NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: ACCHOs prepare for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

feature tile text 'ACCHOs prepare for imminent COVID-19 vaccine rollout' photo of COVID-19 vaccine vialst

ACCHOs prepare for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

This morning NACCHO CEO Pat Turner joined a panel on ABC Radio National Breakfast to discuss how preparations are ramping up in earnest for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Many will get the jab as part of Phase 1B which begins on Monday 22 March 2021. At the coalface, health organisations are also busy tackling vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.

To listen to the episode click here.ABC RN banner text 'COVID-19 vaccines OurJobToProtectOurMOb NACCHO CEO Patricia Turner Fri 12 March 6–9am, photo of Pat Turner smiling

Yesterday afternoon NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey also spoke on ABC radio about COVID-19. Along with human rights advocate and lawyer Teela Reid and public health expert Professor Fiona Stanley, Dr Casey spoke with Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney program Drive about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reference was made to how programs run by Indigenous people work, but programs imposed on communities don’t. Professor Fiona Stanley said there is lots of evidence to show better outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal people control programs, saying “when you give First Nations’ people this power it works every time”.

In terms of ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were kept safe from COVID-19, Professor Stanley said local services understand the context in which their people are living, they know who and where their Elders are and are immediately able to implement the best preventative strategies for them. Only 0.1 per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia have contracted COVID-19 compared to 1.1 per 1,000 for non-Indigenous Australians.

To listen to the interview click here.

portrait photos Dr Dawn Casey, Teela Reid, Professor Fiona Stanley

L-R: Dr Dawn Casey (NITV website), Teela Reid (National Indigenous Times), Professor Fiona Stanley (ABC News website).

Truth and justice commission announced

Victoria’s ‘truth-telling’ commission (launched earlier this week) has been owed for 233 years according to Victoria’s Deputy Premier, James Merlino who said “233 years of violence, dispossession and deprivation. 233 years of deliberate silence. We commit to telling the truth. We do so for the kids who never came home – and those who are still finding their way back. For those who were told they were not allowed to speak their own language, practice their own culture, know their own identity. For the families who lost loved ones in the massacres. For those who were made to feel like they didn’t belong to their own country. And for those who still feel this way. Today we commit to telling their truth.”

The Truth and Justice Commission is a shared commitment between the Victorian Government and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the state’s first and only democratically-elected body for Aboriginal people. Named after the Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba word for ‘truth’, the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will formally begin its work in the coming months. Held independently from Government, and afforded the full power of a Royal Commission, it will mark the beginning of a conversation long overdue, and a commitment to change.‌ It will compel us to confront what’s come before. To acknowledge that the pain in our past lives on in our present.

To view the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and Victoria State Government joint statement click here and to view a related article in The Age click here.

Ms Atkinson, Ms Williams and Mr Merlino in Coranderrk

Ms Atkinson, Ms Williams and Mr Merlino in Coranderrk for the announcement of the commission. Image source: The Age.

Final Call: COVID-19 in aged care facilities survey

Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly have been commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a national review of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). RACF managers (or equivalent) are invited to complete a short online survey about the facility’s preparation for and, if an outbreak occurred, management of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The data will be collected and analysed by the University of Sydney. Survey responses will remain anonymous and no individual RACF will be identifiable. The feedback and analysis will be an invaluable contribution to the report and recommendations to the Department of Health.

The survey will be closing on 5:00 PM Wednesday 17 March 2021.

If you haven’t completed the survey, please do take the time to share your thoughts and experiences with the review. It only takes 10-15 minutes. and can be accessed by clicking on this link.

Your input is critical to continuous improvement in the management of potential COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care.

elderly Aboriginal man and Aboriginal woman wearing paper party hats sitting at table looking at a mobile phone screen

Image source: Inner Sydney Voice website.

National Preventive Health Strategy coming soon

You have until 19 April 2021 to make submissions on the draft National Preventive Health Strategy. The final document is expected to be launched mid-year.

Croakey journalist Melissa Sweet has written an overview of some of the key issues, including concerns that without proper funding and implementation commitments, the strategy will be “another worthy document which does not advance the health of Australians one iota”. Below is an excerpt from Melissa’s overview:

“OMG. The Federal Health Department has released a publication that finally utters the words so many have been waiting SO long to hear. The draft National Preventive Health Strategy cites a contributor saying that “climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge to health, wellbeing and economic prosperity”. The document goes on to note that human health is dependent on planetary health, and that environmental issues, such as extreme weather events and significant changes in climate systems, have had, and will continue to have, an impact on the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

“This is particularly true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have close cultural, spiritual and social connections to the land. In order to prepare for future challenges and address the health of the planet, the impacts of climate change on physical and mental health need to be understood, especially through a health equity lens,” it says. But don’t get too excited. These words don’t come until page 40 and although climate change is mentioned a number of times throughout the document, the draft strategy does not convey a strong sense of urgency about the climate crisis and how it will undermine all other efforts in health prevention without urgent action.

To view overview in full click here and for further information about the National Preventive Health Strategy and how to make a submission click here.

banner with text National Preventive Health Strategy' vector images of city, wind farm, clouds, park, city, road

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Indigenous kids are losing sleep

New analysis has found that Indigenous Australian children suffer from sleep problems at higher rates than non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal children reported insomnia, severe daytime sleepiness and breathing difficulties while sleeping, researchers say. “Poor sleep can lead to health problems and lower levels of academic achievement,” according to Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University Yaqoot Fatima. “Indigenous children suffer from at higher rates of obesity, diabetes and respiratory problems than non-Indigenous children.” School attendance rates among Indigenous children are 10 per cent lower than non-Indigenous children, she said. “Understanding sleep health is very important,” Dr Fatima said.

To view the article 7 News article in full click here and to view a related article in The Conversation click here.

Aboriginal toddler sleeping with head on carer's shoulder

Image source: CRAICCHS website.

Media invalidates Indigenous experience of racism

Gunditjamara Elder Charmaine Clark has commented on the response by national mainstream media to a report tabled last week by the Victorian anti-vilification protections inquiry. She said “the media completely missed the point and instead we saw sensational headlines of Nazi Swastika banned or Nazi flags banned.” In the course of the Inquiry, Charmaine gave her personal testimony, representing the Victorian Indigenous community. Supported by organisations such as the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Victorian Legal Aid Charmaine’s case mirrored other experiences of racial abuse and indifference that many Indigenous people experience throughout their lifetime.

Charmain said “One of the most persistent aspects of today’s discourse regarding racism in Australia, Charmaine said, is the very denial of its existence. Out of all the most sustained political campaigns operating in Australia, the political project of controlling and diminishing Indigenous human rights and dignity is by far the longest. It has cost us much, in lives and loss of access to country, high incarceration rates and alarming mental health and health statistics.”

“Our media choose to personify racists as those Nazi’s or Proud Boys, with the effect that all other forms of racial vilification are at best of lower importance and at worst – invalidated in the eyes of the public consuming this media. It highlights the systemic nature of how perceptions of racism are controlled, perceived and presented to the general public. This narrow definition of ‘racist’ paints a picture to the public and reduces the impact of our calls for action to address racism we uniquely experience.”

To view the full IndienousX article click here.

Charmaine Clark

Charmaine Clark. Image source: IndigenousX website.

Institutional racism factor in health gap

A new report from the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health has found institutional racism leads to a silencing of Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and cultural practices which are crucial to closing the gap in health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Published in Public Health Research and Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, the report was authored by several Indigenous leaders and noted the reluctance in health care structures to address systemic and institutional racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Lead author Dr Carmen Parter is a proud descendent of the Darumbal and Juru clans of the Birra Gubba Nation of Queensland. She also has South Sea Islander heritage and is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health. “Our paper gives voice to Indigenous communities who have consistently said that racism is a critical issue in the provision of health care, as is the incorporation of culture into the design of health care services,” said Dr Parter. “When an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person accesses a health care service, there is always a level of mistrust and fear. A lot of people forget that our health system was one of the many institutions involved in the Stolen Generations that took children from their families and communities — which still happens today. Those stories resonate through our communities.” Dr Parter highlights the importance for health care providers in discussing and addressing racism.

To view the Indigenous National Times article in full click here and to view the related SaxInstitute media release Indigenous leaders call for an end to racism in the health system click here.

Dr Carmen Parter Mayi Kuwayu The National Study of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing

Image source: Mayi Kuwayu The National Study of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing website.

Race conversations program developer recognised

Bundjalung and Kullilli woman Melissa Browning has been recognised at the national HESTA Impact Awards for her contribution to improving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The awards are a national celebration of health and community services professionals working to protect the future of the planet and its people.

Browning was a joint winner of the Individual Distinction Award for her work developing and implementing the Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) program at the Fold Coast Hospital and Health Service (GCHHS). Having a career in health spanning just short of two decades, Browning is one of the only Aboriginal women at GCHHS who sits in a senior role. She is the current Coordinator for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and has held that position for over a decade. Working in the health sector as long as she has, Browning has faced her fair share of adversity.

“I have often been called challenging. I like to reframe that and step away from the angry Blak woman trope,” she said. “I’m not angry, I’m passionate. I do get framed as the challenging Blak woman because I do want to make that change, make that difference for my people.  Aboriginal women are constantly taking the brunt for our community, there are so many inspiring women that have gone before me that have inspired me to keep going in doing what I do. The reason I am doing this is for my people, for the future generations — that is what holds me.”

Browning’s CCAR program originates from the Us but she has worked to contextualise it to an Australian audience. The program aims to talk about racism in a safe space. “Talking about race and racism is always very hard, but I think … to move forward we can’t not have those conversations,” she said.

To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.

Melissa Browning holding HESTA Impact Award

Melissa Browning. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Tooth decay rates fall

A trial of a children’s dental health program in a remote Queensland Indigenous community showed the value of simple health interventions in promoting overall health in Indigenous communities, researchers said. Dental health is a serious problem for some Indigenous communities, with Indigenous children in rural Australia recording up to three times the rate of tooth decay compared with other Australian children. Associate Professor Ratilal Lalloo from the University of Queensland School of Dentistry led the study to find out what effect a simple intervention could have.

“We wanted to test an intervention to reduce that burden – the idea was to take what we considered the main preventative strategies against tooth decay and see what effect that had on ongoing dental health,” he said. “Primary health care workers such as community nurses and Aboriginal health workers can be trained to do these treatments, making them even more cost-effective.” Dr Lalloo said researchers hoped the findings would lead to evidence-based policies and practices in preventing tooth decay in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

To view the article in the Brisbane Times click here and to view a more detailed article about the research in UQ News click here.

Aboriginal girl holding blue toothbrush to her mouth

Image source: The Conversation.

Shifting Gears Summit

What would our health systems look like if consumers were in the driving seat – if consumer experiences and leadership were enabled to seamlessly transform health and social care to better serve their needs? In Australia we do have successful models that have arisen from genuine consumer co-design, such as the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

A summit hosted by the Consumer’s Health Forum of Australia next week (17–19 March) starts off by asking speakers and participants why such reform is needed, and goes on to showcase success, and provide inspiration for future efforts. This is a virtual event with an international cast of speakers and participants.

It’s not too late to register for the Summit (and/or one of the two pre-summit masterclasses).

To join the event, register here, banner text 'CHF Summit 2021 Shifting Gears 18–19 March 2021', orange and purple for cogs with vector medical images

COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Qld Q&A

Health Consumers Qld is hosting a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, including Ms Haylene Grogan, Dr Mark Wenitong, Associate Professor James Ward and Associate Professor Margie Danchin to answer questions from the community about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health consumers from across Queensland are invited to attend another Q&A session.

The Q&A session will take place from 9:30–11:00 AM on Monday 29 March 2021 by Zoom videoconference and “watch parties”. We hope that groups of people may come together to join the on-line session so those without internet access and those who would prefer to be in a group, can come together for a “watch party” .

To register click here.banner text 'COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Queensland Your Questions Answered for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander People Session 2 - Health Consumers Queensland, Queensland Government'