Tackling Indigenous Smoking with Professor Tom Calma

Updated: Sep 15



Prof Tom Calma is an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory of Australia, respectively. Tom Calma joins Gman on Big Brekkie. Tom Calma has been involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level and worked in the public sector for over 45 years and is currently on a number of boards and committees focusing on rural and remote Australia, health, mental health, suicide prevention, education, justice reinvestment, research, leadership, reconciliation and economic development.


Prof Calma was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2004 to 2010. He also served as Race Discrimination Commissioner from 2004 until 2009. Through his 2005 Social Justice Report, Prof Calma called for the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to be closed within a generation and advocated embedding a social and cultural determinants philosophy into public policy around health, education and employment in order to address Indigenous inequality gaps. This spearheaded the Close the Gap for Indigenous Health Equality Campaign resulting in the Council of Australian Governments’ Closing the Gap response in December 2007.


Prof Calma has since 2010 held the position of National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking (0.5) and he was appointed a Professor (0.4) at the University of Sydney Medical School from 1 January 2015 to perform the role of Chair and Patron of the Poche Indigenous Health Network. The Network is located in 5 universities across five states and the NT. He is also Chancellor of the University of Canberra, an inaugural member of Cancer Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Cancers Leaders Group and recently stepped aside as Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia.


He has many awards including being named by Australian Doctor Magazine (2010) as one of the 50 Most Influential People in medicine in Australia, Indigenous Allied Health Australia’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2014 in recognition of his lifelong dedication to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians and the Public Health Association of Australia's pre-eminent Sidney Sax Public Health Medal (2015) for notable contribution to the protection and promotion of public health, advancing community awareness of public health measures and advancing the ideals and practice of equity in the provision of health care.


Professor Calma can discuss smoking and cancers specifically referencing the population health approach of the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) Program that aims to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by reducing the prevalence of commercial tobacco use. The program has a number of parts including: • Regional Grants to 40 organisations to undertake multi-level approaches to tobacco control, which combine a range of evidence-based tobacco control activities to meet the needs of different population groups within a region. • A National Best Practice Unit (NBPU) • Enhancements to Quitline services • Quitskills training, and • A National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking Evaluation is a core element of the overall Tackling Indigenous Smoking program. Scholarly interests Professor Calma has extensive interest in Indigenous studies research, with particular focus on health, mental health and suicide prevention, education, Indigenous language preservation and economic development. He is and has been a Chief Investigator on NHMRC and ARC projects, is a regular public speaker and co-author of academic and non-academic publications.



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