Transcript - Menzies Institute Speech


Ken Wyatt:        … on this land we are the Larrakia people and pay my respects to elders past and present. I also want to acknowledge Richard Ryan AO, chairman of Bridging the Gap Foundation, Professor Alan Cass who I've known for many, many years, director of the Menzies School of Health Research and Roz Moriarty CEO of the Moriarty Foundation, ably supported by John Moriarty.


Today I'm pleased to announce $3.87 million dollars to help stamp out the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and $2.9 million for a jointly run program to promote overall health awareness among our children in six remote communities.


Funding to address the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is extremely important because the ultimate outcome leads to many other complications in an individual's life – end stage renal disease being one of them. Recently in a series of roundtables we talked about the front end of being preventative.


We had lengthy discussions here in the Top End around what are the opportunities that we can provide that will make a difference at the community level.


And in an earlier discussion this morning I had some community feedback that talked about the work of the Moriarty Foundation in impacting on the early years of a child's life from 6 to 16, engaging them in sport, engaging them in conversations that are about health, eating the right food but more importantly the unintended consequences of parents watching what is happening and developing an understanding of the flow on effect of a simple game like football.


But when it's applied in the health context then the outcome is extremely significant.


And the Menzies School of Health in their partnership with Bridging the Gap Foundation targeting Type 2 diabetes in a particular age range of 10 to 14 will mean that we have an opportunity of slowing down the impact of the onset of diabetes.


Sadly, I’ve been around for 66 years and in that period of time what I've watched is Indigenous people of the ilk of people [audio skip] who were impacted in the early stage of their life with Type 2 diabetes and ended up with renal and their life cut short, and yet they had so much still to offer within their community through songs, through stories, through dance and through the sharing of the history.


One thing that is important about both these programs is we focus on what I've always called the living books of history within our communities.


Every individual within Aboriginal society has the whole construct of Aboriginal society handed down through storytelling, through dance, through the sharing of knowledge.


And every time we lose an individual it's like losing an encyclopaedia because that knowledge can never be recovered. And initiatives like these are absolutely critical in changing that dynamic of an early death.


I want to acknowledge the Council of Australian Governments Health Ministers who just recently endorsed four key initiatives that they will now take carriage of: the renal disease roadmap; rheumatic heart disease road map; but more importantly a commitment to developing a workforce within Aboriginal communities – along with some other initiatives as well, avoidable blindness and avoidable deafness.


But the things that make the difference are those programs that operate on the ground in community.


I love that construct that you’ll have for the Type 2 diabetes program where you have a pop-up laboratory. I sort of had visions of the Frankenstein type model in a pop-up laboratory but it's not.


It is simple in terms of the messages and we can see them around the room. A child seeing their heartbeat is something that none of them would have experienced until they have a visit, then they have a discussion around what that heartbeat means. They watch water being swallowed and swirl within their stomach.


They then have a look at the levels of sugary drinks that are popular. And so when both proposals came forward our government had no compunction in supporting them. We wanted on the ground real activities focused on making a difference.


So closing the gap in the Aboriginal society is still problematic. We've made some inroads but I believe that programs like this have a greater impact and have enduring opportunities to push out wider.


The Menzies School of Health I do want to acknowledge because over the years you have been at the forefront of leading research that has impacted on other research centres throughout Australia.


I think of SAHMRI; I think of the ones at Baker DI. There are people who have come from here that have gone to them, so you have been at the cutting edge of looking for solutions that are real on the ground but you've also skilled people to become part of that process.


So I want to thank you, Richard, for your support and commitment. Alan Cass, your passion and drive has never diminished even at times when I've said no to you, you come back in a very different form and you've had the thinking around let's do it on the ground.


And that's where you've made an incredible difference along with every team member and every staff member that you have.


But I think the other powerful element of what Menzies does and Bridging the Gap Foundation, is you walk alongside, you sit down in the dirt that you work with Aboriginal communities and that is a hallmark of this institution which makes it very easy to fund.


And the Moriarty Foundation, I know the work that you have done over many years. Your commitment to your community, John, to your region that has shaped you, country that has shaped you.


It means that you still give back to people and country and that's important because it is through leadership that the three of you with roles and people at the community that show makes a difference for the children that are coming through.


So it's with great pleasure that both those amounts will make a great difference on the ground and we’ll see the result of the forward years. So thank you all very much.