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Rob Riley memorial lecture a call for social justice and health equity

Media release

Curtin University’s new Medical School Dean, Professor Sandra Eades has delivered a powerful call for reconciliation, social justice and health equity for Indigenous Australians, in the annual Rob Riley memorial lecture this week.

Curtin's Centre for Aboriginal Studies Director Professor Marion Kickett and Curtin University’s new Medical School Dean, Professor Sandra Eades.

Professor Eades said while the increasing number of Indigenous students completing high school and taking on professional degrees at university is a positive sign of progress, there is still a long way to go in addressing racial inequality in Australia.

“The current state of health of Indigenous Australians is a cause for national shame and has its roots in the wholesale exclusion of Indigenous people from Australian society since 1788,” Professor Eades said.

“A comprehensive approach to improving the health of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders should involve understanding the close relationships between their social and economic status and their health.

“At some point in our growth as a nation there must be a commitment by all Australians to social and educational equity and economic prosperity for Indigenous Australians. Only then will there be significant improvements in the health of Indigenous Australians.”

Professor Eades said it was encouraging that Indigenous leaders and others were more likely now than in past decades to speak out about racism.

“Acknowledgement is the first step on a path to end to the corrosive impact of racism on the mental health and life opportunities afforded Indigenous Australians,” Professor Eades said.

“The riots in the United States are a reminder of the wedge so easily driven into a society when racism is allowed to thrive.

“We must refocus and hone our efforts to remain true to our cause and working towards a fair and equitable life that all Indigenous Australians have cause to value.

“We need to acknowledge that the future holds opportunities but also challenges.”

Curtin University’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies hosts the Rob Riley memorial lecture each year as a celebration of the life and achievements of one of WA’s key Indigenous figures, who worked tirelessly to advance social justice and reconciliation with non-Indigenous Australia. The lecture is part of Curtin’s commitment to National Reconciliation Week.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Rob Riley memorial lecture was delivered online and can be seen here.