PDF printable version of Implementation Plan Consultation Forum (PDF 396 KB)
20 March 2017
I want to respectfully acknowledge that this land we meet on today is the Traditional Lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people. I respect their spiritual relationship with their country and recognise that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still important to the living people today.
I welcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from other parts of Australia and those people who have travelled a significant distance to be here today. I would especially like to thank, Aunty Agnes Shae who delivered the Welcome to Country.
I welcome Ms Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA, ACT Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety, who is here today and will address you shortly.
Issues in the ACT will also apply across Australia – and in particular in Hasluck.
I also welcome Ms Donna Murray, CEO of Indigenous Allied Health Australia and a representative of the Implementation Plan Advisory Group (IPAG).
In this room I note the longstanding commitment and work of Julie Tongs and her team at Winnunga. Only through working together can we – the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and stakeholders in the room today – achieve real success in our shared goal of improved health and wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
I want to start by saying that I am proud of this and previous Governments’ commitment to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, and its Implementation Plan, which was released about a year and a half ago.
I am also pleased that the next iteration of the Implementation Plan, due for release in 2018, will involve state governments as key partners going forward.
It was a huge step forward in our journey to have systemic racism recognised as a critical issue to be addressed across Government, our health services and many other institutions.
Tackling systemic racism is key to better health outcomes for our First Australians. A culturally competent approach by health professionals is critical to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing and we, like all Australians, have the right to safe, culturally appropriate health care of the highest clinical standard.
Having heard some key outcomes from the Sydney forum last week, I know racism is one of the key issues to address – racism does make you sick.
Despite our hard work, and some great achievements, we still have a long way to go to Close the Gap.
The Prime Minister’s 2017 Closing the Gap Report revealed progress on the two health targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (halving the gap in infant mortality and achieving parity with life expectancy) has stagnated.
The next iteration of the Implementation Plan is an opportunity for us to reflect on our progress, challenge our current approach and consider new ways of working.
While we are yet to Close the Gap, many people here today have made an important contribution to the journey so far. Between 1998 and 2015, Indigenous child mortality rates declined by 33 per cent and Indigenous mortality rates have declined by 15 per cent.
We have taken steps to integrate our approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. To have strong healthy children we need to have effective early childhood, education, employment, housing, economic development and environmental outcomes.
These social and cultural determinants of health underpin everything that we do, contributing to at least 31 per cent of the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. These issues can only be addressed through whole-of-government action and collaboration across sectors.
Building healthy and resilient young people through investment and efforts in the ages from pre-conception to the conclusion of school brings positive health benefits to the broader community.
Education is a key social determinant that impacts significantly on the potential of a young person to lead a healthy and happy life and contribute to the future of their community.
Young people, who are supported by parents engaging in their education, and who have access to appropriate services, are more likely to remain in school.
Through education attainment, young people have access to more pathways that will lead them to work and this will lead to a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Indigenous Australia’s diverse and rich cultures are a strength upon which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can proudly build a sense of identity and belief which helps them engage in community, and assist in navigating often complex health, employment, welfare and education pathways.
Local successes must be emulated nationally through more responsive bureaucracies. Across Australia, there are a number of outstanding community-controlled health services delivering successful programs. We need to share these successes so they may be transposed and adapted across the nation to address areas of common need.
I caution against chasing quick-fix solutions to the complex issues we are faced with today. Although we must innovate, we must more importantly invest in long-term, sustainable solutions.
While governments have a critical role in setting policies and implementing programs, true and lasting gains are only made with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to set the agendas that impact on their wellbeing.
Your ideas today will inform Government decision makers, policy writers and program managers so they can develop solutions that are culturally appropriate, sustainable and effective in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
From today’s consultations, I hope to see priorities and actions that:
- Will make an on-the-ground difference to Aboriginal families here in Canberra and across our nation;
- Strengthen working relationships between governments and sectors; and
- Reflect the rich culture and expertise of everyone in the room today.
To conclude, I thought I would refer to some of the challenges both nationally and in the ACT that touch on the issues we will tackle today.
- Incarceration rate: in 2016, First Australians comprised 24% (105 prisoners) of the adult prisoner population. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander age standardised imprisonment rate was 18 times the non-Indigenous age standardised imprisonment rate.1 (1,904 prisoners per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population compared to 108 prisoners per 100,000 adult non-Indigenous population).
- Year 12 attainment: in 2012-13, 59% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 – 24 years had completed Year 12 or higher, compared with 87% of the non-Aboriginal population.2
- Child protection: in 2015-16, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services nationally.3 In all jurisdictions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over represented in out-of-home care across all age groups.4
- The placement rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is 74.8 per 1,000 in the Australian Capital Territory, which is the highest rate nationally.5
Today, I hope we will learn from each other’s unique experiences and expertise. I urge everyone to make the most of this opportunity. I look forward to hearing your ideas shortly.