Introduction by Croakey: More than 120 health and medical organisations have signed an open letter of national support for the Voice to Parliament, arguing that it will improve health outcomes.
“We confidently believe that the proposed Voice will enhance government decision making about matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ultimately improving health outcomes,” states the letter, published in The Australian and other newspapers today.
Signatories include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, medical, nursing and allied health colleges and organisations, consumer health groups, research organisations, unions and public health organisations. Pharmaceutical companies and other private sector stakeholders are also represented.
In an accompanying statement., Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said: “I am confident that a Voice would help me, and future Health Ministers find better, more effective, practical ways to close the gap and allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to live longer, healthier, happier lives.”
Meanwhile, Marie McInerney attended an event in Melbourne yesterday showcasing collective support from the health sector in Victoria, as reported below.
(To hear more on health sector perspectives, register to attend a #CroakeyLIVE webinar from 5pm AEST today).
Marie McInerney writes:
In Victoria, 53 health organisations came together yesterday (24 September) to endorse a Voice to Parliament and to release a survey of 1,600 health professionals that showed 80 percent believe a Voice would improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.
The organisations, which included the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (VACCHO), cohealth, all six Victorian Primary Health Networks, cohealth, Cancer Council Victoria, Mental Health Victoria, VMIAC, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, the Victorian Healthcare Association, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, and Quit, issued a Statement of Support for the Voice referendum.
“As leaders in health, we believe the Voice will make a difference and hope Australia votes yes,” they said, declaring that the Voice will lead to better health policies and also result in improvements to policies regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, education, jobs, housing and transport, “all of which will improve health”.
See the list of signatories here.
The online survey, led by VACCHO and conducted from 16 August to 22 September 2023, attracted responses from staff from over 80 health organisations including community health organisations, hospitals, private practices, primary health networks and Aboriginal health organisations. VACCHO said it heard from nurses, GPs, surgeons, psychologists, dentists, Aboriginal health workers and allied health professionals. See the results below.
VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher, a Gunditjmara woman, told media at the event that Australian could not underestimate the health and wellbeing benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “of being recognised, of being respected, and being valued”.
“Hope is a very powerful medicine,” she said.
“Eighty percent of Aboriginal people want the Voice; 80 percent of health workers want the Voice – we hope that come referendum day, 80 percent of all Australia support the Voice,” she said, urging the Australian health sector to take every opportunity to talk with family, friends and others who are “not quite there yet” in support for a Yes vote.
As an example of a successful initiative that had been led by community to address an important health issue, she highlighted the Beautiful Shawl Project, delivered by VACCHO, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and BreastScreen Victoria, which helped Aboriginal women “to have culture wrapped around them” through breast screening.
It was an “amazing program, a classic example of how when you’re in the driver’s seat and do have influence on power, then you can make change”, she said.
Formerly Victoria’s Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Gallagher helped establish Victoria’s First Peoples Assembly, which is now progressing a Treaty for the state.
“No-one should be scared of treaty making,” she told Croakey. “Believe me, no-one’s backyards are under threat,” she said, referring to fear-mongering being led by some involved in the No campaign.
VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio also pledged his support for the Voice, saying evidence shows it would benefit all Australians, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“When you reduce health inequalities it benefits everyone, not just the communities that see health improvements,” he told Croakey, describing the upcoming referendum as a “once in a generation opportunity” to acknowledge the world’s oldest continuing culture and an important act of allyship.
“When we listen to communities, we make better decisions, achieve better health outcomes and ultimately lower rates of chronic disease.”
Dr Graham Gee, Principal Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, said the referendum provides the opportunity to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander body “that is no longer subject to the whim of whichever government is in power”.
“It will provide a permanent platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their wisdom, knowledge, and advice to Parliament on decisions affecting their own health and wellbeing. It is an historic opportunity.”
Watch this playlist of videos from the event
More from Twitter
See Croakey’s portal on the Voice, providing a platform for health voices
Register to attend a #CroakeyLIVE webinar from 5pm AEST today, moderated by Jade Bradford, with Fiona Cornforth, Kerry O’Brien, Scott Wilson, Scott Willis and Annie Butler.