Television interview with Assistant Minister McCarthy, Afternoon Briefing - 1 May 2024

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McCarthy's interview with Greg Jennett on Closing the Gap; domestic violence; WA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector Conference; growing the number of Torres Strait doctors.

Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health

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GREG JENNETT, HOST: Malarndirri McCarthy, welcome back to the program, coming to us from Western Australia today. I know that's a long way from where today's National Cabinet meeting was convened by the Prime Minister, he was in Sydney, but we did get a few announcements on domestic violence, particularly the extension of this Leaving Violent Partner Payments Program. How helpful do you think that might be to Indigenous women in particular, no matter where they are in this country remotely or in towns and cities?

ASSISTANT MINISTER MALARNDIRRI McCARTHY: Hello, Greg. Well, yes, a very significant announcement by National Cabinet today, in addition, of course, to other policies that we've tried to roll out over the last couple of years. Having this gathering of the leaders at the highest of the levels across every state and territory jurisdiction with the Prime Minister, just elevated this issue of family and domestic violence across the country, Greg, in such a critical way. So we have to make sure that First Nations women right across the country, but all women do receive these benefits. We've known Greg that without financial security, it was always going to be a problem for women being able to leave violent relationships. 

JENNETT: Yeah, it was pretty broad brush in the announcements that we got from the Prime Minister and other ministers today. There is more work to be done. Premiers and Chief Ministers have undertaken to do that. But do you look forward to programs specifically targeting remote Indigenous women? 

McCARTHY: Absolutely Greg. We know that First Nations women are affected seven times more than other Australian women across the country. We've seen it, we live it. I certainly am surrounded by it, in terms of the family members that I have and the experiences that I've gone through, the children that I raise as a result of family and domestic violence. I live it every day. So I know for a fact that this announcement will go a long way to assisting all women to financially be able to leave such violent situations. And those women in remote and regional Australia desperately need it even more, so I'm very thankful to hear this from all our political leaders today. 

JENNETT: All right, let's take you to what you've been doing there in Western Australia. Funding commitments for health schemes in that state, how much and what for? 

McCARTHY: Well, I'm actually here at a conference Greg, to do with the West Australian Aboriginal Community Health sector, and to speak with them about the rolling out of very important policies like 500 health clinicians across Australia. We now have over 200 Health Traineeship positions out of that 500 and a large number of them are here in Western Australia. So I certainly spoke very strongly with the West Australian Aboriginal medical services here, but also renal dialysis as well Greg, knowing that that is a real scourge on our community. So I've come from the Torres Straits as well and Yarrabah and Cairns knowing that renal kidney failure, chronic kidney failure is an absolute scourge for First Nations people.

JENNETT: Now there’ve been plenty of programs to encourage clinicians, doctors, nurses into regional communities, they seem to come around with great frequency but you mentioned Torres Strait Islander communities, you've been there recently, are there signs of success from recent programs they have, particularly when it comes to attracting or training doctors?

McCARTHY: Absolutely Greg. You know, 20 years ago, we perhaps had one Torres Strait Islander doctor. Now we have over 127 Torres Strait doctors across Australia. 20 of those who are still, some of them are still in their medical final years of medicine, went to the Torres Strait this week, and I was able to join them there. This was actually about the Elders of the Torres Straits, calling back Torres Strait doctors to country and to remind them as well of their cultural responsibilities, I guess Greg, as much as their medical responsibilities to all people that they treat, but to deepen and strengthen that example to the younger generation of what is very possible. 

JENNETT: So that's their peers and community members reminding them of that, but as a policy maker in government, is there an expectation that that is where they should end up, back on country back at home, servicing the communities from whence they came?

MCCARTHY: It's always about choice, Greg and I think for First Nations people, whether they’re doctors, nurses, paediatricians, it is about the choice to be able to return home should they wish to do so or their ability to go where they feel they are needed. And what I've found listening to the Elders of the Torres Straits working with these Torres Strait doctors, was they were welcoming them home, would certainly love to see some of them return to the Torres Strait to work as doctors full time, but also conscious of the fact that we still need more resourcing to be able to do that. But I have no doubt that many of those doctors will be returning to the Torres Strait. 

JENNETT: Well, speaking of Territorians I can't let you go today Malarndirri without asking you about young Keegan Payne, of fishing fame, he got the big one.

McCARTHY: What a millionaire!

JENNETT: What an amazing story, but I just wonder if he's going to be you know, the one man tourism driver that re-launches the fishing industry and Top End tourism for you. 

McCARTHY: Oh, absolutely. It will be in fact, you know, he caught it in the Katherine River, Greg. You know, I go fishing out in the Darwin Harbor and we were trying to have a go at that with my families and people who go out across, the Gulf region and around Arnhem Land as well. But to think it was caught in the Katherine River, I think for the town of Katherine, it certainly put them on the map as well.

JENNETT: It's a great story. Of course, if you had caught it Malarndirri, you'd have to put it on the on the parliamentary register. 

McCARTHY: Absolutely

JENNETT Great to catch up from Western Australia, talk soon.

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