Diabetes Victoria Blog
Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.
As stated by Reconciliation Australia: “National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.”
NRW runs from 27 May to 3 June and celebrates two significant milestones – the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. On 27 May 1967, Australians overwhelmingly voted for the referendum to amend the constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the census. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia passed the decision that recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have rights to the land – rights that existed before colonisation and can still exist today.
To mark NRW, we spoke with our very own Aboriginal Liaison Officer Colin Mitchell. Colin identifies as an Aboriginal man who has family connections to the Wemba Wemba tribe in Swan Hill Victoria and the Gureng Gureng tribe in far North Queensland. He has been working at Diabetes Victoria for the past 11 years. Colin’s work involves educating Aboriginal communities all over Victoria about the signs, symptoms and complications of diabetes as well as different management approaches.
When reflecting on what NRW means, Colin says: “It is about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples coming together and having respect for each other’s culture and heritage, forever - not just for one week.”
In Australia, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people experience vastly different health outcomes. This is demonstrated by a significantly lower life expectancy in both Aboriginal men and women. In fact, Aboriginal people are four times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, and have higher rates of hospitalisation and death due to diabetes than non-Aboriginal Australians.
In discussions around raising awareness of the impacts of diabetes on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Colin mentions how colonisation and dispossession of their lands as well as the introduction of new foods, dramatically affected these communities. As a result, these communities experienced significant health impacts, including diabetes.
Colin emphasises that people are living with diabetes all over the world but especially Indigenous populations. However, by supporting one another “we can show diabetes does not discriminate and affects all nationalities”.
In order to move towards a more reconciled Australia, Colin says that workplaces can start by providing cultural awareness training to employees and implementing an Aboriginal employment program.
At Diabetes Victoria, we have a specific Aboriginal program with resources that are tailored to the community. We also collaborate closely with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisations across Victoria to deliver our Living Well with Diabetes events, all of which strengthen our partnerships with Aboriginal communities.
Colin also suggests more priority should be placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history studies in schools because “educating children is key”. This way, all Australian children will have a better understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture as well as recognising the history of this country.
And lastly, we asked Colin what makes him proud to be an Aboriginal man. “I love being a Black fella because our culture and heritage is a very rich part of this country”.