Acknowledging local successes at improving Indigenous health

One of the benefits for me of not being in Parliament has been the chance to get more directly involved in community based organisations.  One of those I have got more involved in over the past year or so is the Queensland branch of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (usually known as ANTaR).

ANTaR started in the 1990s and has maintained a continuing role in promoting better community level understanding of issues affecting Indigenous Australians and advocacy and activism towards achieving equality and reconciliation.  One aspect of ANTaR which always appealed to me was their willingness to engage in practical issues and to highlight positive approaches which are achieving successful results.

This is demonstrated in their Close the Gap in Indigenous Health Award, which started in Queensland in 2007.  It reinforces the key message of the widely acknowledged Close the Gap campaign, whilst promoting examples that are working.

This year’s award – the third – was held at Parliament House in Brisbane at the end of October.  Apart fro the work of the award recipient, another positive aspect was the presence of so many state MPs, with Premier Anna Bligh hosting the occasion, and Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek present throughout.

This year’s award acknowledged the work of Goori House, a men’s recovery centre which has been operating at Cleveland since 2001 and has recently expanded operations.  It has an excellent record of success in the very difficult area of helping people overcome addictions.  They run an intensive program over many months with support provided not just for the addict but also their family.  The award was accepted by Goori House Director, John Close. He has committed to this project for many years and his passion and enthusiasm for the work still comes through as strong as ever whenever he speaks of their programs and the huge difference it makes to many lives.

Another interesting aspect of the evening was a speech made by Dr Mark Wenitong, who is the senior medical officer at Apunipima

Cape York Health Council and one of the founders of the Indigenous Doctors’ Association.  He noted the strong link between Indigenous health status and high imprisonment rates – one of the other key campaigns of ANTaR Queensland.  The flow on benefits of reduced imprisonment rates is another reason why the work of places such as Goori House is so important.

     John Close accepts the Close the Gap award, watched by Des Sandy, ANTaR President Kitty Carra, Premier Anna Bligh and Dr Mark Wenitong (photo by Mark Oss-Emer)
John Close accepts the Close the Gap award, watched by Des Sandy, ANTaR President Kitty Carra, Premier Anna Bligh and Dr Mark Wenitong (photo by Mark Oss-Emer)
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  1. Is it along the lines of this phenomena in Palestine/Israel, where the more enlightened on both sides plan to meet and get to know each other each and essentially de-demonise each other, rather than just subscribing to the given apartheid style wisdoms of that location, that split the population on the basis that these folk can’t get on?

  2. This is very exciting isn’t it? I wish them well for the next 12 months. There should be more Centres like this. I thought it was pretty stupid to stop alcohol going into the NT(although, apparently it’s not working) without providing specialist help for people who are addicted to alcohol. I recall a friend of mine who was working in a similar place, telling me, that it’s important for alcoholics to receive Vitamin B injections when they’re coming off alcohol, otherwise they can die of a heart attack. That’s why the stereotype ‘drunk’ of years ago could be found dead in the lockup the next morning – sudden withdrawl – can be deadly!

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