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ICYMI: climate extremes, health benefits from The Voice, mental health matters – and events not to miss

A constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament will bring wide-ranging health benefits, according to a BMJ article featured in this week’s column.

As well as covering climate extremes, we bring snippets from The Mental Health Services Conference and a tribute to the legacy of the late Professor David Penington

Scroll to the end to see a stack of upcoming events and news of various awards and job opportunities.

The quotable?

We have entire cities and transportation hubs that were all built for a climate that no longer exists. That’s why we’re seeing terrible things happen.”


From one extreme to another…

Amongst so much devastating climate-related news, there is at least one victory.

In the United States, a Montana state court’s decision, in favour of young people who alleged the state violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment” by promoting use of fossil fuels, is being hailed one of the strongest decisions on climate change ever issued by a court.

Experts say it could energise the environmental movement and usher in a wave of cases aimed at advancing action on climate change, The Washington Post reports. The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act had harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects.

Meanwhile, at least 106 deaths have been reported from the fires on the Hawaiian island of Maui, with hundreds more people missing, according to the BBC.


Read the NPR article Read the article on heat solutionsRead the article on infrastructure Read the ABC article calling for urgent climate action


The Voice to Parliament

A constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament will bring wide-ranging health benefits, given the evidence that self-determination and cultural identity are vital to health, according to an article in the BMJ by Pat Anderson, Professor Megan Davis, Dr Toby Freeman and Professor Fran Baum.

“Evidence shows that First Nations people involved in managing and caring for their land have less disease including diabetes, renal disease, hypertension, and obesity. They also have better self-esteem, self-identity, and connection to culture than those not involved in these activities,” the authors write.

“Given the lack of control imposed by colonisation, capacity to influence the governance and policies of vital institutions is particularly important to Indigenous peoples and vital to good mental health. A lack of control influences a range of physical health issues through stress pathways.”

The authors say a Voice to parliament can be particularly effective in tackling racism by preventing racist public policy.

“The Voice would be an important step in making Australian public policy culturally safer – meaning that it is reflexive, results from dialogue with Aboriginal people, reduces power differences, and is focused on decolonising,” the authors write.

This is vital, as past public policy has often been damaging to the health of Aboriginal peoples.

For example, a Voice to Parliament would reduce the likelihood of such damaging policies as the 2007 Northern Territory National Emergency Response.

It would ensure that a First Nations perspective would be considered in all policies, including those affecting the social determinants of health, such as employment, education, economics, welfare, housing, criminal justice, and climate policies.

The authors say that the result of the Australian constitutional referendum will have resonance for Indigenous peoples worldwide.

“Enshrining a Voice to parliament in law would signal willingness from the Australian people for their national government to take responsibility for past and current injustices that have led to such glaring health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Voice’s contribution to health will go way beyond symbolism and, once instituted, will enable multiple pathways to improve health and wellbeing.”