Jacqui Dunn, nurse and Healthy Futures volunteer, recaps the ANMF Vic Branch's Health & Environmental Sustainability Conference and our achievements there. The conference was held on Friday 29th April at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
The ANMF ran their inaugural HESC conference only 4 years ago, and now it has grown to become one of the year's conference highlights.
Another year, another great conference, with inspirational leaders from science, cooking, farming, nursing, and holistic care speaking to over 560 nurses and midwives.
The Healthy Futures team of volunteers gathered early on the Friday morning to prepare for a full day of campaign conversations. As always, headed by the ever organised Harry and assisted by Felicity we were raring to go. A few early signatures were gained on the street before people even entered the conference site. Some of us were lucky enough to be able to attend the conference as well.
Ian McBurney MC'd the conference grasping our attention by encouraging us to take 3 deep breaths, Ian then reminded us how intricately we are linked to our environment and those around us. Each breath that we inhale has the exhaled air of those around us, said Ian, even the exhaled air of those in the distant past, like Julius Caesar or Einstein, for example. Myself and those in the audience where now ready for the greatly anticipated conversations that would follow.
Stephanie Alexander spoke passionately and with great humour about her kitchen garden program and the concept that delicious food IS a priority. She reminded us that teaching Australian children this through her school programs at a young age, will help to combat obesity and a multitude of health problems.
My favourite quote from her is a borrowed one from food journalist Michael Pollan: 'eat food, not too much, mostly plants'. What a fantastic, simple guide to healthy eating.
Dr Anu Chand took the stage to discuss the climate change and public health policy assessment presented at COP21 in Paris last year. It highlighted the huge gaps in public health policy and international governments' abilities to deal with the health crises predicted from climate change in the coming years.
Dr Susan Brumby (Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health) showed us her work with farming communities around Australia - one of the most vulnerable populations, who are already dealing with the effects of climate change; with increasing intensity and frequency of heatwaves and droughts.
Robyn Whiting - theatre nurse from RMH presented her amazing results with dramatic waste disposal savings financially and environmental by changing the culture at RMH theatre.
Louis Wright and Sharon McNulty from Monash Health presented their World First, innovative steam cleaning and microfibre program. This has significantly increased effectiveness of germ removal, decreased accidents and health issues associated with cleaning, not to mention the fabulous environmental effects of no longer having toxic products as part of standard cleaning process.
Tracie Lund from Morwell Community Health gave us a first hand account of the short term effect of the Hazelwood coal fire on the local community. This fire raged for 45 days and exposed the surrounding towns to toxic smoke, the long term effects of such a tragic event on the health of Morwell's residents is yet to be seen. Not a dry eye in the house.
Victoria McKenzie-McHarg from the Australian Conservation Fund gave an uplifting speech about environmental campaigns and the strength of the Australian people to stand up a fight for their amazing climate, culminating last year in the people's climate march.
David Karoly (Professor of Atmospheric Science from Melbourne University) confirmed irrefutably that humans are causing global warming and that it is already happening here and now. He also confirmed that 'we have the means to limit climate change now and build a more prosperous, sustainable and healthier future... and the easiest thing that you can do is invest your super in a zero fossil fuels investment scheme.'
Ros Morgan ESO and ICU nurse from Monash Health asked us to 'forget all the reasons why it wont work and believe the one reason that it will', sharing with us that she had about 100 reasons why she should say no to the job of sustainability officer but some great reasons to say yes.
Finally Kate Borradaile (Holistic Counsellor and Nurse) closed with some lessons on accessing the healing power of nature, reminding us that in our race to have more, we end up with less. She encouraged us to slow down and notice what is around us, to listen, watch, immerse and unwind.
The issues discussed by influential speakers at the conference are only the tip of the iceberg, a very minor insight into the increasing list of issues Australians and health professionals face in the evolving climate crisis.
The Healthy Futures stall was visited by hundreds of people, with countless petitions signed, followed by some fantastic discussions started about divestment from fossil fuels. Our friends David Karoly, Anu Chand and Victoria McKenzie-McHarg gave Healthy Futures a mention - encouraging everyone attending to sign our petitions and take action to divest their super from fossil fuels.
We even had a representative from First State Super visit our stall to see what all the fuss was about, as we often had a queue of people patiently waiting to sign the petitions!
After the conference the remaining volunteers gathered close to Clarendon St as conference attendees were hurrying past, where we took the opportunity to secure just a few more signatures. A photo opportunity with David Karoly presented itself - which none of us could resist!
The day could be seen as nothing but successful, with over 100 petition signatures and over 560 nurses and midwives informed about the ill effects of their super investments, and how they can easily mobilise to make a big difference.
Well done and thank you to all the volunteers and supporters.
Jacqui Dunn is a nurse and a volunteer for Healthy Futures based in Melbourne.