Leading human rights campaigner, Referendum Council Co-Chair and Uluru Dialogues Co-Chair Aunty Pat Anderson AO says a ‘yes’ vote in the Voice referendum could mean a big step forward for the future health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“It’s been a long journey to equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and today, Australia stands on the precipice of momentous change,” said Aunty Pat in a speech to the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector in Brisbane today. An ACCHO is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community.
“We can become a fairer and more just society; a society where there is health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A society where Aboriginal children can get a healthy start in life and achieve their full health potential. Health could be a big winner if Australia votes ‘yes’.
“A ‘yes’ vote means we will have the mandate of the Australian people and we won’t have to justify ourselves to every elected government.
“It means we will be able to get down and deal with the big health issues, like Australia having some of the world’s highest recorded rates of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD). ARF is rare in most developed countries, but rates in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community are among the highest in the world.
“The Voice referendum is an important, historic step towards Closing the Gap and improving the health and wellbeing of First Nations peoples.”
Aunty Pat made the comments at a private talk with staff from Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) and its Member services. She gave a comprehensive and wide-ranging talk on the history and progress of the Uluru Dialogue, Uluru Statement from the Heart, and the Voice to Parliament referendum.
“The Voice aligns with QAIHC’s philosophy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in our health journeys,” said QAIHC Chairman Matthew Cooke.
“As the peak body of the ACCHO sector in Queensland, we know that there is a long way to go to in government delivering on their promise to Close the Gap. We believe a Voice is critical if there is going to be long-term sustainable gains in health outcomes for our peoples. Accessible and equitable comprehensive primary health care is a basic human right for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
“A ‘yes’ vote means the ACCHO sector can get more support to continue its important work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland, including urban, regional, remote, and very remote areas where adequate funds and resources are desperately needed.”
Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) CEO Adrian Carson said the focus of IUIH, a Regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS), was to improve upon the health systems and services for the benefit of the people in its communities, from babies to elders.
“While we’ve been active in efforts to advocate for reform, the pace of change remains inadequate to deliver on the commitment to address the gap and improve the lives of our people and communities.
“The status quo has proven to be inadequate. The Voice could be the catalyst required to amplify the voices of our people and accelerate progress,” he said.
Suzanne Andrews, CEO of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (a QAIHC Member) said remote Indigenous communities in Yarrabah Shire in Far North Queensland faced a series of health challenges including lack of access to health care professionals and primary health care services, lack of access to quality drinking water, as well as high rates of chronic conditions.
“Despite these challenges, Gurriny Yealamucka has been a tremendous success story. In 2014, we only had 800 clients. Today we have more than 4000 clients. Health checks are on the rise and have a near 100% success rate with our immunisation programs,” she said.
“Our organisation is a uniting force in our community and is evidence that if you put Aboriginal health into Aboriginal hands, you get a far better outcome.”