The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has honoured NAIDOC Week's theme - For Our Elders - by calling on the Federal Government to take "decisive action" and lower the age to access the pension for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
VACCHO noted that the Royal Commission into Aged Care laid bare the "serious disadvantages" experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and highlighted "the extent to which they continue to be let down".
On Monday VACCHO called on the Federal Government to commit to lowering the age to accessing the pension from 67 years to 50 years for older Aboriginal people, noting that "due to the significant gap in life expectancy experienced by Aboriginal people, lowering the pension age is an important step towards addressing the serious disadvantages experienced by Community".
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Human Rights Law Centre, with support from DLA Piper, are currently fighting in the Federal Court for a reduction in the pension age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 67 to 64. A decision in the case is expected later this year.
VACCHO also paid tribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders for their vital contributions to Community as cultural knowledge holders - the custodians of Aboriginal traditions and values.
"As keepers of culture and the heart of communities, Elders impart and sustain a rich cultural heritage from generation to generation, including translating culture into contemporary ways," the Victorian Aboriginal peak health body said in a statement.
VACCHO chief executive Jill Gallagher AO said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders are "the heart and soul of our Community".
"They have been my main source of inspiration throughout my life. Their courage, their wisdom, the knowledge they pass on to families is vital. The future of Communities depends on them," she said.
"It is upsetting that many Elders are being let down, in the process the critical role Elders play in sustaining the world's oldest living tradition has been diminished in some parts of Australia.
"This year's NAIDOC Week theme gives us a chance to reflect on what we as a society can do to give back to the people who have given so much to society – lowering the pension age would make a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of many, many incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders."
National Indigenous Times has contacted the Federal Government for a response.
VACCHO also encouraged the community to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders by joining in the NAIDOC Week March which will depart from the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) on Nicholson St, Fitzroy, this Friday 7 July at 12:00 pm.