I hope that we are all keeping safe and connected during these unpredictable and trying times. We have had an intense first half of the year and as we adjust to the new normal, one thing I do know is that as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples we are resilient and strong. Whether we are living on or off Country, we must remain connected to one another, look after Elders and continue to practice and pass on our cultural knowledge.
Over the past few months AIDA has worked with our members and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to help protect our mob and to act quickly in order to prevent coronavirus from getting into our communities.
We have worked in collaboration with members and the SRC to put together videos for the #KeepOurMobSafe campaign. Thank you to our members who sent in videos to help spread awareness and to get the messaging out to our communities. Videos can be found via our AIDA social media pages and website.
In early March the Australian Government convened the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 (the Taskforce) to develop and deliver a National Management Plan to protect communities and save lives. The Advisory Group, Co-chaired by Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO, includes AIDA, NACCHO affiliates from all states and territories as well as representatives from each jurisdiction, has given a strong voice for our people at the national level, enabling a swift and comprehensive response to the current crisis situation.
AIDA also released a statement on racism in the health care system demanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients be treated ethically and equitably in relation to testing and treatment for COVID-19. Of course, we all know that racism in the health care system extends well beyond the current crisis, but recent events highlighted the need to make this specific call to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ lives, health and wellbeing are not put at further risk because of underlying racism and prejudice.
We are pleased to announce that we have officially joined the #RaiseTheAge campaign alliance, calling on all Australian governments to change laws that see children as young as 10 put in prison. Along with the AMA, the RACP and many other groups, we support raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years to help address disparities in youth incarceration. We understand that the incarceration of children as young as ten can have significant impacts on their development, and as Indigenous people we know that wherever possible our kids should be supported within their families and communities instead of being taken from them.
Our work with the Coalition of Peaks (CoP) on Closing the Gap is continuing, as revised national and jurisdictional targets continue to be drafted. This process is the first time a national agreement to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated with national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies. CoP recently released their report on engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people which were undertaken to ensure that community views were represented within CoP positions.
Over the last few months, we have held a bi-weekly Peer Support Forum in order to provide a space for members to discuss how they are dealing with the crisis and how we can stay connected during this time. I thank all members who took the time to be a part of the forums. We have many forums still continuing. These sessions have provided a great way to discuss matters related to COVID-19, but also to keep yarning and stay connected with other members. More information below.
I would like to thank the AIDA members and students who have provided support and advice over the past few months – your knowledge and expertise has been invaluable and I look forward to continuing to work with you all in the future.
On a more personal note, I would also like to mention and pay tribute to all people campaigning for Black Lives Matter in Australia and abroad, and those who continue to fight to end Aboriginal deaths in custody. It was wonderful to see how well organised these events have been and it is a testament to the organisers that no new cases of COVID-19 have been linked to any such events.
It is a crucial time in Australia’s history, and we are facing significant challenges as a nation. New threats, such as COVID-19, and old ones, like racism, must be met head-on with a united goal and purpose. Thankfully, we know how best to respond to these challenges, but we must work together to ensure that we continue working towards a healthier society for generations to come.
Stay safe, strong and connected.