The AMA Federal Council has endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution.
Regarded by some as the “most important piece of political writing in Australia in the past two decades”, the Uluru Statementwas the result of a gathering of Indigenous elders and academics inviting non-Indigenous Australians to walk with them to create a better country.
The Federal Government rejected the Statement shortly after its release a year ago.
But the AMA has thrown its support behind the document.
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said the AMA had for many years supported Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution, and that the Uluru Statement was another significant step in making that recognition a reality.
“The Uluru Statement expresses the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in regard to self-determination and status in their own country,” Dr Bartone said.
“The AMA is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Closing the gap in health services and outcomes requires a multi-faceted approach.
“Cooperation and unity of purpose from all Australian governments is needed if we are to achieve meaningful and lasting improvements.
“This will involve addressing the social determinants of health – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.
“Constitutional recognition can underpin all these endeavours, as we work to improve the physical and mental health of Indigenous Australians.”
The AMA announced its endorsement of the Uluru Statement during National Reconciliation Week.
The AMA Federal Council has also formally adopted a new Anti-Racism Statement as AMA policy.
In doing so, Dr Bartone said the AMA acknowledged that an ongoing and shared commitment across organisations, governments, and individuals was required to eliminate racism in health care.
He said the Anti-Racism Statement demonstrates the AMA’s commitment to opposing racism across the health care industry and in Australian society.
“We support a healthcare system that provides equity of access to quality care for all Australians,” Dr Bartone said.
“The AMA is the peak advocacy body for all doctors working in Australia, and we represent a diverse range of individuals.
“The medical workforce is made stronger through the inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds who bring unique skills, perspectives, and networks to the health industry.
“Racism and discrimination have adverse, often very significant effects, and can contribute to the health burden of medical professionals and their patients.
“Racism can occur in both direct and indirect forms, including casual or everyday racism and implicit or unintentional racism, and can be experienced by a patient from their healthcare provider, by a healthcare provider from their patient, or between healthcare providers.
“Relationships in the workplace with superiors, colleagues, and patients must be free from bias, discrimination, and racism.”
The Statement was produced by the AMA’s Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee, which was established in 2017 to support a culture that recognises the values of respect, equity, and inclusion.
Dr Bartone said international medical graduates from many different countries, cultures and faiths make a vital contribution to the delivery of health care in Australia, particularly in rural and regional locations.
In 2016, there were 12,495 reported overseas trained doctors in Australia.
“It is vital that doctors and medical students are aware of, and sensitive to, cultural differences in their dealings with colleagues,” Dr Bartone said.
“Sensitivity and understanding of the diversity of patients must also be at the forefront of doctors’ minds when delivering health care.
“There are aspects of the healthcare system that can be inadvertently exclusionary, and may deter some individuals from seeking health care.”
The AMA also recognises that systemic and interpersonal racism has a detrimental effect on the growth and retention of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce.