NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Vaccine conspiracies target vulnerable communities

feature tile text 'vaccine misinformation targeted at vulnerable communities' & image of Elder man receiving covid-19 vaccine

Vaccine conspiracies target vulnerable communities

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner called an emergency meeting with Mr Wyatt and 14 Aboriginal church leaders and remote doctors on Friday (3 September 2021) to discuss alarming numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are hesitant about whether they should be vaccinated as a direct result of misinformation that has targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The group of respected pastors and remote medical professionals confirmed conspiracies and misinformation were circulating in vulnerable communities, spreading fear of COVID-19 vaccines. “The meeting was about getting the advice of religious leaders on how to talk in a way that is respectful of people’s beliefs while keeping people safe from serious illness and death,” Minister Wyatt said.

To view Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.

elder without shirt outdoor setting receiving covid-19 vaccine from KAMS worker

Photo: Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: The Guardian.

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) has also written to local churches asking them to counter dangerous misinformation promoting vaccine hesitancy among Aboriginal communities. Vicki O’Donnell, the CEO of KAMS, said that while some communities in the area had high rates of vaccinations, there was “resistance in some communities due to religious groups and the misinformation that they’re providing”.

“We’ve always had issues around religious groups, ever since I can remember,” O’Donnell said. “This is the first time I’ve come across religious groups being very active around anti-vaccination. And I’ve been in Aboriginal health for 25 years now.”

To view the full article in The Guardian click here.

side profile of face of Labor Senator Pat Dodson

Labor Senator Pat Dodson has called on religious leaders of all denominations to condemn groups spreading anti-vaccine propaganda. Photo: Mick Tsikas. Image source: The Guardian.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services chief executive Jacki Turfrey told Sunraysia Daily says vaccine conspiracy theories have spread like wildfire among Sunraysia’s Aboriginal community. “There’s a lot of myths being circulated about there being metal and metal traces in the vaccines, about there being implants being put into people who get the vaccine, about fertility … they’re actually making our job much, much harder,” she said.

“The myths are out there – they’re ramping up. As a result, you’ve got a lot of people are nervous and afraid to get the vaccine. There’s no counter media that actually goes through and dispels the myths. That would have an amazing impact.” Ms Turfrey rejected the suggestion vaccination providers weren’t doing enough to get Aboriginal community members to roll up their sleeves.

To view the full article in the Sunraysia Daily click here.

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey says incentives offered to Indigenous people are having a positive impact on vaccination rates. Photo: Ben Grose. Image source: Sunraysia Daily.

Yawning divide in vaccination rates

Nationwide, 60.5% of the population over the age of 16 have had one dose, while 36.4%  are fully vaccinated. In comparison, just 37%t of First Nations people have had one jab, and 20.5% both.

New data released by the federal government also exposes a stark divide between Australia’s towns and cities and regional and remote areas. NACCHO’s chief medical advisor Dr Jason Agostino said some of the figures are ‘alarming’. “You just need to look at what’s happened far western NSW to understand what can happen when just a single case of COVID-19 gets in,” he said.

“Without the protection of the vaccine, what’s happening in western NSW and Far West NSW Wales can happen anywhere, so we need to do whatever we can to address vaccine hesitancy and get doses out and into people’s arms.”

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal man receiving covid-19 vaccination

Despite the higher health risks, the national Indigenous vaccine rates are sitting well behind the general population. Photo: Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: NITV website.

Elder praises community lockdown response

Indigenous people across western NSW are working hard to do the right thing in a COVID crisis that restricts their highly social lives and puts pressure on their emotional wellbeing, says one of the region’s best-known elders. First Nations people continue to make up the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 infections in western NSW.

In Dubbo, which has most of the state’s regional cases, Wiradjuri elder Frank Doolan — better known as “Riverbank Frank” — heaped praise on locals abiding by lockdown laws. “I feel a certain amount of pride in my people, even though their circumstances in many instances may not be conducive to this new phenomenon of lockdown (and) it may not agree with Aboriginal people or the lives they lead,” he said. “I have been amazed at just how people are trying to comply with the health laws at the moment.”

To view the full ABC news article click here.

Wiradjuri Elder "Riverbank Frank" Doolan

“Riverbank Frank” Doolan says lockdown restrictions are especially taxing on the Aboriginal community. Photo: Gary-Jon Lysaght. Image source: ABC News.

COVID-19 exposes Australia’s health inequality

Australians, on the whole, are fortunate when it comes to their health. Generally, people enjoy a high standard of living and access to universal health care, and Australia consistently ranks well on measures such as life expectancy and mortality rates.

But beneath gross measures of health and high OECD rankings lies deeply-entrenched, longstanding inequalities. The gap in health outcomes between Australia’s rich and poor is substantial, and has been laid bare for all to see over the course of the pandemic.

Social scientist Julie Leask from the University of Sydney says the fact poorer, more diverse communities are being most impacted by COVID-19 is not by chance, and reflects “deep inequities in society”. “[The pandemic] is an opportunity for all of the public to see the mechanism by which poverty and social exclusion actually influence health,” she says.

In Australia, health inequalities are felt most acutely by Indigenous people and those living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, including in rural and remote Australia.

To view the article in full click here.

CAAC vaccination outreach at Irrkerlantye

Central Australia Aboriginal Congress vaccination outreach at Irrkerlantye (White Gate) Damp. Photo: Kate Buckland, CAAC. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

WA releases Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy

The WA Government has released its first Closing the Gap Jurisdictional Implementation Plan together with its Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy – two important and strategic documents that will guide a future whole-of-government approach to Aboriginal affairs in WA.

This is the first Implementation Plan for WA under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap and was developed through collaboration across government departments and agencies, with crucial input and endorsement from the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA, as well as the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), the only WA-based member of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks).

Vicki O’Donnell, member of the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA and Chairperson of the AHCWA said: “The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is strongly supported by Aboriginal people in WA as it defines the reforms that are absolutely necessary for improving the life outcomes of our people, and our communities. The four Priority Reforms require governments to change the way they work with us at all levels, and ensure that Aboriginal self-determination, leadership, and culture are the foundations for shared decision-making, partnership and service delivery into the future.

To view the media statement in full click here.

Hearing health outreach services report

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report Hearing health outreach services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NT July 2012 to December 2020.

The report presents information on hearing health outreach services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the NT. It shows that in 2020 there were: 2,010 audiology services; 701 ear, nose and throat teleotology services; and 1,004 Clinical Nurse Specialist visits. Among children and young people who received at least two services between 2012 and 2020, 61% had improved hearing loss and 71% had improved hearing impairment.

To view the report  click here.

Aboriginal toddler having a hearing test

Photo: Lauren Roberts, NT News. Image source: Menzies School of Health Research.

NDIS Access Program in Kimberley

The Rural Clinical School of WA, The University of WA have released an article about their study of the NDIS ‘Access Program’ in the Kimberley region. Their mixed methods study explores the barriers and enablers of the Access Program in­­­­­­­ linking remote Aboriginal residents with the NDIS. The study also reports on what types of disability people engaging with the Access program had, their age, gender, and if they lived in a town or a community.

The study found the Access program has provided support and assistance for Aboriginal people in accessing the NDIS. Continuation of the Access Program until 2022 will allow more people to receive the support they need to navigate entry to the NDIS. Provision of services for those who have received an NDIS plan requires ongoing advocacy and evaluation.

The research team wants to continue the discussion around the NDIS Access Program to ensure the rights of remote Aboriginal Australians with a disability are met, in ways that are strength based and culturally secure.

To view the Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the NDIS Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA article click here.

Seven-year-old Kelvina Benny in her wheelchair

Seven-year-old Kelvina Benny lives with her family in the Yungngora community on Noonkanbah Station, Kimberley region, WA. Image source: NDIS website.

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

World Suicide Prevention Day 

One in four Australians report knowing someone who died by suicide during the past 12 months of the pandemic – the equivalent of 5 million people – with social isolation, the economy and jobs driving concerns, particularly amongst women. It comes as two-thirds of Australians (66%) back the Federal Government introducing a standalone national suicide prevention act requiring all government decisions to consider and mitigate suicide risks two years in a row.

The findings are from Suicide Prevention Australia’s second State of the Nation report, which will be officially released this week on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 – Friday, 10 September 2021. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said history showed major increases in suicide were linked to major social and economic events and there was none more concerning facing Australia than right now.

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.

This year, Suicide Prevention Australia is hosting a free webinar form 10:30AM – 11:30AM AEST Friday 10 September 2021 to bring together key members of government, the suicide prevention sector and recipients of our LiFE Awards which recognise work with significant impacts on reducing suicide.

To register for the webinar click here.

banner text 'shining a light on suicide prevention Friday 10 Sep 2021, world suicide prevention day' vector image of one female male & two males with huge yellow spot light

banner text ‘shining a light on suicide prevention Friday 10 Sep 2021, world suicide prevention day’ vector image of one female male & two males with huge yellow spot light