Date published: 
3 August 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

3 August 2018



E&OE…



Topics: Greater focus on Indigenous health outcomes; $23 million for 28 Indigenous health research program; $2 million for a national Indigenous eyesight program



TEGHAN HUGHES:

We are joined in the CAAMA studio right now by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt. Hey guys, welcome to CAAMA. Thanks for coming in.



GREG HUNT:

Well, welcome and thanks to Teghan and to Ken and to everybody here at CAAMA and Strong Voices and especially just to be out on Arrernte country, and whether it’s been within Alice Springs or out at the Santa Teresa community, we’ve incredible Indigenous leaders, young people who were good enough to have a kick at the footy with me yesterday, two out of three passes made the chest, one was out on the full.



So we’re here with a really simple purpose and that is to listen to Indigenous leaders and say - how do we help them strengthen Indigenous health outcomes? And at the end of the day, what’s really exciting is all of the ministers, federal, state and territory, agreed for the first time ever to a national Indigenous health and medical workforce plan. What’s it mean? More Indigenous doctors, more Indigenous nurses, more Indigenous health workers.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

It sounds to me like, one, it sounds like you’re quite excited to be here, it sounds like you’ve already started...



GREG HUNT:

Absolutely.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

...in what you’ve learnt from the last couple of days.



GREG HUNT:

I was privileged when I had environment to spend a lot of time on country working with Indigenous protected areas and Indigenous land management programs and now to be working in the health space and to have a partner like Ken Wyatt who is just immensely respected right across Indigenous Australia and non-Indigenous Australia. And for Ken to in a way host me here to an area that he knows so well has been really exciting.



On Wednesday there was $23 million for 28 Indigenous health research programs. It’ll be about practical outcomes. Yesterday the more Indigenous doctors, nurses and health workers program, the national initiative but led by Indigenous leaders, and then today we were with Red Dust and we were able to provide an additional $2 million for eyesight programs, things as simple as access to glasses, to spectacles, for people who would otherwise have missed out from Indigenous Australia right across the country.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

So it sounds like the last couple of days has been a fantastic learning curve, but also quite facilitated by yourself there Ken. What’s it been like for you coming back out this way and reconnecting and meeting up with everyone again?



KEN WYATT:

Teghan, it’s always great to be out here and I just wanted to say hello to all of your listeners, particularly I’m on your country as a Noongar man, so it’s great to be back here with you. What I love is when you have conversations, when you sit down in the red dirt or you stand around a fire, that’s when you see the hope in people’s eyes, that’s when you hear about what they need and want. And working with Greg means that the two of us are able to facilitate some of the reforms and changes that are needed. Look, I always love coming back here. I’ve been told if I see the Todd River flow three times I’ll be forever here so I keep coming back only in the dry season.



GREG HUNT:

Hear hear.



KEN WYATT:

Not that I don’t love the country, I just love being in (inaudible) country as well but it’s great being here with your people as well.



GREG HUNT:

Have you seen it flow yet?



KEN WYATT:

I’ve seen it flow twice in the flood.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

I’m still yet to. I’ve been living in Alice Springs for a year and a half and I’m yet to see it, so yeah, I respect the rules and I don’t class myself as a full local yet. But I guess for you, Greg, being here and, like you’re saying, Ken, sitting down and actually talking with people. The answers are often there.



You know people have the ideas and they have structures put in place and I know reading through some of the notes given, there is a lot of Aboriginal-led initiatives and health organisations that are succeeding and are doing quite well, but perhaps need more funding or understanding from other areas of Australia to continue supporting them. So with things like that, things that you were learning?



GREG HUNT:

Yes absolutely. So one of the most important parts of the trip was on Wednesday. All of the ministers sat around a table with Indigenous health leaders from the local area, but around the country, and they were great. They were both very honest about the challenges. Ultimately though they were optimistic exactly as Ken said, based on what they set out that we could do and it was from their leadership that we took the initiative of the National Indigenous health and workforce- Indigenous health and medical workforce plan, but led by Indigenous leaders. And so we have people such as Donna Archie or John Patterson and so many others, and here in the Territory, who have actually helped deliver outcomes, whether it's dialysis, whether it is chronic disease management, youth mental health services.



What we're coming away from today with Red Dust is the same thing. I think that we'll be able to build more Indigenous youth mental health and suicide prevention services, but very interestingly, through focusing on and supporting local Aboriginal culture in different places so they've got that sense of pride. They don't have the sense of alienation as much. Now there are a lot of things, you know it better than me, that go into this. But if we're able to back local Indigenous-led efforts, that's a heck of a lot better chance of success than anything else.



KEN WYATT:

So Red Dust this morning was great. But what we talked about was the individual. You know, if we've got spiritual strength, we have cultural strength within us, then our health is far better and the combination of traditional medicines with Western medicines was something else that we also had in that conversation. We’ve changed health. It's got to come back to each of us making the decision about how well we want to be and taking the strength of what has always been there for 65,000 years but then strengthening our families and by doing that we strengthen our community. But there are two-way conversations that have to happen about the two-way practices.



And I think that was the really rich engagement, because we know that we listen with our eyes. You watch our people, they watch body language, they watch how somebody is talking see if the words and expression matches with their facial muscle movement et cetera. And this morning when I gave Aunty Irene a pair of glasses she put them on and she looked at me and she said I can see the camera lady, I can see the people standing there in front of me.



And when she got up to leave she said, I’m now going to go and read that piece of paper that somebody gave me this morning. So just that whole approach of personalising it and giving people an opportunity like Aunty Irene to glasses, means that she can see those goanna tracks, she can see – when she’s out in bush – the things that she took for granted when she was a younger lady. Now, she can see that again. So that’s the power of the things that both Minister Hunt and I have the privilege of being positioned to help in different ways.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

Absolutely and I think that's the exciting thing that you bring to, I guess, to the current politics is you understand a bit better than many other people in politics that it is a two-way situation actually. And out here that's very prevalent, but when you're in, perhaps, Canberra or on the East Coast, you don't really understand that different requirements are required for different areas and different types of people, and the one size fits all sort of approach to tackling problems won’t work everywhere. So I think to understand out here that there is different challenges that arise.



One thing I sort of wanted to ask about, you mentioning that there’s a new implementation plan to have more Aboriginal health workers and doctors. And it's exciting and I got to interview a couple of Aboriginal doctors and just incredible people, but we spoke about the challenges of being an Aboriginal person and trying to fit into the system and the mould of what you actually have to do to become a doctor and then the work involved.

And how that doesn't necessarily correlate with Aboriginal responsibilities as well, especially when you're from right out here in the Central Desert. Were things like that being discussed at these meetings and roundtable discussions?



GREG HUNT:

Yes, absolutely. So, we're at the start of the plan, that's exactly why we've asked Indigenous leaders to help drive and develop and lead it. Because the biggest issue is not so much access and availability of programs, it's systemic barriers. And that's a combination of local community or disadvantage coupled with awareness of what programs might be available.



And we can help bring young people through, it won't all happen overnight but we know that there are many Indigenous nurses and health workers who are not necessarily practising in their own space now. So part one would be to try to help bring them back, whether it's working with Indigenous communities in the cities or on country but to help bring them back. Overwhelmingly those Indigenous doctors who have qualified are practicing and training. So, right across the health workers the nurses and the doctors.



Part two is about training and giving them more opportunities. And so that's one of the other things that we're very focused on. And then the third is having mentors within the Indigenous world but outside as well. And so we want to bring more people into rural regional and remote Australia, which was a big reform of the budget, a rural workforce strategy. And so that's got what's called a rural Medicare provider number.



What does it mean? It means that doctors can come from the city and they'll have special support for practicing in the rural and remote areas which means that if you've got those mentors, that will help young people say hey, I can be like Dr Jane or Doctor Jim or whoever who’s in the area. And the more people who are exposed to good role models, you know as well as I do, the better the outcomes.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

It does create positive role models for young people in communities. And then also it does present challenges too, where cultural awareness follows doctors who have no- I'm not trying to discredit a doctor at all, they’re incredibly bright people who have dedicated many, many years to training to become a doctor, but again, knowing and meeting doctors in community and the struggles of actually understanding the dynamic of a community. So again, were these things that were being discussed at these meetings?



KEN WYATT:

Yeah, they were but I’ve been around for 60-plus years and I’m more optimistic…



GREG HUNT:

Ken’s very old.



KEN WYATT:

I’m very old.



GREG HUNT:

But young.



KEN WYATT:

But being around for that period of time, I've seen changes come. And whilst they’ve been small steps, what I saw yesterday from COAG and the night before when we had dinner as ministers, the genuine discussion and commitment to now addressing these matters.

There is a strong belief that culture and cultural responsibilities are important elements that impact on our people. And it's the first time ever that I have seen a strong, in a sense, an emotional positioning of every state and territory minister to saying we have to do something, we are now committed.



But in the communiques that came out, whilst it gave a brief description, it doesn't cover the depth of those discussions or the depth of wanting to make a difference because all of them recognise that Indigenous medical professionals and Allied Health staff and Aboriginal health workers - including Aboriginal health workers who will become practitioners for renal disease - have a place of strength because they know our community.



They know the nuancing, they know family, kinships, connections, so they're able to value add. And the clinical skills that I've seen in our Indigenous doctors, there’s over 300-plus, have been exemplary. Kelvin Kong, a surgeon, stands in his own right as an equal amongst his peers. And so we're seeing more and more of our people doing that. I just want to see more and more people from the bush doing it, because I know our mob like to remain on country and they'll come back and practice on country so the health of our people improves.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

That's the exciting thing. These jobs exist in communities, you can have a really well-paid health care job at home in your remote community that actually benefits your family really beautifully.



GREG HUNT:

That is exactly it. And the big, big bold vision is that health jobs can be a really wonderful pathway for any young person to have a lifelong career, something where you can continue to develop, be well-paid and contribute and live on country. Now, some of the training - we have to work on this – the training particularly for being a doctor won't necessarily occur in the community, just the nature of a medical school.



But increasingly what we're doing is bringing those medical schools to large rural and regional centres. That was one of the big initiatives in the budget. But if they can come back and work on country, they can be the strongest leaders and role models within a community as well as delivering health outcomes.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

No, exactly. There's a lot of benefits that come from it. Ken, for you what was the highlight of the last few days of meetings?



KEN WYATT:

Actually, I think all the community interactions, being out amongst people and then going to Purple House and talking with Marilyn, who was one of the signatories to a letter that was read at a meeting, a roundtable in Darwin when we were talking about renal, and their message was very simple. It was about give serious consideration to allowing us to have renal dialysis on country.



And Greg and I spent a good 10 minutes talking with Marilyn while she was on dialysis. And it was great having that conversation and just the warmth of appreciation that she expressed because we listened to her. And I think listening is probably the thing that I got a lot out of in this place. I said to ministers, sometimes my silence is not the fact that I don't want to contribute, I said our people will listen first and work out in our minds the flow of information and then how we want to respond in a way that impacts and reflects not only just my thoughts but the accumulation of the knowledge that's been given to me by our communities for which I need to reflect some of their thinking in those conversations.



And it's a great privilege when our people give us that knowledge and give us permission to take it back to the highest levels of government.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

Absolutely, it actually really is. That reminds me, I was just talking to some schoolkids yesterday and trying to keep them really motivated with school. And it was that exact sort of idea, like you don't know how lucky you are that people want to share their knowledge with you and you just get to accept that, like you're very lucky as young people to have that because when you don't have that, that's when your life is a lot more difficult. So a similar thing there where, yeah, accepting the knowledge being handed to you whilst here visiting the centre. And for you, your highlights while you've been here, Greg?



GREG HUNT:

I think Ken might have inadvertently stolen my first one but also Red Dust today, just the incredible sense of optimism about how Indigenous culture and if it’s supported and recognised by non-Indigenous Australia can be a pathway to successful career and life outcomes. And our job is to give people capacity and choice and then they make their own lives and there's no right way or wrong way.



But there can be failures and that is if we don't give them that capacity and we don't give them that choice. And Red Dust through their work with young Australians is doing that, they’re giving young people on country in particular but also in Alice and elsewhere, the recognition that their culture matters, that therefore they can feel safe and confident in the importance and enduring nature of culture, that continuity obviously is so important.



Then they can seek out other opportunities off that platform, that they're not isolated, they're part of a broader history, culture, community that isn't just respected, it's celebrated. And if we can celebrate and strengthen that Indigenous culture then I think we will deal with a lot of the underlying anxieties and issues that go to substance abuse and alcohol. And if we can start to deal with those, then we are heading to (inaudible) and there is a real dawn there.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

It really sort of starts bleeding into sort of, yeah, mental health and, I guess, respect for yourself and culture and where, yeah…



GREG HUNT:

I think that is perhaps the biggest learning for me, the link between strong culture and strong mental health. And there are many things to take away with me but if I take away anything above all others strong culture, strong mental health.



KEN WYATT:

Can I also say another highlight for Minister Hunt, he’s a Richmond fan but he was out at Santa Teresa yesterday and he saw a Sherrin football page with Aboriginal artwork on it. So he bought that and that's going to take pride and place in his home because what he loved was the fact that the artists used the Sherrin footballs to tell their stories on something that we take for granted in Victoria and across those states that have AFL.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

Absolutely it's very big here, I’m sure that's a beautiful football actually, congratulations.



GREG HUNT:

It is a beautiful ball. And then I just caught up with some of the kids who were walking between school and home on one of the streets in Santa Teresa. We had a bit of a kick of the footy and three passes, two perfect to the chest to the running player, one out on the full, I'm sorry to say.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

Well, you be careful, because Santa Teresa- I think they’re reigning champions right now too…



GREG HUNT:

Oh, I didn’t know that. The kids were great…



TEGHAN HUGHES:

…So, yeah, they’re very good at football.



GREG HUNT:

…and they were very tolerant and sort of, who’s this guy? But we had a great time and just to engage that way is just a privilege.



TEGHAN HUGHES:

Well, I could chat with both of you for quite some time actually. But I know you both need to get on the road and get going. So firstly, thank you so much for coming into CAAMA and I hope, yeah, your meetings here, whilst (inaudible) Alice Springs were really beneficial for both of you and a lot of the Aboriginal leaders and health professionals were able to really get what they needed to get across to you guys. So yeah, thanks for coming in.



GREG HUNT:

Thank you so much.



KEN WYATT:

Cheers.



(ENDS)


Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.