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Indigenous Australians Die 10 Years Earlier Than Non-Indigenous: That Gets Under My Skin

20/08/2015 5:10 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Lynn Gail via Getty Images
Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, Australia, Arnhem Land, Australasia

The first time I got to connect with kids from remote Indigenous communities changed my life.

I grew up in Tweed Heads, a world away from a traditional Indigenous lifestyle, but I was lucky enough to play a role as mentor to young Indigenous girls at the Tjungu Festival at Uluru.

We shared so many stories; while they were fascinated by my life as a model, I was much more interested in hearing about their traditional lifestyle and the challenges faced living in their remote communities.

These girls were so incredibly shy and reserved. It was a real eye opener. I never realised the true impact of living in isolation.

So when it came to choosing a charity to support as part of my time on Dancing With The Stars, it was a no-brainer. It needed to be a charity that was making a real difference to the lives of Indigenous children in remote communities.

I chose One Disease -- a charity that has been set up to help close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by tackling one disease at a time. The first disease on its hit list is scabies.

Most Australians haven't even heard of this horrible skin disease, but it affects seven out of 10 Indigenous children living in remote communities. What starts as an itch can lead to serious health issues and even early death.

For me it's really upsetting that in Australia, as an established country, these things are still happening to young Indigenous kids, even more so because scabies is a preventable disease.

One case that has really stuck with me is a grandma who unknowingly passed scabies onto her grand daughter. As well as the health issues this brings with it, this poor girl couldn't go to school and was relentlessly bullied and teased because of the scabies sores on her skin. Knowing just how shy and how little self esteem many of these girls have, I have no doubt an experience like this would have been crippling and will unfortunately stick with her for life.

The reason scabies is such an issue in remote Indigenous communities is simply because people don't know how to identify, treat and prevent the disease. It has nothing to do with cleanliness, but because it is highly contagious it can spread very quickly through communities.

The approach by One Disease is all about empowerment -- educating the community to recognise the symptoms, teaching them where to go for treatment and helping people understand the steps they need to take to manage and prevent the disease.

So through my time on Dancing With the Stars and now as a proud One Disease Ambassador, you'll see me regularly wearing a temporary tattoo on my wrist.

aboriginal children

It's to support One Disease's #inkforgood campaign. The fundraising campaign is all about the idea that the only thing that should get under your skin is a tattoo -- not scabies. The #inkforgood tattoo is two interconnecting circles and it symbolises how two cultures can work together to put an end to this preventable disease.

So join with me and get #inkforgood trending and help raise money to make a real difference to children in remote Indigenous communities. It's only fair they get the same chance we do.

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To show your commitment to reducing the life expectancy gap between Australia's Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people, donate here and you'll be sent an #inkforgood tattoo. Help spread the word by uploading your photos wearing the tattoo to social media.

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