NHMRC has a long history of working to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Reconciliation is an important part of the culture and goals of our agency.
National Reconciliation Week celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. This year’s theme Our History, Our Story, Our Future, encourages us to consider the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and rights in our nation’s story.
It is also a time for us to reflect on our own journey towards reconciliation.
In 2002, NHMRC made a landmark commitment to direct at least five per cent of our research funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. We maintain and exceed this commitment today.
In 2010, we produced NHMRC Road Map II: a Strategic Framework for Improving the Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Through Research This Road Map identified seven action areas:
- Improving the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NHMRC programs
- Capacity exchange
- Promotion of NHMRC’s role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
- Close the Gap
- Evaluation research
- Intervention research
- Priority-driven research
In 2016, NHMRC’s Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus is helping us to develop Road Map III to articulate and drive the next stage of our strategy to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research.
Although progress has been made, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience poorer health status than other Australians, including lower birth weight, higher mortality from chronic disease, and shorter life expectancy. Many NHMRC-funded researchers are making a valuable contribution towards addressing this health disadvantage that Indigenous Australians face.
As CEO of NHMRC, I feel enormously privileged to be able to contribute to Australia’s progress in reconciliation through the work of our agency. I want to create more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to work, learn and undertake research with us, and I want to improve the life expectancy and health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through targeted support for health and medical research and translation.
The relationships that we seek to strengthen through reconciliation are the foundation for our nation’s future success and wellbeing. National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to celebrate the progress made so far and to recommit to our goals for the future.
Professor Anne Kelso AO
27 May 2016