RACP supports the Voice to Parliament to improve Indigenous health outcomes

Public Health

By Mardi Chapman

7 Aug 2023

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has announced its support for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

It joins other medical colleges including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).

As previously reported in the limbic [link here], other medical organisations including the AMA have also committed to supporting a yes vote in the upcoming referendum.

A statement from the RACP said it was committed to the principles of the Uluru Statement from the Heart [link here], including constitutional recognition and the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

“The RACP recognises the historical and ongoing trauma of colonisation and its impacts on the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of First Nations people. The legacy of colonisation continues to manifest in health inequities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face today, including a lower life expectancy.”

Dr Jacqueline Small, RACP President, said the RACP’s support for the Voice reflects the its long-standing commitment to improving Indigenous health outcomes.

“The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution is a necessary step towards healing and generational change.

“We proudly support the principles of a Voice to Parliament and its implementation to make real change in the lives of First Nations people.”

Professor Ngiare Brown, Chair, RACP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee and Yuin Nation woman from the South Coast of NSW, said Indigenous Australians suffer through a healthcare system that does not meet their needs.

“An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament aligns with principles that we know work in healthcare. Constitutional recognition is an important step in empowering our First Nations people whose voices have been historically silenced.”

“There are significant gains made when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are empowered to resolve the issues that impact them deeply and directly.

“Constitutional protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributions to national policy will ensure content expertise to inform improved life expectancy, better social, physical, emotional and mental health outcomes, and positive life trajectories. ”

“It is about healing, strengthening Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships, and greater agency for First Nations people over the decisions that impact their lives,” Professor Brown said.

However there are opposing views from the medical community.

Writing in the Emergency Medicine Australasia [link here], Clinical Associate Professor Stephen Macdonald from WA effectively called on the ACEM to stay in its lane.

“Our credibility is closely linked to operating within our areas of expertise. I urge ACEM to focus its time and resources on its core business of clinical emergency medicine rather than formulating position statements on complex and contentious issues which are beyond its remit, and which have little relevance to our everyday practice.”

The referendum date has not yet been announced but is predicted for mid-October.

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