NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Health will improve when housing improves

feature tile text 'Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health will only improve if we improve housing', image of a boarded house near Alice Springs

Health will improve when housing improves

University of Melbourne academics Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor AC, Senior Research Fellow Mitchell D Anjou AM and Research Fellow Emma Stanford have written an article To Improve Indigenous Health, We Must Improve Indigenous Housing. In the article they say the recommendation of the recent Senate report to re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing is to be applauded, but more importantly, it should be implemented as a matter of urgency.

Trachoma is blinding eye disease spread repeatedly between young children which causes scarring in the eyes, leading to blindness in adults. Sometimes called “Sandy Blight”, Trachoma disappeared from mainstream Australia more than a century ago. But actually, Australia remains the only developed country to still have trachoma, along with some 44 low-income countries.

Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Gambia to be the latest country to eliminated trachoma. Australia had made a declaration in 2009 to eliminate trachoma by 2020 – a target the country missed.

Trachoma is spread by the frequent exchange of infected eye and nose secretions from one child to another. The key to stopping this terrible blinding disease is to stop the spread of infected secretions by keeping the children’s faces clean. In order to do this, they must have access to safe and functional bathrooms. Although some good progress has been made, the process has stalled for lack of safe and functional housing. Inadequate housing has a critical impact on health, including Indigenous health.

To view the article click here.

Aboriginal adults hands holding arms of young Aboriginal child. guiding soapy child's hands under a tap of running water

Photo: Indigenous Eye Health. Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Perinatal healthcare gap a priority

Health researchers across the globe are pushing for better Indigenous perinatal care with a focus on Indigenous-led, community-based solutions.

Yvette Roe is a Njikena Jawuru woman and an Indigenous health researcher at Charles Darwin University is one of about 50 names from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States on a recently published paper in Women and Birth, the official journal of the Australian College of Midwives. They are all demanding better perinatal care for First Nations women to better support mothers from the start of their pregnancies through their infants’ first 12 months of life.

Dr Roe said the mainstream health system routinely failed Indigenous mothers, “What we know is the current system of maternity services is not working for our people,” she said. According to Dr Roe, when compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal women were more likely to have pre-term births, more likely to die during childbirth, and more likely to have their babies die during their first year of life.

For Dr Roe and her peers, Indigenous-led, community-based solutions are paramount to closing the perinatal healthcare gap, “Each community comes with its own historical context,” she said. “[The key is] local people being engaged with local solutions.”

To view the article in full click here.

Aboriginal hands holding baby's hands against baby's chest, baby is lying in a coolamon on a cloth, leaves bark seed pods surround coolamon

Photo: Bobbi Lockyer. Image source: ABC News.

Establishing national First Nations researcher network

A team of 91 researchers, led by four experienced First Nations Australian leaders have come together to establish the National Network for First Nations Researchers. This represents the largest cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers (97%) ever assembled with a single goal of growing the next generation of research leaders. This initiative is a critical part of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through research.

One of the researchers who will lead this innovative project, Chairperson of the Lowitja Institute, Dr Pat Anderson AO, says “The National Network’s vision is embedded in the principles of self-determination with activities led by First Nations Peoples for First Nations. It will build on the extensive legacy and ground-breaking work led by the Lowitja Institute over the last 23 years. Our lead investigators will spearhead the establishment of strong and dynamic governance structures that will ensure an inclusive, transparent, equitable and collaborative approach to achieve our commitment to building Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national research network.”

To view the Menzies School of Health Research media release click here.

portrait shots top L clockwise Dr Pat Anderson AO, Professor Gail Garvey, Professor Sandra Eades & Professor Alex Brown

Researchers leading the National Network for First Nations Researchers project, clockwise from top left: Dr Pat Anderson AO, Professor Gail Garvey, Professor Sandra Eades & Professor Alex Brown. Image sources: National Indigenous Times, Bupa, Burnet Institute, and NHMRC CREATE.

Resilient NSW First Nations people

Indigenous supporters of reconciliation came together last week to take part in a Q+A panel discussing the resilience of First Nations People in NSW with Members of Parliament. In its 12th year, Reconciliation in Parliament is a program of events hosted by Reconciliation NSW to continue the bi-partisan commitment of the NSW Parliament to Reconciliation. This year’s theme, ‘A case of resilience for the First Nations People of NSW’ highlighted Aboriginal communities’ successful responses to COVID-19 global pandemic.

Panellists praised the actions of ACCHOs in communicating clear information about the global pandemic very early to Aboriginal communities to keep them safe. Comments made included:

  • ACCHOs were prepared earlier than much of mainstream Australia, and because of the need to protect culture, understood the risk and took steps to mitigate any risk by closing off communities.
  • Communities worked together embracing covid measures – not complaining or resisting the limitations of the COVID Guidelines promoted by ACCHOs…and provided practical help to each other, networking and sharing what was working.
  • One of the key strengths is our culture of connectivity which served us during the pandemic as we were all communicating / connected / informed.

The panel also warned of new health epidemics looming – even higher trends of intergenerational trauma, overrepresentation of kids in out of home care and juvenile justice.

To view the full article click here.

blurred background of green hill & people, clear image Aboriginal man with Aboriginal flag mask, ochre beanie, denim jacket, strap of black backpack looking serious

Image source: SBS NITV website.

Vaccinating 3,500 across 75,000 sq kms

Five hours’ drive from Darwin, Barunga laundromat manager Frederick Scrubby, 55, is not convinced that he should get the COVID-19 vaccination. Mr Scrubby, a community leader, said COVID-19 affected people far away, in Sydney and Melbourne. “None of my mob is infected,” he told Aboriginal health practitioner Raelene Brunette. She is going door to door in Barunga and nearby Beswick to address fears and explain how important the vaccine was to keeping elders — and their culture — alive. Sitting on a chair in the red dirt outside his laundromat, Mr Scrubby said he would have the jab if Ms Brunette had it first. Agreed, she said.

With a total of 149 cases and no deaths, Indigenous Australians have done so well at keeping COVID-19 at bay — many remote communities closed the gates to outsiders last year — that many people think it is no longer a threat. Some Aboriginal people have told Ms Brunette they’d rather go bush and hide instead of risking a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Therapeutic Goods Association has reported 18 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, including one death, from the first 1.8 million doses of AstraZeneca given in Australia.

Senior Indigenous health leaders meeting in Katherine expressed serious concerns about increasing resistance to getting vaccinated. John Paterson, the chief executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), said members were reporting community hesitance “because of the media around blood clotting [associated with AstraZeneca vaccine]“. AMSANT represents 26 Aboriginal-controlled medical services.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

Binjari man Christopher Frith, 62 (red black white grey polo shirt, long grey beard & hair on balding head) get's covid-19 vaccine at Katherine's Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service, looks worriedly to the side as the vaccine is injected

Binjari man Christopher Frith, 62 gets the shot at Katherine’s Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service, Photo: Rhett Wyman. Image source: Brisbane Times.

Family violence supports discriminate

The fact that many Australians recognise the names of people like Hannah Clarke and Rosie Batty and little Kobi Shepherdson, the fact that strangers march in the streets calling for justice on their behalf, is a reflection of the increasing consciousness of domestic and family violence in this country. But for all the hard-fought gains in putting this issue on the national agenda, a stunning lack of attention has been dedicated to one of the most critically impacted groups: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Have you heard of Tamica Mullaley and her son, Charlie, for example? What about Jody Gore? They have endured family violence so shocking you’d imagine their names dominating front pages and news bulletins. But, no. Their names are barely spoken, their stories little told. There are no nationwide vigils or street-filling marches.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal woman with hand out-stretched in front of face with the word enough written palm of hand

Image source: SBS NITV website.

What GPs can expect from the Budget

Responding to the 2021–22 Federal Budget, RACGP President Dr Karen Price said additional funding for primary care, aged care and mental health is welcome, but the finer details ‘make all the difference’. RACGP newsGP have prepared a summary of the major measures affecting GPs, under the headings: primary care, COVID-19 response, Medicare, aged care, rural health, mental health, and disability.

To view the article click here.

copies of cover of 3 Budget 2021–22 budget paper

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Kidney Disease Webinar TOMORROW

Kidney Health Australia is hosting a Health Professional Webinar Chronic Kidney Disease & Acute Kidney Injury presented by Professor Karen Dwyer tomorrow evening Tuesday 18 May at 7:30 PM AEST. You can view a flyer here.

If you have not registered and are interested in attending, you can register up until the day here.

Kidney Health Australia logo large letter 'K' with elongated half circles in white either side of the join of the 'K', blurred image of Aboriginal man in the background & blood flowing through dialysis machine

Image of dialysis patient from SBS NITV website.