Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2045 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
sensitivity training as a system priority for 2003 and set aside funds to assist school boards to provide professional trainers; that indigenous sensitivity workshops be provided for all community agencies providing services; and that ACT and federal governments have indigenous sensitivity training for all staff as a requirement of every service they fund or contract.
I think it is important that the substance abuse task force, which is obviously related in a more direct way to health, enthusiastically engage the indigenous community in a discussion to determine a good process for finding out what people think, what works and where the indigenous community sees solutions. There is a great opportunity for the substance abuse task force to show leadership in the process and show that there is a really good connection with the indigenous community.
Of course, there is the question of incarceration, which is also related. In evidence given to the Committee on Legal Affairs last week we heard that the indigenous imprisonment rate in the ACT is still the highest in the country-over 5,000 per 100,000 of the population. Incarceration not only is a health issue in itself; it reflects more fundamental problems, which I think most of us are very well aware of. For several years now I have heard from Jon Stanhope a very clear commitment to addressing this and a very clear understanding of the issues. I am not suggesting that this is news for the government in any way, but this is an opportunity for us to raise the issues.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.23): I am pleased to make a contribution to this debate as well. It is important that we continue to discuss this and a range of other issues; they are of real significance to the community. All speakers have acknowledged that we need to take a holistic approach to indigenous health issues. It is not just a question of looking at the health indicators and saying that the health of some indigenous people is crook. Each of the speakers has referred to the fact that there are a whole range of factors and, indeed, historical indicia that account for the health status of some people in the indigenous community.
I agree with Ms Tucker that we need to be careful about the way we think about the indigenous community in that we are not talking about every indigenous person. There are significant sectors of the indigenous community that do participate fully in employment and all other aspects of social intercourse and community life in general. That is very much the case here in the ACT. There is a significant proportion of the ACT indigenous population in full-time employment, and we need to be mindful that there has been significant stereotyping of indigenous people throughout Australia.
One of my sisters-and I have many-is a nursing sister and for 10 years was the director of nursing at Pomperoy, on Edwards River in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in an indigenous community with significant social dislocation and an enormous range of health and other major problems, which I used to discuss with her quite deeply.
My sister then moved to central Queensland and worked as the director of nursing at Cherbourg, an Aboriginal community of over 2,000 people. I had always thought that the issues and health indicators were the same at Cherbourg as they were at Pomperoy in the gulf and was upbraided by my sister about my assumptions. She said that the community at Cherbourg was typical of and similar to many country towns in terms of the health