Closing the Gap in Australia is a long and arduous process and following the release of the 11th Closing the Gap report, we at Amnesty WA are encouraged to see some good causes and initiatives putting health at the forefront of Indigenous issues. Closing the Gap is about empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to take control of their own lives and health and have the autonomy and correct support to do so. In spirit of #GoodNewsFriday, we took the time to acknowledge three amazing initiatives that do just that.
Be My Koorda is an Aboriginal Support Group for families with children with Autism and ADHD. In Nyoongar language, ‘Be My Koorda’ translates to ‘be my brother’, or ‘be my friend’ and the group is parent-led to offer a sense of well-being and community for families living with disability.
Be My Koorda is a great place for Aboriginal parents of someone with a disability to talk to other parents that are going through the same thing, and to find out more about other events happening for their families.
Evelyn McKay started the group after her son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, said that he needed a friend. Evelyn said it was important that Aboriginal parent carers started having conversations.
“It is crucial to have support networks run by Indigenous people because we need Aboriginal faces for Aboriginal people – we need that connect,” she said.
“We are for families and for the kids. We are their aunts’ and pops’, their family, their blood and their community and we need to be their voices and advocate for them. We need to make their voices heard.”
Credit: Be My Koorda Facebook page
First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) is a national organisation of and for Australia’s First Peoples with disability, their families and communities. It is the first of its kind that allows Indigenous people to really take their health into their own hands.
The hard reality is that the First People of our country who are living with disability are among the most disadvantaged people in the community and initiatives such as FPDN are essential to close that gap.
First Peoples Disability Network CEO Damian Griffis, said Indigenous people are all too often victims, who are easily forgotten.
“Our people with disability are some the most vulnerable people in Australia,” he said.
“If you think about what it is like to be a deaf person and what it is like to communicate and experience abuse they have had, or if you’re a person with an intellectual disability, too often the police or the justice system does not believe you.”
According to the FPDN, there are confronting statistics which echo the reasons for an overhaul of health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples:
- 45% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are living with disability or long-term health condition;
- 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are living with severe or profound disability;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are twice as likely to be living with disability than other Australians; and
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are five times more likely to experience mental illness than other Australians.
Credit: FPDN Facebook page
Media has a big influence on the way we live our lives and the stories that we tell, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are no strangers to living with the stigma of negative and potentially harmful media coverage. NITV was born in 2007, in a small office in Alice Springs with one intended goal – to offer our First People a voice, free from agenda and prejudice.
NITV features Indigenous story-telling and focuses on television that inspires, evokes feelings of pride and captures an incredible history, whilst heading forwards into the future.
Although this is not ‘new news’, it is still an initiative to continually be celebrated, as the recognition of our First Peoples’ oral history, is how we will never forget these stories for every generation to follow.
Following the February 14 release of the Closing the Gap report 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had some somber, but hopeful remarks. At Amnesty, we also believe in moving forward acknowledging these words.
“While I am not going to pretend today that this situation does not remain in an unforgivable state, I am going to say that we can never rest as a nation until we change this for all time,” he said.
“I am here to say that there is hope. That progress is and can further be made. So that one day we can say that a young Indigenous boy or girl growing up in Australia will have the same chances and opportunities in life as any other Australian.”
“That is what Closing the Gap is all about.”
Words by Jacqui O’Leary