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Indigenous-Driven Organisations Deliver Better Health Outcomes


9 August 2017 at 9:39 am
Rachel McFadden
The government needs to “let go” and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “need to be put in the driver's seat” to improve the health and wellbeing of Australia’s First People, a new report has found.


Rachel McFadden | 9 August 2017 at 9:39 am


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Indigenous-Driven Organisations Deliver Better Health Outcomes
9 August 2017 at 9:39 am

The government needs to “let go” and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “need to be put in the driver’s seat” to improve the health and wellbeing of Australia’s First People, a new report has found.

A major report from The Lowitja Institute, released on Wednesday, found that when local communities take charge better health outcomes are achieved on the ground.

Lowitja Institute CEO Romlie Mokak told Pro Bono News the “groundbreaking” findings from the report demonstrated that governments needed to relinquish control and instead focus on building collaborative partnerships with local communities.

“What the report demonstrates is that lasting solutions need governments to let go,” Mokak said.

“We need robust partnerships where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are in the driver’s seat, leading innovative reform to improve the health and wellbeing of our people.”

The report detailed how a series of four co-operative research centres (CRC) pioneered a new, collaborative way of conducting health research in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“Instead of non-Indigenous researchers deciding what happens, local communities now have a central role in choosing what research is carried out, and how it is carried out, leading to better health outcomes on the ground,” it said.

Mokak said the same shift was “urgently needed” in broader policymaking.

He said the CRCs, which started in 1997 have had great successes.

“They have changed the way we do research and business in this country by essentially putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders firmly in the driving seat,” Mokak said.

He said under the CRC model clients were at the “centre of services” and failure to take this approach had been severely detrimental.

“For example if a patient from a remote community has to go to hospital for surgery in a major city, right along that journey, there are multiple points where things can go wrong. Unless we have a very clear commitment to having the patient and their family at the centre of that journey we end up having that navigation driven by clinicians or services essentially so where we end up is the potential for things to go badly or fatally wrong,” Mokak said.

“We have heard stories of people ending up back in their remote communities to be dropped off by an airplane with the anticipation that someone would pick them up, but because of this disconnect, and the patient not being at the centre of the journey people have actually died.”

The report also highlighted the Institute’s groundbreaking research on systemic racism in health, it’s acclaimed international collaborations, and its move towards financial independence.

Mokak said The Lowitja Institute called on the government to “back” the Aboriginal organisations.

“The government will never be able to achieve what they seek to achieve in terms of closing the gap without Aboriginal people being central to driving the agenda,” Mokak said.

“Governments telling us what to do and what is best for us will absolutely guarantee failure.

“This is not an Aboriginal issue alone. I call for everyone to get on board the Indigenous empowerment agenda. Ultimately this is a nation building exercise, this is a civic exercise of the greatest proportion.

“So what I would say is get on board, but know that Aboriginal people need to drive the agenda going forward,” he said.

The Changing the Narrative in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research is available here.


Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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