MEMBERS of the health and Aboriginal communities gathered at a seminar in Lismore on Monday to explore ways to break down the continuing health disadvantage of indigenous communities in northern NSW.
The seminar, Caring and Sharing Ideas about Aboriginal Health, coincided with the release of a report by the North Coast's University Centre for Rural Health, titled Health and Disease in the Aboriginal Community, that provides a snapshot of the current situation and "the opportunities that exist".
Chief author, Associate Professor Michael Douglas, said while many areas remained unacceptably wanting, some encouraging improvements in pre-term births and infant mortality showed that positive effort can make a difference.
"We've found the health experience of many in the Aboriginal community is quite wanting - wanting in health services, wanting of a better health situation and wanting more information on how we can move forward to improve the situation," he said.
"We don't know all the answers ... but by describing the situation here it gives us the opportunity to look at where we can do better, where we should be doing better, and move forward into those areas.
"Locally the University Centre for Rural Health is doing a lot of research about Aboriginal health... so today's seminar is about opening that up and saying this is what we're doing, let's talk about whether we're pitching it right, whether we can find more avenues to do so.
"The report signals the ongoing need for a positive approach, another rallying call that health managers hear the community, and build upon their strengths."
Bundjalung community representative Mick Roberts said despite being "the most researched people", many Aboriginal people are still dying too young.
"To make things happen Aboriginal people need to understand and participate in the research," Mr Roberts said.
Senior Aboriginal health education officer Teena Binge said research needed to combine the academic point of view with a cultural and traditional point of view so Aboriginal communities could determine what they "could do about the issues as a people".
Copies of the report are available through the University Centre for Rural Health by phoning 6620 7570.
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