NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Australians urged to get vaccinated

feature tile text 'First Australians urged to protect themselves, family & community by getting vaccinated' - image of COVID-19 vaccine vials

First Australians urged to get vaccinated

This week marks the second phase of the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout which is targeting over six million higher-risk Australians. NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner say last week on ABC The Drum that “While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney MP and Professor Tom Calma AO made time this morning to attend Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Minister Wyatt said “We have done a remarkable job so far in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, we cannot now become complacent. Vaccines are an important tool in our strategy and I urge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to come forward and get vaccinated when they are able to. It will help protect themselves, their family and their community.”

To view the Minister Ken Wyatt’s media release click here and to read a transcript of Linda Burney’s doorstop interview click here.

Ken Wyatt, Linda Burney & Tom Calma in waiting room at WNAHS ACT to receive vaccine 24.3.21

Ken Wyatt, Linda Burney and Tom Calma were among Indigenous leaders to receive their first vaccine dose in Canberra this morning at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.

ACCHO’s first vaccine day incredibly successful

The first words from the first Aboriginal elder in Campbelltown to get his COVID-19 vaccine on Monday this week were those of love and gratitude for his people and those who kept them safe during the pandemic. “I love you, I love the work you do, and the people you serve,” elder Uncle Ivan Wellington told Darryl Wright, the chief executive of the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and the staff of its Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) after he got the jab.

During the pandemic, the first priority at Tharawal was protecting elders. Tharawal health workers visited homes to deliver flu shots and do health checks, telephoned frequently and arranged for deliveries of food and vegetables. “If we lose our elders, we lose our entire library [of knowledge],” said Leonie Murdoch, 62, who was also vaccinated on Monday.

Dr Heather McKenzie, who is coordinating the vaccine roll-out at Tharawal, was excited about getting her injection because it would protect the community she serves. To prepare people before today’s injections Dr McKenzie had run a Q and A session about what to expect. Despite that, some were nervous, including Uncle Ivan who had heard about the rare blood clots experienced by some people. But Ms Murdoch reassured him, “They can treat that [blood clots], but they can’t treat COVID.”

When the medical service texted the community offering the first round of vaccinations on Monday, it was inundated. Every appointment was taken within 10 minutes, Mr Wright said. Dr Tim Senior, a doctor with Tharawal’s AMS, said nearly all the service’s 5,000 patients would qualify to be vaccinated during this phase because of problems with chronic disease and other health issues. “It would be a struggle to find people who aren’t eligible under 1B,” he said.

To view the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

Tharawal elder Uncle Ivan Wellington receives his first AstraZeneca vaccine from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation GP Heather MacKenzie

Tharawal elder Uncle Ivan Wellington receives his first AstraZeneca vaccine from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation GP Heather MacKenzie. Photograph: Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: The Guardian.

The Guardian also reported on the second phase of Australia’s vaccine rollout. It said Aboriginal community health services across Australia have overcome major challenges including floods and wild weather to deliver their first Covid-19 vaccines to Aboriginal elders. “Our elders are our leaders and during the pandemic they continue to show us the way forward by proudly getting vaccinated first,” Dr Heather Mackenzie, from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the highest rate of immunisation among the Australian population, according to NACCHO medical advisor, Dr Jason Agostino, who said “The Aboriginal health sector is extremely equipped in delivering large-scale immunisation programs and has been working hard to support communities during the pandemic.”

To view The Guardian’s article Aboriginal health sector overcoming major challenges to deliver first Covid vaccine jabs click here.

photo of Cecil Phillips, 63, receiving AstaZeneca vaccine by registered nurse, Sam Parimalanathan at AMS Redfern

‘I didn’t even feel it,’ says Cecil Phillips, 62, receiving his AstraZeneca vaccination by registered nurse, Sam Parimalanathan, at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern. Photograph: Isabella Moore. Image source: The Guardian.

Community-based COVID-19 responses among best

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has welcomed the start of the 1b phase of the COVID vaccination rollout to older people and other vulnerable groups, urging the importance of the need for community patience and two-way communication between health authorities and consumers. The success of Australia’s response so far in keeping the spread of COVID to relatively low levels should not make us complacent about the priority of prompt vaccination of all Australians in the interests of our health and of the economy.

It is vital that people get the facts about the vaccine and the rollout from authoritative and readily accessible sources, including government websites and their GPs who, from this week, will be scaling up vaccination availability. The CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said “A convincing example of just how effective community-based responses can be, has been the success in countering pandemic infections achieved by the member groups of NACCHO. The 107 NACCHO groups achieved among the best results in preventing COVID compared to similar entities anywhere in the world and that was because of the strong community engagement and leadership.”

To view the CHF’s media release in full click here.

Aboriginal flag with COVID-19 virus cell shooting across image with flames coming from it

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

COVID-19 information for Victoria’s mob

The Victorian Government has developed a very useful COVID-19 information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities webpage.

The site says there are a couple of reasons why, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is higher and it can cause more severe symptoms. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 years, or who have a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes, asthma, heart and lung conditions, or immune problems, are at higher risk of developing a severe illness associated with COVID-19. Younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can also get COVID-19 and infect family, friends and elders. As a lot of mob often live under the same roof, it’s also harder to practise physical distancing and isolation, which increases the risk of spreading the disease within the community.

The webpage says that in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Victoria, we must all do our part. We know it’s tough, but together we can keep our families, mob and ourselves safe, strong and well. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community sector partners are working closely with government to coordinate response plans and ensure communities have the necessary information, resources and support they need.

close up photo of face of Victorian Senator Lidia Thorpe wearing cap with the word 'Deadly' & black face mask, blurred image of crowd in the background

Victorian Senator Lidia Thorpe. Image source: BBC News.

Updated health check templates survey

The Commonwealth Department of Health has endorsed recently updated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health check templates developed in a partnership between NACCHO and the RACGP.

The NACCHO-RACGP Partnership Project Team is keen to hear your feedback on the templates by:

  • participating in this 10 minute survey open until 1 April 2021
  • expressing interest to be one of 10 primary healthcare teams testing the templates between 12 April and 11 June 2021 by contacting the Team at aboriginalhealth@racgp.org.au

Your feedback will support the team to understand what it takes to get these health check templates into practice and what other innovations can support quality health checks and primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal Health Worker smiling at Aboriginal man lying on examination bed in a clinic

Image source: NT PHN & Rural Workforce Agency NT webpage.

Remote PHC Manuals update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals review process in underway. Monthly updates will be available to health services and other organisations to provide updates on the review process.

What’s new: new Acute Assessment Protocols are being developed to guide practitioners to assess emergencies and guide differential diagnoses.

Coming up next: Expert Advisory Groups have been working to update protocols.

This flyer provides further information about the RPHCM project, including what you need to do to become a reviewer or provide feedback on the new manuals.Remote Primary Health Care Manaulas (RPHCM) logo - Aboriginal painting, path, footprints, blue green pink purple petal flower and horseshoe shapes x 5

Aboriginal-led ways to foster mental health

A report Balit Durn Durn – strong brain, mind, intellect and sense of self: report to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was developed by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VAACHO) to support the final report for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s (Vic) Mental Health System. The report outlines five Aboriginal-led ways to build strength, resilience, connectedness and identity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to create essential pathways for fostering positive mental health and wellbeing.

The report aims to provide an overview of Aboriginal communities’ experience with the current mental health system and offers innovative solutions that have the potential to dramatically transform the Victorian mental health system to better meet the needs of Aboriginal communities.

To view the report click here.cover of VACCHO Balit Durn Durn Storng brain, mind, intellect & sense of self Report to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System report

What ‘healing’ means

The Healing Foundation has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to co-design and develop the state’s first healing strategy. The Dreaming big process identified community issues and themes by the number of times keywords were mentioned in surveys and yarning circles.

The report outlines what over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 80 different cultural groups in over 50 locations in Queensland, said when asked what healing means and what happy and strong feels like. The aim being to help transcend the divide between deficit-based solutions and strength-based outcomes.

To view the report Dreaming big – voices we heard: informing the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing strategy click here.cover of Healing Foundation Dreaming big Voices we hear informaing the Qld A&TSI Healing Strategy October 2020

Healthier smiles in Loddon Mallee

Minister for Health Martin Foley says the Andrews Labor Government is ensuring Aboriginal children in the Loddon Mallee region have strong and healthy teeth. “The $360,000 Loddon Mallee Fluoride Varnish program will help protect 600 Aboriginal children in schools, Aboriginal-specific early years services and Aboriginal childcare organisations at heightened risk of tooth decay. Fluoride varnish applications reduce tooth decay in young children by 37% by providing a protective covering. The varnish also prevents an existing tooth decay from progressing further. The preventive oral health program provides including twice-yearly fluoride varnish applications, oral health promotion and free tooth packs to Aboriginal children across the Loddon Mallee region. The expanded program builds on a successful pilot in 2018/20, which reached 200 Aboriginal children aged up to 18 across the region.”

To view the Victoria State Government media release click here and to view a related article Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative to deliver Fluoride Varnish program click here.

close up photo of gloved dentist's hands inspecting teeth of an open mouth

Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Proposed NT youth justice changes flawed

Australia’s only national First Nations-led justice coalition has warned that the NT Gunner Government’s proposed youth justice reforms will see the number of Aboriginal children behind bars skyrocket. The reforms are highly punitive and will disproportionately drive Aboriginal kids into police and prison cells. Change the Record has highlighted that the proposed law changes fly in the face of the Royal Commission recommendations to invest in supporting children outside of the criminal justice system and move away from the ‘tough on crime’ policies that have been proven to fail. Change the Record, Co-Chair Cheryl Axleby said “If the NT Government goes ahead with these youth justice reforms it will take the Northern Territory back to the dark days before the Royal Commission when Don Dale was full of Aboriginal children being subjected to the most  horrendous abuse.”

The NT Council of Social Service and Amnesty International Australia have also expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the NT’s youth justice system. “This is a callous, racist legislative crackdown in search of a problem,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Advocate, Rodney Dillon, said. “Chief Minister Gunner has picked up the Royal Commission report and thrown it in the bin. Let’s be clear: no one wants youth crime. But cracking down on Indigenous kids – because all the kids in the NT justice system are Indigenous – who have complex needs, by throwing them in jail fixes nothing. What it does is condemn young kids to the quicksand of the youth justice system, and it entrenches recidivism, which is what all the politicians say they want to address,” Dillon said.

You can view the Change the Record media release here, the NTCOSS media release here and the Amnesty International Australia media release here.

painting of 7 Aboriginal youth with text 'free our future'

Image source: Change the Record website.

NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney

Research Assistant (Identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney

The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.

You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.

To view position description and to apply click here. Applications close midnight Monday 5 April 2021.

vector image of kidneys, one sliced showing kidney stones

Image source: Kettering Health Network.

Purple Day

Purple Day (Friday 26 March 2021) is a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness. Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. Motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy, Cassidy started Purple Day to get people talking about the condition and to let those impacted by seizures know that they are not alone. She named the day, Purple Day after the internationally recognised colour for epilepsy, lavender.

Purple Day has grown into a well-known and supported national awareness day with thousands of people across Australia gathering within their community, education and corporate sectors to raise much needed awareness and funds for those affected by epilepsy. You can access epilepsy information for Indigenous communities here.World epilepsy day. Purple ribbon on bright dark violet background. Epilepsy solidarity symbol. Vector illustration