NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Health problems dire long before COVID-19

feature tile text 'ATSI health problems dire long before COVID-19 hit' & image of Aboriginal man on dialysis Purple House

Health problems dire long before COVID-19

According to Brewarrina GP Dr Sonia Henry the recent headlines about the northwest of NSW have been clear in their message. Here are two: “Australia’s failure to vaccinate Indigenous Australians” and “Funeral in Wilcannia leads to COVID-19 spread”. Anyone who has lived or worked in remote Australia with Indigenous populations knows the real headline should be: “Australia’s failure of its Indigenous people – full stop”.

The reason Indigenous populations are so “vulnerable”, as we say, is that we effectively have created a two-tiered health system where this is inevitable, long before COVID-19 and long after.

Dr Henry says Brewarrina shares many similarities to Wilcannia (about 500 kms away), where COVID-19 is spreading through the Indigenous population. We all know if COVID-19 were to explode here, not only would issues such as overcrowding and food be problematic (we have two tiny shops, both of which would be forced to close if there were a big outbreak), but also what is always an issue – how to get decent medical care.

To view the article in full click here.

mural on Moorundi Aboriginal Community Health Service building, Raukkan, SA

A mural on the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Health Service building, Raukkan, SA. Photo: Coorong Council. Image source: The Australian. Image in feature tile: NITV news website.

ACCHO trying to meet high vaccine demand

Awabakal Ltd, which runs an Aboriginal medical service in the Hunter, has been running regular vaccination clinics to try and meet the high demand. They have been inundated with requests for appointments and are doing what they can to progress their waiting lists as quickly as possible, although demand far outweighs current supply.

Awabakal is considering mobile vaccination services. “We are in the process of assessing suitable locations and will actively seek to provide outreach services in the coming weeks,” it said.

Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Andrew Smith said Aboriginal people often relied on organisations like Awabakal for health care, rather than GPs. “We don’t necessarily participate in the mainstream health sector like everyday Australians do. Generally we don’t get any help until it’s almost the 11th hour. Wilcannia and other communities are a clear example of where we are continuously being left behind and put in the too-hard basket.”

To view the article in full click here.

Worimi Local ALC Andrew Smith receiving first jab

Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Andrew Smith receiving first Pfizer vaccination. Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Community-led programs to reduce family violence

Nine service providers across Australia have received a share of $13.5 million for targeted community-led programs to reduce violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. This funding is part of $35.3 million for Indigenous-specific measures under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said each of these measures were driven by the experiences and expertise of local Indigenous communities. “Breaking the cycle of violence requires community-driven approaches that prioritise cultural healing and family restoration,” Minister Wyatt said. “Putting Indigenous experience at the heart of our efforts is absolutely crucial to reducing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.”

To view the media release in full click here.

rear shot of three Aboriginal women in dim light, dusk

Image source: The Conversation.

Indigenous Eye Health Measures 2021

On Monday this week (1 September 2021) the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) launched its Indigenous eye health measures 2021 report which shows measurable progress towards improving the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Despite the pandemic’s impact, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist continued to grow, reaching 104,300 in 2019-20 (compared to 100,700 in 2018-19).

The report also highlights some of the continuing challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in accessing the eye care they need, such a wait times substantially longer for cataract surgery (a median number of 124 days) than for other Australians (82 days).

Vision 2020 Australia says investing in public provision of priority treatments (such as cataract surgery and treatments for diabetic eye disease), supporting development of community led models and building local case management that can help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people connect to, and remain engaged with, treatment are all critical.

Vision 2020 Australia continues to call for Australian Government investment in these and other priority areas so that we can achieve the goal of ending avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by 2025.

You can read Vision 2020 Australia’s media release in full here and access the AIHW Indigenous Eye Health Measures 2021 report here.cover of AIHW Indigenous eye health measures 2021 report

Old homelessness interventions don’t work

A government taskforce looking at Adelaide’s Aboriginal homelessness population has found COVID-19 lockdown shelters which permitted alcohol consumption and yarning circles led by Indigenous translators and leaders were more successful than traditional responses.

The taskforce’s report found that unless changes occur to understand and help the “constantly changing groups of people” who gather in the City of Adelaide and Adelaide Parklands, there will continue to be “severe” health and safety consequences of Aboriginal people. “Tragically, this includes a significant but unknown number of Aboriginal people dying prematurely in the heart of the City of Adelaide,” the report says.

Some of the 30 recommendations include decriminalising public drunkenness, funding more Aboriginal health workers, and pursuing tenancy reform to support more culturally appropriate housing.

To view the article in full click here.

homeless person lying on ground covered entirely with blanket, next to shopping trolley

Image source: CityMag website.

First Nations’ community development framework

Community First Development’s (CFD) latest publication A First Nations’ Approach to Community Development: our community development framework results from over 20 years of experience and practice working alongside First Nations’ communities.

Alyawarre woman, Ms Pat Anderson AO, known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for the health of Australia’s First Peoples, said, “It is my view that  Community First Development’s Community Development Framework is an essential guide in the field of community development, both in Australia and internationally. This practical and ethical guide is the culmination of conversations shared, relationships nurtured, and activities facilitated. I encourage you to read and reflect on this guide and consider how your initiatives can respect, promote, and fulfil the right to self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

To learn more, join a webinar with special guests Ms Pat Anderson AO, Stephanie Harvey, CEO regional staff and representatives from two communities from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Wednesday 8 September. To register click here.

cover of 'A first nations' Approach to Community Development', image of two Aboriginal boys sitting on back of a ute

Overdose deaths remain stubbornly high

International Overdose Awareness Day, marked on Tuesday this week (31 August 2021) is proclaimed as the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

It also comes with an urgent demand for action on a number of fronts according to Professor Dan Lubman and Associate Professor Suzanne Nielsen, from Turning Point and the Monash Addiction Research Centre who have written:

‘Unfortunately, the number of Australian deaths from unintentional overdose remains higher than the national road toll, and deaths involving heroin and climbing. We build safety barriers on our roads to reduce fatalities, but too often our response to drug use is just to park the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. As heroin harms increase, we need to rapidly upscale a broader range of treatment options, and remove as many barriers to care as possible.’

‘Pilots and trials are welcome, but we’ve had evidence-based solutions to the problem of overdose for a long time. They should be implemented everywhere and without further delay. As we’ve seen with other public health responses, small, slow steps in the right direction are not enough in the race to save lives.’

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

purple ribbon, black background, text in chalk font 'Drug Overdose Awareness'

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

Women’s Health Week

In 2013, realising there was no event dedicated to women’s health in Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health ran the very first national Women’s Health Week. Women’s Health Week held from Monday 6 to Friday 10 September 2021 is a nation-wide campaign of events and online activities – all centred on improving women’s health and helping women to make healthier choices. For more information click here.

During Women’s Health Week the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention will hold its final public hearing with a focus on the mental health concerns and systems that impact women.

Chair, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The Committee commends the work of Jean Hailes in continuing Women’s Health Week. When we support women in accessing mental health care, as and when they need it, we improve women’s overall health, boost women’s participation in the workforce, and support Australian families.’ To view the Parliament of Australia’s media release in full click here.

Aboriginal mother & two young children, girl, boy

Image source: Jean Hailes for women’s health website.