Tony Abbott might not always get Aboriginal Affairs right, but there is good will there and we should respect that because his commitment to Aboriginal people is the nicest thing about him. That’s the word from a meeting held in Perth recently which focused on the thing that seemed absent from the Liberal’s agenda prior to the September election: Aboriginal health. Des Martin (pictured above), Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia, a peak body representing 20 of that state’s Aboriginal Medical Services, says there is truth in that statement because this is the first time Aboriginal people have been so close to the top of the political agenda. When former politician Fred Chaney told a packed room, most of whom were Aboriginal, that Tony Abbott has good will and a genuine personal interest and investment in the needs of Aboriginal people, I wasn’t sure what would happen.
These were risky statements to make, given the depth of mistrust many Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) people have for politicians past and present: sometimes due to policy and sometimes down to empty promises and token gestures. Mr Chaney has known Tony Abbott for a long time and he openly admits the Prime Minister has changed a lot since those early days of politics.
Mr Abbott was unable to attend the NACCHO annual members meeting in person, due to Parliament sitting, but he wrote a letter to the delegates about what he hopes will change under his new government: while it is comforting that there have been improvements in life expectancy, the ten year gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is still disturbing. When one of his senior bureaucrats was later pressed on what the statement about ordinary rule meant, particularly when he used changed the rule to law in his own presentation, there was no clear definition.
NACCHO Chairperson Justin Mohamed tactfully suggested it would be a good idea to clear that up.
Whatever the definition Mr Abbott did explain that a new level of engagement at every level of society is needed, to ensure that Aboriginal people receive better educational, employment, housing and health outcomes and that’s why he has brought Indigenous Affairs under the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). The concern for us still lies with the use of Medicare Locals and what threat that poses to Aboriginal Medical Services. While Samantha Palmer, First Assistant Secretary for the Indigenous Health Service Delivery Division said that Medicare Locals won’t replace ‘urban Aboriginal Medical Services’ some aren’t so sure. First, there are 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS’) around Australia and together we serve nearly half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: that’s 350,000 people across the country.
The Redfern Aboriginal Medical service in Sydney was established in 1971 and was the first Aboriginal community controlled health service in Australia and it helped establish others around the country.
Bega Garnbirringu in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia recently celebrated its 30 year anniversary and Perth’s first Aboriginal Medical Service: Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Inc. As a sector, ACCHS are responsible for 75% of the improvements in Aboriginal people’s health outcomes since 2008 when closing the gap began. There are some concerns also that Warren Mundine’s focus is on economic empowerment of Aboriginal people.
Having the visibility and level of representation for Aboriginal people at a federal level means that Aboriginal people are at the top end of the political agenda and this has never happened before.

Leave a comment Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Not already subscribed? Crikey is an independent news website featuring commentary on politics, media, business, culture and technology. Research has revealed that omega-3 fatty acids are very important for healthy brain development in children and also supports concentration, behaviour, heart and vascular systems, vision and overall health, essential primarily in those school-going years.
We should respect him and if Warren Mundine wants to be Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs then we should let him and more importantly take him seriously.
Any politician who wants to work seriously with Aboriginal people should know, it matters what that statement means and if the word law is going to be frequently transposed, do you mean law or lore?
There is fear that the attention and momentum we have picked up is going to be lost under a pile of other Aboriginal (and non-Aboriginal) issues that DPC must deal with. And to get picky, that statement doesn’t include regional or remote services, what about them? ACCHS are more than comparable to mainstream services for identifying risk factors, performing health checks, care planning and treating individuals. He’s right in many ways though: having a better economic status can improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities and he’s also right to target the mining industry. Aboriginal people are still facing incredible hardship despite improvements in health, employment and economic status but politically this is an exciting time in history. The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (the ‘Council’) will provide advice to the Government on Indigenous affairs, and will focus on practical changes to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Council will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including existing Indigenous advocacy bodies, to ensure that the Government has access to a diversity of views. The Government may request the Council to provide advice on specific policy and programme effectiveness, to help ensure that Indigenous programmes achieve real, positive change in the lives of Aboriginal people.
The Council will report annually to the Government on its activities, via letter to the Prime Minister. Membership will be for a term of up to three years, subject to an annual review of membership by the Prime Minister, following consultation with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs. Members will have a strong understanding of Indigenous culture and bring a diversity of expertise in economic development and business acumen, employment, education, youth participation, service delivery and health. The membership will include representation from both the private, public and civil society sectors and be drawn from across Australia, with at least one representative from a remote area. New members will be appointed by the Prime Minister following consultation with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The Council will meet three times annually with the Prime Minister and relevant senior ministers.
The deliberation of the Council will be confidential, but the Council may choose to issue a statement after its meetings.
In addition to minister-level meetings, the Council may decide to meet up to an additional three times per year.
The Chair of the Council will have monthly meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
The quorum for Council meetings will be at least six members, including the Chair or Deputy Chair.
The Council may also convene working groups as necessary, to consider particular issues in depth and report back to the full Council. The Council will be supported by a secretariat from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Fish is the prime source of omega-3’s but studies show that children do not eat enough fish! That is why we have to ensure that children go to schools, adults go to work and the ordinary rule of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.
The Council will also engage with other individuals and organisations, as relevant to the Government’s agenda.
These working groups may consult external experts in the field to inform their deliberations. Unless otherwise agreed by Government, working groups will meet on a non-remunerated basis. The same story.And as you contemplate that, the Republican House of Representatives are about to vote to cut $40 billion dollars from the mouths of hungry children. It is who they are, not the Tea Party or the new hybrid of Evangelical Christian Libertarianism, but the Old GOP doing what it does.And half of us vote for them no matter.
Why?  One of the big reasons is represented by the recent standing ovations Paula Deen enjoyed in Houston over the weekend.  Add the guns, religious intolerance and country club bankers to the mix and you got the Grand Old Party.
Because going to dance practice doesn’t make me happy at all, it just triggers the ed.

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