NACCHO political news: Is this the first time Aboriginal people have been so close to the top of the political agenda ?

“His commitment to Indigenous people is the nicest thing about him, (referring to Mr Abbott.)  There is good will there and he might not get it right but we should give him a chance.”

Fred Chaney speaking at the recent NACCHO AGM in Perth

Des Martin (pictured above), Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia, a peak body representing 20 of that state’s Aboriginal Medical Services, says there is truth in that statement because this is the first time Aboriginal people have been so close to the top of the political agenda.

Des Martin wrote this report from the recent National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s Members Meeting for CROAKEY

When former politician Fred Chaney told a packed room, most of whom were Aboriginal, that Tony Abbott has good will and a genuine personal interest and investment in the needs of Aboriginal people, I wasn’t sure what would happen.

These were risky statements to make, given the depth of mistrust many Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) people have for politicians past and present: sometimes due to policy and sometimes down to empty promises and token gestures.

Perhaps though, there is some truth there. We should respect him and if Warren Mundine wants to be Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs then we should let him and more importantly take him seriously.

Mr Chaney has known Tony Abbott for a long time and he openly admits the Prime Minister has changed a lot since those early days of politics.

“His commitment to Indigenous people is the nicest thing about him,” he said when referring to Mr Abbott. “There is good will there and he might not get it right but we should give him a chance.”

Mr Abbott was unable to attend the NACCHO annual members meeting in person, due to Parliament sitting, but he wrote a letter to the delegates about what he hopes will change under his new government: while it is comforting that there have been improvements in life expectancy, the ten year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is still disturbing.

It must be our goal to eliminate this gap within a generation. Our health is in many ways a reflection of our communities. That is why we have to ensure that children go to schools, adults go to work and the ordinary rule of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.

When one of his senior bureaucrats was later pressed on what the statement about ordinary rule meant, particularly when he used changed the rule to law in his own presentation, there was no clear definition.

NACCHO Chairperson Justin Mohamed tactfully suggested it would be a good idea to clear that up. Any politician who wants to work seriously with Aboriginal people should know, it matters what that statement means and if the word law is going to be frequently transposed, do you mean law or lore?

Whatever the definition Mr Abbott did explain that a new level of engagement at every level of society is needed, to ensure that Aboriginal people receive better educational, employment, housing and health outcomes and that’s why he has brought Indigenous Affairs under the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC).

The move to DPC is one that many in our sector are worried about. There is fear that the attention and momentum we have picked up is going to be lost under a pile of other Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) issues that DPC must deal with.

The concern for us still lies with the use of Medicare Locals and what threat that poses to Aboriginal Medical Services.

While Samantha Palmer, First Assistant Secretary for the Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division said that Medicare Locals won’t replace ‘urban Aboriginal Medical Services’ some aren’t so sure. And to get picky, that statement doesn’t include regional or remote services, what about them?

Sandy Davies, a Director of the Geraldton Region Aboriginal Medical Service echoed what many at the conference likely thought: “Unless we prove the strength of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector, Abbott will utilise Medicare Locals.”

Well I’ll tell you what I know about the strength of our sector.

First, there are 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS’) around Australia and together we serve nearly half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: that’s 350,000 people across the country.

The Redfern Aboriginal Medical service in Sydney was established in 1971 and was the first Aboriginal community controlled health service in Australia and it helped establish others around the country.

Bega Garnbirringu in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia recently celebrated its 30 year anniversary and Perth’s first Aboriginal Medical Service: Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Inc. just had its 40year anniversary.

As a sector, ACCHS are responsible for 75% of the improvements in Aboriginal people’s health outcomes since 2008 when closing the gap began. ACCHS are more than comparable to mainstream services for identifying risk factors, performing health checks, care planning and treating individuals.

It has proven itself as a successful health model. Now we just need to make sure this new government is well aware of that fact.

There are some concerns also that Warren Mundine’s focus is on economic empowerment of Aboriginal people. He’s right in many ways though: having a better economic status can improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities and he’s also right to target the mining industry. It is an employer of many in Western Australia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

But the ACCH Sector is actually the biggest employer of Aboriginal people Australia-wide. So not only do we care but we employ.

Having the visibility and level of representation for Aboriginal people at a federal level means that Aboriginal people are at the top end of the political agenda and this has never happened before. Aboriginal people are still facing incredible hardship despite improvements in health, employment and economic status but politically this is an exciting time in history.

I just hope the promises are kept.

NACCHO chair launches Australia’s first Aboriginal Health Newspaper at AGM

Koori Mail Handover

Picture Above: Board Director of the Koori Mail Trevor Kapeen presents the first copy of Australia’s first Aboriginal Health Newspaper to Chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed on the opening day of the NACCHO AGM in Perth.

Working with Aboriginal community controlled and award-winning national newspaper the Koori Mail, NACCHO aims thru NACCHO Health News to bring relevant information on health services, policy and programs to NACCHO members and key industry stakeholders at a grassroots level.


NACCHO will leverage the brand, coverage and award-winning production skills of the Koori Mail to produce a 20-28 page three times a year, distributed as a ‘lift-out’ in the 14,000 Koori Mail circulation, as well as an extra 5000 copies to be sent directly to NACCHO member organisations across Australia.

“We have learned that most of the communication around these important Aboriginal health areas tend to float around the top echelons of the government and non-government sectors,” said NACCHO chairman Justin Mohamed.

“Our intention is to broaden the reach of this information, landing in the waiting rooms  and tea rooms of community health clinics, community centres, program offices and other places accessed daily by primary health care workers and our clients .

“While NACCHO’s website and annual report have been valued sources of information for national and local Aboriginal  health care issues for many years, the launch of NACCHO Health News creates a fresh, vitalised platform that will inevitably reach audiences beyond the boardrooms,” Mr. Mohamed said

“This is a tremendous leap for the dissemination of health information across our Aboriginal  population,” Mr Mohamed noted. “Never before has such valuable and relevant health information become so accessible to this sector. If you have a message or job opportunity you want to get into the Aboriginal primary health care sector, NACCHO Health News is your ideal media.”

The first edition of NACCHO Health News hit the presses on November 17 and was promoted heavily via various media channels and social media outlets.

To book an advertisement and/or have your article considered for publication in the April 2014 edition , please contact the NACCHO media team on 02 6246 9309 or email

NACCHO alert NIDAC: The report on the consultations of the National Aboriginal Peoples’ Drug Strategy

Consultations for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy

The report on the consultations  conducted by NIDAC to inform the development of the National Aboriginal &  Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Drug Strategy is now available online.

Close The gap
The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) was engaged by the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy (NATSIPDS) Working Group to undertake consultations in six locations in Australia to inform the development of the NATSIPDS.
The consultations conducted by NIDAC built on work that has been undertaken by the NATSIPDS Working Group and feedback from the evaluation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Complementary Action Plan (The CAP) and the Yarning Circle, conducted at the 2nd National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Conference held in Fremantle, WA in June 2012.
The consultations were held at the following locations:
Location Date
Port Augusta, SA Monday 20 May 2013
Sydney, NSW Tuesday 21 May 2013
Mt Isa, QLD Thursday 23 May 2013
Perth, WA Monday 27 May 2013
Broome, WA Tuesday 28 May 2013
Alice Springs, NT Thursday 30 May 2013
Background to the NATSIPDS
The Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy (NATSIPDS) Working Group
This Working Group consists of experts from around Australia from both the government and non government sector with the Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing filling the role of Chair and the Chair and Co Chair of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee as the Co Vice-Chairs.
The NATSIPDS will:
  • be aimed at minimising alcohol, tobacco and other drug-related health, social and economic harms among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities;
  • cover urban and metropolitan areas as well as rural and remote communities;
  • take a harm minimisation approach which encompasses the three equally important which will become a sub- strategy of the National Drug Strategy 2010 -2015;
  • build on the longstanding partnerships between the health and law enforcement sectors and seek to support the health-law enforcement partnership and strengthen linkages across other sectors as appropriate;
  • recognise the importance of working within a holistic and culturally appropriate framework; and
  • offer a clear policy framework that will guide current and future efforts to minimise the harm of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy will replace the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Complementary Action Plan (The CAP) ( and will have links to other relevant documents, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Health Plan and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.