The Medical Journal of Australia has published an editorial, supporting an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.
New approaches are needed which place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at the heart of discussions and decision making about their futures, the editorial said.
Authored by the MJA’s Editor-in-Chief Professor Virginia Barbour, the editorial said the MJA had a fundamental role in promoting and supporting what is best for Australian health and practice.
“As you form your own positions, we encourage our readership of health practitioners and researchers, and organisations across Australia, to weigh arguments for and against the Voice in an evidence-led manner that centres core public health principles of equity, justice, and recognition of the upstream determinants of health,” Professor Barbour wrote.
The health outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic provide an outstanding example of how outcomes are best when Aboriginal people have a voice, the editorial said.
"Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations coordinated the response from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation down to remote communities,” Professor Barbour wrote.
“As a result, the health gap was reversed in the first year of the pandemic, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations experiencing six times fewer cases than the non-Indigenous population, and no recorded deaths [here and here].”
Current health care structures and processes do not meet the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, the editorial said.
“New approaches, which place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at the heart of discussions and decision making about their futures, are clearly needed,” Professor Barbour said.
Many other health and medical organisations have also announced their support for the Voice to Parliament, Professor Barbour wrote, including the Lowitja Institute, the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.
The referendum is expected to occur later this year, on a date to be announced.