As we approach Christmas and the New Year, I reflect on the many things I am thankful for.
I am proud and thankful that, just as we have for 65,000 years or more, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continue to step up and be leaders for our people.
We know the best people to change our health for the better are our people.
Every day, across our nation, our First Australians are taking responsibility and showing their pride in themselves, their families and their heritage — pride in the oldest continuous culture on Earth, and the traditions that kept us healthy, from the very beginning.
We are showing our families, and especially our children, the importance of our culture and how it shapes and protects us.
I am proud of our women. Because of them, we can – they are the strength of our families and communities.
This year we have made good progress in supporting better health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with our approach firmly grounded in respect for culture and history.
Better First Nations health overall is critical but special work continues on six fronts: Rheumatic Heart Disease, renal disease, sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses, eye health, ear health and growing our First Nations health workforce.
Four national roadmaps are underway, to guide campaigns to reduce RHD, kidney failure, vision problems and hearing loss.
I am particularly proud that First Nations health is now a standing priority for the COAG Council of Health Ministers and the Indigenous Health Minister is invited to participate in council meetings.
The COAG health council is also fast-tracking a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce Plan.
This year we have made real gains, delivering more First Nations doctors, nurses and health workers and building cultural safety and respect across the entire health system.
As we celebrate Christmas and see in the New Year, I look forward to re-doubling our efforts to find new and better ways of doing things, continuing to work with families, communities , health care organisations and all levels of government, to improve the health and wellbeing of our people.
We have proven incredibly resilient, and we’ll continue that tradition of resilience and respect for our country and for all Australians next year, and into the future.
Ken Wyatt AM
Minister for Indigenous Health