National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2023 the NAIDOC Week theme is For Our Elders.

Across every generation, our Elders have played, and continue to play, an important role and hold a prominent place in our communities and families. They are cultural knowledge holders, trailblazers, nurturers, advocates, teachers, survivors, leaders, hard workers and our loved ones. 

In an Aboriginal context, Elders hold a profound significance playing a prominent role in preserving our heritage, guiding us with wisdom, and fostering unity. Their resilience, hard work, and dedication paved the way for our successes, and they inspire us to honour our traditions and build a brighter future. Elders are the cornerstone of our Aboriginal communities, embodying the values and connections over tens of thousands of years.

At RAHC, we are fortunate to have Auntie Pat Anderson AO as our chairperson, an Alyawarre woman from the Northern Territory, well known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2014 Ms Anderson was appointed the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as a social justice advocate through promoting improved health and educational and protection outcomes for children. Most recently, she received the Lowitja Institute Lifetime Achievement Award.

"We need real change because we, First Peoples, have something unique to offer this country. Our peoples have been here 65,000 years or more. Over these immeasurable periods, we have developed a profound wisdom about this land and about what it means practically and spiritually to live here. We know this place. This is our place, and there is no doubt about it,” said RAHC Chair Ms Anderson.

Auntie Anderson has been instrumental in helping RAHC achieve some amazing, milestones, including:

  • supporting closing the gap health targets, including:
    • closing the gap in life expectancy within a generation by 2031
    • halving the gap in mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under five, within a decade
  • place-based solutions – RAHC works in partnership with Aboriginal communities to design solutions and build locally-led services
  • in 2022, RAHC oversaw the placement of more than 193 HPs across 90 communities in the Northern Territory (NT) 
  • the launch of a new eLearning platform with improved user experience.

Pat Anderson Awards and Achievements

  • 2022 Sydney Peace Prize
  • 2021 ACT's Senior Australian of the Year, for her work in advancing the health of Indigenous people
  • 2018 Honorary Doctorate in Law, University of NSW, in recognition of her lifetime campaign for social justice
  • 2018 NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award, for decades of advocacy for First Nations people
  • 2017 Doctor of Medical Science honoris causa - Edith Cowan University
  • 2016 Human Rights Medal - Australian Human Rights Commission
  • 2015 Winner, public policy category, Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards
  • 2014 Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as a social justice advocate
  • 2013 Honorary doctorate - Flinders University
  • 2012 Human Rights Community Individual Award (Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award)
  • 2007 Sidney Sax Public Health Medal - Public Health Association of Australia
  • 2007 Northern Territory Senior Australian of the Year

We pay our respects to the Elders we’ve lost and to those who continue fighting for us across all our Nations, For Our Elders -we pay homage to them.

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