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The 6th National Rural Health Conference, held in Canberra from 4 -7 March, directed considerable attention to Indigenous health. The conference opening featured a smoking ceremony, an Indigenous dance welcome and a formal welcome from Matilda House, a Ngunnawal Elder.
Two keynote addresses focused on Indigenous health issues. The address by Puggy Hunter, NACCHO Chairperson, considered 'Aboriginal health: achievements through partnership', and Linda Burney, Director General of the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs spoke about 'Health, rights and discrimination: some of the success stories for Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders'. As well as delivering his keynote address, Puggy Hunter contributed to a panel session discussing issues and options for health and health services in rural and remote areas of Australia.
Apart from the keynote addresses, around 30 presentations focused on Indigenous health with four concurrent sessions devoted to the area. Many of the other presentations included information about, or relevant to, Indigenous health.
The conference presentations were complemented by a mini Internet café run by the HealthInfoNet. Conference participants were shown the HealthInfoNet's Internet site and encouraged to have a 'play' on the Internet. The café followed similar lines to ones conducted at the National Aboriginal Health Workers conference in Cairns in October 1999, the 'Aboriginal health 2000' conference in Perth in June 2000 and the Indigenous Environmental Health Workers conference held in Alice Springs in November 2000.
A number of the Conference Recommendations were of relevance to Indigenous health, but Recommendation 6 specifically called on:
(the) Department of Health and Aged Care (to) provide appropriate resources for addressing all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, including chronic disease and secondary prevention, engaging the principles of self-determination. These resources need to include the provision of primary health care services with an emphasis on:
An Internet cafe was conducted at the National Rural Health Conference held in Canberra in March 2001. As was the case with previous cafes, participants were guided through the major sections of the HealthInfoNet's site, and were then encouraged to explore the site and affiliated sites with regard to their specific health interests. The HealthInfoNet is grateful to the National Rural Health Alliance for their support of the cafe.