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US, NZ and Australian First Nation peoples speak at major conference

ABORIGINAL Australian, American Indian and New Zealand Maori speakers are coming together for a national conference being held in Cairns from October 23-25.

The 2nd National NDIS Conference: Doing it the First People Way, is being delivered by Indigenous Conference Services (ICS), co-hosted by the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre (IWC) Ltd.

IWC is the only Aboriginal-community run organisation in Australia to hold an NDIS Local Area Coordination contract. It has worked as an NDIS Partner in the Community since 2017 to roll out the Scheme in Bundaberg region, Central Queensland.

“The National Disability Insurance Scheme has been a big step forward for all in our communities, but especially so for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders because there have been so many cultural barriers around disability for a long time,” said IWC Director Aunty Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian, a Traditional Owner and Elder who is one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

Clinical Psychologists Dr Joseph B. Stone and Dr Amber Logan will be speaking at the conference and presenting a masterclass on Managing Intergenerational Trauma and Becoming an Interventionist to Suicide.

Dr Stone is an Anmsakapi-Pikuni (Blackfeet) and Lakota tribal member living in Hawkes Bay, who formerly was Chief of Behavioral Health at the Gallup Indian Medical Center, the US’s largest Native hospital-based mental health program. Currently, Dr. Stone works at three sites in Hawkes Bay: Te Taiwhenua, the Napier Family Center, and Awina Whanau Family services and provides training internationally focused on First Person’s Behavioural Health.

Dr Logan is a Māori of Kahungunu descent and has lectured and presented in North America, including the University of Washington and Harvard University, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

Both have presented at previous conferences co-hosted by ICS and IWC on important social issues including indigenous substance abuse and Indigenous chronic disease.

Aunty Cheri said the NDIS-focused conference was a chance for IWC to share its many learnings about the NDIS, Cultural Responsiveness, and inclusivity with a wide audience. IWC is committed to Reconciliation in Action, and to promoting inclusivity and empowerment.

The three-day conference will provide organisations, service managers and frontline workers in the disability sector the opportunity to network, discuss and share information with regard to the successes and challenges they have experienced in the rollout and implementation of the NDIS, one of Australia’s largest social policy reforms.

As well as Aunty Cheri and fellow IWC Board Director Stirling Eggmolesse, IWC speakers will include its NDIS LAC Area Manager Ryan Mulvany and Indigenous team members Daniel Smith and Jean Paul.

In the run-up to the conference, Drs Stone and Logan visited Bundaberg to view the $19.8 million Stage 2 expansion of the IWC Health & Wellbeing Complex..

Dr Stone said of the Complex, which is purpose built as an Aboriginal community-controlled health and wellbeing facility: “It’s a beautiful building, and the way it’s designed is optimal for health care. One of the things that struck me as I walked through the door was the artefacts, the artwork, which sends a clear message that this wonderful, beautiful building is in fact an Aboriginal success story.

“So for Aboriginal, Indigenous people, beyond the clinical effect, the treatments provided here, there’s also the social and emotional effect of Aboriginal sovereignty and self-governance manifesting itself in the successfully self-governed program. We see in the US a growing movement towards sovereignty and self-governance of health in the Indigenous communities.”

He said the fact that IWC, as an Aboriginal-run organisation, offered services to all people in the community – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – was “incredibly important”.

“We’re all human beings and we need to support each other, and that’s the message I’m taking from the construction of this centre – it’s that those doors are open, and that’s a strong message of inclusion,” he said.

To register for the 2nd National NDIS Conference: Doing it the First People Way in Cairns, go to https://www.icsconferences.org/2018-ndis-indigenous-conference

Pictured are Thomas Callaghan of ICS, Dr Amber Logan, Dr Joseph B Stone, Aunty Cheri and IWC CEO Ara Harathunian.