NACCHO MJA report: Partnership and leadership: key to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people

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Article by:Tammy M Kimpton, BMed, President, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, Canberra, ACT.

Pictured above second from right at last weeks AIDA launch

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association urges all medical professionals to support and participate in the values it hopes will be embedded in future health policy

This year, we will see the development of a new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to guide governments in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.1 Development of the Health Plan will be led by the Minister for Indigenous Health, with the support of a stakeholder advisory group to bring together the government and organisations with expertise in Indigenous health.2

The aim of this Health Plan is to shape the tone, direction and content of Indigenous health policy into the future. Apart from becoming familiar with the evidence and government priorities on areas of Indigenous health that relate to our work, medical professionals should note the particular values and themes that the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) wants to see embedded throughout the document; these include culture, partnership, Indigenous leadership and workforce. These principles are inextricably linked and are important not only to federal policy development and implementation but also to individual medical professionals in a range of areas, including in our day-to-day interactions with patients, care planning and staff recruitment and development.

Workforce will need to be an important feature of the Health Plan because building an adequate health workforce is crucial to delivering high-quality, sustainable health services for Indigenous people. The Indigenous medical workforce in Australia is growing, but Indigenous people are still underrepresented in this area. In 2011, the intake of first-year Indigenous medical students in Australian universities reached parity at 2.5% — for the first time matching the proportion of Australia’s population made up of Indigenous people.3 To ensure that the Indigenous medical workforce continues to grow, academic, professional and cultural support is essential. In particular, Indigenous medical students and doctors are more likely to stay and thrive in learning and working environments that consistently demonstrate cultural safety.3

The solution to both a stronger workforce and further improvements in Indigenous health is partnership: our people working alongside non-Indigenous people in order to achieve an agreed goal. Such partnerships are seen in collaboration agreements which spread across the medical education continuum. Agreements currently exist between AIDA and Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, and AIDA and the Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Councils; an agreement will soon be launched between AIDA and the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges. This collaboration did not happen overnight; it was a lengthy process, with trust being built over time and through each organisation demonstrating its commitment to improving Indigenous health. These best-practice models are available on the AIDA website (http://www.aida.org.au/partnerships.aspx) and should be recognised by all medical professionals as a best-practice framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, health is not just about an individual’s physical wellbeing; it is a holistic concept that encompasses the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the entire community. AIDA asserts that the Health Plan needs to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at its centre in recognition of the importance of culture to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. As medical professionals, we must also embed culture in the provision of health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as evidence shows correlations between increased cultural attachment and better health and wellbeing.1 In achieving this, it is important that the Health Plan be developed and conducted through genuine partnerships between governments, Indigenous organisations and communities, not only because such an approach is consistent with what is contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but because it makes good sense.4

AIDA recommends creating strong partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities to guarantee Indigenous participation in decision making and showcase strong Indigenous leadership in communities.3

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, particularly through the peak national health bodies, is paramount in providing government with professional advice from Indigenous health practitioners in developing the Health Plan.3 AIDA recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations play a central role in the health of Indigenous people; however, it is also important that members of the non-Indigenous mainstream health workforce play their role in delivering equitable services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is expected that the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan will be released later this year. I encourage you, upon reading it, to ask yourself what your role is in delivering quality and culturally appropriate health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to consider how this role could be strengthened. As members of the health workforce, we need to locate ourselves within the Health Plan and implement strategies in partnership with Indigenous communities and organisations. AIDA argues that this combination of strategic action and partnership is critical to achieving equitable health and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NACCHO International health news: ACCESS to JUSTICE for Aboriginal People

Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy, the Chairperson of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) delivered a joint statement on behalf NATSILS and the Indigenous Peoples Organisation Network of Australia (IPO) in response to a Study on access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) at the Sixth Session meeting in Geneva from 8-12 July 2013.

Mr Duffy said studies such as these provide a critical point of reference and authoritative guidance for States (National Governments) in their efforts to provide for and implement their obligations concerning the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

However, while Mr Duffy agrees that the experience of Indigenous Peoples within the criminal justice system the world over requires urgent action, he said care needs to be taken not to confine States understanding their responsibilities by limiting the expression or scope of these rights to one element or area of concern.

He further added; Access to justice for Indigenous Peoples must be about how we can use both Indigenous and Western systems of justice to ensure the greatest possible quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples’, which is highlighted at Article 5 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that affirms Indigenous Peoples right to maintain and strengthen our political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions while retaining our right to also participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Mr Duffy’s statement called on the Human Rights Council (HRC) to encourage States to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the foundational document for the development of all policies concerning Indigenous Peoples, including issues related to access to justice, and that the HRC request the EMRIP extend the Study on access to justice in the promotion an protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples to include a practical analysis of Articles 1 (4) and 2 (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and General Comment XXIII by the CERD as it relates to special measures and the requirement to obtain free, prior and informed consent.

Mr Duffy further added ‘it is important that States utilise informed standardised data collections that ensures a more strategic approach that provides appropriate needs based financial resources to Indigenous organisations to build their capacity to respond appropriately to Indigenous justice needs.

Mr Duffy said, ‘In Australia, the statistics provide a damning picture, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults incarcerated at 15 times the rate of non-Indigenous adults; imprisonment rate for our women has grown by 58.6% between the years 2000 to 2010; Our children are 24 times more likely to be in youth detention than non-Indigenous young people. In 2011-12, our children were subjected to child protection substantiations at a rate of 41.9 per 1000, nearly eight times that of non-Indigenous children.  They are also ten times more likely to be in out-of-home care (comprising 31% of all children in care), despite making up only 4.2% of the population of all children and young people. In addition to the rising rates, our children are increasingly being placed with non-Indigenous foster carers.

We have therefore called on the Australian government to take into consideration the significant issues highlighted in the full intervention to work collaboratively with us to facilitate the restoration and strengthening of local governance and decision-making structures to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to justice’.
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For a full copy of Mr Duffy’s Intervention and/or interview enquiries please contact Amala Groom
Phone: +61 425 820 658
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NACCHO international: Aboriginal People’s delegation to the Sixth Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2013

Dea Thiele, David Lee, Geoff Scott and Tina Williams.

Pictured:  Dea Thiele, David Lee, Geoff Scott and Tina Williams

Indigenous organisations from Australia are in Geneva as part of the Human Rights Council’s 6th Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).

The 6th Session of EMRIP is being held from 8-12 July 2013 where the focus is on studies regarding access to justice, the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples and progress on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous People’s Organisation (IPO) Network of Australia is a broad affiliation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals, who engage with the Human Rights Council and other United Nations mechanisms and frameworks to advocate for the implementation of the Declaration.

Co-chairs at the Expert Mechanism, Brian Wyatt and Dea Thiele, assist in coordinating the activities with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations that make up the IPO attending this year’s Expert Mechanism.

Discussion will take place on the status of recommendations around previous thematic studies which health, culture and education as well as this year’s agenda item on access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous organisation delegates that make up the IPO at this year’s Expert Mechanism include the National Native Title Council, Aboriginal Medical Service of Western Sydney, New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

According to Mr Wyatt, ‘this year’s Expert Mechanism acknowledged significant input from the National Native Title Council, in their report on a survey questionnaire seeking views of States and Indigenous Peoples on best practices regarding possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’.

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council was also acknowledged by the Expert Mechanism for their detailed report on the Study on Access to Justice for Indigenous Peoples including Truth and Reconciliation Processes.

Tina Williams, Craig Cromelin, Shane Duffy and Mick Gooda.

Pictured: Tina Williams, Craig Cromelin, Shane Duffy and Mick Gooda

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