Australian organisation celebrates milestone as the first winners of prestigious international accolade

AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) has won a Special Award in one of the largest and most prestigious veterinary awards in the world, the International Canine Health Awards (ICHA).

AMRRIC is the first organisation ever to win an ICHA award and was given the accolade in recognition of their extraordinary work in creating culturally safe veterinary and education programmes in remote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Their work has been shown to be essential in assisting and empowering these often remote communities to meet their needs for companion animal health, care and safety.

Dogs serve important roles in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They are valued companions, revered hunting aids, and play important cultural and spiritual roles in Indigenous communities. Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are often hundreds of kilometres from the nearest veterinary clinic and can only be accessed via unsealed roads, expensive charter flights or infrequent barges. The annual wet season results in road closures which can cut these communities off for months at a time.

AMRRIC was founded in 1998 and its unique approach has been based on a deep respect for the cultures and values of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. AMRRIC utilises a ‘One Health One Wellbeing’ model of service delivery, developed over years of dialogue and engagement with Indigenous communities, that recognises dogs as being intrinsic to the fabric of each community, and acknowledges the inseparable links between the health and wellbeing of companion animals and that of their owners and their communities.

The awards, which are organised by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and underwritten by a major gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, founders of Metro Bank, highlight those individuals who go one step further to promote the health and wellbeing of dogs through their work in the world of veterinary science. The winners are chosen by an independent international panel of eminent veterinarians and scientists. The ceremony will take place virtually on Wednesday 30 June at 14.00 BST, and details on how to view will be provided to those who register their interest. 

Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Dr Bonny Cumming, Program Manager and Acting CEO at AMRRIC said: “We are truly thrilled to be the first recipients of a Special International Canine Health Award. To be honoured with this award is absolutely humbling. It’s also wonderful validation of the value and impact of AMRRIC’s work to address health inequities, by working collaboratively to improving the health and wellbeing of companion animals in remote Australian Indigenous communities.

“The international recognition that this award brings will help to shine a spotlight on the continuing disadvantage faced by many remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities when it comes to accessing animal health services. It also assists to cement AMRRIC’s reputation as a leader in the delivery of collaborative, culturally appropriate, One Health One Wellbeing-focused services that aim to ensure communities are healthy and safe for people and their companion animals.”

Alongside this award, Bonny credits the organisation’s ongoing positive relationships with remote communities as their proudest achievement, commenting: “We’d like to share this recognition with the many wonderful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and partners with whom we collaborate. We simply could not deliver our work without our many and varied collaborators.”

In addition to the Special Award, this year there were five International Canine Health Awards, two of which are open global awards: the International Award, with a prize of £40,000 and the Lifetime Achievement Award, with a prize of £10,000. There are two Undergraduate Student Inspiration Awards for students studying at UK veterinary schools, with a prize of £5,000 each, and the Breed Health Coordinator Award, with a prize of £5,000. The Special Award also included a prize of £5,000.
Dr Andrew Higgins, Chairman of the International Canine Health Awards panel and trustee of The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the awards, said: “This is the first year that a Special Award has been given but we were profoundly impressed by the work and the mission of AMRRIC and the excellent work of their veterinary and education teams, enhanced through volunteers, who provide this vital service. I am delighted that AMRRIC are the very deserving recipients of this exceptional prize for an exceptional organisation.”

Vernon Hill, founder and chairman emeritus of Metro Bank, and whose major gift underwrites the International Canine Health Awards, said: “Many congratulations to everyone involved with the brilliant work that AMRRIC do. The services they provide are incredibly important and they are a very well-deserved winner of this award.”

Find out more about the International Canine Health Awards.