Abe Ropitini Has A Yarn On His Role As VACCHO's Executive Director Of Population Health


Abe Ropitini is a Māori man of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Maniapoto iwi, with ancestral links to Palawa Country, Tasmania. Abe has been living and working on Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung lands for the past 10 years. Abe has a background in medical anthropology and international development, and has managed projects across eye health, disability, aged care, reconciliation, and digital transformation.

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) are thrilled to launch The Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together (ADAPT) report. The report provides valuable insight into links between nutrition, physical activity and wellbeing amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in regional Victoria. The results were recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The report shows that more than two-thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children met guidelines for fruit consumption, sleep, screen time, and objectively measured exercise, and had low intakes of takeaway foods and sugary drinks. The report is the result of a 2019 health survey among primary school children (aged 9-12 years) in eighteen local government areas of the Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions of Victoria. Students had their height and weight measured and were surveyed about their food and drink intake, physical activity, sleep and wellbeing. VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO is pleased that IHT will be undertaking this survey again in 2022, which will ensure we have a continued picture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s health and wellbeing.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria.” “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.” “What we need to see is Governments and other funding bodies prioritise self-determination for Aboriginal communities” “ACCOs are knowledge holders when it comes to the health of their communities, and they need to be in the driver seat, to deliver self-determined, local programs centred on culture so that Aboriginal kids can grow up healthy and strong in their culture.”

Key findings from the report show that amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids surveyed: · 76% are eating the recommended amount of fruit each day · 21% are eating the recommended amount of vegetables each day · 79% reported eating take away foods once per week or less · 53% had a healthy weight. · 84% are meeting the physical activity guidelines (when objectively measured) · 68% met the guidelines for screen time · 73% are getting enough sleep at night It was also reported that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in Victoria who eat well, are physically active and are a healthier weight, also report better social, emotional and physical wellbeing. Joleen Ryan, a Gunditjmara woman and social work lecturer at Deakin said that “these findings demonstrate that nutrition plays a key role in children’s quality of life as part of our holistic approach to social and emotional wellbeing.” Yorta Yorta researcher Troy Walker said "I think the significance of 84% of our younger ones reaching physical activity guidelines when measured objectively is such a highlight in this data. What's more is it provides such a pertinent strength-based lens on how well and how often our regional Victorian kids have been moving and this was so exciting to see.”