fbpx Advocacy | Danila Dilba


Danila Dilba CEO, Rob McPhee meets with two female politicians inside a DDHS clinic to advocate for the health service.

Advocacy at Danila Dilba

The DDHS vision in its Strategic Plan 2017-22 is ‘that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health, well-being and quality of life equals that of non-Indigenous Australians.’ To achieve this, we have adopted a ‘whole of life’ approach to the health of our clients, taking into account the social determinants which drive inequities in health outcomes. We strive to improve those outcomes through our services and advocacy.

The DDHS Advocacy and Policy team advocate for evidence-based policy and legislation that advances Aboriginal self-determination, leadership and wellbeing. We take an active role in advocating across a range of policy and practical issues that impact on health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people, including:

  • Child protection, safety and wellbeing

  • Youth justice

  • Housing and homelessness

  • Mental health

  • Impact of COVID 19 upon vulnerable populations

  • Indigenous evaluation issues

  • Sexual violence

  • Health systems and funding

  • Alcohol policy

DDHS has become a respected voice in a range of policy areas and is an active participant in advocacy, often in conjunction with peak organisations or other coalitions. DDHS is frequently invited by government, peak organisations or coalitions to contribute to submissions, inquiries and policy processes in a range of areas.

Key Aims of Our Scope of Care

  • Improve health and wellbeing across the life course.
  • Overcome the entrenched inequality faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that their life outcomes are equal to non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Provide the best quality services to our clients by providing culturally appropriate care in a safe environment.

Social Determinants of Health

Social Determinants of Health


Social determinants of health are the 'causes of the causes' of poor health. 

They create the circumstances that contribute to health risk factors that lead to poor health outcomes.

Our advocacy

Child protection, safety and wellbeing

Danila Dilba is a strong advocate for system reform in the child protection, safety and wellbeing sector. We promote greater involvement of the Aboriginal community-controlled sector in family support and early intervention, as well as child-centred approaches to addressing safety and wellbeing.

We work extensively with other Aboriginal and child-centred organisations to advocate for evidence-based initiatives including the introduction of a confidential children’s helpline, a child-friendly and multidisciplinary justice and protection model and legislative reform.

Youth justice

Danila Dilba has a longstanding involvement in the youth justice sector. Our experiences delivering primary health care and youth social support services at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre have led us to extensively research best policy, legislation and practice in this area.

We are passionate about addressing Aboriginal overrepresentation and the high prevalence of complex health needs among young people in detention. We advocate for increased access to comprehensive and culturally safe health care in detention, evidence-based policy, and the provision of therapeutic, trauma-informed models to reduce offending and cater to young people.

Housing and homelessness

Recognising that having a safe and reliable place to live is a key determinant of health, Danila Dilba works closely with other organisations, researchers, community members, and the mainstream health sector to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping in the Northern Territory. We advocate for the development of affordable, safe and appropriate housing to reduce large rates of overcrowding and homelessness, and for better policy to address the root causes of rough sleeping amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Mental health

Danila Dilba’s aspiration is for a robust, efficient and modern mental health and wellbeing system, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination, culture and dignity are respected and upheld in the design and delivery of treatment, care and support. We recognise that as well as the social determinants of health, factors such as culture, language, family, kinship, and connection to land are all vital to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

COVID-19's impact on vulnerable populations

Danila Dilba recognises the uneven impact that COVID-19 has on certain population groups, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being particularly at risk due to a higher rates of ill health and homelessness. During the pandemic, Danila Dilba has consistently advocated for better response planning and policy regarding the protection and safety of long grassers in the Northern Territory.

Sexual violence

Danila Dilba recognises the prevalence and effects of sexual violence in the Northern Territory as well as the ill-informed rhetoric and policy surrounding the issue. Danila Dilba advocates for a different approach to sexual violence, including engagement with the Territory’s context and provision of the necessary reforms to improve disclosure and support for victims, and rehabilitation for those who have committed harm.

Health systems and funding

Danila Dilba advocates for greater investment into Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to provide comprehensive, culturally appropriate primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Danila Dilba believes that Indigenous-led health systems that embrace Aboriginal knowledge, traditions and culture will redress the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by empowering communities to take lead of their health and wellbeing.

Alcohol policy

Danila Dilba has been a strong advocate for legal and policy reform in the liquor industry, providing input into multiple governmental inquiries to reduce alcohol-related harm in Aboriginal communities. Notably, Danila Dilba successfully prevented the development of a large-scale liquor outlet bordering several ‘dry’ communities in Darwin through our persistent campaigning and advocacy.



Danila Dilba Health Service makes submissions to parliamentary inquiries and other organisations that provide recommendations to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All submissions can be found by filtering for 'advocacy' on the Research tab of this website, or here

Disability Support Pension

This submission was made to the Australian Government Senate Inquiry into the purpose, intent and adequacy of the Disability Support Pension and is available here.

The focus of this submission is on the difficulty clients experience accessing the Disability Support Pension (DSP) due to the strenuous application process, exacerbated by contextual challenges that exist in the Northern Territory. As this submission and associated case studies demonstrate, the lack of support for people with disability in navigating the Centrelink system often leads to despondency and a failure to pursue accessing the DSP. This then contributes to poorer health and financial outcomes. 

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

This submission was made to the Australian Government NDIS Amendment (Participant Service Guarantee and Other Measures) Bill 2021 and is available here

The focus of this submission is on the amendments to the NDIS Act that require further change to better service clients, increase their autonomy and involvement throughout the decision-making processes, and better achieve the goal of removing ‘red tape’. 

Mental Health and Related Services

This submission was made to the Northern Territory Government's Mental Health and Related Services Act 1998 Review and is available here

The focus of this submission is on the importance of embedding a human rights framework and person-centred approach within the Act, and the pragmatic ways in which the legislation can be amended to reflect this. In particular, our submission focusses on the ways in which the legislative regime can be strengthened to improve the cultural safety and treatment efficacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

RACGP Revised Prison Standards

This submission was made to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners standards for health services in Australian prisons (2nd ed) (‘RACGP Revised Prison Standards’) and is available here.

This submission builds on Danila Dilba's experience delivering services to young people in detention, and our broader experience providing comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal people in the NT. Our submission identifies some of the challenges experienced by a non-government health service operating within a detention centre, particularly in the absence of any clear standards for the treatment of children. Our submission also emphasises the unique health and development needs of children in detention. Ultimately, we recommend that the RACGP develop specific standards for delivery of health services in youth detention centres, to ensure that these unique needs are properly addressed.

Age of Criminal Responsibility

This submission was made to the Council of Attorneys-General – Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group Review and is available here

DDHS supports the following principles: 

  1. The minimum age of criminal responsibility must be raised to at least 14 years.
  2. There must be no 'carve outs' to this legislation, even for serious offences.
  3. Doli incapax fails to safeguard children, is applied inconsistently and results in discriminatory practices. Once the age of criminal responsibility is raised to 14 years, Doli incapax would cease to be relevant and therefore be redundant.
    1. Prevention, early intervention, and diversionary responses linked to culturally safe and trauma-responsive services including education, health and community services should be prioritised and expanded.
    2. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the planning, design and implementation of prevention, early intervention and diversionary responses should be community-led.
Fair representation of the Northern Territory

This submission was made to The Australian Government Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters: Review into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020 and is available here.

This submissions argues that the implementation of the decision to reduce the NT to a single Federal electoral Division would make the NT a significant outlier in the population of its single electorate. When viewed in light of the geographical challenges and geographic diversity of the NT along with its cultural diversity, high Aboriginal population and strategic importance, it is not appropriate or effective for the NT to be represented by a single member of the House of Representatives. There is no logic or principle of democracy that leads to situation where Territorians have one MP representing 250,000 residents while Tasmania has 5 MPs representing just over 500,000.

City of Darwin By-Laws 2021

This submission was made to the City of Darwin in regards to its consultation on draft By-Laws and is available here.

While DDHS commends the City of Darwin for repealing certain discriminatory laws and for the Acknowledgement of Larrakia, we remain deeply concerned about the discriminatory impact of many of the by-laws contained in the consultation draft. It is clear that while homeless people are not specifically referenced, they are often the clear target of many of these by-laws, which are aimed at addressing and deterring ‘public nuisance’ behaviour. Many of the by-laws will similarly have a discriminatory effect on people with disabilities, particularly cognitive and mental health issues, who may be more likely to engage in conduct targeted by these by-laws. 

Aboriginal Children with a Disability NT

This submission was made to the Australian Government's Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability and is available here.

The focus of this submission is on the systemic failure to identify and address the complex needs of First Nations children with disabilities, particularly those with neurodevelopmental impairment or developmental delay. As this submission and associated case studies demonstrate, lack of support for families of children with disabilities can lead to a perpetuating cycle of parental neglect, engagement of child protection services, school disengagement and ultimately, entrenchment in the criminal justice system. 

Our submission focusses on the benefits of delivering a comprehensive primary health care model, integrating education, early assessment, multi-disciplinary and specialist treatment and therapeutic interventions in a holistic wraparound model. Our experience demonstrates that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are well placed to coordinate and deliver these services, leveraging off existing relationships of trust to ensure continuity of care and support throughout the client journey. 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

This submission was made to the Senate Inquiry into effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and is available here.

Our submission focusses on the benefits of delivering a comprehensive primary health care model, integrating prevention, education, early assessment and intervention services into primary health care. Our experience demonstrates that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are best placed to delivery these services -- leveraging off existing relationships of trust in order to ensure continuity of care and support throughout the client journey. A holistic approach to FASD prevention, assessment and treatment, delivered by Aboriginal community controlled health services, is likely to produce the best outcomes for Aboriginal children and families.