Talei Elu – Indigenous place names for better emergency responsiveness


This life-saving project in the Seisia community of Cape York aims to improve emergency responsiveness for mob to include local Indigenous and colloquial place names in health mapping data. This is a real life every day struggle for mob in Seisia when they call for help – their location not being understood by call operators in the Cairns operations center over 900kms away. This is critical as Indigenous people in the Northern Peninsula Area suffer higher rates of dementia, rheumatic heart disease and diabetes and have lower than average access to quality healthcare.

Led by Talei Elu, young people in the Seisia community and Sesia Community Torres Strait Islander Corporation, the initiative involves the collection of local knowledge and collaboration with the Queensland Ambulance Service to incorporate Indigenous languages and generational place names into health mapping systems. This not only improves first responder efficiency in locating callers but also contributes to the decolonisation of health mapping and preserving Indigenous languages, by recognising and respecting the diverse linguistic and cultural history of the community.

“Using language, accent and Indigenous place names should not be a barrier in receiving fast medical care for mob in Seisia when they call 000. We should be able to rely on operator staff knowing OUR way of saying place names and being informed on OUR place names instead of our people needing to always identify place by colonial names. I want our knowledge of place to be equally important for this vital health service we use frequently.”

Talei Elu (she/her), 30 years, Sabai and Koedal