The nation's first Aboriginal doctor has called for a radical rethink of the programs and services designed to assist disadvantaged indigenous families in WA.
Professor Helen Milroy, who was also the nation's first indigenous psychiatrist, said many programs and services were missing the most disadvantaged children while others were too short in duration to make a difference to the lives they were trying to change.
Professor Milroy, who is the director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of WA and also works for the new Specialist Aboriginal Mental Health Service, said programs to address social disadvantage needed to be more child-focused and long term.
She recently returned from a study tour of Israel looking at programs designed to tackle intergenerational trauma and disadvantage and said there was much that could be done in WA to help end the cycle of disadvantage that affected generations of in indigenous families.
Professor Milroy said Israel had a refreshing approach that sought to give the poorest children the very best services and facilities.
By contrast, the most disadvantaged children in Australia often fell through the cracks.
"A lot of the programs in Israel also had philanthropic funding as their base so it wasn't all government funded," Professor Milroy said.
"The Israel approach is very much a can-do attitude.
"If a service is not available then they look at how to make it available.
"There is also recognition that for traumatised kids and families engagement took a long time and programs needed to be long term."
She said changing the system did not have to mean more money, just that available funds were better spent and directed at those who needed them most.
Professor Milroy addressed a meeting of academics, health professionals and members of the Jewish community in Perth last night.
The meeting was organised by the Women's International Zionist Organisation, which helped set up her study tour with the help of a NAB Bank Yachad scholarship.