NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nations urged to vaccinate children

feature tile text 'First Nations Families urged to vax children against COVID-19' & image of Aboriginal girl showing arm & plaster from vax

The image in the feature tile is from The West Australian.

First Nations urged to vaccinate children

First Nations families are being urged to vaccinate children against COVID-19 with inoculation rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities lower than in the general population. NACCHO says First Nations children are less likely to have received two doses of a vaccine than many of their peers, with 40% of non-Indigenous children now fully inoculated. NACCHO says despite the disparity First Nations vaccination rates are improving. Emily Phillips from NACCHO said “We’re got 22% of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids that have been vaccinated. Over 7,500 of those kids received their first dose in the last seven days, so that’s really promising.”

You can view the relevant segment (4:46 to 5:31 minutes) of the SBS NITV News broadcast using this link.

Emily Phillips, NACCHO

Emily Phillips, Director, Communicable Diseases, NACCHO. Image source: NITV News.

NACCHO wants your good news stories

NACCHO is putting a call out for your good news stories.

We want showcase the amazing work our NACCHO Members are doing.

We know you are all time poor so all we need is a short paragraph and an image. If we require more detail we will contact you.

The image is essential to capture the attention of our readers.

To get the ball rolling we’ve offering a PRIZE to the FIRST TWO good news stories we receive.

You can contact the NACCHO Communications team using this email link.

Biosecurity zones for remote NT communities

In a media release Minister for Health and Aged Care. Greg Hunt announced that the Australian Government has implemented further measures to protect remote communities during the current COVID-19 outbreak in the NT. Minister Hunt said remote communities in the NT continue to see escalating cases of COVID-19 and the situation required a broader public health response to supplement the NT. A determination has been made under section 477 of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act 2015 to prevent a person from entering or exiting remote regional zones in the NT. This is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 across the NT and will be in place until Thursday 17 February 2022. This broader approach is complemented by more targeted restrictions for communities with high case numbers, namely Milikapiti, Milingimbi, Palumpa, Ampilatwatja, Elcho Island (including Galiwin’ku ), Wessel Islands (including Martjanba) and Lajamanu.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.

The Northern Land Council (NLC) and the Central Land Council (CLC) have both released media statements today welcoming the decision to establish a series of Biosecurity Zones.. Chairman of the NLC, Samuel Bush-Blanasi said “They want to stop people coming in from outside. These Biosecurity Zones or ‘bubbles’ will help slow the spread of Covid out bush and give us more time to get more people their second and third jabs. We also have to get vaccinations for our kids 5 years old and up. School is back and they need to be vaccinated.” You can view the NLC’s media release here and the CLC’s media release here.

aerial view of Gunbalanya NT

The biosecurity zone means residents in Gunbalanya cannot leave their community for at least two weeks. Photo: Department of Education. Image source: AB News.

COVID-19 outbreak in NT prisons

ABC News reporter Saskia Mabin has presented a news feature about COVID-19 spreading in remote NT communities and prisons. Almost half of the prisoners at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre have tested positive to COVID-19, that’s about 300 inmates, most of whom are Aboriginal and experience higher rates of chronic illness. David Woodroffe from the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency says people cannot safely isolate or have access to appropriate care when multiple people share a cell or entire blocks in prisons are being infected. It has sparked an urgent call from legal services and advocacy groups for the early or temporary release of prisoners to manage the growing outbreak. You can watch the video by clicking on this link.

screen shot ABC NEWS 'NT COVID Outbreak' video, image of NT remote community aerial view

CTG PBS script registration deadline extended

NACCHO has released a media statement advising that the Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme scripts deadline has now extended to Thursday 30 June 2022. As of 30 June 2022, Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS scripts will not be available for people who aren’t registered correctly with Services Australia (extended from 31 Jan).  

A new national registration database run by Services Australia began on 1 July 2021. It aims to make it easier for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access medicines through the CTG PBS Co-payment program. Patients only need to be registered for the program once in their lifetime via Health Professional Online Services (HPOS), to get free or reduced cost PBS medicines from any community pharmacy in Australia, without the need for each script to be marked ‘CTG’.   

Unfortunately, not all patients who previously received CTG prescriptions were transferred to the new database, resulting in some people paying more for their medicines. Potentially many thousands of people who have previously had CTG scripts are still affected.  NACCHO is urging all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to talk with their health service, GP and/or pharmacy to check if they are correctly registered for the program on the new registration database. If this is not resolved by July 2022, then the cost of that person’s medicines will increase. 

For more information, NACCHO maintains a webpage on the CTG reforms and can run workshops for ACCHOs wishing to know more about the measure, registration system and upcoming deadline.  Services Australia information here. 

tile purple, aqua text 'CTG PBS Co-Payment Gap'

AIHW suicide and self-harm monitoring data

The reporting of suicide and self-harm statistics and information on the AIHW website represents one part of the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring Project. Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring brings together key statistical data on suicide and self-harm from multiple national sources that will be updated regularly as new data become available. Here, you can examine the data through interactive visualisations and read information on the demographics, trends, methods and risk factors of suicide and self-harm in Australia. This release is an update to data from suicide registers from NSW (October 2021) and Victoria (November and December 2021).

Over 3,000 deaths by suicide occur each year in Australia. In 2020, there were 3,139 deaths by suicide – an average of about 9 deaths per day – with an age-stadardised rate of 12.1 per 100,000 population. Age-standardised suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are substantially higher than those in non-Indigenous Australians.

For further information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention, see the Indigenous Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Clearinghouse managed by the AIHW. This website was developed in consultation with experts in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention, practitioners and policy makers. It brings together key research to improve the evidence base on Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention.

You can access a AIHW suicide and self-harm monitoring data fact sheet here.

Extension of NT’s Remote Aboriginal Investment

The National Partnership on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment (NTRAI) is being extended for another two years. Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg said the additional $173.2 million funding will allow the NT Government to continue providing core services to more than 60 communities. “The Coalition Government has recognised, over many years, the challenges that remote communities in the NT face in accessing the services that contribute to better life outcomes. Long term funding has provided the certainty needed to deliver improvements to schooling, community safety, health, as well as access to interpreter services and employment opportunities,” he said.

“This is particularly the case as we implement the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which is transforming the way all Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This extension provides service continuity and will sustain around 440 jobs while we work in partnership with the NT Government and Aboriginal stakeholders to agree priorities and the best arrangements for remote Aboriginal communities.”

To view Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister Key Wyatt’s joint media release click here.

Santa Teresa, NT. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Kids overrepresented in the justice system

he Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) has highlighted that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be overrepresented in the child protection and youth justice systems across the country, including in the ACT. In response to the report, the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has urged the ACT Government to urgently implement all 28 recommendations from the Our Booris, Our Way report.

ACTCOSS also wants increased government investment in Aboriginal community organisations. According to the Productivity Commission, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the ACT are:

  • 13 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children
  • 16 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in detention and five times more likely to be under community-based supervision orders, and
  • Aboriginal andr Torres Strait Islander children aged 10 to 13 are almost 20 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous children in the ACT

To view the article in full click here.

The Productivity Commission’s latest report on government services shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be over-represented in the justice system. Image source: Riotact.

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.

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