Dr Tom Calma AO

Past Events

Dr Tom Calma AO


Dr Tom Calma AO - National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking

Dr Calma is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territory of Australia, respectively. He has been involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level and worked in the public sector for 40 years and is currently on a number of boards and committees focussing on rural and remote Australia, health, education and economic development.

Dr Calma was appointed National Coordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking in March 2010 to lead the fight against tobacco use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Dr Calma’s most recent previous position was that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2004 to 2010. He also served as Race Discrimination Commissioner from 2004 until 2009.

Through his 2005 Social Justice Report, Dr Calma called for the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to be closed within a generation and laid the groundwork for the Close the Gap campaign. He chaired the Close the Gap Steering Committee for Indigenous Health Equality since its inception in March 2006 and has recently retired as Co-Chair of the steering committee. The Close the Gap campaign has effectively brought national attention to achieving health equality for Indigenous people by 2030.

National Close the Gap Day is celebrated on 24 or 25 March each year. Dr Calma has broad experience in public administration, particularly in Indigenous education and employment programs from both a national policy and program perspective.

He has served in roles in Australia relating to Indigenous and mainstream employment, community development and education, and as Senior Adviser to the Minister of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Internationally, Dr Calma worked as a senior Australian diplomat in India and Vietnam representing Australia’s interests in education and training from 1995 to 2002. Dr Calma is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment and has spearheaded initiatives including the Close the Gap for Indigenous Health Equality Campaign, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Justice Reinvestment.  In 2007 Dr Calma was named by the Bulletin Magazine as the Most Influential Indigenous
Person in Australia and in 2008 he was named GQ Magazine’s 2008 Man of Inspiration for his work in Indigenous Affairs.  In 2010, Dr Calma was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from Charles Darwin University in  recognition of decades of public service, particularly in relation to his work in education, training  and employment in Indigenous communities. Dr Calma in 2010 was named by Australian Doctor Magazine as one of the 50 Most Influential People in medicine in Australia.

In 2011, Dr Calma was awarded an honorary doctor of science from Curtin University in recognition of his work, advocacy and leadership in Indigenous health reform and Indigenous affairs.  In the Queen’s Birthday 2012 Honours Awards Dr Calma was awarded an Order of Australia; Officer of the General Division (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, through contributions to government policy and reform, and to cross cultural understanding.

Check out Tom speaking on 'Being Proud of Who We Are.'