NAIDOC Week is a time when Australia’s First Peoples celebrate their history, culture and achievements. It is also a time for Australians to acknowledge the enormous contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the quality of life and prosperity of the nation.
This year’s NAIDOC Week theme, Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond, is about honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have fought in Australia’s armed forces. The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) joins with others in recognising the great contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans.
Recognition of these veterans, and of the disrespectful treatment they often received on their return, is long overdue and is another important step in Australia’s healing. Like the Apology to the Stolen Generations, this week's recognition will help repair historical trauma and reduce racism.
During this NAIDOC Week the NRHA would also like to recognise the critical contributions made to improvements in health outcomes - especially in rural and remote areas - by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals. There is much available evidence pointing to the benefits of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples controlling their own health, and the training and recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals has made a significant contribution to many of the improvements in Indigenous health.
The role of key Aboriginal Medical Services and individual Indigenous professionals in reducing smoking rates and infant mortality and in increasing birth weights and post-natal health provides further evidence of the need to build further the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce.
Improved training and recruitment strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples into the health workforce will greatly assist in improving shortages of GPs and other health professionals in rural and remote Australia.
The work should be complemented by work to improve literacy and numeracy, including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas, so they can better navigate training to become health professionals.
To commemorate NAIDOC Week 2014 the NRHA re-commits itself to doing what it can to ensure that governments, professional bodies and others provide greater support for workforce development, training, recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the health sector.
For more information about rural health in general, see www.ruralhealth.org.au
Contacts: Tim Kelly – Chairperson:
0438 011 383
Gordon Gregory – Executive Director:
02 6285 4660