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NAIDOC week - We all stand on sacred ground

07 July 2015

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) acknowledges NAIDOC Week, the celebration of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

NAIDOC’s origins can be traced from the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s, which sought to increase the awareness of status and treatment of Indigenous Australians in the wider community. This year’s NAIDOC week theme is “We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate, which highlights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea. All Australians are encouraged to find out the traditional names and dreaming stories of places in their local region.

Australians regard NAIDOC week as a time to commemorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements – an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and society. NAIDOC week is also a time to reflect on how opportunity and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lag behind that of the broader population.

PCA is a member of the Closing the Gap Steering Committee, part of the Close the Gap Campaign for Indigenous Health Equality.

The poorer health of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to the non-Indigenous population is well known. Since 2006, Australia's peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations have worked toward achieving equality in health and life expectation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is the essence of the Close the Gap Campaign.

The campaign goal is to close within a generation that health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. The campaign is built on evidence that shows the significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that can be achieved within short time frames.

PCA is working toward ‘closing the gap’. It is revising its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ position statement, acknowledging the differences and difficulties in the delivery of appropriate palliative care and the importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of issues like dying on country and the broader involvement of families and entire communities at the end of life of an individual.

The revised statement will be workshopped at the 13th Australian Palliative Care Conference in September, where the final version will be used to demonstrate ways participants can work toward closing the gap.

The importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea is highlighted strongly when someone comes toward the end of their life.  This is why NAIDOC week is important to those working in palliative care.

There are many things that health services might consider this year to celebrate the NAIDOC week theme, and to ensure that the care provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is culturally appropriate:

  • Invite elders or others to talk about local sacred sites
  • Learn the traditional names and stories for the physical features, mountains, rivers and other places in your region
  • Discover what language groups had names for places and sites in your region
  • Find how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are working to protect these places.

NAIDOC Week 2015 runs all this week – 5 - 12 July and is an opportunity for Australians to join in recognising the outstanding achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the valuable contributions they continue to make to this country. For more information visit http://www.naidoc.org.au/

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