NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Quarantine centre closer to community needed

feature tile text 'calls for quarantine centre clos to remote communities for covid-positive mob' & image of Indigenous leader Lisa Mumbin

Image in feature tile is of Barunga Indigenous leader Lisa Mumbin who backs calls for a quarantine site closer to remote communities. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

Quarantine centre closer to community needed

Justina Blacksmith and her one-year-old daughter Nyeisha were the first in their household to fall sick with COVID-19 early this month. Then her uncle and the other five adults living in their small three-bedroom house tested positive. By day six of their isolation period, all four children had symptoms and their week of quarantine turned into two. “It was very hard with 11 people in the house,” Ms Blacksmith said. “We couldn’t do our shopping or get a power card.”

In the remote Indigenous community of Binjari, 15 kms outside Katherine, the toll of COVID-19 is being felt in the small homes that sometimes house as many as 15 people. Amid Omicron outbreaks, the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) NT branch is calling on the NT government to declare a Code Brown alert for every public hospital.

Binjari Community Aboriginal Corporation CEO Deb Aloisi said residents who tested positive were no longer being taken to the Howard Springs quarantine facility. Instead, she said they were being forced to isolate together in cramped conditions.

To view the ABC News article in full click here and the AMA media release here.

Justina Blacksmith with her baby girl outside house

Justina Blacksmith had to isolate in her small house with 11 people. Roxanne Fitzgerald, ABC Katherine. Image source: ABC News.

Working with mob makes Kim’s heart skip

Kim is a traditional Saltwater Bidjigal/Gweagal woman from La Perouse, Botany Bay, Sydney. She’s 52 and has been working in clinical and non-clinical roles for over 30 years. Ordinarily she practices at the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, but is currently in Central Australia, nearing the end of her third week of a nine-week placement in Tennant Creek working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Nurse Immuniser as part of the government’s “Vaccination Acceleration Campaign” targeting remote communities. Kim said it is so rewarding talking to and educating mob about the COVID-19 vaccine, and how important it is to protect themselves, their mob and the rest of community.

As an Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Nurse Immuniser in this role, Kim said she can connect easily with mob and treat them in a culturally safe way. She is also able to educate the non-Indigenous nurses who work alongside her on how to provide care in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Together they’ve formed a great team – they are having fun and creating memories, trusting friendships and relationships with community.

Kim, whose mob still live in La Perouse (formerly the site of the La Perouse Aboriginal Mission), grew up not having a lot. She believes she didn’t choose health as a career it chose her. She remembers the nurses from the Prince of Wales Hospital coming to the mission 3-4 times per week to change the dressings for her Nan’s sister’s toes. The dressings were for the sores and ulcers that were slow to heal due to diabetes. By the time she was 12 years old, Kim had learnt how to replace the dressings and draw up the insulin for her Aunty Marie – something her aunty found difficult due to her poor eyesight, also the result of diabetes.

Kim has had a lengthy career in health starting her first job in 1986 working in the kitchen of Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney. From there she worked in several private hospitals (Prince of Wales, Westmead, Nepean ) before being contracted as a civilian heath professional by the Royal Australian Air Force (3 Combat Support Hospital, RAAF Richmond), working as a Endoscopy Technician/CSSD Manager. Kim was directly involved in supporting the RAAF medical team and their sterilised equipment that was deployed at extremely short notice to evacuate injured Australians following the Bali bombings in October 2002. Following a move to Albury in 2004, Kim worked for seven years as an endoscopy technician in the operating theatres of Albury Base Hospital.

Now with a passion for working in Aboriginal health and after completing further training and study, Kim worked in various Aboriginal health roles including as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the Wangaratta Hospital, an Aboriginal Health Worker with Ovens and King Community Health and with Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation. Kim then completed her training to become an Aboriginal Health Practitioner (AHP) and started work with the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS). Kim said she uses the knowledge and skills gained from her years of health experience and the clinical work she has undertaken and AHP training in her job every day.

Kim said she is having so much fun on her placement and the enormous satisfaction gained from working with mob makes her ‘heart skip’. Kim’s husband and former Australian Soldier, Darren Moffitt – who is also Aboriginal, (who she supported throughout his 27 years in the Army) said “it is now Kim’s time to shine”, with full support of the whole family and mob back home.

Kim wants to encourage young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and Men to work in health, where they can do great stuff. With good mentors along the way, Kim said, her experience has been so much fun. Kim said it is so rewarding working with mob knowing you are making an enormous difference in their health and wellbeing.

Kim Moffitt

Kim Moffitt, AHW, Nurse Immuniser, NT.

Health worker shares COVID-19 experience

Scared for her life and feeling isolated away from her ‘mob’, Bowen local Charmaine Pangi spent eight days in the COVID ward of Mackay Base Hospital where she was often struggling to breathe and suffering immense kidney pains. The Indigenous Health Care Worker, who looks after Bowen and Collinsville residents, was diagnosed with COVID on Friday 21st January.

On the days prior, she had been feeling hot but strangely her temperature had remained normal, then on day three she got a tickle in the back of her throat. She went to the hospital the next day because she was finding it hard to breathe and received some medicine which eased her symptoms considerably. That afternoon, however, they came back ten-fold, and she was admitted to hospital. By the following afternoon she was transported to Mackay Base Hospital for specialist monitoring.

“Trying to get air . . . it was scary – even now I struggle sometimes,” she said. Alone in her room at the hospital, Ms Pangi began creating some short videos to document her journey and show others what it was like to endure COVID. “I thought I have to do something, I don’t care how it looks, I just need to tell people wear that mask properly. Don’t wear it under your nose – cover your mouth and nose,” she said.

To view the Mackay and Whitsunday Life article in full click here.

Charmaine Pangi in hospital with covid-19

Charmaine Pangi describing what COVID-19 feels like from hospital bed. Image source: Facebook.

Calls for transparency on WA COVID-19 response

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) has refuted claims by the Department of Health that the Government’s WA COVID Care at Home program is accessible to clients in remote locations. AHCWA Chair Vicki O’Donnell OAM said while the sector had been involved in some of the clinical protocol details of the State Government’s opt-in telehealth program, which was launched this January to provide at-home care to patients diagnosed with COVID-19; Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) were never afforded the opportunity to be part of the process as contracted providers of services to fill the inevitable gaps.

“The ACCHS sector has on multiple occasions raised concerns about aspects of the proposed model, and while some have been addressed, a number of serious issues remain,” Ms O’Donnell said. “The State Government’s WA COVID Care at Home program does not address concerns raised by the AHCWA around accessibility barriers for Aboriginal people. While the program will likely be effective for much of the general population; an opt-in phone service delivered by an Eastern States-based third party unfamiliar with Western Australian Aboriginal communities will not meet the needs of many Aboriginal people,” she said.

“The Council is concerned this will result in a service gap and additional, unresourced work by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services sector will be needed to fill it, which, without additional funding from the State Government, will in turn divert resources from other services.” Ms O’Donnell said the program neglected a significant proportion of Western Australians not just in remote and regional locations, but in metropolitan areas as well.

To view AHCWA’s media release in full click here.

KAMS CEO Vicki O'Donnell

KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell.

Top 3 COVID vax questions

Dr Lucas de Toca, COVID-19 Primary Care Response First Assistant Secretary, has answered the current Top 3 questions (below) being asked on social accounts in a short video.

  1. What is classified as fully vaccinated in Australia and why has this changed?
  2. Why are some people in the same household getting sick with COVID-19 while others don’t show any symptoms?
  3. What is classified as an adverse COVID-19 vaccine reaction?

Reducing mob’s nutritional poverty

Recognising that poor nutrition was a key reason for health disadvantages in Aboriginal communities, Caroline De Mori founded Edge of Nowhere Thriving Community Program (EON) which partners with Indigenous communities and schools to create access to fresh and affordable fruit and vegetables through edible gardens and other initiatives.

The former Perth journalist and public relations supremo told Gareth Parker on 6PR Breakfast’s ‘West Aussie Great’ segment that she became passionate about providing nutrition education and training opportunities for Aboriginal communities to create long-term, healthy lifestyle change after meeting legendary WA Indigenous politician Ernie Bridge. “I saw first hand for the first time what was going on…  it’s just the most shameful thing to be in such a successful, powerful, rich state and yet there’s children with health statistics and infection and disease loads that are just outrageous, worse than the poorest developing nation on the planet,” she told Parker.

“It’s the nutritional poverty that leads to for example some 70% of Aboriginal kids starting school with hearing loss. We offer this as opportunity [for communities] to grow their own food, harvest their own food, cook their own food, eat their own food and get the health benefits of getting off [bad nutrition].”

You can listen to the full interview with Caroline De Mori here.

young Aboriginal girl chopping shallots on red cutting board

Image source: EON Foundation.

Remote PHC Manuals February update

Review and updating of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) continues. The most recent RPHCM update advises: 99% of protocols (excluding administration protocols) are in the updating stage with progress towards finalisation of protocols for secondary review which is due to go out at the start of March 2022. Project activities are progressing well, considerations for adaptions for working with Editorial Committee champions and undertaking secondary review are in place given recent increase in DOVID numbers within the NT.

Coming up sales of the remaining current editions of manuals will cease in April 2022. If you would like to order a printed copy before then, please download an order form here. 33% of protocols are finalised and awaiting formatting prior to secondary review.

To view the RPHCM February 2022 update click here.

First Nations youth and the justice system

Professor Pat Dugeon (from the Bardi people of the Kimberley in WA and the first Aboriginal psychologist to graduate in Australia) and her team at the University of WA are leading the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project. The TIMHWB team have produced a fact sheet First Nations Youth and the Justice System, which is an executive summary of the 2021 article First Nations peoples and the law by Professor Helen Milroy (a consultant psychiatrist with the WA Department of Health and the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor) and colleagues.

The fact sheet, which organises information under three key headings: (1) historical and contemporary context (2) the Australian context, and (3) ways forward, seeks to summarise how the current situation has come about and what the way forward could look like. Some key points include:

  • Young people ending up in the criminal justice system represents a failure of other systems to properly identify and provide support and effective interventions across development.
  • Imprisoning traumatised, developmentally compromised, and disadvantaged young people adds to the re-traumatisation and complexity of supporting rehabilitation and recovery.
  • Overall, the article argues that offending behaviours lie at the end of a continuum of risk. This continuum includes exposure to intergenerational and current trauma within the historical context of genocide, and the ongoing issues of generational poverty, social disadvantage, and discrimination.
  • Ideally, the way forward would include prevention, early intervention and comprehensive clinical and community intervention should a child or young person encounter the youth justice system.

To download a copy of the fact sheet click here.

banner text 'fact sheet: First Nations youth and the justice system' transforming Indigenous mental health and wellbeing' & small square of brown white blue black Aboriginal dot paining

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.

Teal Ribbon Day

Teal Ribbon Day will be held on Wednesday 23 February 2022 – the last Wednesday in February. It’s a day to support Australians affected by ovarian cancer, honour those we have lost and raise awareness of this deadly disease to change the story for future generations. Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer. Learn the signs and symptoms, stages of ovarian cancer, risk reduction and prevention.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, str 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

Ovarian Cancer Australia provides care and support for those affected by ovarian cancer and strives to make ovarian cancer a national priority. They advocate for increased sector funding to enable delivery of the key priority areas outlined in the National Action Plan. For more information about Teal Ribbon Day click here.

tile text 'ovarian cancer Australia' logo & blue teal ribbon

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