Date: 4 November 2020
By Suzanne Greenwood
Next week is important culturally for all Australians as we mark NAIDOC Week, the annual celebration of the history, culture and achievements of our country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Significantly, NAIDOC Week is celebrated not only in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but by Australians from all walks of life in what is a national coming-together in cultural recognition and respect. As the National NAIDOC Committee says, ‘wherever you live, you can take part in NAIDOC Week celebrations’.
The week, usually celebrated in July, will this year be held 8-15 November, and is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
NAIDOC Week events will be a bright spot in what has otherwise been a pretty dim year.
This year’s theme is Always Was, Always Will Be, which aims to recognise that First Nations peoples have occupied and cared for this land for more than 65,000 years. Our First Nations peoples are spiritually and culturally connected to this country.
At the Pharmacy Guild, NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to highlight the way community pharmacies work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly in regional, rural and remote communities.
These pharmacies are going the extra mile in providing services to help address the documented poorer health outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Whether it be through visits to communities, special consultations or even ensuring labelling meets the needs of individual communities, pharmacists are at the forefront. And as the most accessible healthcare professionals, they have a unique role to play in addressing gaps and providing targeted services to improve the health outcomes of these Australians.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients live in regional, rural and remote communities and the Guild believes where possible the standard of healthcare for people in these areas should be equal to the standards available in metropolitan areas. Yet, health inequality remains a significant issue in this country.
At the Guild, we are guided by the principle that all Australians have a right to equity and access to community pharmacy services. This is reflected in the fact that in more than 300 remote towns there is only one pharmacy, and, in many cases, the pharmacist is the only health professional in town.
In these situations, pharmacies are often the local hub for community healthcare services and general support for the local population, particularly for the elderly and unwell.
And more broadly, the Pharmacy Guild’s commitment has been reflected in the Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement signed this year which provides for increased investment in programs aimed at increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ access to medicines.
Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is something we are committed to and while we are encouraged by the Prime Minister’s remarks in this year’s Closing The Gap report that there have been “heartening improvements” in the key area of health, we know we need to do more. It is clear we need to do more. This is reinforced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which this year reported: “From 2008 to 2018, the Indigenous death rate fell across all age groups, except those aged 75 and over. However, the Indigenous death rate was higher than the non-Indigenous in each age group.”
NAIDOC Week provides us an opportunity to re-examine how we can help tackle some of these health issues while also celebrating the history and culture of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
At the Guild we are encouraging our members to take part in this significant event and if you would like more details you can access the NAIDOC Week site here.
Aboriginal brother and sister Lillian and Louis Emery have found their culture and heritage to be major factors underpinning their enjoyment and success in their pharmacy careers. Read about intern Lillian’s experiences here, while pharmacy student Louis details his views here.
Contact: The Guild