The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) has launched a campaign to educate the public about the importance of Aboriginal communities to the health, wellbeing and continuing culture of Aboriginal people.
The campaign commenced today with the publication of an open letter, signed by 20 prominent Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal individuals and organisations.
AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the letter explained the importance of communities to Aboriginal people.
Ms Nelson-Cox said the recent debate about cutting funding for Aboriginal communities showed a change in perspective was needed.
“Recent debate about funding for Aboriginal communities unfortunately seems to treat Aboriginal communities as a problem to be solved – as a liability, rather than the national asset that they are,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.
“Aboriginal people are obligated to maintain a connection to country to sustain spiritual beliefs, customary activities and traditional lore. In addition to providing a home to many Aboriginal people, these communities provide a continuing sense of identity through this ongoing connection to country.
“This connection is important to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people, and has been an important part of the healing process for victims of the stolen generation, many of whom were forcibly removed from country earlier in their lives.
“There is no doubt that improvements to services are needed in many of these communities. But, given their importance to the health, wellbeing and continuing culture of Aboriginal people, government should invest in these communities, rather than withdraw existing services.”
Ms Nelson-Cox called on the State Government to consult fully with Aboriginal people, and across the social services sector, in developing any new approach.
“We believe a multi-sector approach is needed to ensure all Aboriginal communities are economically and socially viable, with strategies to ensure their long-term sustainability,” she said.
“We also believe that government must consult fully with Aboriginal people in developing this approach, with a particular focus on the health, wellbeing and continuing culture of Aboriginal people.
“In recent years, both state and federal governments have made a lot of progress in their relationships with Aboriginal people. Providing real sustainability for Aboriginal communities and the connection to country they provide would be a further positive step.”
AHCWA is the peak body representing 21 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across Western Australia at a state and national level.
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