, QAIHC adoption of the eCollaboratives project and the KAMSC regional linkage of Aboriginal Medical Services to hospitals in the Kimberley to name just a few examples.

As a result our sector has been in a  unique position to participate in the monitoring and evaluation of the PCEHR system as we have extensive knowledge and practice to draw from.

NACCHO and its affiliates are committed to the National eHealth agenda through the National ACCHS
eHealth Project (A new website will be released over the coming weeks)

The Coalition will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the true status of the PCEHR implementation as outlined in its health policy released in the lead up to the election. “In government, the Coalition implemented successful incentives to computerise general practice and will continue to provide strong in-principle support for a shared electronic health record for patients,” the policy says.

“The Coalition will again work with health professions and industry to prioritise implementation following a full assessment of the current situation.” A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton declined to say who was expected to lead the review or how long it would take.

“We all support an electronic health record,” she said. “However, we have grave concerns about the amount of money the previous government spent on e-health for very little outcome to date.

“At a cost of around $1bn, we should have a lot more to show for it.” In opposition, Mr Dutton and others criticised the PCEHR’s performance, saying that while more than 650,000 people had registered for an e-health record, only 4000-plus shared health summaries were created.

The summaries are generated by a patient’s GP and contain diagnoses, allergies and medications. The spokeswoman declined to say if Deloitte’s refresh of the 2008 national e-health strategy had begun. Medical Software Industry Association president Jenny O’Neill said her organisation was “very willing to assist the new Health Minister in a review and planning for a sustainable (e-health) future”.

“In a recent Q&A program on the ABC, former health minister Tanya Plibersek equated a $1.5bn investment by government as a ’rounding error’,”

Ms O’Neill said. “Had her department invested this ’rounding error’ in the e-health sector by strengthening the electronic bridges between all the parties, Australia would have achieved major and sustainable transformational change in this timeframe.

If all the important infrastructure supporting current data transfer had been strengthened and upgraded with the latest technologies, national security and safety standards would now exist.” She said the PCEHR was “a much advertised national system which is next to empty”. ”

Each transaction in this national system has to be routed through a national repository,” Ms O’Neill said. “It is like building a fast train system between the cities and towns of Australia and requiring every trip to go via Canberra.” She said taxpayers could not afford rounding errors in e-health.

The Consumers e-Health Alliance wants the government to establish a “truly independent” national e-health governing council that comprises medical experts, consumers, the local health IT industry and government agencies. Alliance convenor Peter Brown said the council would have oversight of a new entity tasked with implementation and operational responsibilities.

Last week the Pharmacy Guild told The Australian it would make a detailed submission to the e-health review centred on three areas: patient issues, pharmacy issues and system issues.

Pharmacy Guild national president Kos Sclavos said there had been “some significant mistakes and missed opportunities” with the PCEHR. Meanwhile, in an industry workshop prior to the election, Health chief information and knowledge officer Paul Madden said one area of improvement was communication.

“The advent of this forum probably lines up with a new era in consultation and communication with the IT industry across the whole health and ageing space,” Mr Madden told participants.

He said there wasn’t a single channel or co-ordinated approach to disseminate information on e-health but the department was determined to improve matters. “There is so much going on … so much overlapping … so much possibility for confusion, mis-messaging and I think we need to get better at communicating what’s happening next,” he said.

Mr Madden expects such industry workshops, where participants range from departmental officials to software providers, to occur three to four times a year. –


NACCHO JOB Opportunities:

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NACCHO as the national authority in comprenhesive Aboriginal primary health care currently has a wide range of job oppportunities in the pipeline.

Register your current or future interest with our HR TEAM HERE

NACCHO Aboriginal health news alert: Confusion still surrounds future of Aboriginal health in new government structure


“A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott told AAP indigenous health would be the responsibility of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and indigenous health programs would fall under the department of PM&C.”

Lisa Martin AAP News  (full report below) Picture above Senator Nigel Scullion and Warren Mundine at the recent  Garma Festival

Confusion still surrounds the future department /minister responsible for Aboriginal health under the new Abbott government  sworn in yesterday (18 September 2013)

In an interview with NITV the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion responded to NITV concerns about the  Indigenous Health portfolio by confirming that Senator Fiona Nash will be responsible for Aboriginal Health as the new Minister for Rural Health under Peter Dutton the new Minister for Health.

But Senator Scullion told NITV National News he would work closely with Senator Fiona Nash – who has the assistant health portfolio.

There is a minister for rural health, or a deputy minister, an assistant minister for health and that’s Senator Fiona Nash. I’ll work very closely with Senator Nash.. she’s one of my colleagues in the Senate, she’s going to make an excellent minister.

“Clearly in terms of many of the demographics in need of health, in regional and remote areas, certainly in those areas will come under her commute, so it hasn’t been abandoned it’s just simply been placed in another area.

“…We are going to have a very very good focus and a fresh focus on Indigenous health.”

In the interview the Senator praised NACCHO member  Aboriginal community controlled health organisations as “Top of the BOX” second to none as well run organisations not only in the Aboriginal context but in the national context.

VIEW NITV Nigel Scullion Interview here on NACCHO TV

However AAP news service today is reporting (see full report below) that spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott told AAP indigenous health would be the responsibility of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and indigenous health programs would fall under the department of PM&C.

In an interview with NITV last night the Chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed welcomed the opportunity to work with all ministers and advisors in the new Abbott government to discuss investment in Healthy futures for generational change.

VIEW NITV interview with Justin Mohamed here on NACCHO TV

An official NACCHO response to the new ABBOTT government’s allocation of Indigenous Health will be available in the next few days when the position becomes clearer.


AUSTRALIA’S former indigenous health minister is concerned Prime Minister Tony Abbott has not retained the position in his ministry and warned it may affect progress on closing the gap.

Northern Territory Labor MP Warren Snowdon, who was the first indigenous health minister from 2009 until Labor lost power, is concerned about whether Aboriginal health is actually a priority for the incoming government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flagged he will move indigenous affairs under the umbrella of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

But in administrative arrangements released on Wednesday there is no specific reference to indigenous health in either PM&C, the department of health or ministerial responsibilities.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Abbott told AAP indigenous health would be the responsibility of Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and indigenous health programs would fall under the department of PM&C.

Asked if the absence of a specific minister could negatively impact efforts to achieve the close the gap targets and improve life expectancy, Mr Snowdon told AAP: “I think it is a problem.”

The life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is 11.5 years for men and 9.7 years for women.

This year’s report card on it said efforts to close the gap on life expectancy by 2031 were falling behind.

Mr Snowdon, who released Australia’s first national indigenous health plan in July, says he is concerned about the Abbott government’s commitment to it.

The coalition dismissed it as an exercise in political spin and lacking substance when it was released.

Mr Snowdon is also worried about progress on negotiations for a new national partnership agreement between states and territories on indigenous health.

The previous agreement expired in June and had $1.57 billion in combined federal and state funding.

Labor committed $777 million until 2016 in the May budget towards the national partnership agreement, but so far only Victoria has offered money.

NACCHO Aboriginal health news: Closing the Gap in NT Aboriginal health outcomes


“An Aboriginal community controlled comprehensive primary health care service?

A bloody mouthful of a description, but nonetheless a symbol and practical evidence of what Aboriginal people and their supporters have achieved—and continue to achieve.”

Chips Mackinolty NT Aboriginal health legend (Ex AMSANT)

Photograph by Therese Ritchie

This is a guest post by Chips Mackinolty that was first published, in edited form, in the NT News on 7 September 2013

NACCHO would also like to acknowledge a pay tribute to the support Chips has given NACCHO over the years

Intro Bob Gosford Crickey

After more than 30 years in the Territory, Chips Mackinolty is taking a year off: for “a pre-pension gap year” as he describes it. After all, he says, “gap years are wasted on the young”.

Across most of that time he has worked for organisations which haven’t allowed him to have a public personal opinion. This has included working for Aboriginal organisations, writing as an interstate journalist for both Fairfax and Murdoch, designing for private enterprise clients, and even a stint as a Labor Party ministerial appointee. For the last four years he has worked for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory [AMSANT].

Apart from an irreverent political approach in his artwork, which has occasionally been touted by the NT News, Mackinolty has pretty much stayed out of the world of public opinion.

A day after quitting AMSANT, he writes an opinion piece for the NT News on an ongoing commitment: Aboriginal health. It is published on the day of the Federal election, but with no intent to influence votes. In his words, “that’s deliberate: whoever wins the election today must commit to the most successful bipartisan strategy in recent Territory history, closing the gap in Aboriginal health outcomes”. He tells a story that suggests that the Territory is hitting well above its weight.

But it’s not as simple as that, as he tells us.

Four or five years ago I made the decision to pretty much stop going to funerals. Of course since then I have been to many—too many. There came a time when it had got too much, with the vast majority of funerals for Aboriginal people. And the people were dying younger.

It was a difficult decision, for many were from the Katherine region. It might sound peculiar to readers, but Katherine was where I “grew up”. I got there in the early ’80s in my late 20s. An evening of fireworks for the third celebration of Self Government in Darwin then, bizarrely a day or so later for the final shoot in Mataranka of We of the never never with Aboriginal artists I then spent the next four years with.

But nevertheless it was a town, at that age, in which I “grew up”. Whatever I thought I had learnt on the streets of inner city Sydney were, frankly, SFA when it came to the Territory.

Most of that learning was with Aboriginal people across an area greater than Victoria: from Borroloola to Elliot; to Lajamanu and Kalkarindji and west to the Kimberley: Halls Creek, Kununurra and Wyndham. And then across via Timber Creek to Bulman, Numbulwar and Angurugu, south through Numbulwar to Ngukurr and back up through Jilkminggan, Barunga, Manyallaluk and Wugularr. It was an astonishing education in land, language and law. But it was a period I spent far too much time learning about death: the death of the artists I worked with, their families, and their children.

But I also learnt from whitefellas in Katherine: from the legendary Judy King and John Fletcher; from Francesca Merlan, Paul Josif, Mick Dodson and Toni Bauman, to Anne and John Shepherd and John O’Brien.

In different ways they, and many others, all taught me about living in the Territory.

In the late 1990s the CEO of the Jawoyn Association, the late Bangardi Lee, recruited me, Jawoyn woman Irene Fisher and Dr Ben Bartlett to put together a seemingly endless series of submissions that resulted—some years later—in the establishment of the Sunrise Health Service: an Aboriginal community controlled comprehensive primary health care service.

An Aboriginal community controlled comprehensive primary health care service? A bloody mouthful of a description, but nonetheless a symbol and practical evidence of what Aboriginal people and their supporters have achieved—and continue to achieve.

Across the NT, from remote clinics such as that run by the Pintupi Homelands Health Service to Danila Dilba in Darwin, the Aboriginal community controlled primary health sector serves roughly half our Aboriginal population, the rest through NT Government health services.

Over time, the process of privatising into the community controlled health sector will increase as services are devolved from government. It’s not been an easy process—and slower than many of us want. Nevertheless, it has had bipartisan support federally and locally for more than a decade. Famously, former CLP health minister Steve Dunham “rescued” the Sunrise Health Service in its early development stage when it met resistance from some health bureaucrats. His intervention saved what is now one of the NT’s great success stories.

The evidence, internationally, nationally and locally is that community controlled primary health care is more efficient and effective in delivering the goods.

According to recent data produced by COAG, the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia on track to meet the closing the gap target of reducing the difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. This is a good news story that has been barely reported in the NT outside the pages of this newspaper.

There are a number of reasons for this success. The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in hospital spending; more importantly greater resources have been distributed more equitably to the bush. The increased resources to primary health care through the Intervention, now known as Stronger Futures, has been a prime reason this has been possible.

But we are also doing it better—and in many instances better than anywhere else in the nation. For example, childhood immunisation rates in the community controlled sector is better than in many affluent suburbs down South.

And we are doing it smarter: led by the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, there has been an increased use of electronic data collection and analysis. Clinical Information Systems are used at the individual patient level to keep up-to-date, easily accessible health histories, as well as to alert clinicians to possible allergies, and efficiently prompt clinics to recall patients for regular checks as well as follow ups.

The data analysed can be tailored by individual health services, but all clinics in the NT now contribute the to Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Key Performance Indicators, which have a commonly shared set of clinical measures. Access to this data is strongly protected through privacy protocols.

The big picture of this is the capacity for these systems to allow for public health data to be analysed at a community and regional level, and for subsequent follow up. For example, a regular system of patient interaction through Child and Adult Health Checks has the capacity to identify “spikes” in particular conditions such as childhood and maternal anemia or otitis media in children.

This not only keeps an individual clinic alert to changes in local health, but also in ways to respond. This is achieved through a process called Continuous Quality Improvement [CQI], and is carried out by all clinicians at a service and the data collected is a key part of this process. For example, with otitis media it will guide individual treatment (are we always checking following the national guidelines? what evidence-based treatments are we giving? are we referring the patients to specialist diagnosis and care?), but also to the community as a whole (are we working with the council, school and families? what sort of other public health campaigns might we undertake?)

At regional level this data can be very powerful. As well as the regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services we already have, such as Katherine West Health Board and the Sunrise Health Service, other regions are now working together through Clinical and Public Health Advisory Groups [CPHAGs]. The CPAHGS meet regularly and work cooperatively to share experiences and data, and ways to do things better. Some have identified particular regional health problems which would otherwise might be “lost” in large scale data bases.

The Northern Territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia in which all remote clinics now have electronic health records for their patients.

Further to this, our sector, along with government clinics, has pioneered the idea of a “shared electronic health record”. Over half the Aboriginal people in the NT have signed up to such a record, and we are in the process of readying the system so as to be part of a national network. This allows, with full permission from the patient or carer at every consultation to update their health record to a data base that can then be accessed by other clinics and hospitals. For example, a patient at Ngukurr may fall ill at another community, and get the appropriate treatment through their shared electronic health record. A hospitalisation will allow the clinicians to see someone’s record, know what medications they are on, and past conditions. After discharge from hospital, the health records are updated, and an electronic discharge summary is available to the home clinic.

These and many other innovations are behind the improved statistics—but there is a long way to go. It’s a welcome trend—but the good results will flatten out and perhaps reverse if we do not tackle the other social determinants of health. These include housing, education, early childhood development, substance abuse, food security, incarceration rates and social exclusion. It is reckoned that health services alone will only be able to deal with about 25 per cent of “the gap”: the rest is down to the other social determinants.

And that’s where governments of all stripes come in, and where the need for truly bipartisan approaches must prevail. Whatever the result of today’s election, Aboriginal health remains the Territory’s major challenge. Aboriginal children yet to be born will benefit if only our politicians are working, in the words of the AMSANT slogan, “together for our health”.

NACCHO member news Press Release: Aboriginal health service in NT bringing all community together for mediation forum


Historic images of Congress 2010  campaign to Stop the Violence in Centralia Australia


“This is the start of a dialogue on a number of issues of concern, primarily violence, but not as an Aboriginal specific issue, but as an issue for the whole community.”

Congress Deputy CEO Des Rogers (picture above)


Tuesday September 10

from 6.30pm until 8.30pm in the Theatrette at Centralian Senior College.

Congress Alice Springs , who are the leading Aboriginal primary health care provider in  Central Australia, are holding the forum in partnership with CASSE to promote an interactive dialogue between all groups in the Alice Springs community.

The aim is find solutions that will make the region a happier, healthier, safer environment in which to live and raise a family.

CASSE, which stands for “creating a safe, supportive environment” are partnering with Congress, who also provide extensive social and emotional wellbeing services, to understand and address issues of violence and underlying trauma that currently exist within the community.

A respected and experienced panel made up of psychoanalysts and psychiatrists with experience in community mediation at an international level, together with Aboriginal leaders, the mayor and a local leader of business have been assembled for the forum.

Lord John Alderdice, Professor Stuart Twemlow and Justice Jenny Blokland will be visiting Alice Springs to participate as panel members, while William Tilmouth, Donna Ah Chee, Julie Ross and Damien Ryan make up the local contingent.

Lord Alderdice and Professor Twemlow will add a global perspective to the forum with their experience in peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and successful violence reduction projects in the USA respectively.

Facilitated by Ms Olga Havnen, the event will be recorded by NITV.

After hearing from the panel, members of the community will be invited to discuss their concerns in a question and answer session in an opportunity to look at what we have, where we are at and where we

The  televised public forum on Tuesday September 10 from 6.30pm until 8.30pm in the Theatrette at Centralian Senior College. The event is open to the public and will be enriched by attendance and representation from all sections of the community

For further information regarding the Walk In My Shoes Public Forum please contact:

Marah Prior, Executive Assistant, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation

PO Box 1604 Alice Springs NT 0871 | T. 08 8951 4401 | F. 08 8959 4717 | E.

A related public forum will be held in Melbourne on Saturday 7 September entitled

“Reconciliation Australia – Psychological Perspectives.”

Lord John Alderdice and Professor Stuart Twemlow will also be presenting at this forum.

Lord John Alderdice, psychiatrist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, previously Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, currently Convener of Liberal Democrat Party in the House of Lords, who played a significant role in initiating the dialogues that led to the Good Friday Accord and peace in Northern Ireland.

Professor Stuart Twemlow, Psychoanalyst, Professor of Mental Health Prevention, University of Kansas; an international authority in the application of psychoanalytic principles and systemic interventions to the prevention of bullying and violence.

NACCHO health news :New Stats Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nearing 700,000


The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a younger age structure than the non-Indigenous population, with larger proportions of young people and smaller proportions of older people.

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has reached 669,900(or 3 per cent of the total population), according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

The Director of Demography at the ABS, Bjorn Jarvis, said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples mainly lived in urban areas.

“Contrary to popular belief, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population predominantly lives in Australia’s most populous areas, with about 60 per cent living in major cities and inner regional areas, and just over 20 per cent living in remote and very remote areas,” Mr Jarvis said.


“New South Wales has the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (208,500), followed by Queensland (189,000) and Western Australia (88,300). About three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in these three states.

“Almost a third (30 per cent) of the Northern Territory’s population were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – the highest of any state or territory. Victoria had the smallest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at just under 1 per cent.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a younger age structure than the non-Indigenous population, with larger proportions of young people and smaller proportions of older people.

The median age of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population as of June 2011 was 22 years, compared to 38 years for the non-Indigenous population,” Mr Jarvis said.

Further details, including the method of calculation, are available in

Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011 (cat. no. 3238.0.55.001) available for free download from the ABS


NACCHO political news:Nova Peris blasts Noel Pearson over support for NT intervention


Labor Senate candidate for the Northern Territory Nova Peris hands out how-to-vote cards at a mobile polling booth on Goulburn Island, east of Darwin, yesterday. Picture: Amos Aikman Source: TheAustralian

ALP Senate candidate Nova Peris has lashed out at indigenous leader Noel Pearson over his support for the “demeaning” Northern Territory intervention, a Howard government policy adapted by Labor.

The indigenous dual Olympian said the NT Emergency Response had “ripped the heart” out of the Territory, and denied Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation including cornerstones of the NTER was the same.

Coalition NT senator and opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Nigel Scullion accused Ms Peris of being out of touch with “strong women” in remote communities, who had spoken out in favour of the intervention, and of trying to rewrite history.

Ms Peris made the comments on the first day of remote mobile polling for the 2013 federal election, in response to questions about Mr Pearson’s view that only a conservative leader could deliver a successful referendum on constitutional recognition of Australia’s first people.

Shown the remarks, revealed in The Australian yesterday, Ms Peris replied that while everyone was entitled to their opinion, Mr Pearson’s “certainly doesn’t fit with the people of the Northern Territory — that was made clear when he supported the intervention”.

“I’m on record saying there were certain issues across the Territory (at the time), but that the way the whole intervention was done, it was just demeaning, and it ripped the heart out of all Australia and out of the Territory,” she said.

“I have no doubt that the intervention has certainly hurt Aboriginal people in the NT.”

Mr Pearson did not respond to requests for comment.

When introduced in the last months of the Howard government, the intervention targeted child and alcohol abuse as well as pornography in 73 remote communities. Welfare payments were quarantined to pay for food, rent and other essentials and the Racial Discrimination Act suspended.

NACCHO NT grog summit news: Four major outcomes on alcohol policy and its impact on Aboriginal people and communities


The summit heard also from expert speakers including Associate Professor, Ted Wilkes from the National Indigenous Drug & Alcohol Committee (pictured above recently presenting a NIDAC report the Minister Snowdon)

From 30 to 31 July 2013 a summit on alcohol policy and its impact on Aboriginal people and communities was held in Alice Springs, sponsored by the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory [APO NT].

The summit was attended by around 100 people. This summit followed a similar grog summit sponsored by APO NT in Darwin in November 2012.

The summit heard from a number of speakers from Aboriginal communities and organisations across the Territory including: Anyinginyi Health Service; Central Australian Aboriginal Congress; Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes Unit; Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit; Western Aranda Health Aboriginal Corporation; Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council; Borroloola; Ntaria, Papunya and Beswick.

The summit heard also from expert speakers including Associate Professor, Ted Wilkes from the National Indigenous Drug & Alcohol Committee; Professor Dennis Gray from the National Drug Research Institute and June Oscar, Emily Carter and Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, who have been involved in the successful Fitzroy Valley recovery plan.

The summit delegates agreed that there was an urgent need for action and better evidence to address alcohol related harm both in Alice Springs, and across the NT. All delegates of the summit were concerned about the children’s future and the need to act now.

The summit agreed on a number of priority areas for action including:

Reducing supply as a critical ‘circuit breaker’ in the fight against alcohol harm:

The summit supported stopping the flow of cheap grog through a floor-price and/or volumetric tax, banning alcohol advertising/sponsorship in sport, stronger enforcement of licensing conditions, and encouraging individuals to take a personal stand against grog running.

Focusing on holistic approaches in treatment, including addressing underlying causes:

The summit encourages further measures to support Aboriginal community controlled services providing treatment and other AOD programs; the important work needed to address underlying issues of alcohol misuse; need to increase services out bush; addressing social determinants of health which result in people drinking; examining holistic ways of treating alcohol misuse; focus on early childhood development; supporting development/evaluation of culturally appropriate treatment programs and promoting strong cultural identity as a means of preventing alcohol misuse.

The need to act now to address FASD:

The summit calls for more work on prevention, education and raising awareness of the condition; seek recognition of FASD as a disability, and enabling early diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; and

Building stronger community-based approaches to addressing alcohol related harm:

The summit requests a greater focus on supporting local community responses; ensuring alcohol management plans are representative of the whole community and driven by the community; investing in prevention rather than prisons; and engaging children and young people in education and solutions.

On 26 June 2013 APO NT called for a joint Territory/Commonwealth government Board of Inquiry into Alcohol in the Northern Territory to provide the evidence needed to create a roadmap for action so all sectors can work together to solve the problems of alcohol related harm in the NT.

On 31 July 2013, the Alice Springs Grog Summit delegates endorsed the call for a Board of Inquiry, and the proposed Terms of Reference framed to provide the data and evidence that is needed to develop a comprehensive, evidence-based blueprint for tackling alcohol harm. These 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.

APO NT will be producing a full report on the summit outcomes.

For further information contact Sarah Stoller on 0487 341 117.

NACCHO political alert: What is the future of Aboriginal leadership and activism ?

Image:  The next generation. Aboriginal students cheer in celebration after watching Prime Minister Kevin Rudd deliver the apology to Aboriginal people for injustices committed since white settlement on February 13, 2008. (Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)

How loud will the Aboriginal voice be as activism looks to the future?

The Aboriginal ‘voice’ seems quieter than in previous decades.

But as Ann Arnold discovered this NAIDOC week, the lack of a strong national representative body, and the dispersal of Aboriginal policy across government departments, hasn’t made life easy for activists.


A decade or two ago, Aboriginal leaders like Mick Dodson, Pat Dodson and Lowitja O’Donoghue were household names.

Firebrands like Michael Mansell and Gary Foley regularly caught our attention.

And the ALP was seen as the party more naturally aligned with Indigenous causes.

Now, the Liberal Party has its second Aboriginal Federal parliamentarian —Ken Wyatt, from Western Australia. The first, so long ago now, was Senator Neville Bonner in the 1970s.

The Labor Party has never had a Federal Aboriginal MP or Senator.

In the Northern Territory’s CLP government, the Chief Minister Adam Giles is Aboriginal, as is one of his ministers, Alison Anderson. She defected from the Labor Party, was more recently an Independent, and has four portfolios.

“Everyone needs someone sticking up for them. That’s what the National Congress can do for Aboriginal and TI people. It’s the mark of a country’s maturity to enable people to have a voice.”

      Kirstie Parker, Editor, Koori Mail

Another newcomer in that government is Bess Price, an outspoken supporter of the Northern Territory intervention. She’s the CLP member for Stuart, comprising most of the Territory’s west, and held for the past thirty years by Labor.

Despite the Territory’s thirty per cent Aboriginal population, compared to three per cent nationwide, the NT ALP has never fielded an Aboriginal federal candidate. That was one reason why Julia Gillard, as PM, overrode the local branch and in January installed the athlete Nova Peris at the top of the Labor Senate ticket.

Epitomising the changeable political realities is the stance of Warren Mundine. The former National President of the ALP quit the party last year, and has said that he would welcome the opportunity to work with Tony Abbott should he become prime minister.

More recently, Mundine talked on National Indigenous Television about Kevin Rudd’s return as leader. ‘How amazing is Kevin Rudd!’ he exclaimed.

As a result of the apology to the Stolen Generations, Mundine said, Rudd is ‘immensely popular in the Aboriginal community, in fact I haven’t heard anyone saying anything bad about him’.

Given there’s some Aboriginal disillusionment with Labor over its dearth of Indigenous candidates and its continuation of the Northern Territory intervention—a policy which divides Aboriginal people—it’s not surprising, perhaps, that some allegiances are shifting.

 Warren Mundine told The Australian: ‘I will walk with anyone who is going to help us as a nation achieve the outcomes that we need to achieve for all Australians. And I don’t care what politics they are.’

The splintering of the Aboriginal vote is one of the reasons there are less likely to be recognised, national Aboriginal spokespeople. The loss of ATSIC, dismantled by the Howard Government, is another. It was as chair of that body that Lowitja ‘Lois’ O’Donoghue became so well-known.

Pat Turner, a former CEO of ATSIC, and Australia’s most senior Aboriginal government official to date, believes there’s now a gap. ‘There’s no focal point for Aboriginal people,’ she says. ‘That collective voice has dissipated.’

Turner is a critic of The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the entity intended to replace ATSIC, because it is not perceived to have had much impact. ‘I’m not a fan of it. I can’t see what they’ve done.’

Before ATSIC, Pat Turner was deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and deputy CEO of Centrelink. She rarely made her views public. Now retired in Alice Springs, she shakes her head as she watches policies unfold. When the NT intervention was announced, in 2007, she came out swinging, furious that Aboriginal communities would be controlled in ways that would never be applied to other communities, and without consultation.

But if there hasn’t been sustained, unified protest at the intervention from Aboriginal leaders, Turner believes it’s partly because of the ‘whole of government’ funding model now in place. Instead of dealing with one department—Indigenous Affairs—groups have to make their case with numerous government departments.

While Pat Turner agrees with the principle that every department should fulfil its obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are practical problems. ‘Every department has its own guidelines, performance indicators, requires a financial report, and a progress report.’

‘If you’re [an Aboriginal organisation] administering over one hundred grants, you can imagine how burdensome that is.’

It means leaders are overstretched as well as wary of damaging their government ‘partnerships’ through criticism.

Turner observes that community leaders are tending to operate more locally now, finding they can achieve more within their regions than on a bigger scale.

There are of course many Aboriginal voices that are still loud and spectacularly clear. Linda Burney, Larissa Behrendt, Noel Pearson, and Marcia Langton come to mind; all integral to this country’s intellectual and political fabric, and engaging in multiple ways—writing, debating, speaking in various forums.

Tom Calma, Mick Gooda, Tanya Hosch, Aden Ridgeway, and Sam Jeffries are some of the more versatile leaders. There are dozens of others, spread across the professions, the arts, business and sport.

That is the good news story. According to John Maynard, a historian of activism: ‘We have educated lawyers, doctors, people in a variety of areas, so the real smart, street savvy Aboriginal political activist has probably diverted into different areas.’

Professor Maynard, an ARC Research Fellow based at Newcastle University, nonetheless worries that the Aboriginal voice does not appear to be so strong. He believes that ironically, it’s one of the side effects of land rights and native title.

‘We’ve been steered off to localised battles, fighting over money and land. That has stopped people thinking bigger and nationally. We need a united voice to come together.’

The prevailing reconciliation template may also have diverted some energy away from advocacy.

John Maynard’s grandfather Fred Maynard was a prominent activist in the 1920s, albeit one who has been under-appreciated historically. In 1924 he was calling for citizenship, an end to the forced removal of children from families, for Aboriginal people to be in charge of Aboriginal affairs, and for government to respect cultural knowledge.

Fred Maynard also wanted every Aboriginal family to be given 40 acres. Had that been done, his grandson believes, much of the hardship that has been endured since would been averted.

Professor Maynard is the deputy chair of  AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies). Mick Dodson is the chair. At an AIATSIS conference this week, Maynard will present a session on activism, celebrating the heroes, and actions, of the past—Charlie Perkins and the Freedom Ride; the Garindji walk off at Wave Hill; Chicka Dixon who in the late ‘60s was ‘inspirational’.

‘Paul Coe, Gary Foley, Michael Anderson—there were a whole host of articulate, confident outspoken activists,’ Maynard says. ‘Their strategies were amazing’.

For the 21st century, though, the focus needs to be different. ‘We’d like to unearth some coming through now into politics, probably mainstream politics.’

Kirstie Parker, the editor of the national newspaper the Koori Mail, agrees the strategy has to be different now. ‘A couple of decades ago, there was one pan-Aboriginal view. Governments were not paying their dues to Aboriginal people’s views. We were fighting for basics.’

Now, she says, activism has to have a fluid definition. ‘You’re active for a cause. How you do that is irrelevant. We need people in every realm.’

‘If it’s worked, people respond to it. If they don’t, it hasn’t.’

But still, that missing national voice concerns Parker. She has been on leave from her editor position to campaign for the position of female co-chair of the National Congress for First Peoples. Voting closed last Friday.

Parker doesn’t see the Congress as ideal, but worth putting her energy into.

‘Everyone needs someone sticking up for them. That’s what the National Congress can do for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

‘It’s the mark of a country’s maturity to enable people to have a voice.’

‘None of us are big, healthy or robust enough independently to not be threatened by political whims—ill-thought out decisions by government like blanket discrimination under the NT intervention.’

There are still hankerings though in some Aboriginal quarters for another act of powerful symbolism. The 50th anniversary of the Yirrkala Bark Petitions is being celebrated as part of this NAIDOC Week. That the Yolngu people, in 1963, brought those petitions from the Northern Territory’s Gove Peninsular to Parliament House seeking recognition of their traditional lands and a say over mining rights was surely an inspiring act of defiant dignity.

Hear Phillip Adams in discussion with Kirstie Parker, Pat Turner and John Maynard on Late Night Live.

NACCHO health and wellbeing alert – New research on gang culture in remote Aboriginal communities


“Research into these areas help identify possible protective factors, such as cultural affiliation and family support, and may in the longer term enable some individuals to lead relatively positive lives.”

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) today released Youth gangs in a remote Indigenous community: Importance of cultural authority and family support which contains new research on gang culture in the Aboriginal community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory.

View the paper here

Over the past decade, Wadeye has attracted some negative media because of community violence, often portrayed as the result of gang activity.

Researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin conducted a mixed-method survey of 133 young people from the Wadeye community, including those that were incarcerated.

The research formed a picture of the gang concept, highlighting its complex structure, with various cultural origins both indigenous and external to country. It also examined perceived protective factors for gang involvement such as cultural affiliation and family support.

The authors state that: “The Wadeye study provides further perspective to the generally held perceptions of gang-type activity, such as illegal drug use and violent behaviour, because it examines what support gangs may provide in terms of social networks for young people as they grapple with progression to adulthood in a turbulent multicultural environment.”

“We found differences between the values of the older established gangs who based their structure on traditional culture and values, and those of the emergent gangs which more focused on western attitudes and values. Older gangs also saw their membership as part of a ‘tribe’ rather than a ‘gang’.”

Research into these areas help identify possible protective factors, such as cultural affiliation and family support, and may in the longer term enable some individuals to lead relatively positive lives.

Research was made possible through the Criminology Research Grants program.

View the paper here

For comment: Colin Campbell 0418 159 525