NACCHO racism and Aboriginal health news: Support STAR Standing Together Against Racism in health


The STAR Project is about Standing Together Against Racism in health care and health professional education.

Tragically, racism remains common in Australian health services.

While there is an anti-racism strategy for sport, there is none yet for health where it affects Australia’s most vulnerable people.

Most health students and staff don’t like racism in health care.

However, they also tell us that they don’t quite know what to do when they see it – is it their responsibility, might there be retaliation, do they have the skills to handle it effectively?


The STAR Project gives all health students & staff members the chance to:-

ªMake a dignified, personal statement against racism
ªGain confidence & develop skills to handle racism
ªShow targets of racism that most health staff are their allies
ªHelp build a culture of anti-racism in health care

Racism Makes People Sick

The saying racism makes us sick is actually true, not just in the sense that most health students and staff are appalled by it.  Evidence clearly shows the patho-physiological pathway that links racism to stress and to poorer mental and physical health.  Smoking is not tolerated in health services as it is a health hazard.  So why racism is still tolerated?

People who are most targeted by racism are usually those who also most need health care. When people experience racism, they, their family & their community, are less likely to:-
ª  Trust health staff and fellow students
ª  Access education and health care
ª  Become true partners in their own education and health care

Where the STAR Project comes from

STAR was begun by students & staff at the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Molecular Sciences at James Cook University. They have come across many students & colleagues around Australia who wanted to do something to stop racism in health. So they initiated the STAR Project.

Racism demeans the work of decent health students and staff.  It makes study & workplace environments hostile for both the targets and bystanders of racism. The STAR Project acknowledges that staff may sometimes be the targets of racism from the public and that this can be hurtful.

However, this racism does not carry the power of racism coming from staff and it is racism in our own ranks that we can do something about.

ª The gold star symbolises hope for change

ª The stethoscope is a universal tool of the health professions

ª Each point stands for 1 word à Stand – Together – Against – Racism

ª It is a classy, little, 20 mm badge – anti-racists are the classiest!

ª For busy anti-racist – it is comes out of the wash untarnished

Wearing a little, gold badge will not get rid of racism in health on its own. Racism is endemic in health services & goes much deeper than the cruel, everyday racism that health students, staff and patients encounter. But, STAR is one way of bringing focus to racism in health care..

STAR supports Australia’s anti-racism strategy


STAR supports the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (HRC) new anti-racism strategy,   Racism: It Stops With Me. There is an anti-racism strategy for sport, but not for health. Health services should be safe places, free from discrimination, for patients, families, staff & students.

Health care should set an example, not lag behind in our greatest national challenge, to CLOSE THE GAP. It is hoped that STAR will support the great work of HRC & demonstrate to them that health students & staff have an appetite for an anti-racism strategy for health.

Show your support for the STAR Project

Our aim is to have 100 000 health staff and students wearing STAR badges on their lapels, lanyards and stethoscopes. We would like to see workplaces become racism unfriendly.

For more information, or to order  STAR  stickers, brochures. badges for lanyards & stethoscopes and mugs, for you or your students and fellow staff at the

NACCHO racism and health news:Sol Bellear takes swipe at NRL star


Racism causes stress – stress is one of the most powerful contributors to illness and poor health.

Racism causes people to self-medicate with things like drugs and alcohol

Racism makes me sick. It makes Sam sick.

It makes everyone who is the target of it sick. It is one of the key reasons why the health gap in Australia is so wide.

Racism a driver of Aboriginal ill health   See previous ARTICLE

EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: SOL Bellear, the long-serving chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, takes a swipe at Brisbane star Sam Thaiday.



LATE this week, the Brisbane Broncos unveiled their special Indigenous jersey, a strip designed to honour the contribution of past and current players, and in particular to highlight efforts to ‘Close the Gap’ in Indigenous health.

It’s a great initiative, and not before time.

But for me at least, the event was soured by the comments of Broncos’ star, Sam Thaiday.(picture above left)

I have enormous admiration and respect for Sam. He’s been a great contributor to rugby league and a role model to kids all over Australia. But Sam’s views on racism – that the best way to confront it is to “push it aside” – don’t sit well with me

At the jersey launch, Sam told media: “We’re out there to win at all costs and sometimes things get said in the heat of the moment that I think aren’t said as a hurtful thing.

“It is a tough thing to hear but you can’t really react to those things 
these days. I think the best way to deal with it is to try and
 push it aside as much as possible.”

Sorry Sam. That’s no solution at all.

There is never any excuse for racism, no matter how it is said, no matter how it meant. It is unacceptable in any form.

There are countless reasons why, but the most compelling is precisely one of the reasons why the Broncos launched the jersey in the first place – to highlight the gap in Indigenous health.

Racism makes me sick. It makes Sam sick. It makes everyone who is the target of it sick. It is one of the key reasons why the health gap in Australia is so wide.

For example, countless studies have shown significantly higher rates of smoking among the poor (it’s 50 percent among us blackfellas). And whatever your views about modern Indigenous politics, I challenge anyone to make a case that the poverty suffered by Indigenous Australians today is not a direct result of the racism of our past.

The racism of our present may be less overt, but it still hurts

Racism causes stress – stress is one of the most powerful contributors to illness and poor health.

Racism causes people to self-medicate with things like drugs and alcohol.

The simple reality is that racism affects everyone in this country, and no problem ever went away by “pushing it aside”, as Sam suggests.

As a role model, Sam and other Indigenous players of the NRL have a responsibility to stand up to it whenever they see it.

NACCHO NATSIHP News:What a report about Aboriginal health can teach journalism


The document portrays racism as being institutionalised within health care — rather than being an aberrant behaviour by a minority. Journalism that has learned this lesson might end up with much more powerful and instructive stories.

Lessons from a report on Aboriginal health issues can be transferred to journalism.

from Melissa Sweet Croakey

Journalism has a lot to learn from the health sector, I’ve often thought. Many of healthcare’s challenges — reducing errors, becoming more responsive to the community, avoiding capture by powerful interests — are relevant for journalism as well. So when the new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 was released last week, I read it looking for what journalists might learn.

Although a federal government publication, it involved extensive consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the health sector. These are some points I took away …

The report makes it clear that racism is a huge health issue. Lately there has been some self-reflection by the media about our role in entrenching gender inequality (including on the front pages of The New York Times). We could also reflect on our own role in entrenching rather than confronting racism.

The document calls for culturally supportive and culturally safe environments in health care. A large part of the media industry has not grappled with what this might look like in journalism, whether for members of our industry, or for communities and people interacting with us.

The document portrays racism as being institutionalised within health care — rather than being an aberrant behaviour by a minority. Journalism that has learned this lesson might end up with much more powerful and instructive stories. As the ABC presenter Waleed Aly wrote earlier this year, in the wake of yet another publicised incident of abuse, “our real problem is the subterranean racism that goes largely unremarked upon and that we seem unable even to detect”.

Nareen Young, CEO of the Diversity Council of Australia (and a tweeter on these issues), says the media could help by spending less time arguing about what constitutes racism, as this unending debate is exacerbating the hurt. “We need to say that if something hurts someone deeply, it is racist,” she said. The council would like to work with the media to identify areas for improvement.

The plan’s holistic approach to health is something we all could learn from. Indeed, GP Dr Tim Senior has argued for a wider adoption of the Aboriginal definition of health. Much media reporting reinforces a narrow biomedical focus, and neglects the wider determinants of health — like the importance of an equitable education system, an inclusive society and a healthy environment. If journalists incorporated the plan’s broad understanding of health into our work, we might see more useful reporting — whether on health or wider policy issues.

The document stresses the importance of culture, language and cultural identity to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Yet so often, media reports portrays culture as a negative. If reporting such concerns, then at the least this broader context needs to be included. Beyond that, how might journalism contribute to wider acknowledgement of culture? Through use of language, for example?

The plan also stresses the importance of acknowledging and understanding the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The fact that different people hold different views does not automatically mean conflict and division. Is journalism capable of respect for diversity?

The plan emphasises the importance of strengths-based approaches to Aboriginal health, rather than a focus on the deficit model that is so common amongst both the media and health sectors. Journalism can be overly focused on the deficit model — telling us about problems we often already know about — rather than investigating potential solutions. This is not an argument for “soft” journalism — it is actually easier to describe problems, whether in Aboriginal health, climate change or obesity, than to do the hard yards of solutions-focused journalism.

The plan also underlines the impact of the past upon contemporary health and wellbeing, referring to the legacy of intergenerational trauma. Most of the recent media coverage celebrating the 200th anniversary of European explorers crossing the Blue Mountains did not even canvass the implications for the area’s Aboriginal peoples. Surely this type of coverage — that privileges one historical experience and account over another — exacerbates the intergenerational trauma identified by the new plan.

No doubt some hackles will rise about the idea that we in the media have a responsibility for our work’s impact. But the industry’s engagement with mental health initiatives suggests there is a wider awareness and willingness to evolve our practices.

This piece is written from my perspective as a non-indigenous journalist. I wish I’d had the chance to reflect on these issues earlier in my career. There are many journalists and organisations, particularly in the community sector, whose work reflects the principles underlying the new national health plan.

And the digital era is enabling initiatives like the Cherbourg MoJo project in Queensland which is equipping young people with the skills to tell their community’s stories. You can see this as a digital media project or as a health intervention, given that it aims to improve self-esteem, confidence, literacy, and to “present a less marginalised view of the community”.

So while journalism can learn plenty from the health sector, it works both ways. The Cherbourg project suggests the skills of journalism can be harnessed for improving a community’s wellbeing. Mind you, the ancient art of telling stories was around long before the modern concept of journalism was invented.

*Melissa Sweet is a PhD candidate at Canberra University, and is researching journalism and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

NACCHO NASTIHP health plan news: Racism a driver of Aboriginal ill health


On an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research (and a former chair of NACCHO)

As published in The Australian OPINION

 In July 2013, the federal government launched its new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

As with all such plans, much depends on how it is implemented. With the details of how it is to be turned into meaningful action yet to be worked out, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations and others will be reserving their judgment.

Nevertheless, there is one area in which this plan breaks new ground, and that is its identification of racism as a key driver of ill-health.

This may be surprising to many Australians. The common perception seems to be that racism directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is regrettable, but that such incidents are isolated, trivial and essentially harmless.

Such views were commonly expressed, for example, following the racial abuse of Sydney Swans footballer Adam Goodes earlier this year.

However, the new health plan has got it right on this point, and it is worth looking in more detail at how and why.

So how common are racist behaviours, including speech, directed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

A key study in Victoria in 2010-11, funded by the Lowitja Institute, documented very high levels of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians.

It found that of the 755 Aboriginal Victorians surveyed, almost all (97 per cent) reported experiencing racism in the previous year. This included a range of behaviours from being called racist names, teased or hearing jokes or comments that stereotyped Aboriginal people (92 per cent); being sworn at, verbally abused or subjected to offensive gestures because of their race (84 per cent); being spat at, hit or threatened because of their race (67 per cent); to having their property vandalised because of race (54 per cent).

Significantly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed experienced eight or more such incidents in the previous 12 months.

Other studies have found high levels of exposure to racist behaviours and language.

Such statistics describe the reality of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Most Australians would no doubt agree this level of racist abuse and violence is unwarranted and objectionable. It infringes upon our rights – not just our rights as indigenous people but also our legal rights as Australian citizens.

But is it actually harmful? Is it a health issue? Studies in Australia echo findings from around the world that show the experience of racism is significantly related to poor physical and mental health.

There are several ways in which racism has a negative effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health.

First, on an individual level, exposure to racism is associated with psychological distress, depression, poor quality of life, and substance misuse, all of which contribute significantly to the overall ill-health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Prolonged experience of stress can also have physical health effects, such as on the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

Second, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be reluctant to seek much-needed health, housing, welfare or other services from providers they perceive to be unwelcoming or who they feel may hold negative stereotypes about them.

Last, there is a growing body of evidence that the health system itself does not provide the same level of care to indigenous people as to other Australians. This systemic racism is not necessarily the result of individual ill-will by health practitioners, but a reflection of inappropriate assumptions made about the health or behaviour of people belonging to a particular group.

What the research tells us, then, is that racism is not rare and it is not harmless: it is a deeply embedded pattern of events and behaviours that significantly contribute to the ill-health suffered by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Tackling these issues is not easy. The first step is for governments to understand racism does have an impact on our health and to take action accordingly. Tackling racism provides governments with an opportunity to make better progress on their commitments to Close the Gap, as the campaign is known, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The new plan has begun this process, but it needs to be backed up with evidence-based action.

Second, as a nation we need to open up the debate about racism and its effects.

The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution is important for many reasons, not least because it could lead to improved stewardship and governance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health (as explored in a recent Lowitja Institute paper, “Legally Invisible”).

However, the process around constitutional recognition provides us with an opportunity to have this difficult but necessary conversation about racism and the relationship between Australia’s First Peoples and those who have arrived in this country more recently. Needless to say, this conversation needs to be conducted respectfully, in a way that is based on the evidence and on respect for the diverse experiences of all Australians.

Last, we need to educate all Australians, especially young people, that discriminatory remarks, however casual or apparently light-hearted or off-the-cuff, have implications for other people’s health.

Whatever approaches we adopt, they must be based on the recognition that people cannot thrive if they are not connected.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be connected with their own families, communities and cultures. We must also feel connected to the rest of society. Racism cuts that connection.

At the same time, racism cuts off all Australians from the unique insights and experiences that we, the nation’s First Peoples, have to offer.

Seen this way, recognising and tackling racism is about creating a healthier, happier and better nation in which all can thrive.

Pat Anderson is chairwoman of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

NACCHO health and racism news:Adam Goodes and Aussie stars unite to stamp out racism



The racist incident at the Swans vs Collingwood game last Friday night should not overshadow the magnificent performance by Adam Goodes (pictured above Friday night Indigenous Round ) nor the wonderful activities this week to celebrate the contribution of Indigenous players to the AFL, but it reinforces the need for ongoing education and the importance of calling racism out when it is witnessed.”Play by the Rules Co-Chair, Graeme Innes


The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Racism. It Stops With Me campaign and the Play by the Rules program have partnered to produce a powerful new TV Community Service Announcement (CSA) for sporting organisations to play at their events and to promote on their websites and through their social media forums.

REFER previous NACCHO communique Racism and Health consequences

 “The TV CSA (and several radio CSAs) will be broadcast nationally until the start of August and will also be available on the Australian Human Rights Commission and Play by the Rules YouTube channels and websites,” said Commission President, Gillian Triggs.  

The TV CSA features an all-star cast of Australia’s best known sporting heroes including:

Sally Pearson (athletics), Adam Goodes (AFL), Liz Cambage (basketball), Greg Inglis (rugby league and NRL Indigenous All-stars), Peter Siddle (cricket), Mo’onia Gerrard (netball), AFL Indigenous All-stars, Archie Thompson (football/soccer), Cameron Smith (rugby league), Drew Mitchell (rugby union), Timana Tahu (rugby league), Nick Maxwell (AFL) and some grassroots athletes of different ages and backgrounds.

They reinforce the simple message – Racism. It Stops With Me.

 Despite a range of programs and policies, incidents of racism and discrimination still occur on a regular basis from the elite to grassroots level across a range of sports every season.

 “Sport is all about having fun, competing safely and getting a fair go, regardless of your skin colour, background or culture.

Whether you’re a player, spectator, coach or official, there’s simply no place for racism or discrimination in sport,” federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Play by the Rules Co-Chair, Graeme Innes said. “The alleged racist incident at the Swans vs Collingwood game last night should not overshadow the magnificent performance by Adam Goodes nor the wonderful activities this week to celebrate the contribution of Indigenous players to the AFL, but it reinforces the need for ongoing education and the importance of calling racism out when it is witnessed.”

 Executive Director of Sport and Recreation Tasmania, Craig Martin, also a Play by the Rules Co-Chair, said, “With the AFL, Rugby League, Netball and Rugby Union seasons all now in progress, the Football (soccer) season just finished and the Cricket Tests about to commence in the UK, this is a timely opportunity to remind everyone in sport that racism is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

 Racism. It Stops With Me is an initiative of the National Anti-Racism Strategy which invites all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism wherever it happens. Sporting organisations can take a strong stand against racism by committing to the Racism.

It Stops with Me campaign at:

Clubs can also access tools and resources to stamp racism out of sport at:


Play by the Rules is a unique collaboration between the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission, all state and territory departments of sport and recreation, all state and territory anti-discrimination and human rights agencies, the NSW Commission for Children and Young People and the Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Association (ANZSLA). For more information on how to promote safe, fair and inclusive participation within your sporting club or organisation contact or visit .


Media contact: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529

Why Facebook should Unlike racism and the health sector needs to step up to the plate on racism

Our thanks to CROAKEY (Melissa Sweet) and Dr Tim Senior writes

As of this moment, more than 10,000 people have signed this petition calling on Facebook to take down the racist attack on Indigenous Australians that is in the news.

And more than 16,000 people have signed this one.

I wonder how many people from the health sector signed the petitions?

In the article below, Dr Tim Senior, a GP who works in Aboriginal health, argues that the health sector needs to step up to the plate in tackling racism. It is a public health issue well beyond the pages of Facebook.


Why Facebook should Unlike racism and the health sector needs to step up to the plate on racism

Dr Tim Senior writes:

Yesterday, news broke of a Facebook page called Aboriginal Memes, containing offensive stereotyping of Aboriginal people. Apparently, Facebook took the page down briefly, before reposting it with an addition to the title: “Controversial humour.”

I have had a look at the site, and I didn’t find any humour. I have written and performed comedy in a previous life, and my sense of humour hasn’t deserted me.

There was none there – just offensive racial vilification that made me feel sick. Humour doesn’t throw stones down from powerful to powerless – it throws rocks back up!

As of this morning, it looks like the original pages may have been taken down, but that the site appears to be back up, under a slightly different  name (which I’ve reported to Facebook).

Clearly, this is racist material. People who know better than I, say this breaks the law, not to mention Facebook’s own community standards.

However, there will be many who say, that while they disagree profoundly with what is said, they believe that this is an issue of free speech.

If, for just a moment, we allow that as an argument, it does not follow that free speech means that your ideas aren’t challenged. If you are really going to make the free speech argument about offensive material such as this, then you also have to allow free speech to those vigorously opposed.

But what if the law were changed, so this wasn’t illegal, as Tony Abbott has suggested he might do. What if Facebook changed their community standards to allow for any sort of speech (except the depiction of breast feeding of course!)

Would there be any reason, then, to ask for the site to be removed? Is there any particular role of health professionals and health policy advocates? I believe there is.

It is already well established in tobacco control, seatbelt wearing and drink driving that the freedom to do something can be restricted by the excess risks this puts on people’s health.

Significantly, with all of these, the decision of one individual affects the health of others, through passive smoking (especially in children), and through traffic accidents to others.

The case is also being made convincingly in the availability of junk food (or “edible food like substances” as Michael Pollan correctly calls them). There is the start of a case being made for the health issues involved in man-made climate disruption, and in the health effects of inequality.

Which brings us to racism. There is a clear effect of the experience of racism on health. Some examples, quoted by Dr Angela Durey, who has researched the health effects of racism:

  • Those who experience racist verbal abuse are 50% more likely to report their health being fair or poor than those who haven’t experienced it.
  • Those who believed that most employers were racist were 40% more likely to report their health was fair or poor.
  • A US systematic review reported an inverse correlation of racial discrimination with physical and mental health
  • Experiences of Maori people in New Zealand with verbal or physical abuse or unfair treatment in health, employment or housing resulted in a wide range of worse physical and mental health – including higher smoking rates.

On an individual level, I know people who hate going to hospital because of their experiences, who won’t go to the police if they have trouble because of their experience of racism from police officers. Many people will have their own stories.

When we talk about Aboriginal health, we often talk as if the problem is “Being Aboriginal” but in reality, “Being Aboriginal” is a marker for having experienced racism, discrimination and colonisation.

Experiencing racism is a cause of so many of the health problems we keep describing, including lifestyle risks factors.

It seems clear that the experience of racism is a cause of ill health, and so working to eradicate racism is something we should do as a public health measure.

It’s also not enough to say that people can avoid experiencing racism by not visiting the website. This assumes that those contributing to the website and those visiting “just for a laugh” do not exist outside Facebook, that at work,or with friends, none of these attitudes come into play.

It assumes that an Aboriginal person can read that someone contributing to this website works for Consumer Affairs Victoria, Centrelink, an insurance company, a catering company, and believe that they will be treated fairly when they get there.

Those contributing to this group and reading it are reinforced in their beliefs that it is OK to talk like this, that it’s all just a bit of a laugh. But in the same way that drink driving harms other people, racism harms other people. It’s not OK, and that needs to be made clear.

What is the way forward? A first step has been taken – Facebook seems to have taken some action. But we need to remain vigilant, as others will pop up.

We should compare providing these pages to making someone work in a smoke filled room or lending the drunk driver your car keys.

Tweet your displeasure, post your disagreement to Facebook. We could all leave Facebook if the site if they persist in being slow to remove unhealthy racist material and quick to remove healthy breast feeding material.

We should follow with interest the investigations by ACMA and the Human Rights Commission.

We can challenge racism wherever you see it – All Together Now campaign well on this, and you can support them here.

And finally, as Durey says, we need to turn the lens on ourselves – “white privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets” that we seldom examine, or as John Scalzi imaginatively puts it “The lowest difficulty setting there is.

This is not about white guilt or self flagellation. This is recognising that we are stood at the top of a cliff, not at the end of a level playing field.

How are we constructing our health services? What is the experience of Aboriginal people using them?

The answers won’t usually be as dramatic as those Facebook pages, but they may be just as damaging.

To do this, however, we need to listen more closely to the Aboriginal voices out there. For they are telling us about their experiences if we care to listen.

Declaration: Tim Senior has represented the RACGP at the Close the Gap Steering Committee and works for the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation.Though the organisations I work for would not disagree with these statements, they may not express it in these terms. These are personal opinions and not the official position of any organisations I work for.