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WCPH 2020 Blog

A call for Indigenous people to attend the World Congress

  Programme related - Summer May Finlay - 17 Jun 2020 9:00 CET

This October, the World Congress on Public Health will be held online. The event is an important international gathering. It is an event which needs strong Indigenous representation to ensure our priorities and solutions are firmly on the global public health agenda.

The 15th World Congress on Public Health held in Melbourne in 2017, led to the establishment of the World Federation of Public Health Associations First Indigenous Working Group. The Working Group would not have been possible without strong representation by Indigenous people from around the world. As Indigenous peoples, we need to capitalise on the momentum from the 15th Congress.

I am a woman of the Yorta Yorta nation, one of the many Indigenous nations in Australia. I was at the 15th World Congress. I listen, I learnt, I networked, and I spoke. As the last speaker of the event, I implored the attendees that when it comes to Indigenous affairs that there should be "Nothing About Us Without Us". They demonstrated they heard our call with a standing ovation. At that moment, I saw the opportunity a platform like the Congress offers Indigenous people.

At the 16th World Congress, we need many Indigenous voices to ensure that people are not speaking for us. We need a variety of Indigenous perspectives on all public health topics providing solutions are culturally safe for our peoples. We need to be there to ask the right questions, to propose the correct answers and to ensure we are part of the dialogue.

We need to show that we are not a "vulnerable group" that has nothing to offer the world: the theme, Public Health for the Future of Humanity: Analysis, Advocacy, and Action. Advocacy and action are what Indigenous people have been doing with their communities since colonisation. We need to continue to show the strengths of our communities. That as Indigenous people can offer unique public health solutions that not just benefit Indigenous people but everyone. One of the critical global issues what will be a prominent theme across the event will be the climate crisis. The world has a lot to learn from not just our struggles but our understanding of our traditional lands and ecosystems. Our peoples have been caring for our nations for millennia. Infinite knowledge that can be shared for global benefit.

We need to show that we were made vulnerable because of colonisation. That we are often placed in vulnerable situations because we are very often not included in vital dialogues that will impact us as equals. We need to be at the Congress to be part of the discussion.

Our presence at the event will speak volumes. The weight and expertise of our collective voices can only be heard, if we attend in numbers.

An online event means many more of us can attend because the total cost and time commitment is reduced, increasing the accessibility. While I appreciate not all Indigenous peoples have access to the internet, those of us who do, have a responsibility to represent.

The 400 million Indigenous people across 70 countries, making up many Indigenous nations with unique cultures, languages and histories.  We share many similarities. The similarities and shared understanding mean we can learn from each other's successes. It also allows us an opportunity to understand how we can come to advocate as a collective. Together we are stronger.

Ms. Summer May Finlay
Vice President (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander),  Public Health Association of Australia
Co-Vice Chair - Indigenous Working Group, World Federation of Public Health Associations


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