Pat Turner believes that when Indigenous organisations take over the job of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it will be the end of the grim practice of monitoring failure and calling it Closing the Gap.
“Self-determination has been a policy of the commonwealth since 1971 but we have never been given agency to exercise it to the fullest extent,” Ms Turner said.
“(That is) because there’s been so much government neglect of programs and the way they’ve implemented programs, and their lack of accountability for the poor outcomes that leaves us in the desperate situation we’re in today.”
Ms Turner, who began working life as a switchboard operator, taught Australian studies at Georgetown University in the US and later established indigenous television channel NITV, has emerged as a prominent Aboriginal voice.
Working with Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, Ms Turner has steered a radical redesign of the Closing the Gap scheme established by the Rudd government in 2008.
It has culminated in a draft agreement with states and territories — as well as the Local Government Association of Australia — to bolster community-controlled indigenous organisations across Australia so they are capable of doing the work that is currently done by government agencies and non-government organisations dominated by non-Aboriginal people.
The draft agreement, which sets ambitious targets to reduce indigenous disadvantage, is due to go to national cabinet this month.
Ms Turner understands what a strong network of community-controlled indigenous organisations can do. She represents 143 of them as chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
The community-controlled indigenous health sector is established and in touch with grassroots people all over the country. It led the advocacy that safeguarded remote Aboriginal communities when the coronavirus pandemic hit Australia but Ms Turner acknowledges there is no real equivalent in education, early childhood or other spheres, including the disability sector.
Changing that is key to the success of the new Closing the Gap agreement, Ms Turner said.
In 2019, after 11 annual reports, just two of seven Closing the Gap targets set in 2008 — early childhood education and Year 12 attainment — had been achieved. Targets were not met on school attendance, child mortality, employment, life expectancy and literacy and numeracy.
“We were most grateful that Kevin Rudd took the initiative to set up the Closing the Gap … that money he invested in it was over $4bn,” she said.
“What we weren’t happy with was the fixation on targets.
“They don’t drive change … and while you’ve got to have them, they’re not the things that make the difference.”
Ms Turner said indigenous people would be the difference. “The reforms are equal decision-making between governments and Aboriginal people at every level — local, regional, state, and national,” she said.
“So when they’re talking about measures that impact on us, at the moment what you’ve got in this arrangement are those sitting in ivory towers, the capital cities, and they come up with a policy or implementation plan based on what the government’s commitments of the day are and go out to Aboriginal people and say ‘We’ve got this new program and if you meet these guidelines, you’ll be eligible for funding’.”
Ms Turner said under the new agreement, communities would determine what was needed and they would be supported by governments to achieve it.
The third of five children raised in Alice Springs, Ms Turner has clear views about what gives a child a good start in life. She does not have children and helps raise a great nephew with her sister in a home they share in Canberra.
“I think it starts from pre-birth. It’s about the responsibilities of raising children for both young men and young women and having children at the right time in their lives, rather than unexpected pregnancies,” she said. “Too many young people are having too many kids too early. It just puts massive pressure on the whole extended family.”
Ms Turner’s world view was shaped in part by her father’s accidental death in 1963, when she was 10. Her mother went to work in three jobs as a dishwasher.
She was also influenced by the advocacy of her uncle Charles Perkins, the civil rights activist.
“What I understood very early was Aboriginal people endured a lot of racism in daily lives — including me — and that wasn’t right.”
Ms Turner rose through the ranks of the public service, including at the Department of Health and Centrelink, and was the only indigenous person to work as chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. “I never had one qualified audit report of my organisation; not one,” she said.
It is her view that the commonwealth’s reshaped work-for-the-dole scheme, called CDP, is a lost cause. “It needs to be abolished and what Aboriginal people really need is a job guarantee. Award wages and proper jobs,” she said.
It is a case argued in The Weekend Australian on Saturday by Noel Pearson, who described Australian economist Bill Mitchell’s longstanding call for government to fund real jobs, at the minimum wage, to all unemployed Australians as “one of the most imaginative and compelling answers” to the question of how to build a stronger, fairer and more resilient nation.
Ms Turner is adamant the new Closing the Gap agreement can play a role. “If you invest, as a government, in an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation to do the service delivery, instead of all these bureaucrats sitting around in jobs, those jobs could be undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which means families at the local level have a decent job,” she said.
“We will have a sustainable workforce, and can offer scholarships and apprenticeships … so that we expand the opportunities and career choices for our younger generations.”
As a receptionist in the Native Welfare department in the early 1970s, it was Pat Turner’s job to let her bosses know when somebody was at the front desk for them.
One day a very young Ms Turner told her boss a gentleman was here to see him, and her boss replied: “Is he black or white?”
It made her blood boil so she challenged him about what difference it made. He agreed to see the visitor. “I had great pleasure in taking him in. Of course, he was an Aboriginal bloke, but I wasn’t gonna tell him that,” she said.
By 1975, Ms Turner was a trained welfare officer back in her hometown of Alice Springs, reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. She also took kids to play sport. She also taught them their rights and obligations.
“There were too many of our kids at risk with the criminal justice system,” she said.
After speaking to parents and the local headmaster, she took indigenous kids to the Alice Springs Magistrates Court in a borrowed bus.
“Ninety five per cent of the people going to court every day were Aboriginal and most of the cases were for public drunkenness,” she said.
Afterwards, the police prosecutor and Ms Turner would ask the children for their observations.
Sometimes the children had questions about why an accused went to jail or what they did wrong.
“I would say, ‘Well, what would you do if you were pulled up by the police?’ and some kids said, you know, like, ‘run’,” Ms Turner said. “And so we’d explain to them how to handle that situation. It was about increasing their awareness, how to deal respectfully with the police and not get into further trouble.”
Ms Turner said the children she knew then each finished school and got jobs in indigenous organisations.
This made her proud of them and the families who supported them.
She lamented that excessive gambling, alcohol and drug abuse had left too many children “to their own devices” in Alice Springs these days.
“I think it’s gone a bit backwards in terms of the opportunities for children,” she said.
“It has been recognised that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to higher levels of chronic conditions especially those aged 50 years and older.
“The specific advice of all health authorities is that while COVID-19 remains in Australia that everyone should take precautions including the social distancing and hygiene practices,” she said.
“People with coronavirus can spread the virus for at least 48 hours before showing symptoms. Those who attended the rally should take every precaution they can in terms of practical measures to protect themselves and their families.
“It is important you continue with social distancing, regular hand washing and cough hygiene. If you can, avoid contact with Elders and with people with chronic medical conditions as these people are at much higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness if they get infected.
If you develop even the mildest of symptoms, stay home and get a COVID-19 test. The symptoms that warrant a COVID-19 test include a sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, night sweats or a temperature over 37.5°C.
“As per government’s health advice, people who marched don’t need to isolate unless they felt sick, in which case, they should get tested. The earlier we pick up infections, the quicker we can move to prevent further spread.”
” I truly believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation in every aspect of our lives.
But what also continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face.
When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.
Accordingly, today I would like to talk about the topic of ‘In This Together’.
I would like to focus on four aspects of what togetherness looks like currently for our people — aspects that we can and must build upon.
First, I want you all to know about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together from across the nation to form the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations.
Second, I want to discuss the unprecedented opportunity we have for genuine shared decision-making in the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.
Third, I want to alert you to the negotiations now underway to finalise a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came out of the Partnership Agreement that also advances this idea of ‘In this Together’.
Fourth, without engaging in any premature celebrations whatsoever, as we still have a long way to go, I will talk about the strong, coordinated work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations that have come together from across Australia to successfully protect our people from to COVID-19.
I will then bring together the four — how the work of the Coalition of Peaks can help in optimising the health and wellbeing of our people and communities amidst the impacts of the pandemic.
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner opening Reconciliation SA’s Reconciliation Week Breakfast May 27 see full speech Part 1 below
Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today.
My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.
I am also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations.
Before we start, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands that we are meeting upon today.
I am speaking to you from Canberra, which is Ngunnawal country.
I also want to acknowledge and thank Reconciliation South Australia for the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for your annual breakfast, in this case I assume the first ever virtual one.
Peter Buckskin, a co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia, and I worked together in ATSIC and he has made a great contribution to improving life outcomes for our people. Meanwhile, Shona Reid is Eastern Arrente, and like me we can both trace our ancestry back to Central Australia with pride.
Our people have lived in a climatically harsh country for more than sixty thousand years, which has required great knowledge and custodianship of the environment and close cooperation between our people to succeed.
This cooperation continues to be evident in our recent collaboration in forming the Coalition of Peaks to make sure that we share decision making in relation to Closing the Gap.
The Coalition of Peaks comprises nearly 50 national, State and Territory community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.
This is every community-controlled peak organisation in Australia. They include NACCHO, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, First Peoples Disability Network and First Nations Media Australia.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has led South Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of Peaks. To its credit, it has facilitated the establishment of the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network that has brought together other Aboriginal peaks in South Australia to work together at the state level.
Never have community controlled peak bodies and organisations come together in this way – to develop policy and negotiate with governments.
Number two – The Partnership Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG
The historic Partnership Agreement, which commenced in March 2019 and is a public document, was also an initiative of the Coalition of Peaks. Of most importance is that the signatories are COAG and the Coalition of Peaks – that is, legitimately appointed community representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia.
We proposed the Partnership Agreement after gaining the support of the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to a partnership being formed with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to underpin the next phase of Closing the Gap.
Prior to this, COAG had decided on its own to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy that was originally agreed to in 2008 and given effect to by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.
To do this refresh, in 2018 COAG undertook a series of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia — which were inadequate and lacked transparency.
While the rhetoric was about partnership, there was no real commitment to it and the refresh was proceeding on the basis that COAG would make all the decisions.
To be frank, at this point in time, we did not consider we were ‘In This Together’ with them.
NACCHO and other community-controlled peaks decided that this could not continue and took a risk in publicly insisting that we be able to share decisions about the Closing the Gap strategy instead of COAG making decisions on its own.
We wrote to all First Ministers to put forward three (3) main propositions—
When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy; the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and
COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from decision making.
Under the Partnership Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks are already sharing decision making on developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy for the next ten years.
A new COAG Council, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, is also established under the Partnership Agreement.
For the first time, this COAG Council has members from outside Governments. In fact, it has 12 members elected from the Coalition of Peaks including a representative from each jurisdiction. Ruth Miller is the representative for South Australia.
In addition, each jurisdiction nominates a Minister with responsibilities for Closing the Gap. It is co-chaired by the Federal Minister, Minister Wyatt, and me.
Number 3 – the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap
Following a review of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap agreed that it should be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Joint Council also agreed that the new Agreement should not only be signed by First Ministers but also the Coalition of Peaks on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That is incredibly significant for our people and for Australia.
Once in place, the National Agreement will be a platform to address the structural inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face arising from years of unmet need.
Instead of targets being the focus, which was the case with the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks have also gained support from the Joint Council and all Governments that four priority reforms will underpin the new National Agreement. These are:
establishing formal partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives across the country on closing the gap
building and strengthening our community-controlled organisations to deliver the services we need
transforming mainstream agencies and institutions of governments, such as the police and universities, to make a much bigger contribution to Closing the Gap; and
ensuring government data and information is shared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to support us being able to make good decisions about our lives.
Finally, Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to see what they thought about the priority reforms and what else should be included in the new National Agreement.
Those engagements took place between September and December last year including in South Australia and included an online survey and over 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a say.
We have published the outcomes of those engagements and are making sure that what people said is reflected in the Agreement currently being negotiated with COAG.
Number 4 – Our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response
I would also like to speak on our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response.
Only three months ago the Prime Minister announced to the nation that last year the gap in infant mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians increased.
In the three months since then COVID-19 has been a whole new stark reminder to us all just how vulnerable the health of our people is.
We have been reminded of the significantly greater risk we face of being profoundly impacted due to the pre-existing co-morbidities many of us battle.
The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of disadvantage endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for generations, from health and education to housing.
Overcrowded housing, poverty and other social determinants are the root cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at high risk from pandemics and other communicable diseases.
The pandemic has exposed what we have been advocating for decades – better and less crowded housing for our people.
Overcrowding makes self-isolation and stopping the spread of a virus incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
NACCHO continues to advocate for greater federal, state and territory investment in housing for our people, and for housing initiatives to be developed in genuine partnership with us.
And as we know, there will be long term social, economic, health and cultural costs of the pandemic.
The risk facing our communities is a direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies and programs that have been developed without our input.
But our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and to drive progress towards the longer-term priority of closing of the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector began actively preparing to respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, in advance of the public response by the government. As a result, many of our ACCHOs had a level of preparedness prior to the pandemic which many general practices could not match.
This pandemic has demonstrated the community-controlled health sector collaborates extremely well, and the high level of information sharing and joint decision making must continue into the future.
Throughout the pandemic, the Government has been committed to taking the advice of our community controlled health sector, and listening to the recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to implement response plans to keep our mob safe.
Those of our organisations with strong existing partnerships with governments have been able to respond quickly to the threat of COVID-19.
Well-established and properly funded community-controlled organisations across numerous sectors have been able to accelerate measures that support our communities.
One example is the formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal Peaks Organisations in the Northern Territory (APONT) and the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, which has enabled an informed response to the needs of our remote communities impacted by the swift travel restrictions out in place.
Other examples include —
First Nation’s media sector has been able to get health information out quickly in a way that people can understand
The New South Wales Coalition of Peaks has supported our young people to stay engaged in their education and make sure our older people have access to food, and
The Victorian Aboriginal Executive Council is working to make sure our kids continue to have access to safe early childhood services.
What NACCHO and our Affiliates and ACCHOs have been doing
During these past few months ACCHOs have once again proven themselves to be the best in the business at —
knowing our people
our people feeling safe to access our services
being a well-established sector
having strong formal relationships with government
Together, collectively and nationally, as a sector we have been able to respond quickly and decisively to protect our people.
This is despite our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations having borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a roller coaster of policy and administration changes.
As soon as it became evident in January just how deadly the COVID-19 virus was, well in advance of the Commonwealth response, NACCHO, our Affiliates and Members initiated awareness campaigns for our communities and planning for prevention and response.
Before the first case of coronavirus in Australia our communities were preparing to close borders, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts were discussing measures needed to protect our mob across the nation.
In January I began sending COVID-19 health messages to all our Affiliates and ACCHOs, with gave me the opportunity to ask them how prepared they felt they were for the impending pandemic.
It was clear there were PPE shortages in many clinics, and concerns around how to prepare a pandemic response — including quarantine measures.
ACCHOs are barely funded for their regular day to day activities, let alone for a pandemic response.
I discussed options with the Department of Health for ways additional funding for ACCHOs and Affiliates to support the preparation of pandemic plans.
The government was receptive of the advice I provided and allocated $6.9 million to NACCHO and Affiliates to prepare a pandemic response and $5 million to assist remote communities prepare for COVID-19.
I also wrote to the Prime Minister on 16 March to propose a range of specific measures which needed to be taken to protect our communities.
The government again responded positively from the outset, and this spirit of collaboration has been crucial to our successful response to the pandemic.
With our Affiliates and ACCHOs in WA, the NT and QLD I strongly argued for the immediate application of travel restrictions and quarantine measures to protect our people and communities, and for urgent additional support to be deployed to Affiliates and ACCHOs to combat the virus.
I continue to pursue funding for quarantine/isolation facilities for remote, urban and regional communities which will be critical if we are going to properly manage an outbreak in our communities.
And our Affiliates and ACCHOs — they have initiated their own creative and innovative awareness campaigns for our communities in January.
These campaigns have been successful because they were created by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations for Aboriginal people and communities.
ACCHOs are busily facilitating phone consults, home visits to Elders and those self-isolating and seeing some patients at the clinic for flu vaccinations.
All the while, despite staff and equipment shortages and the challenges of working in a restricted environment due to lockdown, our ACCHOs have not wavered from treating those in our communities with chronic conditions as they continue to provide their comprehensive primary health services to their communities.
Up to now, as a sector, together, we have done exceptionally well, keeping infections out of our communities.
As of 3 May 2020, only fifty-five cases (0.8% of all cases tested) have been people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
There have been absolutely no cases in our remote or very remote communities.
But, as stated earlier, there is a long way to go.
NACCHO and our Affiliates will continue to work collaboratively with the different tiers of government throughout this crisis, including pointing out the danger of moving too quickly to relax restrictions without a clear roadmap.
Despite the tireless work of our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, there is a clear absence in this time of crisis of a national policy platform for governments to systemically re-build our communities and address the inequities too many of our people continue to face.
There is also a clear absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body for pooling collective expertise to work in partnership with governments to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.
It is because of this policy and process vacuum that the Coalition of Peaks was formed and why we have been continuing our work, in partnership with Australian governments, to chart a meaningful way forward, across a range of sectors and initiatives for bringing about real, sustained change.
The new National Agreement and the Coalition of Peaks will be crucial to rebuilding our communities post-pandemic.
The federal, state, territory and local governments must continue to work in full partnership with the Coalition of Peaks as a collective and as individual members to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger.
And, I must add, this pandemic cannot and should not be used by anyone as a reason to delay the finalisation of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
The pandemic has disrupted governments, but it has disrupted us also. Community-controlled organisations, including in health, have had to face much bigger workloads. Nevertheless, we have continued to work to finalise the National Agreement and we expect governments to do the same.
Our response to the pandemic can and must galvanise our collective efforts and sharpen our focus to the task of closing the gap.
The National Agreement must be sorted by mid-July and I am confident this is achievable. If it isn’t, we risk the Agreement being put on the “never- never” because of upcoming elections in jurisdictions like Queensland and the Northern Territory and because governments will be pre-occupied with their delayed budgets.
I ask all participants in this virtual Breakfast, and in fact make a call to Australia, that everyone support the leadership of the Coalition of Peaks, made up of our own community controlled organisations, in achieving a new Closing the Gap agreement.
There is no better demonstration or more important priority for being ‘In This Together’.
” We as a community and a country have responded remarkably in managing the spread of COVID-19!
Our work has been good, but our work is not done, and we need to continue following the rules around COVID-19.
We cannot afford to stop now. Community transmissions can still grow slowly.
We must safeguard ourselves and our people against the spread and continue to keep it away from our friends and families “
“Let’s stand as one and continue being strong, our work is not done!” is the key message from NACCHO CEO Pat Turner to encourage all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to remain steadfast and cautious under relaxed new rules released by the governments.
Pat Turner has been interviewed for NITV-The Point and the story will go on-air tonight, Wednesday 5 May at 8.30 pm
“I’m happy to hear that governments are easing some of the COVID-19 restrictions. But we must be sensible in continuing to follow the right guidelines to avoid any chance of a second wave.
Now we need to keep it all up more than ever.
This is not the point to start relaxing.
“I want to share with everyone that I have downloaded the COVIDSafe app as soon as it was available. I urge everyone with a mobile phone to do the same. It is free and it could well save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
“It is a way to protect your family and the community from further spread of coronavirus.
If you have the app, you will be told as soon as possible if you have been in close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. You can then isolate before developing symptoms, so you don’t pass it on to others. You will be contacted and advised to get tested as soon as possible.
“I urge everyone to continue to keep good hygiene, with washing our hands for at least 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly, physical distancing, coughing in the elbow, and staying home as far as possible apart from any of the essential needs. All the hard work we have done together so far will all be wasted if we do not safeguard now against a second wave.
“I can assure you that by following these measures and being sensible with these new changes, we are protecting ourselves and keeping our people safe through this pandemic together.”
“Funded programs are not required to demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors, which is staggering,
We just aren’t demanding that basic level of accountability
The first priority must be analyses of suicide mortality data to identify the causal pathways,
Suicide risk is the most complex thing to assess and monitor … communities are crying out for specialist assistance and just not getting it. “Children as young as 10 are dying by suicide … this is no longer an Aboriginal issue, it’s a national one,”
Indigenous psychologist Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman said Australia had failed to collect crucial evidence to determine what intervention strategies work. See Part 2 below
” Community driven action plans to prevent suicide are extending across the Kimberley, with four more communities implementing plans to save lives and improve health and well-being.
As part of the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, Kununurra, Balgo, Wyndham and Halls Creek now have local plans, joining Broome, Derby and Bidyadanga.
Each community receives up to $130,000 to help roll out its action plan which reflects and responds to local issues
See Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release and Communique Part 3 and 4 Below
Part 1 RACP and NACCHO Press Release
HEALTH BODIES DECLARE ABORIGINAL YOUTH SUICIDE AN URGENT NATIONAL PRIORITY
Health bodies call for Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to declare urgent national health priority
Immediate investment in Aboriginal-led mental health and wellbeing services needed to stop child deaths
Long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires commitment to Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) are calling on the Prime Minister to make tackling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicides a national health priority.
Suicide was once unknown to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but now every community has been affected by suicide.
In response to the recent Aboriginal youth suicides and the release of the WA Coroner’s report on the inquest into the deaths of thirteen children and young persons in the Kimberley Region, we are calling on the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to put the issue at the top of the COAG agenda and to implement a coordinated crisis response to urgently scale up Aboriginal led mental health services before more young lives are tragically lost.
An urgent boost to Aboriginal community controlled health services is required to build on the existing range of initiatives that are being rolled out. We also call on the Government to expand upon evidence-based resilience and cultural connection programs to be adapted and attuned to local needs.
We are calling on the Federal Government to:
Provide secure and long-term funding to Aboriginal community controlled health services to expand their mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, suicide prevention, and alcohol and other drugs services, using best-practice traumainformed approaches
Increase funding for ACCHSs to employ staff to deliver mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services, including psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists, mental health workers and other professionals and workers;
Increase the delivery of training to Aboriginal health practitioners to establish and/or consolidate skills development in mental health care and support, including suicide prevention
Commit to developing a comprehensive strategy to build resilience and facilitate healing from intergenerational trauma, designed and delivered in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
RACP spokesperson Dr Mick Creati, said: “The unspeakable child suicide tragedy that has been unfolding requires a national response and the attention of the Prime Minister. Unless we see urgent boost to investment in Aboriginal-led mental health services then the deaths will continue.”
RANZCP President Dr Kym Jenkins, said: ‘We must address the factors underlying suicidality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including intergenerational trauma, disadvantage and distress. For this, we urgently need an increased capacity of mental health and wellbeing services to help people and communities recover from trauma and build resilience for the future.’
Part 2 Leaders urged to declare Aboriginal child suicides a ‘national crisis’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison must declare Indigenous child suicides a national emergency and overhaul current strategies, peak medical and health bodies have demanded.
The call comes in the wake of harrowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child suicide rates, and the WA coroner’s inquest into the deaths of 13 young people, five aged between 10 and 13 years in the Kimberley region.
A joint statement from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has urged Mr Morrison and all state and territory leaders to make Indigenous youth suicides an “urgent national health priority”.
The organisations called on the leaders to launch a “coordinated crisis response” and invest in Aboriginal-led strategies “before more young lives are tragically lost”.
In January, five Aboriginal girls aged between 12 and 15 years took their own lives.
The latest ABS data shows Indigenous children aged 10 to 14 die of suicide at 8.4 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. One in four aged under 18 who suicided were Aboriginal.
None of the 13 children who died by suicide had a mental health assessment, according to the coroner’s report.
The international journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health recently called Australia’s Indigenous youth suicide rate an “unmitigated crisis”.
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said the recent Aboriginal youth suicides was “a national emergency that demands immediate attention”.
The joint statement called for Indigenous community-led solutions, long-term funding boosts to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) for best-practice and trauma-informed mental health, suicide prevention, and drug and alcohol programs.
The organisations also pushed for more ACCHS funding to employ more psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists and mental health workers, increase training for Aboriginal health practitioners to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on resilience and intergenerational trauma healing.
In September the Morrison government announced $36 million in national suicide prevention projects.
Paediatrician with Victorian Aboriginal Health Service Dr Mick Creati said Indigenous suicides could not be prevented by a “white bread psychiatry model”.
Aboriginal suicides were often radically different from those among the general population, research shows. They were more likely to be impulsive, potentially triggered by some kind of interpersonal conflict.
The crisis demanded a “different, culturally appropriate model”, Dr Creati said.
“We don’t know exactly what the right model is yet … but Aboriginal people need to be included [in their development] to make sure they are appropriate for Aboriginal populations.”
But Indigenous psychologist Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman said Australia had failed to collect crucial evidence to determine what intervention strategies work.
“Funded programs are not required to demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors, which is staggering,” Professor Westerman said.
“We just aren’t demanding that basic level of accountability”.
The first priority must be analyses of suicide mortality data to identify the causal pathways, Professor Westerman said.
“Suicide risk is the most complex thing to assess and monitor … communities are crying out for specialist assistance and just not getting it. “Children as young as 10 are dying by suicide … this is no longer an Aboriginal issue, it’s a national one,” she said.
Part 3 The eighth meeting of the Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial Working Group was held on 14 March in Broome communique
The Working Group discussed the findings of WA Coroner’s Report into suicide deaths in the Kimberley and continued its consideration of resources and strategies to support activity as part of the suicide Prevention trial.
The meeting today was chaired by the Hon Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Health (Commonwealth) and attended by the Hon Roger Cook, Deputy Premier and Minister for Health (WA State Government), Senator the Hon Patrick Dodson (Commonwealth) and Member for the Kimberley, the Hon Josie Farrer MLC (WA State Government). Apologies were received from the Hon Ben Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Affairs (WA State Government).
The meeting was also attended by over 40 representatives from communities, organisations and government agencies.
Key messages from today’s discussion included:
A shared commitment to work together at all levels of government to develop place-based, and Aboriginal-led and designed responses.
A commitment to ongoing collaboration.
Acknowledgement of the good work achieved thus far – but noting more needs to be done.
The role of the community liaison officers on the ground across Kimberley communities was highlighted as an example of good progress – connecting services and projects with what people want.
The need to continue mapping services was agreed.
The need for holistic approaches was highlighted.
Community organisations are keen to work with the State and Commonwealth Governments on solutions that address the recommendations in relation to the report of the WA Coronial Inquest and all other referenced reports.
Part 4 Minister Wyatt Press release
Community driven action plans to prevent suicide are extending across the Kimberley, with four more communities implementing plans to save lives and improve health and well-being.
As part of the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, Kununurra, Balgo, Wyndham and Halls Creek now have local plans, joining Broome, Derby and Bidyadanga.
Each community receives up to $130,000 to help roll out its action plan which reflects and responds to local issues.
However, the four new plans have a common thread – they are centred on people working and walking together on country, with a series of camps involving high-risk groups.
The camps are planned to provide a range of supports around suicide including healing and sharing and respecting cultural knowledge and traditions. They will also support close engagement with Elders.
A strong cultural framework underpins all the Trial’s activities and all the projects identified by the communities fit within the systems-based approach, guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP).
Nine communities are involved in the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, with Community Liaison Officers playing a critical role.
The outcomes will contribute to a national evaluation which aims to find the most effective approaches to suicide prevention for at-risk populations and share this knowledge across Australia.
The Morrison Government is supporting the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial with $4 million over four years, from 2016-2020.
It is one of 12 Suicide Prevention Trials being conducted across the nation, with total funding of $48 million.
“ We understand that at this stage it is intended that new Closing the Gap targets will be settled at COAG’s December meeting,
We are calling on COAG to hold off doing this and instead put in place a proper partnership mechanism with us. The new targets haven’t been published and Indigenous peaks are uncertain what the targets will be and therefore we cannot provide our support.
NACCHO and the peak bodies engaged with the process, took time to submit written submissions and attend workshops to discuss refreshing the Closing the Gap strategy earlier this year. But we can’t see how our input has been taken into account,
As a first step we propose a meeting with COAG representatives and the peak bodies to discuss a way forward that includes a genuine partnership approach.
Aboriginal people need to be at the centre of the Closing the Gap Refresh policy; the gap won’t close without our full engagement and involvement.
Having Aboriginal people involved in the design of the Refresh and proposed revised targets will lead to Aboriginal people taking greater responsibility for the outcomes. It’s been proven that Aboriginal community control is vital and delivers better outcomes for our people.”
NACCHO Chief Executive Pat Turner AM see interview Part 3 below
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and other Aboriginal peak bodies across Australia have written to COAG First Ministers seeking a full partnership approach between Indigenous people and governments in refreshing the Closing the Gap Strategy, scheduled to be put to COAG for consideration in Adelaide on 12 December.
The letter, signed by 13 peak bodies, proposes an urgent meeting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies to meet with COAG representatives to determine a framework for reaching agreement on a refreshed Closing the Gap strategy.
It’s the second letter the group has written to COAG after failing to receive a response to their initial letter in early October from any government except the Northern Territory.
Part 2 Letter to Council of Australian Government First Ministers
Dear Council of Australian Government First Ministers 16/11/2018
We write again, further to our letter of 4 October 2018, concerning the Closing the Gap Refresh, a joint initiative of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to seek a formal partnership mechanism between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments in the Closing the Gap Refresh policy. We have only received a response from the Northern Territory Government.
As stated in our original letter, all of us believe it is essential that agreement is reached on the Closing the Gap Refresh policy between Indigenous organisations, on behalf of communities across Australia and Australian governments. What we propose is entirely consistent with the commitment made by COAG to set a new relationship with our communities based on a partnership.
If governments alone, continue to make decisions about the Closing the Gap, without an opportunity for us to be at the table, it will not be possible to advocate with any confidence or motivate our communities to support Closing the Gap and to take joint responsibility with governments for achieving the targets.
Pictures above and below from our #refreshtheCTGRefresh Campaign
The evidence is strong that when Indigenous people are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better. We are certain that Indigenous peoples need to be at the centre of the Closing the Gap Refresh policy: the gap won’t close without our full involvement and COAG First Ministers, who are responsible for the Closing the Gap framework, cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from the decision making.
We have proposed a reasonable way forward to Australian Governments in our original letter without making it public to give everyone a reasonable opportunity to consider it. However, we understand that it is the intention of Australian Governments to still settle on targets at the forthcoming meeting of COAG on 12 December 2018.
We also understand that implementation arrangements are to be left over for COAG to agree in 2019. We make the points that neither ourselves nor anyone else outside government have seen the proposed targets which we think is way short of being partners and transparent and we cannot see how the targets can be agreed without considering at the same time how they are to be achieved.
We assume that Australian Governments will justify agreeing to targets by referring to the consultations earlier this year. Those consultations were demonstrably inadequate. They were conducted at a very superficial level without an opportunity for Indigenous interests to be prepared for the workshops held across Australia.
They were based on a discussion paper produced by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in December 2017 and which stated that only one of the seven targets was on track which two months later was contradicted by the former Prime Minister who said that three targets were on track. Critical elements of the original Closing the Gap framework, particularly COAG’s National Indigenous Reform Agreement, were not referred to at all in the consultations and the focus was on new targets instead of how we could make sure that this time around they were achieved.
There was no independent report prepared on the outcomes of the consultations and there is no way of telling if what was said in the consultations is reflected in the proposed Refresh policy including the targets.
The consultations started far too late which has left us with 4 targets having expired in June 2018. We do not accept that we have been properly consulted let alone given the opportunity to negotiate a mechanism that allows a proper partnership to be put in place in relation to the design, delivery and monitoring of Closing the Gap.
There is a now a significant opportunity to put this disappointing process back on track and in particular to establish a robust Closing the Gap framework founded on a genuine partnership between Indigenous people and governments.
It is open to governments on 12 December 2018, to endorse a partnership approach and establish a mechanism to initiate negotiations between representatives of COAG and Peak organisations with a view to developing a genuine partnership as part of the Closing the Gap Refresh. This would be endorsed by the Peak Organisations across Australia.
Subject to COAG endorsing a partnership approach, we propose a meeting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies to meet with COAG representatives to determine a framework for reaching agreement on a refreshed closing the gap strategy.
We stand ready to do this quickly and would work with COAG on having a partnership framework in place in early 2019 with a revised approach agreed by the middle of the year.
Ms Pat Turner AM, the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, is our contact for the purpose of responding to this vital matter and we ask that you contact her.
We look forward to working with you on the Closing the Gap Refresh through an established partnership mechanism.
Part 3 Going backwards’: Aboriginal bodies take aim at Closing the Gap
Aboriginal peak organisations have slammed federal, state and territory governments for failing to give Indigenous leaders an effective role in re-energising the faltering Closing the Gap process.
In a letter written jointly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, chief ministers and premiers, the leaders of the 13 peak bodies say they have been shut out of meaningful consultation about refreshed targets to overcome Aboriginal disadvantage.
And they want the Coalition of Australian Governments – due to consider an update to Closing the Gap next month – to defer setting new targets until a fresh pact is hammered out giving “full partnership” to Aboriginal bodies.
“I think it’s all gone backwards,” the chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Pat Turner, told the Herald.
“In the last few years, governments seem to have dropped the ball a lot. I hope they are giving serious consideration to our letter. They can’t go on having two bob each-way. They are there to lead and they have to have a bit of backbone. [The state of] Aboriginal affairs is a national shame, it is something that they should be wanting to get fixed.”
Ms Turner said only one government – the Northern Territory – had bothered replying to the group when they first wrote a letter a month ago seeking better consultation over new targets and implementation strategies.
“NACCHO and the peak [Indigenous] bodies engaged with the process took time to submit written submissions and attend workshops to discuss refreshing the Closing the Gap strategy earlier this year” she said. “But we can’t see how our input has been taken into account.”
The peak bodies decided on Sunday to release a second letter they wrote to all governments at the end of last week.
The letter says the “disappointing” Closing the Gap process has to be put “back on track” with Indigenous people taking part in the design and delivery of services on the basis of “genuine partnership”.
“As a first step we propose a meeting with COAG representatives and the peak bodies to discuss [such an] approach” Ms Turner said.
The Herald sought a response from Aboriginal Affairs minister Nigel Scullion but was unable to contact his office on Sunday.
Closing the Gap was first conceived of a decade ago as a way to measure Aboriginal disadvantage and set clear targets to redress it.
Earlier this year a report from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said three of seven targets were “on track”: to halve the gap in year 12 attainment and halve the gap in child mortality by 2018, and to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.
However it said that other targets, including halving the gap in reading and numeracy, and halving the gap in employment, as well as closing the gap on life expectancy, were not on track.
“ A reconciled nation will be when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have self-determination over their own lives without the constraints of poverty and the burden of disease. We will be in charge of our own affairs and in control over decisions that impact on us.
Our past will be fully acknowledged and our collective future celebrated without reservation. There will be no more debates over our shared history and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ land ownership.
Racism will not be a barrier to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing education, employment and health services.
There will be complete acceptance of our unique cultural heritage and identities by all Australians enabling our languages, our connection to land and our cultural practices to flourish without restraint and be incorporated in all aspects of our nationhood “
Pat Turner AM NACCHO CEO interview with Reconciliation Australia when asked : What does a reconciled Australia look like to you?
Ms Pat Turner AM is the daughter of an Arrernte man and a Gurdanji woman, and was born and raised in Alice Springs.
After her father’s death in an accident at work, Ms Turner’s family experienced extreme financial hardship. Her mother’s courage and leadership in the face of such difficult circumstances was a constant inspiration.
Ms Turner joined the Australian Public Service in the early 1970s and joined the senior executive ranks by the mid-1980s. She worked in a range of prominent roles, including as Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet during 1991-92, where she had oversight of the establishment of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. In 1994-98, Ms Turner was the CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, making her the most senior Indigenous government official in the country.
Over the years, Ms Turner became more committed to the politics of self-determination. At a professional level, this meant being a firm supporter of community-based service delivery of health and welfare programs for Aboriginal people.
Today, Ms Turner is the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). NACCHO is the peak body representing 144 Aboriginal community-controlled health services across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues.
Interview continued: What or who got you involved in reconciliation?
I first started thinking about reconciliation and the place of Aboriginal people in Australia after attending the graduation ceremony of Uncle Charlie Perkins from Sydney University with Nanna Hetty Perkins. I was thirteen at the time, and listening to Charlie speak, I started to understand the importance of education if I wanted to make a difference.
After joining the Australian Public Service and moving from Alice Springs to Canberra, I was later appointed Deputy Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was here I had a specific role in working for the Government on the legislation and establishment of the Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation. I was the inaugural National Secretary to the Council.
After returning to Alice Springs in 2006 I held the position of CEO of National Indigenous Television where I supported the celebration of Indigenous culture and helped challenge perceptions and fears of many non-Indigenous Australians about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are a continuing barrier to reconciliation.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to national reconciliation?
Our biggest challenges are twofold:
Firstly, making both Federal and State Governments truly accountable to eliminate poverty and disadvantage endured by our people.
Secondly, acceptance and respect by all Australians of our unique cultural heritage and identities, our relationship with land, our languages and our cultural practices, so that those areas and the essence of our beings are incorporated into all aspects of Australian life and government efforts to eliminate our disadvantage.
I begin by paying my respects to members of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation as the traditional custodians of this place we now call Sydney.
It is proper that I acknowledge the different Aboriginal groups when I travel to various parts of Australia because it should never be forgotten that our people have lived here for over 65,000 years. In those days Australia was a truly liveable place for our people.
So, thank you very much for the warm welcome Julia and to RANZCOG for inviting me to speak today.
It was important to hear from Minister Hunt, to listen to Professor Baum articulate the social determinants of women’s health and Professor Gannon discuss the economic impact of women’s health.
It is an honour to be asked to address an audience of 100 successful and influential women from the health care sector.
Today this summit is an opportunity to highlight health challenges facing Aboriginal women today. To help them live healthier, longer lives, supported by better, more targeted health services across the nation.
But first, I think this morning is an opportunity for all of us in this place to celebrate the contribution women make in our lives.
It is important to acknowledge how far we have all come together over the last 100 years.
The new medical technology now saves countless lives, the testing regimens are first rate, surgical care has been enhanced and women now have pathways to a multitude of careers and thrive in the health workforce. Some are even in positions of ‘real power’ to advocate for reforms.
Now let’s be clear that Australia has a world-class health system, but not for all of us! Yes, I could mention issues around pay, promotion, mentoring, bullying and harassment but that’s not why we are here today! So, let’s focus today on the fact that health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia are a long way from those of non-Indigenous women.
Whilst it is very flattering to be counted as one of the 100 influential women in this room.
It is important that you know how I became the person I did. I know that my experience was gained from and influenced by my mother.
She was the first medical person I knew. She cared for me and my family as a healer and she helped make me the woman I am today. Education just knocked off my rough edges!
Now, let’s not forget that Aboriginal people invented Bush Medicine which they still use today. They had ready access to bush tucker and led a healthy way of life before colonisation. We still have remnants of our past practice that continue today like using traditional healers and have access to very advanced Western medical models of health care.
I have had a long, varied and distinguished career in the Australian Public Service including as Deputy Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Centrelink and was the longest serving CEO of ATSIC. I was also the inaugural CEO of the National Indigenous Television (NITV). So, I know how to argue for a change in women’s health policy. I’ve had a lot of experience in dealing across bureaucracy, Ministers, budget cycles, developing public health initiatives and campaigns and essentially dealing with governments at every level in this country.
Now, NACCHO is the national peak body representing 144 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in over 304 clinics and health settings. Our very first AMS started in Redfern and has 47 years of experience to draw upon.
We provide about three million episodes of care each year for about 350,000 people which is provided by almost 6,000 staff. In very remote areas, our services provided about one million episodes of care. Over 50 per cent of the workforce is Aboriginal and we are working at increasing that.
There are many gaps in our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and their holistic approach in delivering comprehensive primary care to our people, no matter where they live. We are mapping those gaps. Our aim is to ensure full coverage for our people.
We are funded by the Australian Government to support improvements in Indigenous health through the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services network and to bring the voices of those services into health policy decisions in Canberra.
NACCHO is independent of, trusted by and offers a strong voice to the federal government for the provision of specific community sector health care needs for Aboriginal people that is controlled by Aboriginal people. This ensures a strong voice in policy work and participation in policy development and legislation advocating and dealing with the issues as they arise or as reforms are discussed.
I coordinate 25 staff who sit on some 60 national committees and bodies. Historically NACCHO has a proud tradition and has developed over the last 20 years a strong coalition of support with other NGO’s working across a diverse range of areas.
We offer an alternative point of view enhanced by years of dedicated experience. Aboriginal perspectives from our governing bodies and staff about culturally appropriate healthcare needs are admired and respected by government.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples represented 2.8 per cent of the population counted in the 2016 Census or 649,200 people of whom 326,996 were females. The median age of an Aboriginal is 23 years and only one in ten reported speaking one of the 150 Australian Indigenous languages at home.
There were 18,560 births registered in Australia during 2016 (6% of all births) where at least one parent reported themselves as being an Aboriginal or about 2.12 babies per woman. Births to women aged under 30 years contributed three-quarters (73%) of the total fertility rate for Aboriginal women with the median age of 25.5 years when having their first child.
This is important, especially when you realise that our Aboriginal population will increase to one million people by 2030.
As many of you would know, the state of Aboriginal health continues to be cause for both national shame and requires national action. I’m still as frustrated as some of you are that we have not Closed the gap for Indigenous people, had meaningful reconciliation in this nation and enhanced Aboriginal women’s health.
I believe there is no agenda more critical to Australia than enabling Aboriginal people to live good quality lives while enjoying all their rights and fulfilling their responsibilities to themselves, their families and communities. Aboriginal people should feel safe in their strong cultural knowledge being freely practiced and acknowledged across the country. This should include the daily use of our languages, in connection with our lands and with ready access to resources.
Aboriginal people should feel free from racism, empowered as individuals and have educational opportunities, careers, and health services to meet their needs and overcome inequality, poverty and increase life expectancy.
Now the Australian Government’s 2007 commitment to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy within a generation was welcome. But the Close the Gap agenda did not deliver on a fundamental change to the way governments work with Aboriginal people.
I want to be very clear that progress against the closing the gap targets is now stalling and, in many cases, is going backwards.
I am also concerned that the Government is now shifting the focus to ‘prosperity’ targets, when we don’t even have the basic targets on track.
The figures paint a staggering reality. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tells us that the mortality gaps are actually widening.
No government can preside over widening mortality gaps and maintain goals to improve life expectancy and child mortality rates. On average Indigenous men and women die 15 years earlier than other Australians. Indigenous people suffer chronic diseases that are entirely preventable and have virtually been eliminated in the non-Indigenous population: trachoma, rheumatic heart disease and congenital deaths as a direct result of the current Syphilis outbreak across Australia, are but three examples.
The Closing the Gap target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 is not on track. Our children are dying at almost three times the rate of non-Indigenous children and there is a clear disparity in birth outcomes for my people. So, we now all appreciate and understand that our services are on the frontlines of women’s healthcare every day.
But of course, it’s not all bad news, NACCHO, its affiliates and our hardworking member services have had recent success with various national health programs. As you know Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in birth defects and behavioural and neurodevelopmental abnormalities including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
NACCHO recently provided advice to mothers that included practical advice and assistance with breastfeeding, nutrition and parenting, monitoring of developmental milestones, immunisations status and infections controls in 85 health service sites in remote, regional and urban locations. The FASD Prevention and Health Promotion Resources worked and did help to reduce the impacts of FASD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The information also provided an opportunity to engage our local communities about other health issues like tobacco smoking, substance misuse and improving diets.
On the ground, Through Better Start to Life campaign, our Northern Territory member Danila Dilba has recently begun offering home nurse visits, meaning Darwin children and families now have more culturally appropriate access to antenatal and postnatal care resulting in better pregnancy outcomes which is vital in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
We now know that Mums participating in this program have fewer low birth weight babies, higher rates of breastfeeding and very high infant immunisation rates. We are also seeing women accessing antenatal care earlier in their pregnancies.
As you are aware a key component of improving pregnancy outcomes is early and ongoing engagement in antenatal care through culturally appropriate and evidence based care suitable to the local community. Investment in the early years is the best way to improve disadvantage over the longer term.
RANZCOG and NACCHO members understand this, evaluations have shown success in improving uptake of care earlier in pregnancy, for the duration of the pregnancy and in post-natal care allows other opportunistic healthcare interventions, such as family planning, cervical screening and improving breastfeeding rates.
So, by wrapping services around families, locally focused programs like this are also important in helping guard against the development of chronic conditions in later life, such as rheumatic heart disease and kidney failure.
While in Alice Springs, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress is targeting at-risk Indigenous children before they even start preschool. The Preschool Readiness Program has up to 10 places for children between the ages of three and four who have been identified as having developmental delays or come from challenging home environments.
The foundations for health are laid early in life and there is much to be done in the early years to give our kids the best chance of succeeding at school and throughout their life.
If services cater for their needs, Aboriginal women will use them. However, not all Aboriginal women have access to these programs and many still rely on mainstream services such as GPs and public hospital clinics. That’s why it’s so important that mainstream services embed cultural competence into health care delivery across the care continuum.
Aboriginal culture has many strengths that can provide a positive influence, such as a supportive extended family networks, connection to country, and language. This is where the community controlled health sector and Aboriginal Health Workers are uniquely placed.
Our services build ongoing relationships to give continuity of care so that chronic conditions are managed and preventative health care can be effectively targeted.
Studies have shown that Aboriginal community controlled health services are 23% better at attracting and retaining Aboriginal clients than mainstream providers. Through local engagement and a proven service delivery model, our clients ‘stick’.
The cultural safety in which we provide our services is a key factor of our success. They can help to create relationships and understanding between our women and healthcare providers, practical assistance for attending appointments and coordinating care.
Many frontline clinicians and policy makers feel it is beyond their role to deal with these issues, but understanding some of these concepts will lead to greater empathy in the interactions with Aboriginal women.
We must acknowledge that Closing the Gap is not only a technical policy matter, but is also a political issue. We are disadvantaged, we are marginalised, we are poor, we do not have the numbers to influence government to the extent that others do, but we keep on trying.
The statistical gaps arise from voicelessness, powerlessness and a historical and significant lack of resources.
Firstly, the funding myth must be confronted as it stands like a rock in the way of progress.
As my good friend Professor Ian Ring tells us the commonly held view that enormous amounts of money have been spent on Indigenous Affairs has led many to conclude that money is not the answer and a different focus is required.
The recent Productivity Commission Report found that per capita government spending on Aboriginal services was twice as high as for the rest of the population. But higher spending on Aboriginal people should hardly be a surprise. We are not surprised, for example, to find that per capita health spending on the elderly is higher than on the healthier young because the elderly have higher levels of illness.
Nor is it a surprise that welfare spending is higher for Indigenous people who lag considerably in education, employment and income and there would be something very wrong with the system if it were otherwise.
The key question in understanding the relativities of expenditure on Indigenous is equity of total expenditure, both public and private, in relation to need, but the Productivity Commission’s brief is simply to report on public expenditure. In relation to government expenditure on health services the picture is quite different. State and Territory governments spend on average $2.6 per capita on Indigenous people for every $1 spent on the rest of the population.
By contrast, the Australian Government spends $1.4 for every $1 spent on the rest of the population, notwithstanding that, on the most conservative assumptions, Indigenous people have at least twice the per capita need of the rest of the population because of much higher levels of illness. The Commonwealth, in particular, needs to do much more. This is massive market failure.
The health system serves the needs of the bulk of the population very well but the health system has failed to meet the needs of the Indigenous population. And the Australian Government knows this, that’s why, for over 40 years they have been funding ACCHSs because they know the evidence shows these services better meet those needs, but the coverage of these services is patchy and needs to be expanded.
Secondly, Aboriginal communities need to be properly resourced, and Aboriginal people need to be in control. Let’s put Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands.
It is imperative that a person’s health be considered in the context of their social, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing, and that of their community. We know that being able to better manage and control your own affairs is directly linked to improved wellbeing and mental health.
This is why Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are essential to closing the health gap. Often Aboriginal people are uncomfortable seeking medical help at hospitals or general practices and therefore are reluctant to obtain essential care.
For example, the policy of forcibly removing children from Aboriginal families until the 1960s may still engender distrust of the ‘system’ in Aboriginal mothers. Access to healthcare is extremely difficult due to either geographical isolation or lack of transportation.
Many Aboriginal people live below the poverty line so that services provided by practices that do not bulk bill are unattainable. The most well-intentioned mainstream services struggle to provide appropriate healthcare to Aboriginal patient’s due to significant cultural and language disparities. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services bridge these gaps.
Their focus on prevention, early intervention and comprehensive care has reduced barriers to access and unintentional racism, progressively improving individual health outcomes for Aboriginal people.
And thirdly, greater access to education, employment and participation in the economy.
So, for those three reasons, NACCHO continues to call on the Australian Government to invest in the expansion of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, to reach more people living in isolated areas, and to provide more care options for women, including mental health and psychology services.
Recently NACCHO, RANZCOG and other college Presidents met with the Minister for Indigenous Health and other ministers in Canberra who are all determined to do everything possible to close the gap in health outcomes. Now your stated mission is in providing excellence in women’s health. Well let’s do that by including Aboriginal women with new practical measures advocated to government and policy makers.
By all means let us together develop new statements and guidelines, by contributing effectively to health policy debate, in providing representation on various external committees and advisory groups, and responding to requests for submissions with expert evidence-based opinion.
Together lets us continue to drive policy development for the betterment of all women’s health with a view to developing a set of policy imperatives that must be addressed by Governments. It is through Aboriginal community controlled health service delivery that we can best close the gap. But we need your assistance.
We need your help with community-developed programs, that accept our cultural beliefs and traditions about health issues like contraception, termination, or pregnancy.
Currently Sexually Transmitted Infections rates have increased; the current syphilis outbreak has now reached four states predominantly infecting 15-29-year old’s with 12 cases of congenital syphilis causing five deaths.
In this day and age this is unacceptable! NACCHO seeks your assistance to insist on regular STI testing, a national public STI education campaign, with enhanced and clear antenatal guidelines, supported by a workforce with mobile local team’s conducting health checks and testing for other STI’s like gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV, Hepatitis C and B. This is the best way for you as individuals and organisations to contribute to improved Aboriginal women’s health outcomes and wellbeing.
As a group of 100 pioneering passionate women I know we have all earnt the accolades, enjoyed the press coverage and have a certain status in life. Let’s make a difference by today by being outspoken advocates for Aboriginal women and inspiring the next generation of women to not ask but demand better access to health care. Aboriginal women are the best advocates and leaders for health and wellbeing in their own families and in the broader community.
Please help bring about change, please make a contribution to improving the lives of Aboriginal women by lobbying governments.
We need your capabilities and skill, the energy and drive to make an impact, your commitment of time to our cause, your ingenuity and passion. Help us by proving to be effective role models, mentors and influencers for the next generation of Aboriginal female leaders.
I hope that today is seen as an opportunity to reflect on these vital Aboriginal women’s health issues. I urge you to act and commit to real sustainable practical change.
Don’t wait for government, don’t wait for them to provide the solutions. Work it out ourselves and just move on. So, to all you people here today I invite you to get in touch with your local Aboriginal Controlled Health Services and our Aboriginal health workers and to all your policy makers you can call me at NACCHO.
I have lost count of the number of speeches I have given over the years on this subject regarding Aboriginal women’s health to numerous gatherings, meetings, conferences, roundtables and symposiums. I will continue to speak for up all of our sisters, aunties, mothers and grandmothers.
I don’t expect or desire any consensus today but I expect robust discussion leading to identify policy reform that can be implemented. We must advocate for more action, adopt new policy positions and increase investment in the Aboriginal community controlled sector.
I know that the fight for Aboriginal rights continues and that the future is looking brighter for our mob with your support.
Thank you again for having me here today and I welcome any questions that you may have.
“I think everything is so low, bottom of the scale, that 2018 can only be better in my view.
“I think that what our people and our communities have to do is just take total control of their own affairs. Don’t wait for government, don’t wait for them to provide the solutions. Work it out ourselves and just move on.”
Pat Turner AM CEO NACCHO 20 Minute interview ABC Speaking Out
” Despite there being a number landmark occasions in 2017, one of the country’s most senior Aboriginal Bureaucrats says there has been little to celebrate in the Indigenous Affairs sector in 2017.
In a frank and honest Discussion, Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) reflects on the key advances and shortcomings over the past 12 months.
We talk Aboriginal Health, Northern Territory Royal Commission, Deaths in Custody and Indigenous funding.”
2017 was a year of several significant anniversaries in Indigenous affairs.
The 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
The 25th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision.
The 20th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report.
The 10th anniversary of the NT Intervention.
An auspicious combination of anniversaries, each giving pause to reflect on the impacts of these events, and to ask the obvious question — how far have we come in 50 years? In 25, 20 or 10 years?
The age-old Western belief in the inexhaustible march towards progress would make many assume that these issues have been addressed, or at the very least improved.
This belief is evident every time you see someone say, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2017!” in reference to something they believe should now be a relic of a bygone era.
It was hoped that 2017 would enter the history books as another significant year in Indigenous affairs, with the passing of a referendum to ‘recognise’ Indigenous people in the Australian constitution.
Not only did this not come to pass, but the relationship between government and Indigenous groups feels like it may have reach a new low, unseen in decades.
Australia’s most successful referendum
In 1967 Australia passed its most successful ever referendum, with 90.77 per cent of Australians voting “Yes for Aborigines”. This allowed for Aboriginal people to be counted in the census, and the Federal Government was given the power to make laws for Indigenous people.
Bringing Them Home was the name of the final report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.
It was tabled in Parliament on the May 26, 1997. The following year this date would become known as Sorry Day, and would provide a call to action for governments to implement the 54 recommendations of the report.
The surviving members of the Stolen Generations still hold the stories from that shameful era. And members of each new generation of Aboriginal people forcibly removed from their families have their trauma compounded by this unaddressed history.
The recommendations from the Bringing Them Home report are still largely unimplemented, and the rate of child removal has steadily grown in the 20 years since.
The rate has doubled in the past decade, and every other month we see a headline warning of a “second Stolen Generation”. It’s a news story that has been on repeat for almost 20 years.
The NT Intervention
The NT Intervention has largely failed to bring about positive changes around the issues raised in the Little Children Are Sacred report, which was used as the key justification for the NT Emergency Response Act.
A group of eminent Australians from law, health, academia and the arts have called on the Federal Government to bring an immediate end to the Northern Territory Intervention and Stronger Futures policies.
This disconnect between stated goals of respect, inclusion and Closing the Gap, and the actions and outcomes actually achieved, has come to embody Indigenous affairs in 2017.
This has been personified by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, since he took over the reins of government in September 2015. The end of 2017 seems to show a very different Mr Turnbull than the one who shed tears for the Stolen Generations at the start of 2016.
Despite his inclination to open Indigenous affairs speeches speaking in Indigenous languages, this has failed to translate to an ability to listen to Indigenous people. Given the long history of government failure to listen to Indigenous peoples, few held out hope that Mr Turnbull would make good on his stated desire to do things with Indigenous people, instead of to them.
At the release of the ninth Closing the Gap report, six of the seven targets were not on track to meet their goals.
“It has to be a shared endeavour. Greater empowerment of local communities will deliver the shared outcomes we all seek,” Mr Turnbull said, at the time.
Now, months before the 10th report is due, the Federal Government has put out a call for community input into Closing The Gap.
This prompted Referendum Council member Megan Davis to ponder on Twitter: “If they didn’t listen to what community said on Uluru and meaningful recognition, why would the government listen to input on this?”.
The call for consultation coincides with a decision to remove over $600 million in federal funds for remote housing.
Safe and appropriate housing is regarded as an essential criteria for governments to meet the Closing the Gap targets.
While 2017 may not have given much hope for the immediate future of Indigenous affairs, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation chief executive officer Pat Turner, offered some guarded optimism and some advice for 2018.
‘ This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again.
APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection.
Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’
John Paterson CEO AMSANT and APO NT Spokesperson :see Part 2 for full Press Release
” We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works
“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee
“You don’t set up a royal commission and then walk away from the implementation of it. I urge the Federal and NT Government to give resources directly to Aboriginal community controlled groups, as white non-government organisations “need to get out of that space”. Those days are over.
“We are much more strategically placed and our service delivery is much wider.”
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations chief executive Pat Turner calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “put his money with his mouth is.
“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.”
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins see Part 5 below
Part 1: Don Dale royal commission demands sweeping change – is there political will to make it happen? From The Conversation
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory’s final report, which was handed down on Friday, revealed “systemic and shocking failures” in the territory’s youth justice and child protection systems.
The commission was triggered following ABC Four Corners’ broadcasting of images of detainee Dylan Voller hooded and strapped to a restraint chair, as well as footage of children being stripped, punched and tear-gassed by guards at the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres.
The commission’s findings demonstrate the need for systemic change. However, the commission will not, in itself, bring about that change. Its capacity to make lasting change lies with the government implementing its recommendations.
What did the commission find?
The commission found that the NT youth detention centres were not fit for accommodating – let alone rehabilitating – children and young people.
It also found that detainees were subjected to regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment. This included verbal abuse, racist remarks, physical abuse, and humiliation.
There was a further failure to follow procedures and requirements under youth justice legislation. Children were denied basic human needs, and the system failed to comply with basic human rights standards and safeguards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The commission also found that the NT child protection system has failed to provide appropriate and adequate support to some young people to assist them to avoid prison.
Importantly, the commission found that isolation “continues to be used inappropriately, punitively and inconsistently”. Children in the high security unit:
… continue to be confined in a wholly inappropriate, oppressive, prison-like environment … in confined spaces with minimal out of cell time and little to do for long periods of time.
What did the commission recommend?
Based on these findings, the commission recommended wide-ranging reforms to the youth justice and child protection systems.
Not surprisingly, a central focus of the recommendations relate to detention. They ranged from closing the Don Dale centre to significant restrictions on the use of force, strip-searching and isolation, and banning the use of tear gas, spit hoods, and restraint chairs.
There is a focus on greater accountability for the use of detention through extending the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s monitoring role. Recommendations also cover health care (including mental health and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder screening), education, training, and throughcare services for children exiting detention.
Among its suite of proposed reforms, the commission recommended developing a ten-year strategy to tackle child protection and prevention of harm to children, and establishing an NT-wide network of centres to provide community services to families.
Youth justice reforms include improving the operation of bail to reduce the unnecessary use of custodial remand; expanding diversionary programs in rural and remote locations; and operating new models of secure detention, based on principles of trauma-informed practice.
Adequate and ongoing training and education for police, lawyers, youth justice officers, out-of-home-care staff and judicial officers in child and adolescent development is also recommended.
The commission also emphasised the importance of developing partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities in the child protection and youth justice systems. Several organisations in written submissions to the commission identified the importance of appropriately resourcing community-controlled, and locally developed and led, programs for Indigenous young people.
Summary Key recommendations ( added by NACCHO)
1. Close Don Dale Youth Centre (and report progress on this by February 2018) and replace with a new, purpose-built facility.
2. Immediately close the high security unit at Don Dale.
3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 .
4. No child under 14 to be ordered to serve detention unless they have been convicted of a serious and violent crime, present a serious risk to the community and their sentence is approved by the head of the proposed new children’s court.
5. Set up a new Children’s Court.
6. Set up a specialist youth division within the police force and make sure all police cells are suitable for detaining children.
7. Establish a Commission for Children and Young People, with jurisdiction for all children and young people in the NT.
8. Stop the use of tear gas and continue to ban spit hoods and the restraint chair.
9. Set up at least 20 family support centres to help children and their families.
10. Develop a 10 year strategy for generational change around child protection and the prevention of harm to children. This would be led by the NT chief minister with specific targets and measures.
Increasing the age of criminal responsibility a good place to start
One of the commission’s most significant recommendations is to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, and only allowing children under 14 to be sentenced to detention for serious offences.
If this recommendation were to be implemented it is likely to have far-reaching implications across Australia. Currently, the minimum age is ten years in all states and territories.
Of particular relevance to the commission is the adverse affect of a low minimum age of criminal responsibility on Indigenous children.
The majority of children under the age of 14 who come before Australian youth courts are Indigenous. In 2015-16, 67% of children placed in detention under the age of 14 were Indigenous. This concentration is even higher among those aged 12 or younger.
Nationally, 73% of children placed in detention and 74% of children placed on community-based supervision in 2015-16 were Indigenous.
Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility opens the door to responding to children’s needs without relying on criminalisation, given its short- and long-term negative impacts.
It enables a conversation about the best responses to children who often – as the commission’s findings acknowledged – have a range of issues. These can include trauma, mental health disorders and disability, coming from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, having spent time in out-of-home care, and – particularly among Indigenous children – being removed from their families and communities.
A positive outcome from the commission will require political will and leadership to respond effectively to broader systemic issues. Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a good place to start
Part 2 : APO NT welcomes Royal Commission final report and calls for immediate commitment from Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments
The Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) welcomes the Royal Commission’s final report, handed down in Darwin today.
Over the past 14 months, the Royal Commission has examined the failings of the youth justice and child protection systems in the Northern Territory and heard ideas for change including from Aboriginal young people and families directly impacted by these systems.
‘This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again’, said John Paterson CEO AMSANT.
The Commission has made unequivocal findings that the Northern Territory’s youth justice and care and protection systems continue to fail young people and that wholesale reform is required.
‘APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection’, said Mr Paterson .
The report recognises the critical involvement of Aboriginal organisations and communities in reforming all aspects of the system to bring about real change for Aboriginal people across the Territory. As a first step, Government must immediately establish a process with Aboriginal organisations and community leaders to ensure Aboriginal people are actively involved in the change that lies ahead.
The Royal Commission represents a significant step in addressing the crisis facing our child protection and youth justice systems. ‘The work doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep the spotlight on these issues so the abuses our kids have faced in detention and in the child protection system don’t happen again. Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’, Mr Paterson said.
APO NT pays tribute to the courageous Aboriginal young people and families who came forward to tell their story to the Commission. It is through their crucial involvement that the Commission has been able to expose the systemic failings and abuses and provide a roadmap for a better future for all children in the Territory.
‘Engagement with Aboriginal organisations and communities has to be front and centre of the reform agenda. We know the extent of change required is going to take time. Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory are ready to work with government to implement the Commission’s recommendations. We want to see commitment from both levels of government so we know we are in this together for the long haul.’
The Northern Territory has the opportunity to lead the way in reforming care and protection and youth justice in Australia. We must build on the momentum for change and work together towards a future where all children have the opportunity to thrive as part of strong and loving families and communities.
Part 3 : Time to commit to action after NT Royal Commission
Today, Congress welcomes the release of the final report from Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
“We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works” Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee said.
“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”
“We also know that the ‘get tough’ rhetoric in relation to youth offending does not work and that a preventative and therapeutic approach is what is required. This point was articulated by Commissioner White today drawing on evidence from all over the world. Commissioner White also made clear that a paradigm shift to a treatment and rehabilitation approach rather than a “lock them up” punitive approach could save the NT more than $300 million per year in ten years.
Congress welcomes Commissioner Gooda’s impassioned plea for change, acknowledging that throughout the Territory he heard that Aboriginal parents everywhere are ready for change and there is an acceptance that there is a need to do better.
Congress was pleased to see the major recommendations in our submission accepted including the need to increase the minimum age for criminality from 10 to 12, and the need to establish small scale secure care rehabilitation facilities for young people in need whilst also ensuring our young people are diverted away from the criminal justice system.
“The journey to this point has been a long one for those affected, beginning not just with the events that precipitated the Royal Commission. This report is the product of every similar enquiry, and every action – and inaction – that has taken place before this in our history.
“Recently, the NT Government has shown their commitment to tackling many of the issues that affect young people today including early childhood and alcohol.
“Congress looks forward to working with the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments and other leading Aboriginal organisations, including AMSANT and APONT to ensure that the recommendations detailed in this report do not just sit on the shelf, but are implemented in a timely manner with Aboriginal communities and organisations at the forefront of decision making and delivery.
Part 4 :The Northern Territory Government must work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in true partnership on Royal Commission recommendations
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls on the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released today.
It is clear from the report that the current system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing our children and young people, leaving many more damaged than when they entered. The system of detention is punitive, harsh, and not in keeping with modern rehabilitative standards. We also know that the child protection system in the Northern Territory is letting down children and their families and is inextricably linked to youth justice issues.
Aboriginal children and young people living in the Northern Territory are overwhelmingly impacted with ninety four per cent of children and young people in detention being Aboriginal.
“The extent of this over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people compared with all other children and young people compels a special Aboriginal led response.” said NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Ms Pat Turner.
“The Northern Territory Government must now sit down with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work in true partnership on the implementation of the recommendations.”
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) have the greatest coverage across the Territory and work with Aboriginal children, young people and families everyday on child protection and youth justice system prevention and early intervention support.”
Ms Turner called on the Northern Territory Government to show national leadership in responding to the recommendations, “The Northern Territory Government has a unique opportunity to lead the rest of the nation in developing a children and family centered public health approach to youth justice and child protection, responsive to Aboriginal people needs.”
NACCHO acknowledges the young people and their families who shared their stories of trauma and survival and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations that supported them.
“I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Danilla Dilba, led by Ms Olga Haven, in providing evidence based submissions to the Northern Territory Government and the Royal Commission to inform their considerations,” said Ms Turner.
“Danilla Dilba has also provided immense support to families and young people to share their own stories and experiences throughout this time, as well as ongoing health and wellbeing services to Aboriginal people across the top end.”
It is now time for the Northern Territory Government to take full responsibility and lead a change by working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations.
Part 5 Other REACTIONS TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY YOUTH JUSTICE REPORT:
“I think to be honest these recommendations should be not only for the Northern Territory, but for all states across Australia.” – Former Don Dale detainee Dylan Voller.
“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.” – North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins.
“This royal commission very much began there and it needs to end there.” – NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
“Early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation must be front and centre of Australia’s justice system to protect the lives of our children.” – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
“The children who suffered in Don Dale and all Australian children need a guarantee that our governments will do everything they possibly can to stop this happening again.” – Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Shaleena Musk.
“This is clearly a backwards approach – there must be more funding for the beginning of the cycle, with an emphasis on early intervention, prevention, rehabilitation and community-led diversion programs.” – Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod.
“The Northern Territory and federal government must listen and work with local communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to take these important findings and recommendations by the Royal Commission forward.” – Amnesty International’s Roxanne Moore.
“We need to heed the recommendations of the Royal Commission, not only to prevent another Don Dale-type scandal but to stop more crimes from being committed, because we all deserve to be safe.” – Red Cross executive director Andy Kenyon.
“We will take the time to scrutinise this report in detail.” – Ben Slade from Maurice Blackburn lawyers.
“Jailing children does not work – it harms them and the community.” – Kathryn Kernohan from Jesuit Social Services.