NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health : How Redfern’s Sol Bellear prevented a massive life-threatening heart attack

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 ” I’ve been part of campaigns urging Aboriginal men to lead healthy lifestyles and get regular medical checks, but I didn’t follow my own advice.

If there’s one legacy I leave, I want it to be that Aboriginal men more regularly present for check-ups.”

“We need to take responsibility. We owe this to our families and our communities. We don’t need to keep dying too early from preventable heart disease.”

As the long-term Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Service and a Board member since 1975, Sol didn’t practice what he preached when it came to his own health.

Originally published by Our Mob 22 Dec 2017

Watch recent NACCHO TV Interview with Sol Bellear

All images in this story: Courtesy of the Bellear family

Land Rights legend Sol Bellear considers himself one of the lucky ones.

A decision Sol made some nine months ago to lead a healthier lifestyle not only saved his life but made him more determined to lead the campaign for men’s health.

A few months before he was to die from a massive heart attack, Sol decided to change his life.

While driving back together from a New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) meeting in West Wyalong, Sol’s colleague, Acting CEO, Cal Davis told him about a diet he had started to control his diabetes.

“Sol was pretty interested in the diet and said he wanted to try it out,” Cal says.

“So I got him some books and he started to get his calories down and eat more low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style meals.”

The diet immediately brought results. Within eight weeks, Sol had lost seven kilos. But then his weight plateaued. When he started to do some light exercise he found he was short of breath after only a few steps.

Sol’s doctor referred him to cardiologist, Dr Raj Puranik who for seven years has conducted monthly clinics at the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service.

“We took an ultrasound and I was concerned that an area of Sol‘s heart muscle wasn’t working,“ Dr Puranik said.

“After we did an angiogram (or x-ray of the heart), we found that two of his coronary arteries were 100 percent blocked and the other was 90 percent blocked.  So he was surviving on just ten percent blood flow.”

Sol could have suffered a life-threatening heart attack at any time.

How Sol Bellear prevented a massive life-threatening heart attack

A member of the surgical team that operated on Sol later told him that he was just three to four weeks away from a massive heart attack that would most likely have killed him.

Sol was rushed to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where surgeons performed an emergency coronary bypass operation.

Surgeons split his chest open and grafts were used to bypass the blockages in his arteries.

After four hours the operation was a success and Sol woke to see his concerned family huddled around his bed.

“You wake up in the Intensive Care Unit and all your family are there.  And you look at their faces and see all their grief.  You think, so this is what I’ve put them through,” he said.

As the long-term Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Service and a Board member since 1975, Sol didn’t practice what he preached when it came to his own health.

“I’ve been part of campaigns urging Aboriginal men to lead healthy lifestyles and get regular medical checks, but I didn’t follow my own advice.”

Sol was a keen sportsman who played rugby league for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Redfern All Blacks, but after he retired from football he didn’t maintain regular exercise or watch his diet.

“I was working long hours, drinking too much and eating too many rubbish foods.”

Although he spent a large part of his life at the Aboriginal Medical Service, Sol, like many men, didn’t prioritise a visit to the doctor.

“It’s an ego thing. We think we’re bullet proof … it will never happen to me. But it did happen.”

Since his brush with death, Sol has been struck by how many of his friends and colleagues have had heart bi-passes.

“They say to me: ‘Brother, you’re now a member of the zipper club.’  But this isn’t a club where we want any new members.”

However, Sol knows that he is one of the lucky ones. After the operation he was at home recovering and feeling bored so he got out some old photos from his playing days.

There was one that was of the Redfern All Blacks team from 1978.

There are 20 young men in the photo including the ball boys.

Now all but six of them are dead, many from heart disease.

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“The greatest tragedy is that many of the deaths of these young men were preventable,” Sol says.

“The only thing separating me from them is luck.”

Dr Puranik says that Australia will never close the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people without action on heart disease.

“Heart disease is the number one driving factor behind the gap. It’s the number one killer but 90 percent of cardiac disease is preventable,” he says.

His years at the Redfern AMS have convinced Dr Puranik that getting the model of health care delivery right is crucial to overcoming the problem.

“We need to take our clinics to Aboriginal people in their community-controlled medical services and show through images rather than just tell them how their heart muscle is working.”

The secret, he says, is patience and building trust.

“When we first started out at Redfern in June 2009 we had a no show rate of around 90 percent.  Now we have seen more than 6,000 patients and the number of people who don’t turn up for appointments is down to 10 percent.”

Sol says that Aboriginal men can’t just leave it to the doctors to solve the problem.

“We now have some of the best doctors in the world at our Medical Services, but only we can change the way that we live by having regular check-ups and a healthier lifestyle,” he says.

Sol says that when you hit 40, you need to start getting regular check-ups – even if you play regular sport and feel fit and healthy.

“By the time you move through your 50s and 60s you should have a clear idea of your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

You don’t want to leave it as long as I did – where you’re playing Russian roulette with your heart.”

Sol urges Aboriginal men to adopt a healthier lifestyle by not smoking, cutting down on alcohol and keeping weight down through healthy foods and regular exercise.

Dr Puranik says that there are some clear warning signs that indicate you should seek urgent medical attention.

These include pain to the left side of the central chest, neck or arm pain – particularly related to exercise, dizzy spells or blackouts, chest pain that wakes you up from sleep as well as breathlessness or palpitations.

Incredibly, given how close he came to death, just one month after surgery Sol’s normal heart function had been fully restored.

A veteran of the Aboriginal Land Rights movement and a pioneer of Aboriginal media, sports legal and health services, Sol says that nothing now matters as much to him as overcoming heart disease amongst Aboriginal men.

“If there’s one legacy I leave, I want it to be that Aboriginal men more regularly present for check-ups.”

“We need to take responsibility. We owe this to our families and our communities. We don’t need to keep dying too early from preventable heart disease.”

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For NACCHO Media Contact

Colin Cowell Editor 0401 331 251

Email mailto:nacchonews@naccho.org.au

NACCHO Aboriginal health : Hostility to Utopia film a denial of nation’s brutal past -Sol Bellear and Adam Goodes

Adam

Put yourself in Aboriginal shoes for a minute.

Imagine watching a film that tells the truth about the terrible injustices committed over 225 years against your people, a film that reveals how Europeans, and the governments that have run our country, have raped, killed and stolen from your people for their own benefit.

Now imagine how it feels when the people who benefited most from those rapes, those killings and that theft – the people in whose name the oppression was done – turn away in disgust when someone seeks to expose it.”

Adam Goodes is the  Australian of the Year and plays AFL for the Sydney Swans.: “It takes courage to tell the truth, no matter how unpopular those truths may be.” Photo: Rohan Thomson

“Put simply, reconciliation hasn’t worked in Australia because as a nation, we  continue to refuse to face up to our real past. Just as you cannot have  reconciliation without justice, you can’t have justice without truth”

Sol Bellear  reviewing the movie Utopia (see below ) Sol is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service,  Redfern and a long-time Aboriginal activist.

Hostility to John Pilger’s film a denial of nation’s brutal past-Adam Goodes

Read more: and read the 300+ comments

For the last few weeks, I’ve seen a film bring together Aboriginal people all over Australia. The buzz around Utopia – a documentary by John Pilger – has been unprecedented. Some 4000 people attended the open-air premiere in Redfern last month – both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians – and yet  little appeared in the media about an event that the people of Redfern say was a ”first”.  This silence has since been broken by a couple of commentators whose aggression seemed a cover for their hostility to the truth about Aboriginal people.

FROM THE MELBOURNE AGE VIEW

When I watched Utopia for the first time, I was moved to tears. Three times. This film has reminded me that the great advantages I enjoy today – as a footballer and Australian of the Year – are a direct result of the struggles and sacrifices of the Aboriginal people who came before me.

Utopia honours these people, so I think the very least I can do is honour Utopia and the people who appeared in it and made it.

It takes courage to tell the truth, no matter how unpopular those truths may be. But it also takes courage to face up to our past.

That process starts with understanding our very dark past, a brutal history of dispossession, theft and slaughter. For that reason, I urge the many fair-minded Australians who seek genuine prosperity and equality for my people to find the courage to open their hearts and their minds and watch Utopia.

There is a good reason why  Pilger’s film resonates with so many of my people and is the talk of Aboriginal Australia.

Put yourself in Aboriginal shoes for a minute.

Imagine watching a film that tells the truth about the terrible injustices committed over 225 years against your people, a film that reveals how Europeans, and the governments that have run our country, have raped, killed and stolen from your people for their own benefit.

Now imagine how it feels when the people who benefited most from those rapes, those killings and that theft – the people in whose name the oppression was done – turn away in disgust when someone seeks to expose it.

Frankly, as a proud Adnyamathanha man, I find the silence about Utopia in mainstream Australia disturbing and hurtful. As an Australian, I find it embarrassing. I also see an irony, for Utopia is about telling the story of this silence.

Some say the film doesn’t tell the ”good stories” out of Aboriginal Australia. That’s the part I find most offensive.

Utopia is bursting at the seams with stories of Aboriginal people who have achieved incredible things in the face of extreme adversity. Stories of people like Arthur Murray, an Aboriginal man from Wee Waa, and his wife, Leila, who fought for several decades for the truth over the death in police custody of their son Eddie.

Their quiet, dignified determination helped spark the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, a landmark inquiry that still plagues governments today.

Even before that, Murray  led a historic  strike of cotton workers and forced employers to provide better wages and conditions for Aboriginal workers. How is this achievement negative?

The film also features Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a strong Aboriginal woman who proudly speaks of truth and a long overdue treaty.

The  work of Robert and Selina Eggington is also profiled in Utopia. After the suicide of their son, Robert and Selina created a healing centre in Perth called Dumbartung. Its aim is to stop the deaths and provide an outlet for the never-ending grief of so many Aboriginal families.

I reject any suggestion that by telling those stories, that by honouring these lives,  Pilger has ”focused on the negative”. Their achievements may not fit the mainstream idea of ”success” but they inspire me and other Aboriginal people because they’re shared stories. They are our courageous, unrecognised resistance.

Nana Fejo, another strong Aboriginal woman, appears in Utopia. She tells of her forced removal as a child. It’s a heart-wrenching story and yet she speaks   with a graciousness and generosity of spirit that should inspire all Australians.

Like Fejo, my mother was a member of the stolen generations. My family has been touched by suicide, like the Eggingtons. My family and my people talk of truth and treaty, just like Kunoth-Monks does. My family has been denied our culture, language and kinship systems, like all the Aboriginal people who feature in Utopia.  This extraordinary film tells the unpleasant truth.  It should be required viewing for every Australian.

 Utopia brought back were not pleasant, and  large sections of the film simply made me angry

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Sol is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service,  Redfern and a long-time Aboriginal activist

As recently published in Fairfax Press

It’s the new mantra in Aboriginal affairs: get your kids to school.

Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were fond of saying it. So too  is Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

While I don’t accept that education alone, or rather a lack of access to it,  explains the desperate poverty in

But if it’s good enough for blackfellas, then it should also be good enough  for whitefellas.

Mainstream Australia has long lacked a real education about Aboriginal  people, about our shared history, and this nation’s brutal past.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way in – an opportunity to get a “punter’s  guide” to the truth about the treatment of Aboriginal Australians.

John Pilger’s latest film, Utopia – a 110-minute feature length  documentary more than two years in the making – should be required viewing for  all Australians, in particular lawmakers.

I watched the film recently and it brought back many memories for me.  Admittedly, a few of them were pleasant. The spirit of my people has always  helped to sustain and inspire me, and watching old warriors such as  Vince  Forrester, Bob Randall and Rosie Kunoth-Monks, for me at least, took the edge  off some of the hard truths in Utopia.

But many of the memories Utopia brought back were not pleasant, and  large sections of the film simply made me angry.

During the 1970s, I travelled the nation with Fred Hollows. We travelled  across Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, treating  Aboriginal men, women and children for trachoma and other eye diseases, problems  which still plague remote Aboriginal communities today.

The Australia I saw in Utopia this week is the same Australia I saw  with Hollows.

Very little has changed on the ground.

Attitudes in non-Aboriginal Australia, it seems, have not evolved much  either.

In one part of the film, Pilger is taken on a tour of Rottnest Island by a  local Aboriginal elder, Noel Nannup. But it’s not the tour tourists get –  despite “Rotto’s” history as a brutal concentration camp, today it is a resort  and luxury spa, with virtually all traces of its past erased.

The stories around deaths in custody; around an Aboriginal elder being  cooked, literally, in the back of a prison van; around government and media  deceit that led to the Northern Territory intervention; all made for infuriating  viewing.

But for me, Pilger’s interview with the former indigenous health minister,  Warren Snowdon, and the responses of white people on Australia Day who were  asked why they thought Aboriginal people didn’t celebrate January 26, were the  real nuggets in the film.

For Snowdon’s part, he was grilled about why, after 23 years in office, his  constituents were still among the sickest and poorest on earth. Snowdon’s  seething, bombastic response was to label the question “puerile”.

And then there were the vox pops from mainstream Australians on January 26,  2013. People were asked why they thought Aboriginal people didn’t celebrate the  date. Most seemed to have no idea that was even the case, and others were just  openly hostile.

To me, it’s these attitudes of indifference, and sometimes outrage when  challenged, that are the real elephants in the room for this country.

The denial of our history, and our collective refusal to accept the truths of  our past are the biggest hurdles to Aboriginal advancement.

I hope that people who see Utopia will have their consciences  pricked. Those who do might feel embarrassed or ashamed. But I hope that’s not  the only reaction. I hope, above all else, Utopia starts a long overdue  national conversation.

We can’t just sweep aside the truths in Utopia because they’re  uncomfortable. And we can’t let conservative commentators make it all about the  film-maker rather than the film, which is what often happens with Pilger’s  work.

I’m bracing myself for the inevitable focus on Pilger’s “style” and his  “bias”. So before it comes, let me give you one assurance: You’d be hard-pressed  to find many Aboriginal people with whom Utopia won’t resonate  strongly.

The reason why is simple: what John Pilger and his co-director Alan Lowery  have produced is a substantial work of truth, one which provides answers to many  of the questions Australians have been too afraid to ask.

Why is this happening? Why were there no reparations to the stolen  generations? Why do Aboriginal people still live in such grinding poverty? If,  as  Snowdon concedes in the film, the NT intervention was “wrong-headed” and  “stupid”, why did he continue and extend it under the Rudd and Gillard  governments?

The most pressing question from my perspective is why has reconciliation in  this country failed?

Pilger touches on this in his closing remarks. He makes the point that until  Aboriginal people are delivered justice, there can never be reconciliation.

I agree strongly. But I would add that the path to justice begins with the  truth.

That’s a reality that nations such as  Canada and South Africa recognised  many years ago, when they established their respective Truth and Reconciliation  Commissions.

Put simply, reconciliation hasn’t worked in Australia because as a nation, we  continue to refuse to face up to our real past. Just as you cannot have  reconciliation without justice, you can’t have justice without truth.

Through Utopia, Pilger sheds some light on those truths. It’s likely  to be very uncomfortable viewing for many Australians, and it will inevitably  cause pain.

But you’ll find the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people are prepared  to watch Utopia, and feel the hurt all over again.

The real question is how many non-Aboriginal Australians have the courage to  watch this film, educate themselves a little, and feel the hurt for the first  time?

* Sol Bellear is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service,  Redfern and a long-time Aboriginal activist.

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The importance of our NACCHO member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS) is not fully recognised by governments.

The economic benefits of ACCHS has not been recognised at all.

We provide employment, income and a range of broader community benefits that mainstream health services and mainstream labour markets do not. ACCHS need more financial support from government, to provide not only quality health and wellbeing services to communities, but jobs, income and broader community economic benefits.

A good way of demonstrating how economically valuable ACCHS are is to showcase our success at a national summit.

SUMMIT WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO

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NACCHO political news: Right wing Andrew Bolt claims in a “Diatribe ” I am an Indigenous Australian and “Australia is now under threat”

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Provocative Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt has done it again, starting his recent Herald-Sun column  with the claim “I am an indigenous Australian” and warning that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to recognise Aboriginal Australians in the Constitution is “the path to apartheid”.

SEE full transcript below

We have resisted over two years to give Mr Bolt any “oxygen” but we felt that our members and stakeholders needed to read this latest diatribe

Mr Bolt, who was born in Adelaide to Dutch immigrant parents, goes on to declare “Australia is now under severe threat” due to the Prime Minister and in a series of increasingly alarmist pronouncements, often in quotation marks, says it’s socially dangerous, is racism and racial division and the move will permanently divide the nation.

Michael Mansell is an Aboriginal lawyer from Tasmania and a founding member and secretary of the Aboriginal Provisional Government

Here is Michael’s  response

The Guardian

Right wing commentator Andrew Bolt is at it again, this time arguing the sky will fall in if there is any constitutional recognition of the fact of Aboriginal people being here before whites arrived.

Everyone knows Indigenous people were here, so what’s the great fuss? Bolt’s view is an attempt to revive the Terra nullius doctrine which, for 200 years, fictionalised that the British came to an empty land and settled peacefully.

That myth was discredited  by the high court of Australia with its Mabo ruling 22 years ago, but people like Bolt are still yet to catch on.

Bolt also plays mischief-maker, claiming to be an Indigenous Australian. Like Pauline Hanson did in her maiden speech to the parliament in 1996, Bolt makes his claim based on a technical view that everyone born in Australia is legally, but not socially, an Indigenous Australian. His mischief is to ignore common sense and community normality which distinguishes between Indigenous Australians on the one hand, and white Australians like Bolt on the other.  Bolt wants to lead his followers through the chaos he ferments.

As part of the scare-mongering tone of his article, Bolt gets it wrong about the aim of the Aboriginal provisional government (APG), claiming it is a separatist movement. The APG wants an Aboriginal assembly of elected Aboriginal people with legislative power, returned land and a budget – in the same way different states do. And this aim is  within the federation of Australia. How is that separatism?

Bolt also claims the courts lean “too far” towards Aboriginal people. This is a case of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Aboriginals make up 26% of the prisoner population, yet only constitute 2.5% of the Australian population.  In 20 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, Aboriginal imprisonment rates have climbed from one in seven to one in four. Too far? Come on.

There is a big difference between theoretical equality – a belief that 20m Australians all live the same and have the same opportunities – and real equality. Rich and poor cannot be treated alike for stealing bread. Sentencing courts across Australia acknowledge that people are not all the same. A woman suffering domestic violence who strikes out because she’s had enough should not get the same penalty as an alcohol fuelled king-hit merchant. Nor should the background of people suffering daily discrimination, leading to family dysfunction, be ignored as Bolt would have it. Yet Bolt implies that the courts should consider everyone’s background except that of Aboriginal people, and claims that is equality.

Bolt claims “Australia is now under threat” from just talking about constitutional reforms – but then again, he is very prone to exaggeration. What is really at stake is whether constitutional recognition will benefit Aboriginal people or merely warm the hearts of middle-class Australians – that’s the nub of the debate.

This national discussion can be robust if the views of all – including the alleged beneficiaries of constitutional recognition – are to be heard. I support Bolt’s right to participate in the debate, but he should avoid inflaming prejudice against Aboriginal people which leads to personalising and dismissal of Indigenous opinion.

Black Hip

Sadly, Bolt is secure in the knowledge he can regularly attack fair skinned Aboriginal people as not being eligible to speak for their people (the federal court found Bolt breached racial vilification laws), and thereby deny them the same freedom to participate in public debate that he enjoys.

ANDREW BOLT Article from all NEWS LTD papers

I AM an indigenous Australian, like millions of other people here, black or white. Take note, Tony Abbott. Think again, you new dividers, before we are on the path to apartheid with your change to our Constitution.

I was born here, I live here and I call no other country home. I am therefore indigenous to this land and have as much right as anyone to it.

What’s more, when I go before the courts I want to be judged as an individual. I do not want different rights according to my class, faith, ancestry, country of birth … or “race”.

I’m sure most Australians feel the same. We are Australians together, equal under the law and equal in our right as citizens to be here. That’s how we’ve been for generations. It’s why we’ve welcomed lawful immigrants and damned racists.

But this Australia is now under severe threat. Most incredibly, that threat is now led by Prime Minister Abbott, a Liberal. Abbott says he wants a “national crusade” to change the Constitution to recognise Aborigines as the “first Australians”.

“If we had known in 1901 what we know now, if our hearts had been as big then as now, we would have acknowledged indigenous people in the Constitution back then,’’ he said this week.

This is nonsense. The writers of our Constitution no more lacked heart than do people today.

The difference is they were inspired by the creed that all citizens — those, at least, we admitted — are as one before the law.

True, they did not always live up to that ideal (although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise).

But even if we don’t always follow our moral compass, the answer never is to break it. Changing the Constitution to divide Australians between the “first” and the rest — on the basis of the “race” of our ancestors — is not just immoral and an insult to our individuality.

Worse, it is socially dangerous. This will not “reconcile” us but permanently divide. It would do no good to a single Aboriginal in bush camps, but would concede a critical point: that Australians in our most fundamental legal document are now to be divided by “race”.

Abbott insists he will not endorse any change that will have that practical effect in the courts. He means to treat the Constitution in this matter as if it were just a history book, not the foundation of our law.

But once he concedes the principle he concedes everything.

He will not get the “reconciliation” he imagines, some shiny day when we all hug each other in happy tears.

He will instead license demands from people, particularly race industry professionals, who will in some cases be satisfied with nothing less than apartheid.

Consider the history of this disastrous “reconciliation” movement. First, we were told we simply needed to say sorry to be reconciled.

As Aboriginal activist Professor Mick Dodson claimed: “The apology has the potential to transform Australia and, once and for all, to put black and white relationships in this country on a proper footing.”

Prime minister Kevin Rudd duly said sorry in 2008, but then another step was needed, after all — a law to recognise Aborigines as the First Australians.

As Ballarat elder “Uncle” Murray Harrison put it: “As far as I’m concerned this is what it’s all about, just being recognised would put the icing on the cake, mate.”

So last year Parliament passed an “act of recognition”, but that wasn’t enough, either. Now the Constitution itself must change, and already we’re told even that won’t do.

Abbott’s chief adviser on Aboriginal issues, Warren Mundine, this week said we must then negotiate treaties with each of Australia’s hundreds of tribal “nations” to “acknowledge Australia’s right to exist”.

Pardon? Argue with hundreds of Aboriginal “leaders” over whether our nation actually is entitled to exist? Have the incendiary debate Israel has with its Muslim enemies?

What next? Well, Aboriginal leader Sol Bellear, chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, spelled it out on the ABC: a future in which “no Australian court has the right to sit in judgment of my people.”

Indeed, we already have an “Aboriginal Provisional Government”, led by Michael Mansell, with such a separatist agenda. So when exactly will we be “reconciled”? When our country is torn apart on ethnic lines, with more recently arrived groups demanding their own customary laws, too?

Stop now. Say no to racism. Say no to racial division. Say no to changing our Constitution

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Andrew Bolt and Cane Toads, Both As Indigenous As Each Other!

And further response from THE Australian independent Media network

A few days ago, Andrew Bolt shared a rather strange idea:

“I AM an indigenous Australian, like millions of other people here, black or white. Take note, Tony Abbott. Think again, you new dividers, before we are on the path to apartheid with your change to our Constitution.

I was born here, I live here and I call no other country home. I am therefore indigenous to this land and have as much right as anyone to it.”

Of course, that caused a bit of a controversy. And, I am aware that Bolt thrives on controversy and does so deliberately – because let’s face it when it comes to his place in the media, it’s really all he has. Yes, I’m sure that some of you will say that if you just ignore him, then he’ll go away. While I can see some merit in that argument, I also think that lies and misinformation need to be challenged. Otherwise, we end up with things like Jon Faine telling a talkback caller that the Liberals took the sale of Australia Post to the election as one of their policies. Does anyone remember that? The sale of Medibank Private was tucked away in their fine print, but I can find nothing nor can I remember anything about it.

And so to the word “indigenous”. People are arguing. Some are saying that “technically” he’s right. However, I can find no definition to support even a technical argument to enable someone to argue that he or she is indigenous, simply by virtue of being born in a place.

The Oxford Dictionary defines it:

originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native:

the indigenous peoples of Siberia 

coriander is indigenous to southern Europe

If someone can find a definition that includes zoo animals which are born here, then I’ll be willing to concede that Bolt is as indigenous as a cane toad. (Or almost, cane toads have been here for several generations now).

But Bolt is not content with manglng the word indigenous in order to inflame and insult. He goes on to quote Tony Abbott, before twisting history:

“If we had known in 1901 what we know now, if our hearts had been as big then as now, we would have acknowledged indigenous people in the Constitution back then,’’ he said this week.

This is nonsense. The writers of our Constitution no more lacked heart than do people today. The difference is they were inspired by the creed that all citizens — those, at least, we admitted — are as one before the law.

True, they did not always live up to that ideal (although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise).

But even if we don’t always follow our moral compass, the answer never is to break it. Changing the Constitution to divide Australians between the “first” and the rest — on the basis of the “race” of our ancestors — is not just immoral and an insult to our individuality.

There is much in this that’s highly questionable, but his assertion that “although, contrary to popular myth, they granted Aborigines the vote in all states where they had the franchise)” can’t be allowed to go unchallenged.

Section 41 of the Constitution ensured that people who already had the right to vote weren’t disenfranchised by the new Federal Parliament.

 ’No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of Parliament of the Commonwealth.’

Its main impetus was to protect the rights of women in South Australia who had already gained the vote. As a by-product it gave rights to a number of others, including “non-white” migrants who had arrived before the “White Australia” policy and Indigenous Australians if they already had voting rights.

While two states specifically excluded Aborigines from voting – Queensland and Western Australia, others did little to make them aware of their rights or to encourage them to enrol.

The initial interpretation of Section 41, by the first Solicitor General was that franchise rights only included those who were on the role at the time of Federation, meaning that no new Aboriginal voters could be enrolled. While this was challenged successfully in 1924 by an Indian man who’d been rejected as a Commonwealth voter in spite of being enrolled at State Level, the history of the  voting rights of Aboriginal people is not as simple as Andrew Bolt implies with his throwaway line about “popular myth”. It wasn’t until the 1967 Referendum that the voting rights were ensured; to suggest otherwise, is to be mischievous.

But Bolt has always been one for contradictions. He suggests that he just wants us to be all one, but points out that both the judge and the prosecutor at his trial were Jewish. Not that he has a problem with that – it’s just that he thought that such people would understand the dangers of an oppressive government trying to shut down free speech. However, a media organisation should never use its free speech to “aid the enemy” by publishing allegations about who’s being spied on – even if it’s us – or  which suggest that our navy has treated people roughly when turning their boats around. In the case of the ABC, the whole organisation should be shut down or sold off for daring to publish that which the public has no right to know. A celebrity’s hacked phone records, however, are no reason to launch an inquiry which may inhibit the media from doing its job.

However, the thing I find worrying is not the fact that Bolt has made a fool of himself with his inaccurate and inflammatory use of language. It’s that – for just a millisecond – he’s made Tony Abbott look good. Oh, I know that some of you will question Abbott’s motives about the constitutional addition, but that’s not the point. When Bolt starts criticising Abbott as being too trendy and left wing, it almost makes Abbott sound like he’s mainstream. (No, of course, not to you died in the wool Left wing socialist, latte-sippers who lap up sites like this :)  ). While we’re making effigies of Bolt to throw on the bonfire, we can be distracted from the fact that he’s not the one in government. In the end, Bolt is an irrelevant errand boy who’ll write what he’s told.

And yes, I am aware of the irony of spending an entire blog only to say that Bolt doesn’t matter. However, I make the simple defence that one can’t allow misinformation to spread, no matter who’s spreading it.

“Much has been accomplished when one man says ‘No’!” Bertold Brecht

WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS BELOW

NACCHO political alert: Sol BelIear- I have a dream too, of basic human rights for Aboriginal people

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“The 1970s also saw the creation of Aboriginal Medical Services,  community-controlled groups that resulted in Aboriginal people solving  Aboriginal problems.

The health services were also inspired by the US civil rights movement. The  health of Aborigines today is among the worst on Earth, but there’s broad  consensus  it would be far worse were it not run by Aboriginal people.

But if Aboriginal control of Aboriginal lives can work in health and in NSW  land rights, why hasn’t it been allowed to work in all other aspects of our  lives?

Sol

From Sol Bellear is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical  Service Redfern

I also have a dream. A lot of people my age remember where they were when man  landed on the moon. As a lifelong Aboriginal activist, I prefer to remember  where I was when Martin Luther King delivered his iconic ”I  have a dream”  speech.

That was our moon landing, a feat, until then, considered impossible – the  rallying of people of colour around the globe to stand up against inequality and  injustice.

This week was the 50th anniversary of King’s speech. When he delivered it, I  was a young man in school at Mullumbimby on the NSW far north coast. Our  teachers discussed the speech the next day in class but, in a place like  Mullumbimby, it was hard to grasp the importance of the occasion.

It wasn’t until I came to Sydney in the late ’60s to attend a memorial  service marking King’s assassination that the enormity of what King had said,  and what it represented, finally dawned on me. King, Malcolm X and other great  black leaders had challenged and dismantled much of the apartheid state in the  US, and the March on Washington was part of a growing push to see civil rights  legislation enacted there.

Much of the focus was on jobs and the right of African Americans to get  access to the real economy.

Of course, discrimination remains very much alive and well in the US today,  but the gains of African Americans can’t be denied. But sadly, as we mark the  50th anniversary, the truth of that era and the Aboriginal struggle also dawns  on me.

Yes, King’s speech inspired my people. And yes, King’s speech shone an  international light on the appalling treatment of Aboriginal Australians. But  while King was arguing for basic civil rights, in Australia we were still  fighting for basic human rights, a fight that continues today.

”I have a dream”  was delivered in 1963,  when Aborigines were still  classed as ”flora and fauna”. It would take another half a decade before our  nation voted  to count Aborigines  in the census, and afford us citizen  status.

But the great promise that the referendum held forth – justice and equality  before the law – has never fully materialised.

I’m not suggesting there haven’t been some gains in Australia. The activism  of the 1970s and ’80s, strengthened by the determination of men such as King and  women such as Rosa Parks, brought us modest land rights.

In NSW, there exists a land rights system that costs the taxpayer nothing,  and which is leading economic development in many metropolitan and regional  Aboriginal communities. The NSW system is not perfect –  indeed it has returned  to Aboriginal people less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of the total NSW land  mass – but, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples  James Anaya, it is the best land rights legislation on  Earth.

The 1970s also saw the creation of Aboriginal Medical Services,  community-controlled groups that resulted in Aboriginal people solving  Aboriginal problems.

The health services were also inspired by the US civil rights movement. The  health of Aborigines today is among the worst on Earth, but there’s broad  consensus  it would be far worse were it not run by Aboriginal people.

But if Aboriginal control of Aboriginal lives can work in health and in NSW  land rights, why hasn’t it been allowed to work in all other aspects of our  lives?

Why, 50 years after  King’s speech, does the most basic human right –   self-determination – still elude my people? Why, today, do we seem further away  from this dream than ever before?

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott recently promised to appoint a national  indigenous council if he is elected to office. Hand-picking our leaders to get  the advice you want to hear didn’t work in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and  2000s. It won’t work now. It’s as far from self-determination as you can  get.

And why is the other most basic of human rights  – justice – still denied  Aboriginal people?

Mr Abbott is promising compensation for Australian victims of global  terrorism, including legislation to compensate for victims of the 2002 Bali  bombing.

”When people suffer because of the fact they are Australian, a decent nation  should offer some acknowledgment, some recognition,” Mr Abbott said.

I agree, and I applaud the promise. But I also look forward to Mr Abbott  extending that same fine principle to my people, who suffered because they were  Aboriginal Australians.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched himself onto the international human  rights stage with the national apology to victims of the stolen generations. Mr  Abbott, if elected, can actually make it meaningful by delivering reparations –  a basic human right – denied those people.

If, 50 years after King’s speech, either of the two main parties really want  to engage with Australia’s first people on a basis of equality and respect,  they’ll find us ready, willing and able. Aboriginal people have always had the  solutions to Aboriginal problems.

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when his people would be judged not on  the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character.

Fifty years on, I dream of a day when Australians will face up honestly to  the failures of their past, regardless of the kindness of their intent. I dream  of a day when non-Aboriginal Australians demand not a dream about a future for  my people, but a simple plan to restore our basic human rights.

Most of all, I dream of the day when Aboriginal Australians will be judged  not on the colour of our skin, but on the strength of our  self-determination.

Sol Bellear is the chairman of the Aboriginal Medical  Service

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/i-have-a-dream-too-of-basic-human-rights-20130830-2sw3r.html#ixzz2dUBMfk9Z

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

Sol

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.

PICTURE Above AIATSIS

Sam

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.