Letters of the week September 22, 2023

Why I’m voting yes

Dear Echo News,

As a former flying doctor and remote area locum I was fortunate to experience the best of Indigenous controlled initiatives that really helped to close the gap.

The Mawankarra Health service in Roebourne was the best I visited. It employed 56 local Indigenous people from health workers to gardeners and the most important tea lady, all wearing their uniform with pride and delivering a first-rate medical service.

A team-based approach to address local priorities saw improved immunisation rates and aged care health checks.

The service is co-funded by Rio Tinto as a result of their land rights claim but is totally Indigenous controlled.

In Ngaanyatjarra country (Warburton WA) the community had an amazing preschool program.

Mums would come back from delivering their new babies from Kalgoorlie and would enrol in a certificate course in either early childhood education to become preschool assistants or catering to help with school lunches and meals on wheels for the elderly or education assistants for primary school.

The centre, which they attended daily, was equipped with laundry, bathrooms and a commercial kitchen initially paid for by the local Aboriginal corporation.

All the children’s books were bilingual, and every child was school ready and literate before they started school.

All the mums would graduate with a ready-made job waiting for them. Health outcomes were excellent. Very few school sores and infections due to good hygiene and healthy development with good food. The semi-trailer owned by the corporation would deliver fresh food weekly at city prices subsidised by putting a loading on less healthy foods like cola and biscuits.

Sadly, these success stories are the exception.

Dissemination of these programs to other communities lacks the coordination that The Voice to Parliament would provide to close the gap across all communities.

One of the principles of the Voice is that solutions should be locally based and not imposed from Canberra.

As epidemiologist Professor Fiona Stanley pointed out, the Abbott government cut the funding to 67 programs that delivered programs such as maternal nutrition and awareness of foetal alcohol syndrome. Needless to say, all related measures got worse after the government-imposed intervention.

Sadly, the one vote one value in our democratic system means that a majority ignores the needs of the minority.

Another principle is that The Voice will not fund programs but rather rely on evidence-based outcomes to recommend to parliament initiatives such as justice reinvestment programs to reduce youth incarceration.

Indigenous peoples need a constitutional voice so that it cannot be taken away and so that it recognises the first nations peoples and their 60,000 plus year continuous culture in our country.

This was a gap in our constitution written by our British forefathers who didn’t even recognise the indigenous persons right to be counted as Australian citizens in the census until 1967.

Many individual groups have a voice to parliament – the very well-funded business council, minerals council, medical lobby groups, and bodies representing aged care and disability. The list is endless.

But anybody who has lived and worked in remote communities understands that all the privileges of communication, education and readily accessible health care that enable most of us to have a voice is denied to these most vulnerable communities.

Many Closing the Gap targets have gone backwards. We need a new way of finding programs that are community controlled, codesigned and that work. I will be voting Yes to The Voice.

I am proud that my college the RACGP, after careful consultation with the Aboriginal faculty, along with other colleges has come out in favour of The Voice because we see it as a way to correct 130 years of exclusion from the constitution and a practical way of closing the gap.

C Hughes



Early detection vital

Dear Echo News,

R. Gay’s letter Prostate cancer deaths on the rise (Echo News, September 15) correctly states early detection is the key to survival.

However, no mention is made that the best way to achieve early detection is to visit your GP for him to arrange for you to undergo a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test.

C Coulthard

Gooseberry Hill


Footpath space sought

Dear Echo News,

Being involved with several seniors’ groups in The City of Kalamunda, especially in the foothills, I regularly come across problems encountered by wheelchair users, regarding residents placing their rubbish bins in the middle of the dual-use footpaths, thereby impeding the journey of these users.

It is an age-old problem, especially in the newer, more densely populated areas, where the houses have little or no verge.

Gopher or Wheelchair users have to turn around, and retreat to the nearest off verge area to go out onto the road, face oncoming traffic to get round the obstacle, not with standing those selfish car drivers who regularly park on the footpath (which is against the law).

Please spare a thought for those who desperately need to use the footpaths, including children on bikes trying to get to school, and mums with prams also facing oncoming traffic trying to get past the offending obstacles.

I appreciate the need to put the bins out for collection but ask that we all consider other users and try to leave space for these people to negotiate a way through.

N Sadler

Maida Vale


Hills yacht club turns 36

Dear Echo News,

Greetings from the sand plain.

As the 36th anniversary of the Right Royal Parkerville Yacht Club’s foundation approaches, I extend warm wishes to all surviving members who chance upon this letter.

That was fun.

Marron shaped keels in Jane Brook. Really.

In the spirit of the 80s hills, your commodore continues to stir the cultural norms in a land far, far away down the hill.

Yours in nostalgia,

H T Birdbath


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