NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Information and FAQs about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People 

Information and FAQs about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 

NACCHO and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) have jointly prepared this comprehensive resource that uniquely provides information and answers questions about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The document answers a range of questions including:

  • Why is the vaccine being rolled out in remote communities when there were no cases there?
  • Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for elders?
  • Is COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with existing medical and chronic conditions?
  • Is COVID-19 vaccine safe for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning pregnancy?
  • What are the likely side effects from COVID-19 vaccines?
  • Can people choose which vaccine they take?
  • Is COVID-19 vaccine compulsory?
  • Are COVID-19 vaccines effective?

Download a copy here: ‘Information about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’

Plan for the best: National Advance Care Planning Week 2021 (22–26 March)

Important life choices are planned, not left to chance. Find out what you can do today to retain control over your medical care choices into the future. Find out more and get involved. Learn more about National Advance Care Planning Week.

No matter how fit and healthy we feel today, there will come a point when we’re not. Advance care plan documents can play a critical role in clearly expressing the care that you’d like to receive – and refuse – if you ever couldn’t speak for yourself. Talk to your GP about putting advance care plan documents together and uploading them to your record. There’s never been a more important time to ensure your health information is up to date.

Learn how to add one to your record here. It’s the safe and secure way access your wishes if you were in a medical emergency and couldn’t speak for yourself.

Some other useful resources include: 

7 tips for strengthening your advance care directive 
7 things to know when making medical decisions for others 
How well do these couples know each other?

Downloadable social media promotional tiles for National Advance Care Planning Week 2021 that you can share within your networks can be found here.

Two years of changing the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The Partnership Agreement provided the platform to negotiate the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a second formal agreement between Australian Governments and the Coalition of Peaks which commenced in July 2020.

These Agreements are historic and they are also leading to historic change across Australia.  Just a few examples:

  • New South Wales has led the way with its government recently entering into a formal partnership agreement with the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations that includes a funding package to enable representatives of Aboriginal communities to engage as equal partners.
  • Significant progress has been made in Victoria that includes its Government agreeing to terms of reference to govern a new formal partnership to implement the National Agreement in Victoria.
  • The Western Australian government has recently pledged $1.4million to establish a new community-controlled consortium to share in decision making under its proposed jurisdictional implementation plan.

View the full newsletter from Pat Turner, Lead Convenor, Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO here.

Multi-language radio ads to promote Indigenous health checks

A major push to improve the health of the Indigenous community has been launched this week by the Australian Government, with a focus on increasing annual health checks.
Backed by a new radio advertising campaign delivered in five Aboriginal languages: Kriol, Yolngu Matha, Warlpiri, Arrente and Burarra, the Government is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their GP and have a 715 health check.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the health checks are an opportunity for early intervention, prevention and chronic disease management for all age groups.
“In-person 715 health checks decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic and the new radio advertising campaign, along with the availability of the 715 health check via telehealth, will help to increase awareness and uptake,” Minister Hunt said.

“The three-month radio advertising campaign is part of our ‘Your Health is in Your Hands’ communications project, delivered in partnership with Aboriginal-owned company 33 creative, who have created print, audio and online content to promote the health checks.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said the Government was committed to increasing the rates of the 715 health check by 10 per cent, as part of the Long Term National Health Plan.

Read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care and the Hon Ken Wyatt MP Minister for Indigenous Australians here.

National Indigenous Times reports on the vaccine rollout

Jason Agostino, an epidemiologist working predominantly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, said the country had come far in the last 12 months in COVID-19 prevention and treatment.

“I don’t think a year ago we would have been in the place that we have a vaccine. We got through the year with zero deaths amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and only 150 cases,” Dr Agostino said.

Though there has been much hysteria around COVID-19 and the vaccine, Dr Agostino encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to rely on trusted Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations for their information.

“The vast majority of ACCHOs will have the vaccine and you will be able to go to your normal clinic that you already trust to get the proper information and get the vaccine too,” he said.

“We do have a lot of people who are vaccine-hesitant and rightly have some questions around it, so what we need to do is provide the right information in a way they trust.”

With the vaccine distribution in full swing, Dr Agostino encouraged all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be vaccinated.

“In the coming weeks we are going to see a lot of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and leaders getting that vaccine,” he said.

Read the full story in NIT here.

gloved hands administering vaccine

Image source: ABC News website.

Racism in high schools and impact

ABC News reported a story on the ongoing racisim directed at Aboriginal children by their peers in one regional West Australian high school.

The behaviour has spread across the playground and on social media, where videos — including one in which a non-Indigenous boy kicks an Indigenous man — are brazenly shared.

Key points of the article:

  • Indigenous students say they don’t want to go to school because of the racism they face
  • The ABC has obtained screenshots of students using the racist terms “gin” and “n*****”
  • The Human Rights Commission and education academics are calling for more education on racism in Australia

To read the full story in the ABC News click here.

No Room for Racism words inside yellow map of Australia in centre of Aboriginal flag

Image source: LibGuides at Ursula Frayne Catholic College.

Supporting Aboriginal children and young people

The Andrews Labor Government is investing nearly $12 million in culturally specific services and programs to help change the lives of Aboriginal young people and children.

The funding boost will provide essential services and support for Aboriginal children and young people in contact with the justice system.

In line with self-determination, these initiatives have been prioritised by the Aboriginal Justice Caucus.

Funding of $3.4m will support VALS to re-launch Balit Ngulu, a dedicated legal service for Aboriginal children and young people – directly addressing their overrepresentation in the justice system.

To read the full article click here.

Young Aboriginal children Quinton and Jasalia Williams with face, hair, hands & chest paint, cultural day on country

Quinton and Jasalia Williams enjoy a cultural day on country at the Nyunnga-Ku women’s camp.

Calls for a new approach to mental health and suicide prevention in Aboriginal Australians

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen Aboriginal health groups leading the response to the health crisis in their communities. Now, there are renewed calls for a similar approach to be adopted when it comes to mental health and suicide prevention.

Featured in the ABC RN Breakfast show:

  • Leilani Darwin, head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre at the Black Dog Institute
  • Professor Pat Dudgeon, project director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention at the University of Western Australia
  • Mandy Gibson, PhD scholar and senior research assistant with the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University
  • Charles Rolls, Quandamooka man and founder of Project Yarn Circle

To listen to the recording click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and cervical cancer

Australia is set to be one of the first places worldwide to eliminate cervical cancer – except for one group: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

ABC does a radio interview on Health Report with Dr Norman Swan, listen in here.

Free 24-hour GP Telehealth service for people affected by floods

The free 24-hour Healthy North Coast GP Telehealth service has been established to support people affected by the severe weather and flooding on the NSW North Coast.
Residents in flood-affected areas who are not able to get an appointment with their regular GP can phone the service on 1800 931 158 to organise a phone or video appointment any day of the week.

Healthy North Coast GP Telehealth can provide:

  • Information, advice, diagnosis and treatment
  • Prescriptions sent to your local pharmacy
  • Medical certificates
  • Specialist referrals.

After their appointment, a care summary can be sent to the patient, their regular GP and to My Health Record. This service has been funded by Healthy North Coast through their North Coast PHN program and is part of the Commonwealth’s flood-relief support program. It is offered in partnership with Telstra Health through the HealthNow platform.

Across our region, local health services have been impacted and some are still closed due to power outages, staff shortages and floods.

The 1800-service is designed to be used if people in flood-affected areas are not able to get an appointment with their regular GP.

The Healthy North Coast postcode checker will tell you if you can use this service. For more info click here. 

In medical emergencies, call 000 (Triple Zero) immediately. If you require rescue, assistance to evacuate or other emergency help, ring NSW SES on 132 500.

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills’ session on Closing the Gap at the AHCWA Conference

Donnella presented on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap at the annual WA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector Conference hosted by AHCWA (tag) in Perth this week.

She spoke about how the 50 peak bodies of Coalition of Peaks represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all areas of life such as health, legal, education, land and water rights, disability support, media and family violence.

“We’re building on the work of our ancestors and the leaders who have come before us,” said Mills.

“We’re working alongside the efforts of First Nations people across the country who are working to improve the life outcomes of our people through the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament. As the previous Government processes on Closing the Gap haven’t been working we are making changes to it to reflect what our communities want and need. And we do that on the basis of what you tell us.”

During her presentation a very talented graphic recorder, Will Bessen, doodled away this brilliant infographic to summarise the key points of her presentation.

We thought it was a great idea and you will have to agree with us on it being a fantastic infographic!