Jeremy Lasek – PHAA
‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’ – Dr Martin Luther King Jr
As our nation emerges from COVID lockdowns, it’s timely to reflect on the impact of some of the most severe restrictions imposed on our society since the Great Depression and World War Two.
Next week’s Justice Health Conference – the fourth national conference convened by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) – will take a deep dive into life before, during, and importantly, what’s to come after the pandemic.
Registrations are still open for the two-day virtual conference on 3-4 November, which takes the theme ‘Evidence, Accountability, Action’.
PHAA CEO, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, says the 2021 Conference theme takes direction from the notion of a ‘virtuous cycle’ between research evidence and meaningful action, but also focuses on the importance of accountability.
“Researchers must be accountable to the populations they study, including through co-design with those who have lived experience of the criminal justice system,” Prof Slevin explains.
“Government and non-government agencies responsible for the health of people in custody must also be held to account against relevant national and international standards, and systems must be in place for routine, independent monitoring, and surveillance.”
Co-chair of the conference organising committee, Professor Stuart Kinner, says the event would “shine a light on a number of underserviced issues and unmet needs.
“The program strongly aligns with priorities of the PHAA, specifically about the need for evidence-based health policy. and a range of areas where we need to increase accountability, research and reporting.”
He adds that there will be a very substantial focus on youth justice.
“Young people in detention is a high needs group warranting greater attention.”
The Conference has attracted dozens of prominent speakers with the opening keynote to be delivered by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP.
Professor Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law at the University of Technology Sydney, will address ‘The Pandemic of Prisons: How COVID-19 has shone a light on the risks of prisons to First Nations people.’
Approximately 30 per cent of people in Australian prisons are First Nations people, despite comprising just three per cent of the general population.
“The hyperincarceration of First Nations people and failures to provide adequate care in custody, can be described as a pandemic across settler colonies,” Professor Anthony says.
“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the dangerous health conditions in prisons.
“The pandemic has brought into sharp relief the dangers of imprisonment to First Nations lives, as well as the strength of community-supported alternatives to prison.”
Other keynote speakers on the opening day include Associate Professor Penny Abbott, who will address “Healthcare for people in custody – challenges, opportunities and ways forward.”
Professor Abbott says high quality, accessible healthcare for people in prison is essential
“Yet there are many challenges in health and healthcare delivery when people are in prison,” Professor Penny says.
“The opportunity to provide care which addresses health-related drivers of incarceration must be harnessed when people are in prison.”
Her presentation will discuss advancements and initiatives underway to promote healthcare standards in prison.
The first day will conclude with a panel discussion ‘Improving health, wellbeing, safety and prevention of trans and gender diverse people in the criminal justice system’.
Among many highlights on day two will be a keynote presentation by ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury MLA, and Minister for Justice Health, Emma Davidson MLA.
They’ll explore the practical and policy issues involved in raising the age of criminal responsibility in the ACT, as well as feedback from public consultation.
The 2021 Justice Health Conference is supported by Principal Sponsor Gilead Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company that has pursued and achieved breakthroughs in medicine for more than three decades.
Virtual Exhibitor for the Conference is the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.