Listen to the people on the ground who are telling us how bad the situation is in Cape York and other remote indigenous communities
Dr Lara Wieland: Medical Practitioner who has worked for years in Cape York as both a doctor and doing volunteer youth work
Dr Richard Heazlewood: Established Paediatric Outreach Team to Cape York, Torres Strait and Tablelands providing remote paediatric services for over 15 years as well as sitting on SCAN child protection team for the region
For some of these diseases of social disadvantage and the third world, Cape York has the dubious honour of having some of the highest rates in the world.
So much of the damage done and that is being done is intergenerational and potentially permanent and we are faced with a time in history where we believe we have one last opportunity to provide the platforms needed to give Cape York people the choices they are entitled to as human beings....
The following eight areas of suggestions through which to address Indigenous disadvantage in Cape York are a synthesis of Ken Henry's seven platforms for addressing Indigenous disadvantage, the Canadian Aboriginal Horizontal Framework and Dr Richard Heazlewood's 2020 summit submission on an intervention into Cape York communities as all three have a large degree of overlap. It also contains personal thoughts gleaned from observation and thousands of conversations over years with people in Cape York ranging from specialist doctors, principals, elders and police through to parents struggling with alcoholism and children of all ages who speak frankly and honestly from their heart. I have found people's thoughts and hopes and aspirations in private are astonishingly similar across this range.
Colleagues who work closely with Northern Territory (NT) communities have stated that the rhetoric surrounding the NT intervention and it's implementation was damaging and hurtful, disempowering and not well thought out, but the flow of resources and a lot of what has been done has been very positive. Surely there is room for an 'intervention' that is done 'right', that has the sense of urgency and cuts across bureaucratic barriers but without being threatening, hurtful, disempowering and poorly implemented?
(far more detail in the full report)
- Substance abuse
- Child protection
- Safe and sustainable communities
- Economic opportunity
Taking action on the situation in Cape York requires courage, risk-taking, political will and high level leadership as well as ensuring effective implementation on the ground.
Each month that goes past means more lives damaged, often irreparably. If something radical is not done soon, we will be judged far more harshly for this and the effects will be far more damaging and far-reaching than anything that has occurred in generations past