Major award recognises leadership in reducing Indigenous smoking


The WA Aboriginal Tobacco Control Strategic Leadership Team has been named this year’s winner of the prestigious Dr Bob Elphick Medal.

Aboriginal tobacco control workers from the Tackling Indigenous Smoking Program and the Footprints to Better Health program have joined forces since 2013 to drive state-wide strategies that are helping to reduce smoking in Aboriginal communities.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health Executive Director Maurice Swanson praised the Strategic Leadership Team for unifying the work of Aboriginal health and medical organisations from every region in WA towards a common goal.

“Working collaboratively is vital in this complex area,” Mr Swanson said.

“Each organisation brings diverse skills, ideas and training to address state-wide issues and effectively reduce smoking in their local communities.”

A strong focus of the Strategic Leadership Team is on preventing young people taking up smoking, supporting parents to give their children a smoke-free start to life, and advocating for the expansion of smoke-free environments.

The Strategic Leadership Team have also developed culturally safe and evidence-based resources to increase awareness of the role smoking plays in causing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

These resources are used extensively in one-on-one support for smoking cessation, yarning sessions and community events.

Daily smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have dropped from 50% in 2004-05 to 41% in 2014-15, a major achievement for public health.

As a result, there is an estimated 35,000 fewer daily smokers today than if the smoking rates stayed the same as they were in 2004.

“This encouraging downward trend is a clear indicator that sustained action will further reduce Indigenous smoking and smoking caused death and disease,” Mr Swanson said.

“It is crucial for governments to continue supporting Indigenous leadership and grassroots efforts, as part of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to tobacco control.”

Representatives of the Strategic Leadership Team were honoured to receive the 2018 award, presented by the Hon Roger Cook MLA, Deputy Premier, Minister for Health; Mental Health, at a breakfast in Perth today.

The Elphick Medal is awarded annually in memory of Dr Bob Elphick, a pioneering chest physician who was President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health from its inception in 1971, and remained a driving force in tobacco control and advocacy throughout his life.


For more information please contact:

Maurice Swanson, Executive Director, ACOSH