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First Congress Lowitja meeting

Posted on: 31 March, 2010
Issue: Vol 10 No 1, January 2010 - March 2010
Related to Research

The first meeting of Congress Lowitja, held at the Aboriginal Health College at Little Bay in Sydney on 23-24 March, provided the opportunity for stakeholders to consider the Lowitja Institute’s research agenda in the context of Indigenous health developments and the experiences of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH) and its predecessor, the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health (CRCATH).

Lowitja with Banner Congress 2010The Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, is named after the senior Yankuntjatjara Elder and national Aboriginal leader, Dr Lowitja O’Donohue. It has been developed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the pioneering research work of the CRCAH and the CRCATH and the new Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (CRCATSIH), which is being funded from January 2010 to June 2014. The Institute has been established as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and structured as a public benevolent institution. It will continue the underlying philosophy of the CRCs: that knowledge development is best accomplished through working partnerships between researchers, government and Indigenous-led service providers, and that research priorities should be set by the Indigenous end-users of that research.

The Congress commenced with a performance by the local Warada dancers, a warm welcome to country by Aunty Norma Sims from the La Perouse Land Council, and a welcoming address by Ms Sandra Bailey, CEO of the NSW Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council.

Sandra Bailey & Pat AndersonMs Pat Anderson, CRCATSIH chairperson and chair of the interim Lowitja Institute Board, then summarised the background to the establishment of the Institute and commented on its future.

In her address to the Congress, Dr Lowitja O’Donohue reflected on the vital roles played by many people in providing the foundation for the Institute, with particular reference to Dr John Matthews, Ms Pat Anderson, Professor Michael Good and Professor Ian Anderson. She emphasised the need for Indigenous individuals and organisations to be fully involved in the initiation, design and implementation of the research the Institute undertakes, and for a massive increase in the Indigenous health workforce. Dr O’Donohue recognised the challenge facing the Institute in raising the substantial resources required, but felt that Australian philanthropists and corporations would provide support in response to ‘real outcomes, genuine accountability and a high community profile’. The Institute must ‘disseminate its research findings widely’ and ensure that its work is ‘seen to be done’.

Ian Anderson Congress 2010After Professor Ian Anderson reviewed the lessons learned from the previous CRCs, break-out sessions directed attention to successful CRC projects in the areas of structural and social barriers to Indigenous health, capacity building, effective partnerships, improving services, and knowledge exchange.

The morning of the second day of the Congress focused on the future, including attention to the Institute’s research agenda, comprising the three new program areas: Healthy start, healthy life; Healthy communities and settings; and Enabling policy and systems.

Group Wave Congress 2010The afternoon sessions were devoted to consideration of the structure and functions of the Institute, with particular attention to the Congress Lowitja. The Congress has been established to consolidate and expand relationships with research end-users, which include essential participants of the CRCATSIH, research participants, Indigenous community-controlled health organisations; government agencies; health services and hospitals; non-government organisations; practitioner groups; university and other research centres; and others with an interest in the Institute’s research. It is planned that Congress members will meet every two years.