#IHMayDay15 took over Twitter on May 29 with a day of action and listening on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It ran for more than 15 hours, was trending in Queensland by 8am and nationally through the day, featured 15 moderators and generated nearly 50 million Twitter impressions by 10pm.
The scope of the day was simple, as this Croakey preview outlined:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to share their views and knowledge about some of the wide-ranging issues affecting health, and non-Indigenous people are encouraged to participate by retweeting and listening.
#IHMayDay15 was lead-moderated by James Cook University Nursing, Midwifery and Research academic Dr Lynore Geia – @LynoreGeia – a Bwgcolman woman woman from Palm Island; and by Summer May Finlay – @OnTopicAus – a Yorta Yorta woman, a public health practitioner and PhD candidate based in Canberra (more details are here).
It was given great support not only from the session moderators (see full program and bio details) but by Matthew Cooke from NACCHO who was in the chair at @IndigenousX and Pele Bennet (@Pele_78), a Waggadaggam woman of the Torres Strait Islands, director of Queensland’s oldest community-controlled health organisation (ATSICHS) tweeting at @WePublicHealth.
We promised to mention in this Croakey wrap any politicians who engaged: was great to see interest from WA Federal Labor MP Melissa Parke, SA Greens Senator Penny Wright, Federal Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, NSW Federal Labor MP Stephen Jones, WA Senator Sue Lines, and Queensland Ministers Cameron Dick (Health) and Leeanne Enoch (who delivered the 2015 Mabo Lecture on the day – see more below)
Unlike the inaugural #IHMayDay14, the conversation wasn’t interrupted by the disturbing recommendations of the Federal Government’s Commission of Audit. But through the day changes were announced to the Tackling Indigenous Smoking and there was growing concern about the fate of the Custody Notification Service in New South Wales. Later that night tweeps’ timelines filled with anger and anxiety over the reaction to AFL star Adam Goode’s ‘war cry’ dance.
If you want to catch up on #IHMayDay15 at length, you can read the full transcript or see below for selected highlights from each session (Text versions of tweets are indented; some have been slightly edited to aid understanding) and some of the responses. It’s a long read but hope you find it as compelling as so many of us did on the day. Wish it could include all the conversations.
You can watch a video interview too recorded by @croakeyblog’s Melissa Sweet of Dr Lynore Geia’s reflections a week later (after they had both restored muscle strength to necks and shoulders after 15 hours in the JCU #IHMayDay15 ‘control room’.
#IHMAYDAY15 SESSION SUMMARIES
Dr Lynore Geia: Introduction and reflection: looking backwards, looking forwards…
Lynore launched the day at 7am by paying her deep respect and acknowledgment to the traditional owners, the Bindal and Walgurukaba people, on whose land she works from James Cook University in Townsville. She talked about how #IHMayDay had come about, what health means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, of the need for health workers to listen, and particular issues facing young and older Indigenous people.
From little tweets out in the sphere, #IHMayDay15 grew. It’s so important to keep our voices strong in things that matter to us and health is one. Health is such a complex issue but from our eyes it’s not so complicated. Respect for who we are and genuine care opens a door.
Health is about what matters to us as well as what western medicine identifies as well. Health is our land, family & community. Health is physical and psychosocial and cultural is the whole person – not the body parts.
At times our health issues don’t meet the priorities of the biomedical model – it requires bit of listening & finding out more. An important message for health students out there: listening is respect, listen to the story and ask questions to help you understand. Sometimes what we are worrying for does not match what you are worrying for when an Indigenous person is sitting in front of you. We need to continue the conversations together – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – about how we do health together.
Health is also working with our youth in our communities, much needed, they have a tougher road than my generation had. One big issue we are working with youth on is validating their voice in the community – building youth councils with them.
Having talked on the importance of our youth, our eldership is so important too – to be there to walk alongside and guide. (Through to) other end of life health issues, we are experiencing more need for dementia care for our mob as well.
Ali Drummond: Nursing’s contribution to Indigenous health.
Ali is a Lecturer at the School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology. He shared some of his story and contemporary Torres Strait Islander health issues, particularly about the role of family in health, diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the launch of a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researchers Alliance. He also shared this wallet card guide that supports QUT staff.
He introduced himself, explaining his mob are the Wuthathi & Yadaigana (Cape York) & the Dauareb le (Torres Strait Islands): “A mix, like many in north QLD.” He is named for his grandfather, whose stories were captured in Life B’long Ali Drummond: A life in the Torres Straits. “I carry that name, so have to live up to it!”
Miss my family! Critical to my social and emotional wellbeing. You feel isolated and vulnerable living far away from them. Likewise, family needs you to fulfil your role, in order for the family to be strong. When discussing patient-centred care, contemporary health workers may need to consider family-centred care.
He talked about the significance of native title, and paid tribute to elders and leaders for their continuous campaigning that finally has delivered Wuthathi native title recognition in north-east Cape York:.
Was the result of partnership: traditional owners + other environmental groups. #Reconciliation is a long game http://sustainable.unimelb.edu.au/native-title-win.
Country (land, fresh/salt water, plants, animals and sky) critical to wellbeing. Native title is a step towards wellbeing.
Ali also talked about how Torres Strait Islanders are a minority in the Indigenous population: made up by 18 island communities, and 5 traditional island clusters, they are facing some new challenges.
While some issues are similar to Aboriginal people, not the same experience. Often just grouped together though.
New challenges emerge for Torres Strait Islands. Rising seas threaten Island communities. Obvious ripple effect on wellbeing. Significant public health concerns at the border in the last few years: TB, cholera and vector-borne diseases. As a Torres Strait Islander healthworker I cared for many Papua New Guinea nationals in the Torres Strait Islands. Many families on either side of the border.
Cost of living on Torres Strait Islands is expensive. Even worse in outer islands. How does one afford a healthy/balanced diet? Not all deficits in the Torres Strait Islands. Strength: family, community, culture, land & sea. Stuff of strong foundations.
Ali has been working with fellow #IHMayDay15 moderator Kerry Arabena (see below) on the establishment of a National Torres Strait Islander Health Research Association: “a seedling nurtured by some Torres Strait Islander researchers” to:
- Represent a united Torres Strait Islander voice re health research
- Support the community, current & future Torres Strait Islander health researchers
- Enhance research resources for the benefit of Torres Strait Islanders
- Protect Torres Strait Islanders, researchers, Islands and knowledge.
He also talked re cultural safety in nursing, where cultural safety, cultural competency, cultural capability can seem ‘all the same thing’ but are different. See this article. He advocates for cultural safety because it:
- empowers the patient and their family in their care
- forces the clinical to be a critical thinker and to continually self-reflect
- is the evolution that nursing needs to meet the needs of globalised society.
Scott Avery: On the importance of personal narratives about disability.
He first paid tribute to the Elders in the First Peoples Disability movement, and talked of the importance of narrative, research and data (particularly with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)) and how disability so often ends in prison not support.
There is no traditional word for disability. Our mobs have always followed the social model of disability support in community. Undiagnosed or poorly managed disability is a complicating factor in the health of our people.
When we visit our communities, we hear of ‘spiritual disability’ – trauma and grief, dispossession, disconnect from country…. For Aboriginal people spiritual loss – spiritual disability – can be far more disabling than physical disability. Sharing personal narrative of disability is a form of healing for ‘spiritual disability’. Personal narrative not only provides insights to disability policy but also a form of healing, that is two-way capacity building.
The NDIS represents a significant opportunity for better outcomes in our communities but it must be managed proper way. Despite the prevalence of disability, estimated at 50%, there’s not much data & little research to drive policy.
Scott said he was currently doing a lot of work around justice and disability issues, including fitness to plead. See this article by his CEO @dameadvocate about the shocking experience of Roseanne Fulton, a mentally impaired Indigenous woman, who was in prison for 18 months without conviction, after being found unfit to plead or face trial.
Diverting 1 in 5 people with disability to NDIS instead of prison could reduce incarceration rates by 10% (from ABS data).
Summer May Finlay: #JustJustice: finding evidence-based, culturally appropriate and community-led solutions to over-incarceration.
She is part of Croakey’s JustJustice project which was recently successfully crowd-funded to look at solutions to and the community stories about over-incarceration rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. In her session she also highlighted the Change the Record initiative from the National Justice Coalition, a group of leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, human rights and community organisations.
The incarceration rate for Indigenous people is going up, hurting us physically & emotionally.
It costs $120,000 to keep an adult in prison for a year. Imagine if those funds were invested into prevention!
Summer talked about how prison takes people away from country and family, affecting their social and emotional wellbeing, and “doesn’t work”: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 74 per cent more likely to reconvicted if that have been to jail before than if they were given a non-custodial penalty.
Indigenous incarceration has doubled since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report. Just not good enough! Taking away our men, our women, our kids will undermine our cultural strength. Jail is almost genocidal. People with disabilities are more likely to be incarcerated. WA & NT have the highest rates of Aboriginal incarceration. Mandatory sentencing too…Connection? Working much?
Summer highlighted a number of initiatives, programs and research that are looking at solutions to over-incarceration, including Justice Reinvestment, the restoration of funding to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Red Dust healing, and Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder resources for the justice system. “Take a look!”
Mark is a Research Fellow at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, working on the AVID Study (Aboriginal Voice Integration and Diffusion in Public Health Collaboratives) – an analysis of the policy principle of ‘integration’. He had the ‘map of the day’! (see pic below).
Mark said his passion for policy research came from his Nan (Marjorie Woodrow) – don’t miss his story about her and others in his family from his Ross Ingram Essay 2012.
Transparency important as citizens need to ‘see’ how decisions are made. Note policy principle for full and formal participation. AVID wants to demonstrate transparency through being able to ‘see’ Aboriginal voice. For example: what does ‘full & formal’ participation look like? I look at committees – where is the Aboriginal voice? I also look at Terms of Reference, say, for Abbott’s Indigenous Advisory Committee to see how the terms contain transparency.
Ask questions of committees – who is the chair, where do the minutes go, how are actions tracked, what is the feedback loop. Yes minutes! Make sure that your comments are noted but also posted online, as so many minutes are invisibile/hidden. Committees need to be transparent: publish minutes, membership, terms of ref, reports – online please! So much is hidden:(
The biggest committee – Parliament – was responsible for the past policies, that’s partly why I’m so passionate about policy. 1999 Aboriginal nutrition committee was a sub-sub-sub-sub committee to Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council = Aboriginal voice filtered.
How are committees linked two other committees (map?). How do other people link to other committees? Important strategic information.
Data collection for mapping committees is needed to account for representativeness of stakeholders in committees. Yes, the AVID methodology also will conduct >300 interviews in >50 towns and assess the ‘rules’ used in committees. Data collection is important: when next a politician says ‘a new way of engaging’ then you can ask ‘where is your comparative evidence?’
Richard Weston: Healing works
I am Meriam born on Gadigal country, grew up in Nyoongar country, have lived on Nyamal, Bakantji,Turrbul-Jagera, Ngunnawal lands.
You may be wondering what healing has to do with health? In a word: EVERYTHING! Trauma impacts every part of our lives. Until we can heal the trauma affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is hard to improve health and wellbeing.
So how does healing work? Healing programs work best when they are developed and led by our communities and are strong in culture. Healing is strengths based, breaks negative cycles and intervenes early. Of course, the healing needs of our people vary from community to community, family to family and person to person. For many #StolenGenerations members, healing is a collective process.
An example of healing in action: Reunion to Self, with Link-Up South Australia. We are working with the Murri School to improve social & emotional wellbeing and educational outcomes. It is unique: builds a whole of school understanding and approach to trauma.
Culture is integral to healing: art, craft, dance, song, being on country, ceremony, storytelling, traditional healing, language. Healing enables our people into hopefulness and living with purpose. Knowledge is still a currency we can share with each other.
Professor Kerry Arabena: What are universities doing to improve Indigenous Health?
Kerry told #IHMayDay15 how she went to university as a teenage mum to study social work at the University of Queensland. She completed her PhD at the Australian National University (she didn’t mention that she became the first Indigenous postgraduate there to win its most prized academic award with her thesis) and is now Professor and Chair of Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne.
I like working at Universities because I get to challenge the status quo: https://www.croakey.org/why-arent-you-all-caring-for-country-professor-kerry-arabena/ …
She said Melbourne University has a strong program of Indigenous Leadership – on trend with other universities through Reconciliation Action Plans.
We are all engaged in a strong program of reconciliation thru our Unis – an essential element of our future. Universities invest in decolonising strategies to create culturally safe workforce of future. Unis raise the health status of Indigenous people by recruiting and educating our own health students & increasing awareness.
But they also can step up the pace, she said:
Universities can do more to realise our unique skill and contribution – collaboration, conciliation and coherence. New curricula needs to be designed through Unis to create pathways into Uni courses. Bring on short courses! Why don’t we aim for a University that caters to our needs, employs our people, built on our knowledges? Racism, more work needs to be done. Unis provide evidence, Australian society need to put it into practice!
Kerry highlighted the recent launch of Proof of Birth by Melissa Castan and Paula Gerber, saying every Indigenous person has a right to birth, name and identity and universities need to make big investments in the First 1000 Days from conception to age 2. Her recommendations for tweeps, orgs and researchers to follow:
@onemda @EMunrha working on a project with services involved with young girls who perpetrate violence. Challenges stereotypes. @LowitjaInstitut has been working 2 ways together for decades. Grown up a large part of our health workforce. Supporting PhDs! @The_NIRAKN Indigenous researchers supported through Uni’s Indigenous Sociology and Knowledge, Indigenous Health & Wellbeing, also working with Indigenous scholars Indigenous Law and Yuraki – History, Politics and Culture. We have a University collaboration who is partnering with @HealthInfoNet to develop Womens Health Hub. These Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies should guide all our work in Unis.@LIME__Network offers Indigenous students support for pathways into health & medicine http://www.limenetwork.net.au/pathways
Many of our PhD scholars are above age of 40. We put family first, then come back after. #biglives. The view from the other side of PhD is great! The experience of a PhD makes you a better, holistic practitioner.
Les Malezer: Human rights and health.
Les is from the Butchulla/Gubbi Gubbi peoples in southeast Queensland and is Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. As chair of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA), he is a delegate to United Nations forums on Indigenous issues and worked on coordinating Indigenous Peoples’ advocacy for the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
(Under that declaration) Australia reaffirmed to the UN its commitment to obtain free, prior and informed consent before implementing legislative or administrative measures on our mob. Aboriginal peoples have the right to full involvement to develop, determine and administer health programmes affecting them. Community controlled health services ensure decision making at local levels. Orgs must regularly review to meet expectations.
Latest UN resolution calls for traditional roles and occupation to be respected for Indigenous wellbeing, States commit to support Indigenous peoples’ occupation, traditional activity, economies, livelihood, food security & nutrition.
Michelle Lovegrove: Racism in the media: a journalist’s perspective on what this means for health
Michelle has extensive experience in the media and media studies, and is currently the national Executive Producer of SBS Radio Living Black, and Global Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. See her recent address to the UBC on the impacts of racism in the media.
Michelle has no doubt that “consistent negative, simplistic, one dimensional media coverage” of Indigenous people and issues impacts on their health over time and during her #IHMayDay15 session she issued a challenge to journalists and media organisations to scrutinise and educate themselves.
Michelle acknowledged the good work that many journalists do in reporting on First Nations issues and that not all media is “bad”, but knows from her long experience that journalists are often disconnected from what they are reporting on.
Disconnection from subject of story is one reason for racism, but only one, and is not an excuse. Disconnection in media is the result of ownership issues, training, worldviews, editorial decision makers, lack of will.
Nutshell issues – stereotypes, racial profiling, judgement on basis of race, basis of skin colour, where you live, job. Commentary on importance of skin colour to determine Aboriginality, residence, education, detrimental to mentalhealth.
It is not all about death, drugs, poverty and violence. But nor is it about tourism, corroboree and art. Journalists need support to do hard work of challenging their world views. Employers & universities can assist this.
Journalists at all levels of experience must challenge their own world views, this is essential work. What is the point? The message? The outcome? The impact in the community? Have you stopped to think? Do you know any First Nations people? Do you really understand the big issues here? Or do you simply rewrite a media release because it’s “an easy get”?
Michelle said her FirstNations colleague @duncanmccue has pioneered excellent work with @riicnews, and recommended this good place for journalists to start on road to cultural competency in reporting.
Kelvin Kong: Hearing for health
Associate Professor Kelvin Kong is Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon. He specialises in ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery and, with @AWABAKAL, is one of the drivers and stars of these great videos sending the message that Healthy Ears = Deadly Kids. He shared not only his passion for ears as an instrument, but the vital role they play in general health, education, employment, justice and other wellbeing issues.
ATSI has a very oral history. Hearing more so important! We are well over-represented on Otitis Media prevalence = hearing loss.
See these great exchanges with Sam Harkus, audiologist and manager of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Services at Australian Hearing in Sydney and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).
Adele Cox: on #SOSBlakAustralia and the health threats of community closures.
Adele is a Bunuba and Gija woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, who works predominantly in the area of Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention. She was tweeting from @sosblakaust which has mobilised major protests across remote and metropolitan Australia against the WA Government’s plans to close remote communities (next wave due on June 26, 27).
Adele said the proposed closures threaten huge long-term costs to health and wellbeing, while there are still “no proactive moves from governments to consult with people on communities”. See the WA proposal here.
Impact of colonisation caused traditional lifestyle choices to be abandoned by Indigenous people. Connection to culture & country offers great benefits to healing and mental health @HealingOurWay, features in several research projects across Australia. Evidence supports the positive impact that homelands have.
Culture and country is a protective factor for health and wellbeing for our mob. Traditional diet and nutrition show positive outcomes on health: diabetes, heart disease…Housing and health are closely related, forced closures of communities will contribute to overcrowding issues. Real risks associated with Aboriginal community closures on increased rates of mental health and suicides.
Are the state and federal governments ready to deal with the potential aftermath of closing these communities?
Sean Gordon: Health through empowering communities and self-determination
Sean is a Wangkumarra/Barkintji man, and grew up at Brewarrina in western New South Wales. He is CEO of Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, a Director of the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) and Convenor of the Empowered Communities Leadership Group.
Empowered Communities is about healthy, safe and prosperous communities. We must remove Government from reaching into the lives of our pole. Our community is about breaking down silos and developing holistic strategies.
We have operated for too long in sectors. We need to get back to communities/people. We have mirrored Government by setting up Housing, Health, Education, Employment bodies that don’t talk to each other. We have been economically crippled for 200yrs. Our dependency on Government is too great. Domestic violence, Drugs, Alcohol, are crippling to our people and is not a part our culture.
On the Central Coast of NSW 6 key Aboriginal Orgs have come together under Barang (meaning Tomorrow). The Central Coast has real challenges facing Aboriginal people, supporting our reason for coming together. We have to work together as a people and not let sectors determine our business! We are working toward self sustainable solutions that do not depend on Government funding. To address our disadvantage Governments must let go of control and communities/peoples must take control.
Leadership is crucial, a national framework is crucial and real values are crucial to improve our lives. Empowered Communities philosophy is Opt-in for those who organisations and regions committed to reform. We are building our own homes and setting our own rules without Government funding or control.
The Glen Rehab is an example. The Glen is dealing with real people with real problems…not bad people with bad problems. We have to get a balance between economic, social and cultural development.
The greatest word I’ve learnt this year is “Subsidiarity”. What does it mean???? Exactly! How do we get decision making as close as we can to those who are impacted? We cannot live our lives by what others think. Take control of the things that you can. Our people must be a part of the solution…what’s happens now isn’t working and won’t until we lead!! ‘Sorry’ doesn’t cut it no more. We must have action and we must take control.
Kelly Briggs: Women’s health.
Kelly Briggs is a Gamilaroi woman and an award-winning writer, blogger and Tweeter. She writes for The Guardian and Croakey blog. Her Twitter profile says it all: “Big Black Gomeroi Woman. Feminist. Social Justice Warrior. Racism Fighter. Aboriginal Rights Supporter.
So does this. Don’t miss this earlier piece on the fear that haunts Aboriginal women that she wrote for Guardian Australia.
Ok. Aboriginal & TSI women experience poorer health than all other women in Australia. Aboriginal women are monitored more closely than any other group in this country re: children. There is no other group of women in Australia controlled as extensively by government as Aboriginal mothers. Exertion of government control and monitoring of our motherhood takes its toll physically and mentally.
Aboriginal mothers are governed by fear of having their children taken. Fear of our children experiencing racism. Fear of our children being imprisoned, fear of our children dying in gaol, fear of our children taking their lives. Fear of constant and ongoing racial, physical and economic violence is something a lot of us live with daily. Constant fear and worry leads to mental health issues for SOME Aboriginal women. A lot of the causes of poor health for Aboriginal women are rooted in political, social, racial and economic injustices.
While women in this country worry about equal wages, some Aboriginal women are wondering how to feed/house their kids. Aboriginal women are disproportionately homeless because of racism in the rental housing sector and governmental oppression. I write occasional pieces to try to bring light to the harms effecting Aboriginal women’s health. Close the Gap is one of the only positives I have seen in the last 10 years regarding Aboriginal womens health.
Luke Pearson: Engaging with the Twitter community
Luke is a digital strategist, social media consultant, researcher, writer, keynote speaker, and the founding director of IndigenousX. He is also Associate Adjunct Professional in Journalism with the University of Canberra, & crowdfunder for projects and campaigns in partnership between IndigenousX & StartSomeGood.
The simplest reason for why I started @IndigenousX is that none of us have all the answers, but we all have stories to tell… I watch most things that go on on Twitter concerning Indigenous Affairs, and a lot of it isn’t what goes on in real life. In real life, a lot of us sweat blood fighting for what we think is right, and fight a ludicrously steep uphill battle every day.
But it’s only unemployed/self employed ppl who can say it without fear of losing our jobs. I’m unfunded so I’ve nothing to lose. And I’ve burnt most bridges I went to uni hoping to cross so social media is pretty much all I have left now, AND I LOVE IT!
Too many non-Indigenous orgs with Indigenous in their name & millions in Indigenous $ get away with too much nonsense on here…while too many peeps like @TheKooriWoman @DameyonBonson and myself bust our arses just trying to keep the lights on…We deal with the trolls, and the politicians, and the organisations, and educate the white people, and try to support each other…