NACCHO tribute and Bellear family thank you : #SolsLastMarch #StateFuneral for Sol Bellear AM ” Remembered as a giant of a man “


” Sol was giant of a man who made a giant contribution to self-determination for our people right throughout the land , one who would now take his honoured place amongst his very honoured ancestors.

News of his sudden death last week had sent shockwaves through Aboriginal Australia”.

Pat Turner, Chief Executive of NACCHO : National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation speaking at the State Funeral about her long term friendship and respect for Sol Bellear.  Pictures above Michelle Lovegrove

See full NACCHO Tribute to Sol Bellear AM Press Release

NACCHO tribute to Sol Bellear AM Aboriginal activist

NACCHO was also represented by Current Chair John Singer and Past Chairs Pat Anderson , Matthew Cooke and Justin Mohamed.

 ” We will always be grateful for the many expressions of kindness, love and support we have received following the loss of our father and brother, Sol Bellear, who passed away peacefully at home on Wednesday night, 29 November.

We have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people who have reached out to us in this very difficult time. Sol touched many lives in the movement for Aboriginal rights, the game of rugby league and the community of Redfern that he loved.  Now the people whose lives he touched are comforting us with their memories of him.”

Statement from the family of  Solomon David “Sol” Bellear AM

Sol stood for many things including self-determination, proper treaties with our people, Aboriginal control of our people’s health and legal services, Land Rights and a better understanding of our history.

Although, Sol achieved many great victories, much of this work remained unfinished at the end of his life. We ask all those who loved Sol to please continue his work so that the vision he had for his country and people might one day be fulfilled.

One of Sol’s last wishes was for the Sydney City Council to erect a plaque at Redfern Park to help people remember and reflect on the Redfern Speech delivered on that site by former Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

We will always treasure the time we had with him. He was the most loving and committed Father, Brother, Poppy and Uncle any family could hope for.=

We would like to particularly thank the NSW Premier and the staff from her Department, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Joshua Roxburgh and our brother, Shane Phillips for their generous assistance in organising Sol’s funeral.

 Sol Bellear remembered as giant at state funeral

Aboriginal land rights and health activist Sol Bellear has been remembered as a giant of indigenous advancement at a state funeral on Saturday at Redfern Oval in Sydney, the spiritual home of his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs.

From the Australian

It was a mark of the man, mourners heard, that after being dropped as a player from the Rabbitohs squad after raising a black-power salute on scoring a try at the ground, he was within a year serving on the rugby league team’s board.

“He carried a great personal weight on his shoulders because he was a strong man,” fellow activist Paul Coe, one of the leaders with whom Bellear founded the Aboriginal tent embassy at the then parliament house in 1972, said.

“He would stand his ground no matter what or no matter who was opposing him.”

Bellear was joined in one final march to the football ground from the nearby Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, an institution which mourners including NSW Governor David Hurley and wife Linda heard was one of his great legacies.

Sols Last March with 3,000 family and friends

The march ended at the park where, exactly 25 years ago tomorrow, Bellear led Paul Keating to the stage to deliver the then prime minister’s famous oration admitting white Australia’s culpability in the poor state of indigenous affairs.(see Picture in Part 1 above )

“He stood proud and he stood tall but he was not egotistical,” Mr Coe said.

“I’ve seen him give money out of his own pocket to people on the streets. This is the kind of man that he was — a kind of man you could admire but not completely understand.

“In those days as young students, trying to work out who and what we were, it was very hard to make ends meet. But he would always give of himself, both time and energy.”

A Bundjalung man from Mullumbimby in northern NSW, Solomon David Bellear, who was 66, leaves partner Naomi and children Tamara and Joseph. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for services to the Aboriginal community, in particular in the field of health. His brother Bob, who died a decade ago, was the first Aboriginal judge.

In a letter from grand-daughter Rose read out at the service, Bellear was bid a “merry Christmas in the dreamtime” and the hope he had travelled there safely with his totem, the carpet snake.

Bellear’s achievements were legion. He was the founding chair of the Aboriginal Legal Service, a founding member of the Aboriginal Housing Company, an Aboriginal delegate to the UN General Assembly, player and director at the Rabbitohs, a foundation player with the Redfern All Blacks in the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout, a manager with the indigenous dreamtime and All Stars rugby league teams, and deputy chair of the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.


Sol Bellear, whose funeral was held on Saturday. Picture: Dan Himbrechts

Ken Wyatt, federal Minister for Indigenous Health and Aged Care, said on Friday Bellear had “played a key role in establishing medical, housing, land rights and legal services for Aboriginal people and remains a towering figure on the journey towards justice for our people”.

He was remembered as being crucial to the consensus position developed at the Indigenous constitutional convention held in Central Australia in May this year, when disparate ambitions for reform were distilled into the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Singer Emma Donovan opened the funeral with the touchstone Land Rights Song, whose memorable lines “they keep on saying everything’s fine, still they can’t see us cry all the time” seemed particularly apt.

Bellear’s casket was borne from the park by a cortege including members of his beloved Redfern All Blacks, whose members linked arms to sing their team song for him one last time. His casket was draped with a Rabbitohs scarf, the hearse with an Aboriginal flag.

As it set off one final, slow, lap of the oval, fists were raised in a black-power salute

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Dr Naomi Mayers OAM Leader in Aboriginal health receives honorary degree

The University of Sydney has conferred a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) upon Naomi Mayers OAM, for her work delivering and transforming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care

“We’ve come a long way since the Aboriginal Medical Service first opened its doors, thanks to the efforts of so many people.

Of course there remains much work to be done and I urge the younger generations to continue fighting to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.”

Dr Naomi Mayers in 1972 was one of the founders of Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern , a founding member of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW and the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (now NACCHO ) .

“Australia owes a debt of gratitude to Dr Mayers, for her impressive contribution towards improving health care policy, system delivery and access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

She dedicated her working life to achieving health equity, and the empowerment of her community, in Redfern and beyond.”

Congratulating Dr Mayers, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston said her work had made a tangible difference to countless people.

An advocate, leader and reformer, Dr Mayers has been at the forefront of change in health service provision to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at local, state and national levels for over 40 years.

One of the founders of the first Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Australia in early 1972, the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, Dr Mayers worked as its Administrator, Company Secretary and finally Chief Executive Officer until her recent retirement.

Over 40 years, she guided its transformation from a small shop-front into a nationwide network of services.

Dr Naomi Mayers at the University of Sydney.

A Yorta Yorta/Wiradjuri woman, Dr Mayers was also a founding member of The Sapphires, the all-Aboriginal music group from country Victoria that formed the basis of the popular 2012 film of the same name.

Laurel Robinson, Beverly Briggs, Naomi Mayers and Lois Peeler are the women behind The Sapphires

Presented with the honour during a graduation ceremony at the University’s Great Hall, Dr Mayers acknowledged the importance of collaboration and persistence in achieving change.

At the age of 18, Dr Mayers began her work in health as a nurse, at the Royal Women’s Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, the Home Hill Hospital in Queensland and St Andrews Hospital in East Melbourne. She was also a board member of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

She was a founding member of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW and the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO, now the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation); founding president of the Federation for Aboriginal Women; and a member of the first Australian and Torres Strait Islander Commission Regional Council (Metropolitan Sydney).

Dr Naomi Mayers.

She was a witness during the inquiries of the 1977 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Health, and in 1981 she was appointed as a consultant by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists.

Dr Mayers was also Chair of the National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, which authored a pivotal report that introduced innovative Aboriginal health sector reforms which helped shape the 150 Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia today.

She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1984 in recognition of her services to the community and holds a doctorate in Aboriginal Affairs from Tranby Aboriginal College in Sydney.

NACCHO #NAIDOC2016 Tribute to Redfern AMS 45 years and the first Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service


” In 1971, when the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) Redfern opened its doors, Medicare did not exist and the only option for most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families living in inner Sydney was to attend an emergency department or rely on the goodwill of local general practitioners.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experienced racism in the health system and wider community, and poverty was a major barrier to attending general practice or purchasing medicines.

On behalf on the NACCHO Board and the  150 NACCHO members throughout Australia I thank the Redfern AMS for its 45 years of service and contribution to our Aboriginal community controlled health

Matthew Cooke Chair NACCHO

Picture above from NSWALC : Hon Dame Marie Bashir offers her continued support for Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service and Chair Sol Bellear , celebrating 45 years.

Watch The AMS Redfern on NACCHO TV



Watch The AMS Redfern on NACCHO TV


The AMS Redfern was the first community controlled health service in Australia and was founded in 1971 by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community activists (Figure 1). Initially a ‘shopfront’ volunteer service on Regent street in Redfern, it was staffed by non-Indigenous doctors, nurses, nuns and students. Naomi Mayers, the current Chief Executive Officer, joined as secretary in 1972, Shirley Smith, affectionately known as Mum Shirl, was the first field officer and the late Professor Fred Hollows was instrumental in signing up medical students, doctors and volunteers.

This Tribute original published by RACGP

Figure 1. Community activists involved in setting up AMS Redfern

Figure 1. Community activists involved in setting up AMS Redfern

Within a year of opening, AMS Redfern had become so popular it was unable to meet the demand for its services. Federal government funding was made available the following year and since then, AMS Redfern has grown into a multidisciplinary health service, consisting of a wide range of clinics and services including medical, dental, public health and outreach services (Figure 2).

This community controlled model of health is now widely adopted, with over 150 Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) in urban, regional and remote Australia.6

Figure 2. Structure of the AMS RedfernFigure 2. Structure of the AMS Redfern


Team Redfern 2016

The AMS Redfern has always been a free service for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and follows the principles of holistic healthcare, designed to care for the wellbeing of the whole community7 (Table 1). While the majority of patients are local, many come from rural and remote communities and visit the service when in Sydney to get their chronic health issues addressed.

Table 1. Principles of holistic healthcare as applied to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health7 and adopted by NACCHO, 2006
‘Health does not just mean the physical wellbeing of the individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. This is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life. Healthcare services should strive to achieve the state where every individual can achieve their full potential as a human being and thus bring about the total wellbeing of their community’

The AMS Redfern recognises that the education of health professionals is an integral nonpart of Indigenous healthcare. The first Aboriginal health workers (AHWs) course commenced in 1984 (developed by Sister Dulcie Flower) and a postgraduate program for training in mental healthcare followed. Aboriginal health worker training has since been moved to tertiary settings, but many of the original class continue to work at Redfern and subsequent graduates are employed in Indigenous medical and mainstream health services throughout New South Wales.

The AMS Redfern has also been a teaching practice for over 20 years. In the past 7 years the service has hosted 18 general practice registrars, of whom seven have remained in Aboriginal medical service employment on completion of their terms. With such a huge demand for training, the AMS Redfern also has a large number of short term placements for both medical and nursing students from the University of Sydney.

Over many years, AMS Redfern has developed and fostered links with local hospitals and specialists (Table 2), who have continued the tradition of the shopfront volunteers by providing their services onsite. Others have facilitated access for AMS Redfern patients in their rooms by a commitment to bulkbilling and by providing urgent services at the request of AMS Redfern GPs.

Table 2. Organisations collaborating with AMS Redfern
Prince of Wales Hospital

  • Ear, nose and throat and ophthalmology registrar clinic at AMS Redfern

Hearing Australia

  • Audiology/hearing aid clinic at AMS Redfern

International Centre for Eye Education

  • Optometry clinic at AMS Redfern

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney Local Health District)

  • Visiting specialist clinics at AMS Redfern including psychiatrist/clinical nurse consultant, liver and drug and alcohol, gynaecologist/obstetrician and cardiologist/ interventional cardiology
  • Antenatal shared care
  • Visiting podiatrist clinic at AMS Redfern

St Vincent’s Hospital

  • Visiting orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist at AMS Redfern

Sydney University Medical Faculty

  • Medical student placements

University of Technology Sydney Nursing Faculty

  • Nursing student placements

GP Synergy

  • General practice registrar terms and short term placements
  • Workshops on Aboriginal health

BreastScreen NSW

  • Mobile van visits

The services

At AMS Redfern, nurses and AHWs work alongside GPs to provide coordinated care, particularly in critical target areas, including:

  • cervical screening. Reports suggest that 20–64% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have never had cervical screening.8 In addition, the mortality rate from cervical cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is estimated to be 4–5 times that of the national average.9 At AMS Redfern, a women’s health nurse conducts Pap smears, maintains a recall system and coordinates follow up care with a visiting female gynaecologist who conducts colposcopies on site
  • type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is approximately five times more common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to the rest of the Australian population.10 This illness and its cardiac complications are particularly prevalent in Indigenous patients over 50 years of age attending AMS Redfern (Table 3). The service has established a multidisciplinary clinic with all patients reviewed first by a diabetes educator and GP and then onsite referrals for the eye clinic and podiatrist. An AHW assists in organising appointments, follow up, transport and basic monitoring for the patients. The service has a close working relationship with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) diabetes clinic, which expedites endocrine review of poorly controlled patients
  • Mental health. Twenty-seven percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have been reported as experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress.10 This is double that experienced in the non Indigenous community. The AMS Redfern’s mental health program is coordinated by a senior AHW with postgraduate training in mental health, and has both male and female visiting psychiatrists, a clinical nurse consultant and a psychologist. Having multidisciplinary services onsite facilitates genuine shared care and appropriate continuity from the hospital to the community
  • Drugs and alcohol. A separate drug and alcohol unit was established in 1999, staffed by AHWs, AMS Redfern GPs and clinical nurse consultants with mental health and drug and alcohol training. The unit provides education, counselling, narcotic replacement pharmacotherapy and assistance with rehabilitation. In partnership with the RPA, an onsite liver clinic now runs fortnightly where patients can be assessed for hepatitis C treatment.
Table 3. Number of patients aged over 50 years with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease attending AMS Redfern in 2012
Diagnosis Number of patients Percentage of patients aged over 50 years
Type 2 diabetes 312 28%
Cardiovascular disease 486 43.6%
Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease 249 22.4%
Total patients aged over 50 years 1114 100%

The AMS Redfern has a proud history of creative health promotion programs including the World Health Organization awarded ‘U Me & HIV’ videos, the Koori Line Dance Troupe, the youth surfing program, the Elders pottery group, the men’s group and walking groups (Figure 3). Programs supporting healthy lifestyle such as smoking cessation and fruit and vegetable boxes for needy families are all part of the AMS Redfern’s extended service.

Figure 3. Health promotion program posterFigure 3. Health promotion program poster

Recognising the gap in urban Aboriginal research, the service is currently involved in a retrospective cohort study of all cause and cause specific mortality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients attending the service from 1971 to 2008. The service is also a partner in the Kanyini vascular collaboration11 (, which is testing whether improved outcomes for heart disease can be achieved by using a polypill rather than multiple dose tailored medications.

Improving access in mainstream general practice

While some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients prefer to attend ACCHSs, many visit mainstream general practices. The following strategies to improve access to primary care services in this population apply to any primary care setting. Mainstream general practices may like to consider and adapt some of these strategies to better meet the needs of Indigenous patients in their community.

  • Sensitively ask all patients about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and record this on all patients records12
  • Regularly update contact details – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients may move frequently and travel regularly between the bush and the city. While most patients have mobile telephones, the numbers may also change frequently
  • Employ Aboriginal staff – this helps to make the practice culturally welcoming and helps close the employment gap
  • Develop a referral list of specialists prepared to bulk-bill Aboriginal patients and negotiate a similar arrangement with pathology and radiology
  • Be opportunistic in screening – nonfasting blood results can be better than no blood results
  • If you have a sufficient number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, invite specialists to run clinics at your practice at appropriate intervals
  • Undertake cultural awareness training and register for the Indigenous Practice Incentive Program – as well as annual health checks, your patients will also be eligible for the pharmaceutical co-payment measure, reducing their out-of-pocket expenses on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme medicines (see Resources).


Conflict of interest: none declared.


We would like to thank Dr Naomi Mayers and Dr Kate Burgess for assistance with the historical information referred to in this article.


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