Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Indigenous culture–saves lives: Australian Indigenous cultural views and knowledges in health policy (#413)

Carmen D R Parter 1
  1. Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, University of Sydney, School of Medicine, Sydney, NSW, Australia

In Australia, we have a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023 (the Plan) that places culture as a central and critical element of its overall policy framework (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013, p. 9).

As a former senior policy advisor who has worked for several years in government, I wonder what the implication(s) would be for placing culture as a central part of a policy framework like the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan. And, I wonder what contribution Indigenous culture will make when addressing health inequities and racism experienced by Australia's Indigenous peoples?

Despite policymakers working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Indigenous culture in an Australian health policy context is not yet well valued or recognised and nor is it applied to policy processes.

In 2005, I challenged policymakers in government about their duty to provide the means for Indigenous communities to apply their cultural understandings within the policy context (Parter, 2005, p. 4). I argued for the need to incorporate the cultural dimensions by placing Indigenous communities at the centre of the policy development process (Parter, 2005, p. 6–7) and called this The Our Way Model. Similarly, I argued that within this inter-cultural space, the Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural worlds could co-exist, side by side and as independent domains that create an exciting 'cultural infusion', which brings together the best of both worlds to drive and create innovations (Parter, 2005, p. 7).

In 2016, I return to this inter-cultural space and put forward that governments need to have an understanding of how they can practically apply Indigenous culture when implementing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health plan particularly if its vision and intended outcomes are to be realised (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013, p. 8). More importantly, communities are pivotal to this process that requires the shift of power from the bureaucracy to Indigenous peoples.

This presentation will canvas preliminary findings gathered from the literature about the use and application of Indigenous culture in health policy.

  1. Commonwealth of Australia 2013, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, retrieved on 10 April 2016 at$File/health-plan.pdf
  2. Parter, C., 2005, Cultural Dimensions in Policy Development: A Case Study – The NSW Aboriginal Justice Plan, Public Administration Today, Issue 4: July – September 2005, Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT Division)