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Peak public health body says Close the Gap report shows need to harness power of First Nations leadership

Giovanni Torre -

Australia's peak body for public health welcomed the Close the Gap campaign report 2024: Voyage to Voice, Treaty, Truth and Beyond, launched Wednesday.

The Public Health Association of Australia backed the report's recommendations such as on workforce targets and climate and health, which it says are "central to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the continent".

The Association thanked the authors of the strengths-based report, and supported its message to "elevate First Nations voices and perspectives and centre First Nations leadership, culture and learning, and in doing so, provide tangible evidence of how to close the gap".

The Public Health Association said it continued "to stand by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and will keep advancing the principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for a Voice, Treaty, and Truth-telling".

Association Vice President, Palawa woman and researcher, Dr Alana Gall, said: "There's overwhelming evidence that proves that health and other initiatives which are led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities get the best results."

"For example, the leadership that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations showed protecting their communities from COVID-19," she said.

Dr Gall said the Close the Gap report reinforces the need for genuine shifts in power from the top down.

"This report once again shows that creating real change has to start at the head," she said.

"We need to see deep shifts in thinking of Governments and a genuine commitment to relinquish power. Only then will First Nations peoples and their organisations be afforded authentic self-determination to do what we know works for our people to improve public health.

"First Nations knowledges encompass over 65,000 years of knowing, being and doing. This needs to be legislatively protected and harnessed for the benefit of all human and planetary health.

"A practical way we can achieve this is by applying a 'First Nations in All Policy' approach nationally."

Dr Gall said the Public Health Association of Australia is developing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collective, "essentially a Voice" to actively prioritise the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Association's decision making.

"The new Collective will be based on a participatory approach, which centres Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, knowing and doing," she said.

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