Editorial: With guidance from First Nations ancestors ...

  • Children running on a beach at sunset

[Image: Lara Wieland]

As the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, I am pleased to present the 84th issue of Partyline, which focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health and wellbeing.

Over the decades, the Alliance has been a strong voice for rural, regional and remote Australia, including almost 61 per cent of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in regional and remote areas. We are well aware that while the proportion of Indigenous Australians within the population increases with remoteness, their health and wellbeing consequently decreases. As such, our work as an Alliance of 47 national organisations maintains special focus on the health and wellbeing of First Nations people.

The Alliance is guided by the wealth of knowledge of First Nations ancestors as well as Indigenous health organisations. We continually seek their leadership when drawing up health policies and programs to benefit First Nations people. The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) were among the 12 founding members who attended the first AGM on 14 February 1993 to set the course for the Alliance. We have also been a long-term supporter of the Close the Gap campaign and will continue to be so with the guidance of our Indigenous organisation members.

I’m also pleased to announce that Reconciliation Australia has recently endorsed our Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, providing further acknowledgment of the work we strive to do to improve the health outcomes of First Nations people. We look forward to launching our Innovative RAP very soon.

Our vision for reconciliation is for addressing the unique cultural, social and economic determinants of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be recognised as fundamental to equitable health systems and society. We are committed to closing the health gap of disadvantage in rural Australia; raising awareness and understanding within our organisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and practices; and upholding our organisational values of equity and inclusiveness.

We understand that Indigenous people in Australia face many health challenges and that those living in remote areas have higher rates of disease burden and lower life expectancy. According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey of 2018‑19, about 46 per cent of people living in remote areas had at least one chronic condition, 17 per cent of people aged two years and over had anxiety and 13 per cent had depression, 37 per cent of people aged 15 years and over smoked daily and 37 per cent of children aged two to 14 years were overweight or obese.

We see many initiatives by the government and other stakeholders to address these issues. The Alliance always supports and advocates co-designed approaches led by First Nations people to improve their health outcomes. This issue of Partyline celebrates initiatives that are making a positive impact on the health of First Nations people and can serve as inspiration for others when designing programs. We are thrilled to present in this issue contributions from across Australia, from those who work tirelessly to bring health dividends to First Nations people.

The Alliance’s Australian Journal of Rural Health (Journal) envisions more First Nations narratives in its processes, from releasing special issues with the inclusion of First Nations voices to bringing more First Nations representation to its Editorial Board and reviewers list. The Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, Dr Pim Kuipers, sheds light in his article on the Journal’s contributions towards closing the gap and its future approaches for more engagement in this regard.

We always welcome thoughts from our Members, Friends and partners, many of whom have contributed articles to this issue with inspirational stories from their work. I’m certain our readers will be highly engaged with articles that provide information relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including palliative care resources, chronic conditions, community co-design programs, preventive care, mental health, maternity health and traditional therapies. We also have some wonderful examples of how art can be used to help healing and overall wellbeing.

While the Alliance celebrates our 30th anniversary this year, we understand we have further to go on the journey to achieve our collective vision of healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote communities across Australia. While expressing my gratitude to all our collaborators throughout the past 30 years, I will continue to seek your assistance on our long road ahead.

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