NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Boosting COVID-19 Vaccination Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people


Boosting COVID-19 vaccination support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The Australian Government is further boosting the vaccination program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across 30 priority areas to ensure all Australians can access a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the start of the vaccination program the Government has been working closely with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), states and territories and other Indigenous organisations to ensure every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person has the opportunity to get vaccinated. Now with increased supplies and in response to current outbreak situations the Government is significantly boosting efforts to expedite vaccination uptake.

In partnership with NACCHO, states and territories, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and other Indigenous stakeholders, the Australian Government will immediately accelerate the vaccination program in 30 priority areas including:

  • Western Australia– Greater Geraldton, Swan, Gosnells, Derby – West Kimberley, Port Hedland – South Hedland, Kalgoorlie – Boulder, Goldfields Esperance Region.
  • Queensland – Brisbane, Bundaberg, Cairns, Fraser Coast, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Mackay, Mareeba, Mission River, Moreton Bay, Normanton, Palm Island, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Townsville
  • New South Wales– Central Coast and Wollongong areas
  • Northern Territory – Greater Darwin, North-East Arnhem Land and Barkly
  • South Australia– Port Lincoln

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said this builds on work done to date in partnership with NACCHO, the ACCHS, and the Royal Flying Doctors Service to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a culturally safe and appropriate way.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been a priority for vaccination since the beginning stages of the national vaccination program, considerable effort has been taken to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are readily and widely available for communities,” Minister Hunt said.

“We are absolutely committed to seeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vaccination rates meet, if not exceed, the national target.”

Minister Wyatt said there has been significant work done to date to work with communities to tackle their individual needs and concerns, including countering vaccine hesitancy, in order to boost vaccination uptake.

The Government will immediately provide an additional $7.7 million to NACCHO to amplify efforts to reduce the vaccination gap by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ACCHS and other organisations supporting the vaccination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This will include:

  • Additional vaccine liaison officers employed to work directly with remote and very remote communities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in discrete communities in other areas.
  • Boosting work alongside vaccine providers to support community engagement activities and providing culturally safe messaging, address vaccine hesitancy, facilitate informed consent and conduct health promotion activities.

This is in addition to $19 million provided to NACCHO to date, to support the crucial role of ACCHS in the pandemic response.

Chief Executive of NACCHO, Pat Turner AM, said working with communities was critical to ensuring a successful vaccine rollout for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and welcomes the Australian Government’s ongoing partnership with NACCHO and our sector.

“The recent outbreaks have demonstrated the need to accelerate the vaccine rollout for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. NACCHO continues to play a critical role in addressing hesitancy and ensuring timely and culturally appropriate information is provided to communities to encourage vaccinations,” Ms Turner said.

“This additional funding will further bolster our work in supporting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access a vaccine by the end of this year.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has worked in partnership with First Nations communication companies to develop editorial, social and advertising to reach the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audience.

To further boost these efforts, the Government will also fund First Nations Media Australia, the national peak body for the First Nations media and communications industry, to produce and distribute a package of culturally appropriate public relations content to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about the vaccine rollout.

The partnership includes a range of activities that are planned to support the vaccine rollout, aiming to broaden the conversation around vaccinations, address misinformation and build positive sentiment and intention toward vaccination by using local and trusted voices and sharing positive stories.

The work will be undertaken by a number of local Indigenous media organisations across the country, with a particular emphasis on the areas that are included in the acceleration plan.

Read the full joint media release by Minister Hunt, Minister Wyatt and NACCHO here.

Getting vaccinated is an act of love

Uncle Paster Ray Minniecon was a guest on the ABC’s The Drum on Monday (13 September 2021) talking about how misinformation has contributed to vaccine hesitancy among First Nations communities.

The segment on The Drum about vaccine hesitancy commences at 14:05 minutes, including Paster Minniecon speaking from 17:00 minutes.

Note: image source in feature tile – ABC Nightlife.

Surviving COVID-19 a tough road

When Joanne Bostock was admitted to Royal Prince Alfred hospital last month for a kidney infection, she was given antibiotics and discharged. But later that night she received a phone call from the hospital advising she had tested positive to COVID-19.

“I thought I just have a cold, I can deal with this. But the next morning when I woke up I couldn’t breathe,” she said. An ambulance was called and Ms Bostock was taken to the emergency department. Eventually, she had to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) where her condition would deteriorate over the next few days. Doctors told her family to expect the worst and the dire news was especially tough on her seven children and five grandchildren.

She described her time in the ICU’s pressurised room “like you’re in a sauna or a shower and you’ve got a plastic bag over your head and at the same time someone is sitting on your chest”. The 55-year-old avoided having to be placed in an induced coma and her vitals started to normalise.

Ms Bostock is still in a general ward almost a month later and she is still a long way from recovery. She said she hoped her experience would encourage others to take the virus more seriously. “I was one of those people who were like, ‘Oh, COVID, like this is a little cold’ … but that’s not what happens,” she said. “Be diligent, be safe because I don’t know where I got it.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

pop-up vaccination clinic at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern

The pop-up vaccination clinic at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. Photo: Dan Himbrechts, AAP. Image source: ABC News.

VIC vaccination rate for mob

The vaccination rate for Indigenous people in Victoria remains on track to have more than 80% of people receiving one dose by the end of next month, despite being revealed as less “outstanding” than previously thought.

Victoria was thought to be leading other states and territories in terms of Indigenous vaccination, but the adjusted data released by the Australian Immunisation Register reduced the figure for a single dose to 45%. The figure for fully vaccinated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria went from 30,951 to 12,209, a drop of more than 30%.

NACCHO medical advisor Dr Jason Agostino confirmed the error was due to a bug in a software program used by some GPs in regional Victoria. Dr Agostino said the problem was identified around late May when the numbers recorded in Victoria were higher than the Commonwealth and NACCHO expected, “It took a bit of detective work to figure out what was happening with this medical software and then to correct the records.”

“This is software that is not used much in Australia. It’s not one of the big ones that we use and particularly it is not used in our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. When it’s uploaded information to the immunisation register, if somebody hasn’t entered the recipient’s Indigenous status it just automatically changed it to ‘yes’.”

To read the full article in The Age click here.

Maria Galea being vaccinated by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service

Maria Galea was vaccinated last month by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. Photo: Justin McManus. Image source: The Age.

Orange’s vax rates skyrocket

Western NSW Local Health District (WNLHD) is calling the region’s vaccination rates the most-improved in the state across the last four weeks. Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said vaccination rates across the District have skyrocketed in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, “I’m really proud of our communities. They’ve heard the message that vaccination is the best way to tackle COVID-19 and they’ve stepped up.”

“We’ve seen the first-dose rate of COVID-19 vaccinations go from 17% to 56% for Aboriginal people and from 41% to 82% for non-Aboriginal people. The second-dose rate for Aboriginal people has gone from around 7% to almost 22%, and from 20% to more than 41% for non-Aboriginal people. While we’ve still got a long way to go to reach that 80% goal, the number of people with first doses on board puts us in a really good position.”

“I can’t stress this enough though – we can’t afford to think we’ve done enough.”

Orange is among seven local government areas in the District to have first dose rates at over 80%. The other six include Weddin, Dubbo, Coonamble, Parkes, Narromine and Mid-Western Regional Council.

To view The Central Western Daily article in full click here.

tile text 'I got my COCID-19 vaccine!' Orange City Council, vector of band aid folded in half, heart shape

Culturally appropriate mental healthcare vital

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has recorded a 31% increase in psychological distress for Indigenous adults. At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged between 15 and 24 are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people of the same age.

Reframing mental health care through a decolonised lens driven for and by Indigenous voices is the path forward to ensure sensitivity is delivered from diagnosis through to treatment and care. Psychologist and Palawa woman Jodi Jones says that culturally appropriate access to basic services is one of the biggest challenges impacting Indigenous youth mental health right now.

“Our First Nations people have historically experienced unacceptable levels of inequitable access to these services,” she said, describing the current options as an ‘invisible inequity’. “There is a lack, and significant lag time of young people having access to culturally appropriate health care services in Australia — in every state and territory”.

To view the full article in The Junkee click here.

Image source: Sharp Health News.

COVID-19 vaccine update for GPs webinar

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health’s series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs webinar will be held from:

11:30am–12:00pm (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 16 September 2021.

At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout. GPs and all health professionals are welcome.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM this week will be Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health and Dr Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mental Health, Department of Health.

This week’s GP webinar will have a slightly different look and feel as it will be held via webex. This will enable guests from other locations to join the GP webinar panel.

When you’re ready to join, use this link.

Vision impaired mob sought

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) would like to connect with people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who are blind or vision impaired and are happy to speak about issues important to them to assist BCA to find ways to connect with them and deliver information which is both relevant and important.

BCA holds regular forums to be more inclusive for our mob, and improve their connections. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be vision impaired are being invited to join an Aboriginal Blind Peoples Forum (ABPF) to have their story heard and understand how BCA can support them. The ABPF forum will be held from:

1:30 PM (AEST) Thursday 23 September 2020.

You can join the ABPF discussion meeting via this zoom link.

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

National Week of Deaf People

The National Week of Deaf People (NWDP) is a week-long national celebration of Deaf individuals and the Australian Deaf community, which includes celebrating the International Week of Deaf People (IWDP) and International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) which are initiatives of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).

These two events are traditionally held during September and are based on the founding date of the WFD (23 September 1951). The week is an opportunity for Deaf people to celebrate their communities, language, culture and history; make the public aware of their local, state and national Deaf communities; and to recognise their achievements.

Deaf Australia has chosen the same theme as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) International Week of Deaf People for 2021: ‘Celebrating thriving Deaf Communities’

For more information visit the Deaf Australia website here.