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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 2048 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

separation are also evident in high rates of imprisonment and substance abuse, and we also see high levels of poverty related health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.

These problems are apparent in Aboriginal communities across most of Australia, including the ACT. Only through approaches that address the cultural, social and emotional health of individuals, families and communities can we expect to see a lasting improvement in Aboriginal health. Political action is necessary to create the foundations for that broad recovery in health. Aboriginal people have been waiting over 200 years for compensation, so they have decided to do what they can while they continue to wait and fight for justice.

The Australian Democrats have consistently spoken out for self-determination for Aboriginal people in the area of health and in all other areas that affect Aboriginal lives. Almost 100 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations have sprung up across Australia in the last decade, including the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in the ACT. These health services deliver culturally appropriate health services to Aboriginal communities under the direction of Aboriginal people.

As well as providing primary health care, these centres run important preventative health programs, most of which address the cultural and emotional foundations of good health. Winnunga Nimmityjah is running programs to address smoking and community building and to record and pass on cultural knowledge.

The service also assists indigenous people in detention and in the ACT mental health system. These community controlled health organisations deserve our unequivocal support because it is the ideas and priorities of Aboriginal people that will get better health outcomes. We already know that mainstream health services have been unsuccessful in achieving genuine health improvements, and these community controlled programs have been shown to produce results.

We should all be looking for opportunities to address the political and economic disadvantage at the root of poor Aboriginal health. I hope we look for these opportunities during our time as representatives and Assembly members.

MRS DUNNE (4.37): This is an issue of utmost importance, and I rise to support Ms MacDonald in her MPI, the importance to the Canberra community of the state of Aboriginal health. It is of utmost importance and is a seemingly intractable problem that deserves to be at the forefront of every legislature.

We now know that, before the arrival of Europeans, the Aboriginal peoples of Australia were a strong and healthy race of hunter-gatherers whose lifestyle promoted good health. Little evidence has been found of the existence of widespread illness or disease amongst them. It is unlikely that they suffered from obesity, hypertension, diabetes, renal failure, coronary heart disease, HIV, hep C, measles or any of the other diseases that, along with substance abuse, have reached epidemic proportions among Australian Aboriginal peoples today. No amount of obfuscation can hide the fact that we have a problem.

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