First Nations Health Authority shares insight into tackling Indigenous health issues

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The inaugural CEO of British Columbia’s First Nations Health Authority, Joe Gallagher, has addressed senior health leaders from across Australia about policy reform combating Indigenous health issues.

Speaking at The Quantum Leap conference, jointly hosted by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) and the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), Mr Gallagher provided insight into how Australia can move ahead with the major challenge of closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“It’s really about ensuring that the voices of Indigenous people are heard and that they’re validated—that they’re real and that they have the right to make those decisions themselves,” Mr Gallagher said. “Without that, it’s just the system [making decisions for] Indigenous people, as opposed to Indigenous people being part of the solution.

“The BC First Nations have come together as a people that have been colonised over the years and divided up into 203 Indian bands under the Federal Indian Act. We’ve now come together under one umbrella to work towards better health and wellness outcomes for all of our people and the governance structure that we’ve put in place really gives control back to us as First Nations people to design and deliver the kinds of programs and services that will meet our needs.”

Speaking about the conference more broadly, Mr Gallagher said that it was important to bring together people from around the nation and the world to hear from different perspectives.

“It’s really important to understand that, to learn and make improvements, sometimes we have to see things in a different way. If we only come at it from our own cultural lens and are closed to everything else, then we’re only going to see things the same way. These kind of international opportunities allow us to learn from others and recognise that the way we look at the world maybe shouldn’t be the only way that we’re looking at it.”

AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said that it was important for Australia to look at other examples around the world when addressing health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.

“Australia must look at similar work being undertaken in countries such as Canada when tackling such challenges,” Ms Verhoeven said. “The First Nations Health Authority model is one initiative which merits further consideration, and both the AHHA and ACHS are very pleased to have the opportunity to host CEO Joe Gallagher in Australia to discuss his experiences with senior health leaders.”

The Quantum Leap conference concludes today, and delegates have experienced presentations from a range of health leaders and political figures including Minister for Health, the Hon. Peter Dutton MP, the former head of the Macquarie Bank, Bill Moss AM and Chairman and Partner of Global Health Practice at KPMG, Mark Britnell.  

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, community and primary healthcare services, and advocates for universal, high quality and affordable healthcare to benefit the whole community. For more information, see:

The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving quality in health care.  Our Council represents governments, consumers and peak health bodies from throughout Australia.

The Quantum Leap: Health Innovation – Making Quality Count conference is proudly sponsored by HESTA and Riskman.