It was surely what Twitter was made for – a national day of Twitter action that had discussions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues trending nationally – scoring nearly 26 million impressions (see The Influencers pic below) and more than once rating as the number one Australian Twitter topic (below).

Indigenous and non-Indigenous tweeps from across the country joined in the #IHMayDay discussions on a range of topics – from the impact of racism on health to negative portrayals of Indigenous men – from dawn till way past dusk.

It was all brilliantly and tirelessly steered by James Cook University nursing academic Dr Lynore Geia – who had the idea for the event and was also tweeting for @IndigenousX (see her Q&A). See at the bottom of the post for her reflections on the day and where to from here. You can also hear her preview interviews below, to get a taste of the buildup to the day:

#IHMayDay didn’t get as big a response as could/should have been expected from politicians across the country, despite an offer to include them in this wrap if they meaningfully engaged, but thanks to those who did (Retweeting counts, right?).

And it only served to underscore many of the issues raised (and to generate new concerns) that #IHMayDay was knocked out of top place on Twitter trends during the afternoon by the release of the Federal Government’s disturbing Commission of Audit report.

If you want to catch up on #IHMayDay at length, you can read the full transcript here or see below for some of the highlights of each session (some text versions of tweets have been slightly edited to aid understanding) and some of the responses.


Celebrating Aboriginality: University of Queensland academic Dr Chelsea Bond

Inspired by Vernon AhKee’s ill-like work, Chelsea Bond works to challenge the sickness of public health practice in which Aboriginality=sickness and premature death and instead examine and celebrate the ways that Aboriginality is conducive to better health. In Twitterspeak: #blackishealth. She asked:

Is a strength-based approach to Indigenous Health all that unpalatable or imaginable? … #IHMayDay #Blackishealth

Do we reproduce statistical portraits of despair? is identity just an epidemiological variable that denotes risk?

Hmm is culture deadly or deadly?…Consider your ph practice – culture matters – but as cure or contaminate? #IHMayDay #Blackishealth

strength-based approach is not romanticising blackness – just using empowering process #IHMayDay #Blackishealth …

1/3: Public health says Aboriginality=risk, but what do black people say? #IHMayDay #Blackishealth #TheLastKinection …

Chelsea gave a very personal example of how the deficit-based approach works.

My dad was diagnosed with diabetes- came home from Dr and said that “it was because he was Aboriginal” @IndigenousX #IHMayDay #Blackishealth

Health behaviourist approach blames victim, but Indigenous public health approach blames culture

sadly passed away 5 years ago aged 62 years from cancer. aboriginal health is political & personal @LasanthaMart @IndigenousX

We need to talk more about strengths and successes in Indigenous health, she said, sharing a number of good resources:

heard about racial socialisation? health benefit of feeling good about one’s ‘race’ #IHMayDay #Blackishealth … … …

 A must read – social meaning of epidemiological portraits of Indig. Health

Some related responses:

@jade_mikaela: A critical issue is supporting & communicating successes. Media ‘black washing’ health issue is not helping lift our champs up! #IHMayDay


Engaging on Twitter: Luke Pearson – “talk with us, not at us”

In his workshop session, Luke Pearson, founder of the popular and influential @IndigenousX account, urged non-Indigenous people and organisations to ‘have the backs’ of Indigenous tweeters like him who cop much abuse from so-called Twitter trolls.

Step up to bat for us mob sometimes… Orgs have the facts, the data, the resources yet individuals do most of the troll fighting! #IHMayDay

You’ve gotta be willing to take a few hits for us… Your ‘brand’ should be less important to you than our health & online safety! #IHMayDay

Luke also had some advice for Indigenous organisations, that Twitter and social media campaigning should be authentic and learnt: not hired out.

On a practical level, I wanna tell Indigenous orgs NOT to pay non-Indigenous media orgs to tweet for you! We want the real deal! #IHMayDay

Asked whether non-Indigenous organisations should decline any such work offers, he said:

You should offer them support. Many orgs think Twitter is rocket science & are scared to get it wrong. Train them up! @Zockmelon #IHMayDay

Anyone can learn how to tweet professionally, but not anyone can learn how to engage with our mob… + lots of mob need the work! #IHMayDay

He was asked how non-Indigenous orgs can best support Indigenous people online.

Great question 🙂 Respectfully, without taking over, or claiming the credit! We live this stuff & need to be acknowledged #IHMayDay

Luke’s nominations for great Twitter initiatives that helped break through on understanding or action?

#Racistlikeafox #Itriedtobeauthenticbut #IndigenousXto10k, the Aldi shirts, the Mabo/Mambo fiasco- twitter helped! @mariemcinerney #IHMayDay

#savethecns was an awesome campaign!! Brilliant use of twitter for something that matters 🙂 @ALS_NSWACT @croakeyblog @nareenyoung #IHMayDay


Sexy Health: Dr Kat Byron and Dr Peter Waples-Crowe, VACCHO

Kat’s tweets:

we think sexy health gets left to last on the bargaining table coz of the other #CTG priorities #IHMayDay

We know that the GOANNA survey found 10% of our young mob isn’t straight, we need services to support them #IHMayDay …

The #HIV rates in oz are the same for Indigenous & non-Indig but we need to shift the focus to #harmreduction services #IHMayDay

STIs are high in all young Australians but higher prevalence in ATSI young people, we need more condom & testing msgs #IHMayDay

battling shame is big barrier to health #IHMayDay

When we were hanging at @qaihc deadly sex forum we saw that having a dedicated wrkforce increases STI testing & health promo #IHMayDay

In Vic we dont have any sexy health workers but we do make some deadly GLBTI resources – … #IHMayDay

Peter’s tweets:

We need more responses to the #hepC in Aboriginal community. The silent and silenced epidemic

I’m over the inaction on #hepC in our communities. #noshame #IHMayDay. Nice people take drugs

most #STIs are easy to test and treat. Get onto it you Mob

we hear about the shame of #Hepc often, so we made this DVD w Kooris living w hepc … #IHMayDay

Building the capacity of the Aboriginal Health workforce to deal with STIs and BBVs is the way to go. And keep the messages simple #IHMayDay

Here too is a recent Croakey report on some of the work been done by Kat and Peter.

A big event on their horizon is the first international indigenous peoples conference on HIV to be held in Sydney on July 17-19 in the leadup to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.

Kat: HIV AIDS fell off the agenda for us coz the #hepc rates are really high, #AIDS2014 gives us a chance to learn from International Indigenous mob #IHMayDay


Healthy Choices: Jody Currie from the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) 

Jody talked about the IUIH’s Deadly Choices campaign that encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to stop smoking, eat good food, exercise daily, and access their health service not just when they’re sick but to prevent or better manage chronic disease. It’s delivering a Health Promotion program in 30 schools this term.

Jody said the results of the campaign are clear: (evidence pic)

We provide evidence to show success n outcomes of services and engagement with community #IHMayDay @PeterDutton_MP

— IUIH Sth East QLD (@IUIH_) May 1, 2014

 #IHMayDay our Deadly Choices Healthy Lifestyle ad staring @sam_thaiday @scottprince7 @TheRealPearl03 @rhysam

Role modelling is an important part of the campaign, which partners with NRL’s Brisbane Broncos and the AFL’s Geelong Cats to use football to engage a broader community.

Our @IUIH_ Deadly Choices ambassadors are leaders in their fields and use their profile to inspire others #IHMayDay

#IHMayDay DC ambassador & NFL star @ThaMonstar Jesse Williams talks about being a role model & making healthy choices …

Some related tweets:

@Elise_Wall: check out @QAIHCphu Good Quick Tukka cooking program helping our mob make deadly healthy food #IHMayDay …

@NACCHOAustralia: No Smokes website w antismoking videos translated into Central Arrernte, Pitantjatjara & Walpiri  #IHMayDay@jpatto12

@SeanAppoo: Why aren’t there more tools like this under development?  This draft App is to help #healthliteracy #IHMayDay

@IndigMTBProject Getting bikes serviced & ready 4 program’s & inaugural #KooriCupJuly rego open now. #IHMayDay

@rebeccaivers: Shout out for the NT Gov remote licensing program too – … #IHMayDay



Healing and youth: Blake Tatafu, talking of his personal experience including with Young Healers

Blake also opened with a personal story about how, at 16, he had faced mental health issues that required him to seek clinical assistance, describing how he was pulled out of school and placed into an adult institution because the youth facility was full.

More so, I did not understand what was happening to me & did not have any cultural guidance/resources to help me through that time #IHMayDay

I was continually offered medication, despite not being on any prior. I didn’t need that. I just needed to talk to someone safely. #IHMayDay

I was fearful of everything on the ‘inside’ & access to my mental health ACLO was EXTREMELY limited. I felt isolated. #IHMayDay

He said the Young Healers program helps young people address trauma from a place of strength and resilience. It ran a survey to guide priorities – see a  snapshot – that showed 60 per cent had family members who were part of the Stolen Generations.

60% of YP felt Stolen Generations policies still impact their lives today with no avenue to safely discuss & start to heal #IHMayDay

Other issues affecting YP wellbeing were social media cyber-bullying, pressure from other and family breakdowns. #IHMayDay


Minimising alcohol related harms: Professor Marcia Langton, Dr Lynore Geia and Mel Riordan

Talking about the impact of alcohol on nutrition, school attendance, vehicle accidents, assault rates and hospital admissions, Professor Langton made the case for Alcohol Management Plans – so-called “grog bans” – in Aboriginal communities to “start the process of healing from the grog epidemic”.

Langton said an Alcohol Management Plan at Napranum in Cape York had reduced violence against women; Thirsty Thursdays, when licensees agreed not to sell alcohol takeaway, had had the same impact. “One day of relief from violence.”

Homes declared dry under Liquor Act, WA & NT improve nutrition status of children, school attendance, work-readiness

Many areas need safe drinking places. In unsafe informal drinking camps, drinkers die; hit by cars, trucks, dehydration

By contrast, she said, hospital admissions for alcohol related violence soared in the NT after the Banned Drinkers Register was abolished.

No political will in NT to adopt a floor price or approve Alcohol Management Plans to limit supply of alcohol #RiversofGrog

More than 20 communities developed Alcohol Management Plans – not one approved

Supply issues need to be addressed regionally. If one outlet has strict liquor licensing conditions, people will travel to next 1

Mob lobbied supermarkets to stop selling cheap bottles of wine – agreement reached in some towns. #CommunityeStandards #FloorPrice

Curtin Springs near Uluru – licenced takeaway – agreed with Pitjantjatjarra elders to not sell alcohol to Anangu. #successful

Mel Riordan from Rural Health Consulting also contributed to the session, talking about the success of the Mt Theo Outstation, run by community mentors and Elders, for young people with substance abuse, self-harm,a nd family violence issues:

Why does Mt Theo work? Entirely Aboriginal run, involves Elders connecting with young people. #IHMayDay

Why does Mt Theo work? There is widespread community support – from early initiation, through to operation and support #IHMayDay

Why does Mt Theo work? There has been development of strong cross-cultural partnerships between co-workers #IHMayDay

With the narrowing gaze of the Abbott Government on justice issues, she gave a timely reminder of the recommendation of the 2009 Social Justice Report that criminal justice targets should be integrated into the Closing the Gap agenda.

Some related responses.

@katgallow: Here’s a piece I wrote last year in @AltLJ on alcohol management plans in #Indigenous communities ($) … #IHMayDay

@mattinthespring: @marcialangton At Tangentyere Research we are in discussions with NTG DoB to work in Town Camps to build AMPs from the ground up.

Policies to address harmful use of alcohol in Indigenous communities must not be based on discrimination #IHMayDay

@HolyoakeWA: Have you heard of DRUMBEAT- an innovative, evidence-based program for at-risk youth #IHMayDay


Directions for the future: Kirstie Parker

Kirstie is co-chair of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee and of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples  (which expects to lose its funding in the May 13 Federal Budget – a likelihood reinforced in the Commission of Audit report released also on #IHMayDay).

Even without the Govt honouring new funding, we’re determined to continue as a voice 4 our people. Support welcome! #IHMayDay

In our sub to the NCoA, Congress called for govt accountability, no cuts to Indig programs & nothing decided about us without us. #IHMayDay

Kirstie shared resources on why racism must be addressed if we are to close the health gap.

Stereotyping reinforces racist beliefs & leads to poor health outcomes. … #IHMayDay

Aboriginal health means physical, emotion, cultural and social wellbeing: … #IHMayDay

This session followed the release of the CTG Campaign’s submission to the Federal Government calling for the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act to be dropped on health grounds.

The CRG Campaign says that if the government elects to go ahead with the changes, it must first assess the potential impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

For #IHMayDay instigator Lynore Geia, the impact has already begun.


Positive male perspectives/Indigenous academics: Social work student Dameyon Bonson, Broome

Dameyon’s session aimed to challenge a “constant barrage of negative images contributing to assumptions and stereotypes” that Indigenous men face, with most programs for them focused on changing their “negative” behaviours.

He posed a number of questions:

  • When was the last time you sat in a waiting room and saw positive images of Indigenous males?
  • How many programs tell Indigenous males they are good at what they do or focus on enhancing their parenting skills?
  • How many programs enhance the inherent strengths of Indigenous males?
  • How many programs support new Indigenous Dads when the mother of their children is depressed?
  • How many perinatal programs are targeted to new Indigenous Dads?

The figures tell part of the story:

The Strong Fathers, Strong Families Program, attracts only $1.36 million a year. It funds 3 states and 1 territory….

…. for example with 85,081Indigenous males in New South Wales that equates to $3.99 per fella. Thats the investment.

Dameyon also opened up discussion on the falling number of Indigenous academics employed in university, with a particular lack in social work.

Here’s his suggested essential #IndigenousX Social Work reading list:

  •  A Theory for Indigenous Australian Health and Human Service Work: Lorraine Muller
  • Anti Racist Practice in Indigenous Education: Stephen Corporal
  • Our voices: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander social work: Bindi Bennett, Stephanie Gilbert, and Dawn Bessarab

Finally, some of his own writing:

#IHMayDay I’d like to share a few things I’ve done “The Colonisation of Desire” …

#IHMayDay I also wrote a poem that was first published on @AnitaHeiss blog “Am I not black enough?” …

Some responses:

@ColinCowell: Great work mate: #IHmayday You can download the National Aboriginal Male Health Blueprint plan here …

@LynoreGeia: @db_1974 have you read the Men’s Report by @WWeno7 ? it’s very informative I used it in my PhD study – did a big consultation #IHMayDay

@jaeleaskehan Uni Newcastle did a lot of work developing the Aboriginal medical program. To date 65 doctors have graduated #IHMayDay


Making economic sense: National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)

NACCHO (who can take credit for the day’s first tweet – at 5.30am!) launched its session, and the day, with 10 reasons why the Federal Government should invest in Aboriginal Community Controlled health, based on its recent report, saying:

 1: Present funding policy results major inequities & service gaps within & between jurisdictions & lacks a rational basis. It will be hard to Close the Gap until these anomalies are corrected.

2: Ending the welfare trap and advancing economic independence. Low levels of education, training and skills contribute to economic deprivation & a range of social/health problems.

3: Pop. growth (900,000 by 2026) is straining delivery of quality ACCH primary health care.  Our workforce shortages !!!Urgent need for an increased government investment in ACCHS

4: ACCHOS deliver higher quality services (comprehensive, whole person, community-development focus)

5: Better health is good economics: Employment in Indigenous-specific health services provides cultural safety & good jobs. Short-term, low-skilled, low-paid jobs where employees have little control over what they do and/or experience racism

6: High value-added impact from education/training spending is the key to healthy futures. Increasing Aboriginal education/training qualifications in health is fundamental to achieving better health outcomes.

7: Incomes for better health: ACCHS wages are higher than average for Aboriginal Australians.

8: Supply/demand disequilibrium: there is a big shortage of ACCHS fully equipped to cater for our complex health needs.

9. Cost effective health economic policy: research shows substantial health gains ACCHS delivery.

10: Benefits beyond economic are a win-win for meeting national policy objectives Health, social, community, cultural.

Some responses:

@MarcJamesBryant: 1st Australian media @AICAINC an essential service in supporting Indigenous suicide & mental illness prevention @MindframeMedia #IHMayDay

@SeanAppoo: Govt to cut back health spending could mean blow out in health cost. Cutting funding doesn’t make the underlying issues go away #IHMayDay


And the verdict on #IHMayDay – by Twitter of course (or at least a few of the very many).


And finally here are some reflections from Lynore Geia about the day, and where next:

“What I got out of the day was a deep sense of personal pleasure that the idea came to pass, and that so many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia pushed out their own personal and professional boundaries and engaged in #IHMayDay.

It seemed to me that the collective passion on #IHMayDay was reminiscent of the Aboriginal activism years of the 70s; but in this case it was over the internet and getting into places and to people that would not normally be accessible in everyday face to face life.

I also feel strongly that the collaboration and partnerships leading up to, and on, the day of tweeting brought ‘a change’.  A sense of hope was tangible over the 15 hours as the Indigenous Tweeps were spring-boarding off professional and personal strength based evidence and experiences.

In addition to this was the support of the listening ears and the re-tweeting that was going on, just as fervent and quick paced by our non-Indigenous Australian colleagues, friends and allies; who were brilliant.

The day would not have been a success without both groups of people smashing the Twittersphere with their passionate dialogue about Indigenous health. At this point I want to thank Marc Tennant @MarcTennant for his inspired idea to make a call out to the non-Indigenous community to listen as well as re-tweeting.

The above points are my personal reflections of the day #IHMayDay; some people will no doubt have different reflections of the day. However, I feel that I can safely declare the #IHMayDay was a resounding success for all involved in getting the Indigenous health message out to wider Australia.

Where to from here?

This is not the end of the story for me. I would like to continue to build on this initiative, as I know many others would like to.

I don’t believe that this was a mere case of “clicktivism” – about making people feel good but not having any impact. Clearly the 25.6 million impressions of #IHMayDay demonstrated the wide interest and engagement with Indigenous health.

So too the involvement of people from a personal and professional level dispels the criticism that this was a discrete academic exercise for the ‘glorification of the personal in academia’.

What I would say to the sceptics and the critics is to broaden your mind, view the conversations, examine the statistics and make time to ‘listen’ with an intent to learn and let it start a process of personal transformation in you to challenge your established perceptions and belief about Indigenous people and Indigenous health.

A new call-out

I have a strong conviction that #IHMayDay was the beginning of a new paradigm in Indigenous health praxis, one that has already attracted the attention of many practitioners.

On that note, I would like to do a renewed call out to readers and those who engaged with or followed #IHMayDay for some feedback:

What difference did #IHMayDay make, or what impact did it have on you at a personal or professional level?

This link compiles all Croakey coverage of #IHMayDay:

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