NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: New COVID-19 variant arrives in Australia

feature tile text 'new COVID-19 variant Omicron arrives in Australia' & image of virus cell

New COVID-19 variant arrives in Australia

The new COVID-19 variant Omicron has arrived in Australia, with two returned travellers in Sydney testing positive to the strain. There’s still a lot that’s unknown about Omicron. It has health authorities worried because of its large number of mutations. And it appears more likely to reinfect people than other strains.

But while countries including Australia were quick to ban travellers from nine southern African nations, Professor Anthony Zwi from UNSW argues this isn’t the answer. It may slow the spread and buy limited time, but it’s unlikely to stop Omicron.

Instead, he says, countries should focus on interventions that work, including physical distancing, well-fitted masks and good ventilation, as well as testing, contact tracing and isolating. And wealthy countries should support African nations that take prompt action against variants of concern, and help them boost low vaccination rates.

To view the full article in The Conversation click here.

Danila Dilba Health Service turns 30

This year marks Danila Dilba Health Service’s 30th anniversary and to celebrate this significant milestone an official dinner is being held at the Darwin Convention Centre from 6:30 PM Saturday 4 December, hosted by Rob Collins and Shari Sebbens.

The night will be a look back on an incredible 30 years and provide an opportunity to hear from prominent figures locally and nationally, to mark three decades of providing primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Darwin.

Danila Dilba has been an important part of the Darwin community and a crucial part of Darwin’s history. The dinner will bring together the Darwin community, their founding members, current and former staff as well as significant organisations locally to celebrate this milestone together.flyer text 'celebrating 30 years of Danila Dilba Health Service Saturday 4 December, 2021, Darwin Convention Centre'

False COVID-19 rumours still spreading

The Australian Defence Force is supporting the vaccination in the NT areas that are impacted by the latest outbreaks by offering COVID-19 vaccine to communities. Claims that there are forcible vaccinations are false. It’s important people get information from trusted and reliable sources.

There is a lot of misinformation on social media so it is best to talk to the Aboriginal Medical Service health staff instead and look at credible sites for good advice.

In the videos below, Thomas Mayor, Kaurareg Aboriginal and Kalkalgal, Erubamle Torres Strait Islander, from Larrakia Country, NT and Dr Mark Wenitong NT address the COVID-19 rumours including ones involving Aboriginal communities and the Army.

CAAC CMO calls for NT vax passport

The top doctor at one of Central Australia’s key Aboriginal health bodies has renewed calls for a “vaccine economy” in the NT, where access to all venues would require patrons to have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) Dr John Boffa said first-dose vaccination rates among Indigenous clients had improved by 10% across the region in the last fortnight. According to recent data from the Australian Immunisation Register, 72.5% of CAAC clients had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Alice Springs. In the MacDonnell LGA, that figure was almost 78%, while it was still below 70% in the Central Desert LGA.

Dr Boffa said demand for the vaccine increased alongside the latest outbreak affecting Katherine and nearby remote communities, Binjari and Rockhole, but it had started to wane in recent days. “At the rate we’re going, in two weeks’ time we’ll be above 80% first dose but it looks like it might drop off,” Dr Boffa said.

To view the ABC news article in full click here.

Influential Central Australians, Sabella Turner, Paul Ah Chee (front), Michael Liddle and Donna Ah Chee, after receiving their vaccinations. Photo: Samantha Jonscher, ABC News.

Child protection processes harming kids

Child protection processes in Australia have a history of injustice that disproportionately targets and harms First Nations children, families and communities. As a result, contemporary child protection systems and associated professions have sought to distance themselves from explicitly racist past policies and practices by apologising for their past involvement in the Stolen Generations and committing to change.

Yet child protection systems continue to operate on assumptions about race and class that increase inequalities and injustices against First Nations families. In a Queensland study published in 2018 that used data from 2010-2011, Indigeneity was found to be a greater predictor of “subsequent child protection reports and investigations than a rating of ‘high risk’ on child protection’s risk assessment tool”. Another study in Western Australia found, when controlled for all other factors, Aboriginality was associated with almost double the risk of infant removal.

Understandings of risk, child abuse and neglect are often biased in favour of white middle-class parenting practices. This can lead to over-surveillance of First Nations families, and a flawed notification system.

To view the article in full click here.

Photo: Joel Carrett, AAP. Image source: InDaily.

My Health Record upgraded

An upgrade to My Health Record last Thursday 25 November 2021  includes a COVID-19 vaccination dashboard as well as other enhancements.

The new COVID-19 vaccination dashboard for consumers brings together, in one place, information from the Australian Immunisation Register and My Health Record related to a consumer’s COVID-19 vaccination journey. The dashboard includes vaccination details, COVID-19 test results, relevant medicines and allergy information from My Health Record and links to the COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder and side effect checker.

The dashboard is easily available from a new COVID-19 Dashboard tab and can be used as a quick reference when answering questions before a vaccination or booster dose or to get proof of vaccination. You can view an example of the dashboard screen here and find more information here.

Other enhancements include:

  • Consumers can now download their COVID-19 digital certificate from My Health Record to a digital wallet.
  • COVID-19 test results are available to consumers as soon as they are uploaded (removing the previous 24-hour delay).
  • The profile page includes new fields for consumers to add their preferred language and country of birth. This is an important step to capturing cultural diversity in My Health Record. In future, healthcare providers will be able to see these fields, which may help in providing care to their patients.

If consumers need assistance at any time, they can contact the Help line on 1800 723 471 and select option 1. Call charges may apply for mobile phones.

Prevent, test, treat to eliminate HIV

This HIV Awareness Week, and in the lead up to World AIDS Day, NSW Health, is encouraging people across the state at risk of HIV to get tested. As NSW opens up, it is a good time for the community to speak to a healthcare professional about HIV testing and prevention options available to them.

NSW Health, Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant said the state has made great progress in the virtual elimination of the virus however testing rates are down from last year, driven by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve come a long way over the last 40 years and have many new tools to help prevent HIV transmission including effective HIV treatment, condoms, sterile injecting equipment, and prevention medication – PrEP,” Dr Chant said. “Early testing and diagnosis linked to treatment prevents transmission and enables people living with HIV to enjoy a long and healthy life.”

From January to September 2021, 141 NSW residents were diagnosed with HIV, a decrease of 31% compared to the average for the last five years. This decline was likely driven by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted movement, as people remained at home.

To view The Pulse article in full click here

gloved hand holding test tube with HIV positive box ticked

Image source: The Conversation.

VACCHO CEO to advise on aged care

VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO, is one of 17 prominent Australians appointed to the new National Aged Care Advisory Council, which will guide the implementation of the Federal Government’s $17.7 billion aged care reforms – led by a former Victorian Shadow Minister for Ageing and Carers.

The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, noted that the new Council is a departure from the previous principal aged care advisory group – the Aged Care Sector Committee, which ended in June – as it includes operators with direct experience within the sector. “Our intention is to ensure we have strong representation across five consumer groups, including Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse, carers and advocacy groups,” he said.

To read the full article in The Weekly Source click here.

portrait shot of Jill Gallagher, VACCHO CEO

VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO.

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.

Decembeard/hair to beat bowel cancer

Help Bowel Cancer Australia spread the important bowel cancer awareness message to your colleagues and local community, while raising much needed funds to help beat bowel cancer. All you need to raise awareness and funds for Australia’s second deadliest cancer killer is let your hair grow – face, head, legs, body – if it’s hair – let it grow or let it go!

For more information about bowel cancer, the Decembeard/Decembhair funding-raising campaign and to read empowering stories of people living with or beyond bowel cancer go to the Bowel Cancer Australia website here.

banner text 'this December get hairy raise funds, help us beat bowel cancer - Decembeard - Decembhair' - background to text is hair