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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hearing Policy needs a united approach: Greens

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 20 Sep 2011

The Australian Greens have called for the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hearing Policy.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health said today that hearing loss was undeniably linked to long term disadvantage.

“Hearing loss early in life can have long-term negative consequences for communication, numeracy and literacy skills, reducing employment and training prospects and effecting personal wellbeing,” Senator Siewert said today. 

“It has been estimated that Aboriginal children experience ear disease for an average of 2.5 years, compared to an average of 3 months for non-Aboriginal Children. When experiencing even mild to moderate hearing loss, children find it more difficult to hear their teachers and to participate in class room activities, which inevitably effects their education.

“Many of the factors linked to hearing loss can increase the potential for people to become involved with the criminal justice system and is believed to be linked to the continuing over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody.

“Screenings conducted in prisons in the Northern Territory found that over 90% of Aboriginal prisoners suffer from some form of ear infection or hearing loss.

“The links between childhood hearing health, educational outcomes and interaction with the justice system have been documented in both the Senate’s Hear Us report and the House of Representative’s Doing Time, Time for Doing report on juvenile justice.

“Both reports contained important recommendations around hearing health and access to justice which are yet to be fully implemented.

“To move this issue along I am hosting a Aboriginal Children’s Hearing Health Forum in Canberra, with the aim of a collaborative discussion around the formation of a national action reference group to guide action on hearing health issues.

“This issue deserves a united, cross party approach and I encourage all MPs to attend the forum,” Senator Siewert concluded.

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