Dialogue deepens community health ties - RMIT Newsroom

11 Jul 2011

Health, land, conflict and culture is a project initiated by Global Reconciliation, an international network seeking to promote dialogue across national, cultural, religious and racial differences. Led by Professor Paul James and Dr Elizabeth Kath (RMIT) and Professor Paul Komesaroff (Monash), the project follows in the tracks of the Little Children are Sacred Report.

After meeting in Melbourne, the six health workers and researchers – three Palestinians and three Israelis – will visit Western Victoria, Alice Springs and remote communities in Central Australia from 15-21 July to meet and talk with Indigenous health care workers.

Professor James, Director of the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT, said the project aimed to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue around options for local community involvement in health care. “The Middle East has been characterised by gut-wrenching conflict and division, which has greatly affected the long-term health of the communities that live there,” he said.

“While there are clear differences between the health conditions of people in the Middle East and Aboriginal people, there are also some striking parallels. In both, health issues are tightly bound up with culture and ethnicity, and affected by social dislocation, internal stress and a hostile external political environment.”

Professor Paul Komesaroff, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, said: “Poverty, poor nutrition, unemployment, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other conditions remain major health issues in remote areas of Australia and in regions elsewhere beset with conflict.

“Both Australia and the Middle East have been sites of innovative responses to health care needs and approaches to health care development. A model of community-controlled health care, which draws on and seeks to foster community resources and capacity, has been developed in Indigenous Australia, Israel and Palestine. Accordingly, there is much to share and learn. In all these places, the initiatives are fragile and need supporting.”

The visiting health professionals are: Dr Yasser Abujamei (Gaza Community Mental Health Program), Professor Ada Bensasson and Professor Zvi Beckerman (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), Dr Rand Salman and Professor Mohammed Shaheen (Al Quds University) and Dr Avi Yitzhak (Ben Gurion University, the Negev).

The project is initiated by Global Reconciliation in partnership with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the Lowitja Institute, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, the National Australia Bank, the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Australian-Palestinian Partnerships for Education and Health, Monash University and RMIT University.

For interviews with Professor Paul James: RMIT University Communications, Gosia Kaszubska, (03) 9925 3176 / 0417 510 735 orgosia.kaszubska@rmit.edu.au.

For interviews with Professor Paul Komesaroff: Ali Webb, Monash Media and Communications, (03) 9903 4841 / 0439 013 951 orali.webb@monash.edu.


Victoria Baldwin