NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

Image in feature tile from ABC News article Out of sight.

Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

In the crowded homes of the NT’s remote communities, residents are trying to keep their hopes of a better future alive. On most afternoons in the community of Rockhole, NT’s third-biggest town, about 340 kilometres south of Darwin, Evelyn Andrews can be found holding court in her front yard, sat beneath the shade of a tree. At house number 21, she shares her home with between 10 and 15 other people. “We love it in the community, we’ve got the river right there and the kids are safe,” she says. “But we need some more houses.”

Dr Simon Quilty, who has worked in medicine in the NT for over 20 years, says “the consequences of overcrowding on health are really quite profound”. “When people live in very close proximity in very warm houses that disconnect from electricity all of the time and often have serious problems with plumbing … then it is the ideal environment for the spread of infectious diseases,” he says. “I would say that housing circumstances for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory are by far and away the most significant driver of poor health outcomes universally.”

In a submission to the NT government’s 2016 inquiry into housing repair and maintenance on town camps, the Aboriginal-owned and operated Kalano Community Association, who manage housing in Rockhole, listed a number of conditions hampering its progress. These included “overcrowding and homelessness”, “a large backlog of repairs and maintenance”, “the condition of some housing being uninhabitable” and a “lack of land availability for the construction of new accommodation units within the Katherine township and [surrounds].”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

5 women, two toddlers one room of house in Rockhole

Image source: ABC News.

Funds for IUIH Early Childhood Wellbeing Program

Queensland is closing the gap on early childhood development under a $1.4m wellbeing program for Australia’s biggest and fastest growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the state’s SE corner. On National Close the Gap Day last week Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford announced funding for the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) – one of Queensland’s largest Indigenous-controlled health organisations – to establish a local Early Childhood Wellbeing Program. “Queensland’s Closing the Gap commitment includes targets focusing on life expectancy, healthy birthweight, early childhood education attendance and early development,” Mr Crawford said.

IUIH CEO Adrian Carson said the funding “will build on the proven Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) model of care to continue supporting families through the early years. We know that strong families require us to support our people right across the life course and that journey starts with supporting Mum and Dad during pregnancy. We are now able to continue to support the family through the early years and into early childhood education,’’ he said. The Early Childhood Wellbeing Program will support positive health, social and wellbeing initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children up to three years of age, including through comprehensive primary health care, early learning activities, playgroups and intensive support for families in priority need.

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

Image source: IUIH website.

Important COVID-19 vax updates

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) Bulletin and associated information was released last week, on Tuesday 15 March 2022. The documents contain important updates on stock management and CVAS functionality changes as well as the results from the COVID-19 communication materials survey conducted between 12–20 February 2022 . You can access the documents by clicking on these links:

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out ACCHS update 15 March 2022

COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System (CVAS) Ordering Amounts

Update of COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System

COVID-19 communication materials survey findings March 2022

If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact NACCHO using this email or the Commonwealth Department of Health using this email.

Image source: AMA website.

First Nations people and stroke

Australia’s First Nations people are 1.3 times more likely to die from a stroke than non-Indigenous people and are hospitalised 1.6 times more. Whether it’s in the statistics or stories of people affected by stroke, the existing gap in stroke outcomes is unacceptable.

Charlotte, a proud Wiradjuri woman, has shared her story through the Stroke Foundation’s Young Stroke Project which helps to shine a light on this issue. Charlotte is a mother of four and was working a double shift on the day of her stroke in 2018. Charlotte had a pounding headache, extreme fatigue and then noticed that her arm felt heavy and she could not lift it. She went to her local health clinic who called for an ambulance immediately. After the 23 hour wait, it was good treatment. I had doctors tend to my current situation, which was pretty good because I didn’t want to leave hospital knowing that I live in a rural area. I have no doctor here.

You can access the Stroke Foundation EnableMe newsletter with Charlotte’s story here and watch Charlotte tell her story in the video below.

National strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

On 17 November 2021 the Australian Government announced the development of a collaborative National Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy (the Strategy), led by the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer (ACPCC). This project will inform the Australian Government Department of Health’s future activities to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in Australia by 2035.

The Strategy will be informed by a series of consultations with experts, representatives of priority communities, and other interested parties, to inform the three pillars of cervical cancer elimination – vaccination, screening, and treatment – and ensure a strong equity lens is applied at every step of the project. The overarching vision is to achieve elimination for all women and people with a cervix across the diverse communities we have in Australia. 

If you would like to be part of the development of a strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in Australia by 2035, you can register to join the consultation here.

Aboriginal artist Madison Connors, a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Kamilaroi woman from North East Victoria has created art inspired about the importance of cervical screening. Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

Women must lead equity drive

Equity for Indigenous women and girls is at the forefront of this year’s Closing The Gap Day message, with first Nations people still facing lower quality of life and shorter life expectancies compared to the rest of Australia. Last week’s Closing The Gap Day on March 17 marked the ongoing progress of the campaign to expand health, education and other fundamental expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Aoriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Close the Gap Co-Chair, Bunuba woman June Oscar, said gender equity was central to supporting strong families and communities to lead healthy lives. She reinforced the message that it was through Indigenous leadership that prospects for Indigenous people would improve. “This year’s report highlights in no uncertain terms what we already know,” she said. “It’s our organisations that know our people, carry our culture and knowledges, and deliver the services that we need.”

To view the 9 News article in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl with Aboriginal flag on shoulders of Aboriginal woman with Aboriginal art covid-19 mask

Indigenous women and girls must be central to the ongoing #MeToo movement, the Close The Gap campaign has said. Photo: Cole Bennetts. Image source: 9 News website.

Jail rates related to unmet basic needs

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO and Yorta Yorta woman Nerita Waight says the justice system is incapable of benefitting First Nations people who are at a systemic disadvantage. Ms Waight said incarceration numbers reflected the position of Indigenous people within the political and social landscape as a whole. Homelessness, the education system, workforce discrimination, racism and over-policing were identified by VALS as contributors to disparity.

“Most people end up in the justice system because society has failed to provide them with basic needs, like a home or proper healthcare,” Ms Waight said. “Once our people are in the justice system they are subjected to systemic racism from police, the courts, and prison staff. Most people get trapped in the justice system for the rest of their lives.” VALS conceded the cost of inadequately addressing these issues would likely see devastating results.

To view the National Indigenous Times Aboriginal Legal Service calls out justice failures on Closing the Gap Day article click here.

A related article Shocking Numbers of Aboriginal Children are in Prison and it’s a threat to Closing the Gap cites Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) spokesperson and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee Chair Professor Ngiare Brown spoke to the ongoing damage that early incarceration can have on an Indigenous young person. “As the RACP has emphasised, along with other medical and First Nations experts, there is substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long term effects youth incarceration has on physical and psychological health and wellbeing.”

Rather than jump to incarceration, the report is calling for Attorney Generals to consider alternative approaches including earlier care, support and treatment options which will preserve human rights and hopefully, more just outcomes for the First Nations Youth community. It is hoped that continued advocacy and increased awareness will push the issue into the spotlight, encouraging critical reform and address the significant disadvantages experience by Australia’s Indigenous community. To view this NIT article in full click here.

Aboriginal man waist up no clothes, hands gripped together through jail bars

Image source: The Conversation.

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.

Multiple Birth Awareness Week

Multiple Birth Awareness Week (MBAW) is a national campaign to raise awareness around, and draw attention to, the unique realities for multiple birth families in Australia – and how advocacy, positive education and engaged communities can contribute to enabling positive health outcomes for families with multiples. You can access more information about MBAW on the Australian Multiple Birth Association website here.

Indigenous Australian twins and their mothers face unique challenges, according to research supported by Twins Research Australia. All mothers of twins face challenges but the study found these may be more difficult to overcome for some Indigenous Australian mothers. The study investigated the birth data of over 64,000 indigenous twins in NSW and WA.

It was found that many Aboriginal twin pregnancies and births are physically and practically challenging and the majority of multiples are born early and small. Factors included that they are: more likely to live far from specialist medical care, are younger, more socio-economically disadvantaged, and more likely to have older children. Researchers recommended that specific guidelines for the care of indigenous mothers and twins may be need to improve outcomes. The study highlights the importance of policies that support health services to meet the practical, financial and psychosocial needs of mothers and families, in addition to meeting their health needs.

You can read the Twins Research Australia article in full here, the paper in full here and a simplified explainer here.

Aboriginal women with her hands & partner's hands on her pregnant belly

Image source: Pathology Awareness Australia website.

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