Indigenous involvement vital to close the gap

The National Health Leadership Forum is providing Indigenous people with a unique voice in government health policy and can act as a model for other sectors, according to Mr Mick Gooda.

Mr Gooda (pictured), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, presented the 2012 Southgate Oration at Flinders University yesterday. His speech was entitled “Addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage by rebuilding relationships.”

Mr Gooda said that the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF), formed last year with representation from 12 peak Indigenous health bodies, was an unprecedented coalition with a common goal.

“It provides a structure for governments to engage with and most importantly listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in relation to health matters,” Mr Gooda said.

Mr Gooda said innovative governance structures such as the NHLF are also integral to confronting “lateral violence”, the destructive behaviours within and between Aboriginal communities that result from disempowerment, division and mistrust.

“Strong governance structures can enable us to deal with the inherent tensions of living between the “two worlds’ in which we live,” he said.

The NHLF provides a partner for government that can “value-add” in policy processes and planning for Indigenous health, Mr Gooda said.

“Without the genuine and active involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people every step of the way in our efforts to close the gap, we risk making only miniscule progress.

“A business as usual approach will not close the gap.”

The annual Southgate Oration is named in tribute to the late Dr Deane Southgate and his commitment to public health, health promotion and community medicine.

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