Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation

23 November 2016

Mister Speaker

Today I would like to speak about an iconic community organisation in my electorate of Macarthur, the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation. Tharawal is an Aboriginal community controlled medical and health-care service that is unlike any other health-care service in this country. It has been marvelled at and visited by people such as Sir Michael Marmot, head of the World Medical Association and the World Health Organization's chair of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health, who said that Tharawal was making the fantasy of a fairer distribution of power, money and resources a reality. It uses community empowerment, a community controlling the services needed for its population, to improve things for its own community and for others.

As we know, there are major discrepancies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health in Australia. We constantly hear of the shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher drug and alcohol use and poorer overall health. But what we often do not hear are the success stories, and Tharawal is a remarkable success story. It is simply inspiring. It is led by Daryl Wright and a proactive board, all from the local Indigenous community. Over 14,000 people use the services provided by Tharawal, including: medical, specialist and dental services; child and family services, such as maternal and child health and parenting programs; social and emotional wellbeing services; and healthy-living services, such as tackling Indigenous smoking, the good tucker program and the Lyrebird exercise program.

Tharawal places a high emphasis on education and uses education to give many disadvantaged children hope. Tharawal is located next to John Warby Public School, one of the most disadvantaged schools in New South Wales. It works with the school to provide extensive educational support. It also works with incarcerated Indigenous children in the Reiby juvenile detention centre, a short distance away.

Tharawal is providing support services for university students, from six universities—in medicine, nursing, allied health and education—to do their practical work. Tharawal has plans to grow its service. However, there has recently been a plan put forward by the New South Wales government to reduce the land that the Tharawal Corporation leases, consequently isolating Tharawal from the community it serves. This plan is short-sighted and, once again, puts short-term financial gains ahead of long-term community benefits.

Tharawal is an organisation we need to foster and promote—not tear down. Services need to continue and be improved. We need to empower people and both major political parties need to have a commitment to protecting and improving Tharawal, which is an invaluable community institution.