Cherbourg Mayor Elvie Sandow and South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto at the Cherbourg Health Summit
Facilitator Phillip Mills addresses the Health Summit

December 9, 2020

A Health Summit which aimed to bring agencies and the people they serve face-to-face to thrash out solutions to entrenched issues has been hosted by Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council.

The two-day summit, held at the Cherbourg Sports Complex on Tuesday and Wednesday, discussed the health – and mental health – issues in the community.

It was facilitated by Phillip Mills and Barbara Schmidt, who have worked with other Indigenous communities, especially in the Torres Strait.

Phillip said gaps in services were easy to identify.

Some of these were policy-related, while others were linked to not having programs in those particular areas.

But it was more important to listen to the community “voice”.

“The pain, the suffering, the ongoing loss and this veil of depression that we are battling against even to be at the starting line as everybody else,” he told the audience.

“That inequity needs to be addressed as well, because we can’t expect people who don’t have the support that brings them on a par to everyone else in this country to have the same health outcomes as the rest.”

Barbara said there were many groups working to solve issues from above but there were only a handful of people working to find answers from within the community.

Mayor Elvie Sandow told southburnett.com.au that she believed the government had to come out and listen to Cherbourg residents.

“They have to come out, sit down and talk to us,” she said.

“Top down doesn’t work.”

And she said the agencies that worked at Cherbourg had to be held to account for their decisions.

South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto, who was a guest at the summit, said it was time the Federal Government “moved forward” and followed the example of New Zealand, working with and listening to Indigenous people.

Mayor Sandow said the people of Cherbourg had elected her to be their voice.

She had just four years to make a difference.

“I am here for change,” she said. “If you don’t make changes, nothing changes.”

Mayor Sandow said a Health Summit like this had never happened in Cherbourg before, but she hoped it would not be the last time major issues were addressed this way.

She hoped that over the next couple of years, Council could also host an Education Summit and a Law and Order Summit.

“At the end of my four years, I can say I have tried,” she said.

Participants for agencies and the community broke up into small groups to discuss topics

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