It is widely acknowledged that the health system is often culturally unsafe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and efforts are being made in many places and at many levels to try and address this.
But the health system is embedded in wider societal practices and values. Is it possible to create a safer health system without also tackling these wider environments?
Should all MPs – and particularly all government ministers – be expected to undertake cultural safety training as part of their induction into Parliaments?
It’s a question worth considering in the wake of #boomgate – the widely reported comments of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton – a former Health Minister – joking with the Prime Minister about climate change, as well as “Cape York time”.
Below, Gerhardt Pearson, a Cape York traditional owner, responds to Dutton’s comments, and describes the continuing burden of “soft bigotry and low expectations”.
“Climate change is about survival”
Meanwhile, representatives of Pacific Islanders have called upon Minister Dutton to resign. Their open letter is published below.
Open letter published by 350.org Australia
11th September 2015
Dear Prime Minister Abbott,
We are writing on behalf of thousands of Pacific Islanders who are disappointed to learn of remarks made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in relation to the impact of climate change on our homes. We are also offended that you laughed in response to Minister Dutton’s comments.
Climate change is a daily reality for us in the Islands, and climate inaction from countries such as Australia is only worsening that reality.
Our people face the terrible prospect that their homes and cultures will be irreparably damaged by increasingly extreme weather events and sea level rise – all of which are driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
We note with concern that Australia has rejected the Pacific’s request for Governments to commit to emissions reduction targets that will keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. Warming above this level guarantees a terrible future for our people.
We also note your Government’s support for major new fossil fuel expansion plans despite scientific consensus that fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change for our Islands and for the world at large.
It is time to take the politics out of this issue. For the Pacific, climate change is about survival. We find your Government’s inaction deeply disturbing, and your colleague’s disregard for our people deeply offensive.
We request that Minister Dutton resigns and that you issue an official apology to all Pacific Islanders. We also hope that your Government will offer proper support for, and recognition of, the impacts that your country’s climate inaction is having upon our people and our homes.
Koreti Tiumalu (350.org Pacific Coordinator), Arianne Kassman (350.org Papua New Guinea Country Coordinator) and the Pacific Climate Warriors (young people from 15 Islands across the Pacific)