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Aboriginal health put under the microscope at conference

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October 11, 2017

University of Melbourne Aboriginal Community Partnerships officer Leah Lindrea-Morrison.

The health crisis facing indigenous Australians has a long and complex history, but a number of local organisations, academics and health workers will gather today discuss the issue.

The third annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal Health Conference, run by Shepparton’s Department of Rural Health at the University of Melbourne, will aim to tackle some of the key issues around Aboriginal health.

The conference will include evidence-based approaches, Aboriginal methods and models of practice, Aboriginal perspectives and contribution to health or community-led solutions, underpinned by cultural theories to Aboriginal health and wellbeing.

University of Melbourne Aboriginal Community Partnerships officer Leah Lindrea-Morrison said the conference would address issues including mental illness, hospital settings, diabetes, drug and alcohol use.

The conference will also discuss Closing the Gap, treaty and self-determination and the empowerment of women.

A Yorta Yorta woman herself, Mr Lindrea-Morrison said she was passionate about improving indigenous health outcomes.

‘‘The life expectancy for Aboriginal people is at a significant disadvantage, and this conference is about educating people and bringing those who would like to make a difference together,’’ she said.

‘‘A lot of different elements contribute to Closing the Gap, and if we can’t access good housing or good education, that impacts on our health, so there are a lot of players that contribute.’’

The 2017 Closing the Gap report said the most recent figures from 2013 showed a gap of 10.6 years between indigenous and non-indigenous men, and 9.5 years between indigenous and non-indigenous women.

The conference will feature a range of local and interstate Aboriginal health experts, who will present lectures with view to improving indigenous health outcomes.

Speaker Chris Thorne, who is an Aboriginal community support worker with Primary Care Partnership, said there were many issues that contributed to poor health which could be solved by improving cultural inclusiveness in health centres and hospitals.

Mr Thorne said there was an ingrained negative attitude towards health providers among many Aboriginals.

‘‘So many of our health issues could be taken care of if there was early detection, but we still have issues around going to and having a health check,’’ Mr Thorne said.

‘‘In general, we don’t have Aboriginal-specific health services, and it’s bad because a lot of community don’t want to go to a mainstream health service because they don’t feel safe.’’

Mr Thorne said the attitude was rampant among elders and stemmed back to intergenerational trauma caused by colonisation and the Stolen Generation.

‘‘Many of them still see health services as a negative institution, and the work we do it to try and curb that attitude, but it still also comes down to health services and the environment they provide.

‘‘There are many issues that we have to educate our community about in regards to health.’’

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