“Now we are seeing these poor policies from the past continue in Western Australia today with the closure of regional communities. It’s time to learn from the mistakes of past policies, listen to Aboriginal people and reverse this decision. It seems we are a long way off reconciliation if even our Prime Minister doesn’t know that Aboriginal people living on Country is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ but an integral part of identity and culture.”
Matthew Cooke NACCHO chair pictured above with NACCHO Deputy chair Sandy Davies (from WA)
The peak Aboriginal health organisation today joined the chorus of concern about the closure of remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and subsequent comments made by the Prime Minister in relation to ‘lifestyle choices’.
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke said the physical, emotional and spiritual health of Aboriginal people is tied to their connection to Country. Dispossession is one of the key reasons we have for the existing health gap between Aboriginal and other Australians.
“Time and again we see evidence showing that when you remove Aboriginal people from their land, they lose their sense of identity which has profound impacts on their health and wellbeing.
“Aboriginal people are suiciding at alarming rates, almost a third of Australia’s jail population is Aboriginal and as a People we can expect to die 10-17 years younger than other Australians.
“This is primarily due to the historic dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land, generations of racism and entrenched poverty and disadvantage.
“Now we are seeing these poor policies from the past continue in Western Australia today with the closure of regional communities.
“It’s time to learn from the mistakes of past policies, listen to Aboriginal people and reverse this decision.”
Mr Cooke said he was astonished that the Federal government could talk about reconciliation and promote constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people whilst closing remote communities.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister has displayed so little understanding about Aboriginal culture and the importance of connection to Country today.
“It seems we are a long way off reconciliation if even our Prime Minister doesn’t know that Aboriginal people living on Country is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ but an integral part of identity and culture.”
Media contact: Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774
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As we enter week 4 of the new Abbott led Government , the future of Aboriginal affairs and specifically Aboriginal health is still uncertain. Last week in Western Australia a number of Aboriginal organisations including NACCHO affiliate Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA), the Kimberly Land Council and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples expressed concerns about “Indigenous voices”.
Picture above :Congress co-chairwoman Kirstie Parker, right, with the Kimberley Land Council’s Mervyn Street, Irene Davey and Frank Davey. Picture: Guy McLean Source: The Australian –
This information is provided for NACCHO members and stakeholders and is not NACCHO policy
Press Release: Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA)
Western Australia’s peak Aboriginal health body says they agree wholeheartedly with recent statements by the Kimberly Land Council that Warren Mundine is not the only Indigenous voice but urges the government to remember that land isn’t the only Indigenous issue.
‘Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Council needs a strong voice from Western Australia, but that voice needs to represent all the interests and needs of Aboriginal people and their communities,’ says Des Martin, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA)
While Mr Martin acknowledges land rights are an important issue, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people cannot be forgotten, he says.
‘I agree wholeheartedly with Kirstie Parker’s statement that Warren Mundine isn’t the only voice for Indigenous people and I support what the Kimberley Land Council does, it is extremely important for all Aboriginal people to have their country and care for it to secure their future but if their health is still suffering then that isn’t a good thing for them or future generations,’ Mr Martin says.
‘We need broad representation on the Indigenous Advisory Council, not just land or business interests. Tony Abbott does need to take advice from more than one source when it comes to Aboriginal people.
AHCWA has registered their interest to have Chairperson Vicki O’Donnell on the Indigenous Advisory Council. ‘Warren Mundine and Tony Abbott must understand that Aboriginal people across Australia need a strong voice here in the West to advocate for them, to make sure they have access to opportunities and know that their best interests are being looked after by people they identify with and can trust,’ Mr Martin says.
‘We are lucky to have a strong economy here in Western Australia and that brings opportunities for Aboriginal people to be employed, to gain skills and a meaningful income. That positively impacts the health and wellbeing not only of individuals but whole communities.’
Ultimately, Mr Martin says, ‘AHCWA just wants to make sure the best services will continue to be offered to Aboriginal people. We’ve come so far in closing the gap since targets began in 2008, now isn’t the time to leave health of any agenda.’
THE leader of the nation’s peak Aboriginal body has declared the Abbott government must listen to her organisation and not just rely on advice from the Prime Minister’s new indigenous council led by Warren Mundine.
The co-chairwoman of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Kirstie Parker, this week addressed the annual meeting of the powerful Kimberley Land Council and recruited 100 new remote members for her organisation.
She told The Australian that the congress was the representative body for indigenous Australia, including the most remote communities. Ms Parker said while Tony Abbott was entitled to receive advice from his new high-level council, he must bear in mind that the national congress was the grassroots voice of Aboriginal Australia.
Ms Parker’s visit to the Kimberley this week was a powerful symbol of the work the congress plans to do to represent the most isolated Aboriginal communities. “Our message is that there is a national congress, it is made up of representatives chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves and that is important and it means the national congress is a very important vehicle for all governments in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to actually get some runs on the board,” she said
.”Tony Abbott has said that his government will not take a one-size-fits-all approach, he said that Canberra does not know best, and that is true.
In Aboriginal communities, it is our people who know best and the national congress is its membership.”She said any notion the congress was a city-based organisation was false.
“We have member organisations and individuals all around the country and this is part of what we are on about, and that is being representatives of our people everywhere,” she said.”We exist to provide a national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Ms Parker said she had spoken to the Kimberley Land Council about the importance of constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that our mob know what is intended and once the government releases their model, we also need to be fully aware of what it will mean to our people,” she said.Ms Parker said she had also talked about the UN declarations on indigenous peoples. “The declaration . . . hasn’t had an obvious impact on policies and legislation affecting our people and we would like to start working with the government to make sure that does happen.”
“The West Australian Government must be recognised for committing to the National Partnership Agreement as many states are yet to even do that despite it running out on June 30. It is also pleasing to see them commit to measures to improve Aboriginal mental health,” .
The $31million announced by the West Australian Government to Close the Gap will assist Aboriginal health services and other stakeholders in the delivery of comprehensive primary health to maintain the delivery of services for a further twelve months with the hope that a further three years of funding be committed to in the new year.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair, Justin Mohamed, said Aboriginal health outcomes were too important to be put at risk and other states and territories also need to urgently commit to their fair share.
“The West Australian Government must be recognised for committing to the National Partnership Agreement as many states are yet to even do that despite it running out on June 30. It is also pleasing to see them commit to measures to improve Aboriginal mental health,” Mr Mohamed said.
“It is well recognised that closing the gap on Aboriginal health – where life expectancy can be a shocking ten to seventeen years gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians – will take a generational commitment.
“In 2008 all state and territory governments signed up to the National Partnership Agreement and committed for four years to concentrate on improving chronic disease and other health issues in Aboriginal communities.
“This commitment has started to see some positive results – child mortality rates in particular are dropping.
“This is very encouraging and shows that the programs are seeing real results on the ground.
“There needs to now be an ongoing, long-term approach that guarantees certainty to Aboriginal health services across Australia so they can continue to deliver what is needed to make a difference in their communities.”
The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) today also commended the establishment of the committee comprised of several Cabinet members which will analyse the WA close the gap program and ensure its key objectives are being met.
“We are pleased that some funding commitment has been delivered and welcome the evaluation across all government departments around where money is being spent across Western Australia,” Vicki O’Donnell, Chair, AHCWA said.
“In the past four years the National Partnerships Agreement funding has created more than 300 jobs and delivered dozens of services to Indigenous Australians and helped in remote areas which didn’t have access to health services. It is important this good work continues.”
Media contact: Colin Cowell 0401 331 251, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774
This is a WA government press release FYI 16 October 2012
The State Government’s biggest single investment into Aboriginal health in Western Australian history had resulted in nearly 100 new services for Aboriginal people and more than 100 new Aboriginal health employees, Health Minister Kim Hames said today.
Under the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Closing the Gap National Partnership Agreement, which is now in its final year, the State Government has provided $117.43million to ‘close the gap’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health.
Dr Hames said about $80 million to date had been directed into new programs and services to improve smoking rates, primary health care and a healthy transition to adulthood for Aboriginal people.
“One of the biggest achievements under the Closing the Gap initiative is the creation of more than 400 new positions – more than 60 per cent in regional and remote areas – to support 98 new Aboriginal services across the State,” he said.
The Minister said the initiative had also provided WA Health with an opportunity to change the way it developed and implemented health services for Aboriginal West Australians.
“The State Government has decentralised its approach and established nine metropolitan and regional Aboriginal Health Planning Forums to foster a genuine partnership between ourselves, non-government and Aboriginal communities at a local level,” he said.
“We have moved away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach by recognising each region and its population is unique in its cultural diversity, and therefore requires a customised approach to planning and delivering services.
“At February 2012, the number of Aboriginal people employed in the WA health sector has risen by 111 to 314 employees.
WA Health developing business plan to potentially continue Closing the Gap initiative past the final year of the initial COAG agreement