NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

On Friday 15 March 2022, the Australian Government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) recommendation that an additional booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine be provided to vulnerable population groups to increase their protection levels before winter. The winter dose will be provided to people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These people will have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose prior to receiving the winter dose. The groups are:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older.

ATAGI recommends that the rollout of the additional booster dose for these groups start from April 2022, coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program. You can view Minister Hunt’s media release here and access further information from the Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer here.

blue background, vector image of vials & syringe

Image: Nebojsa Mitrovic, Getty Images. ABC News website.

What to do if you get COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health has released an opinion piece from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, about what to do to prepare for the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 – and what to do if you do test positive. The document is available in English and a number of language translations:, including Kimberly Kriol; Pitjantjatjara; Torres Strait Creole – Yumplatok; Warlpiri; Western Arrarnta and Yolngu Matha.

You can download the fact sheet here.

blue glove hand holding positive RATS test for covid-19

Image source: Urgent Care La Jolla website.

Shelley Ware backs online safety campaign

The Online Safety Act 2021 came into effect earlier this year giving the safety commissioner more powers to remove serious online abuse from platforms. Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker is championing the online safety campaign for Mob . The eSafety ambassador explains that the new law provides a stronger protection to the community allowing victims to seek permanent removal of harmful content and providing avenues to press further charges. You can listen to the interview with Shelley Ware on NITV Radio here.

Shelley Ware, Aboriginal TV personality standing in front of Yalinguth Stories, Sounds, Knowledge sign

Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker champions online safety campaign for Mob. Photo: 33 Creative. Image source: NITV website.

Mental health, housing and homelessness

Good health and wellbeing rests, in part, on access to good-quality housing. Having adequate housing and a place to call home supports ‘connection to body’, one of the 7 domains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing. Unreliable or poor quality housing and homelessness contribute to and perpetuate health inequities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be further compromised by (dis)connection from Country, which is another of the 7 domains of social and emotional wellbeing. There is emerging evidence that providing housing and addressing homelessness is important for preventing mental ill-health and suicide among Indigenous Australians. The relationship between housing and mental health is bi-directional. This means that someone’s mental health could be negatively affected by the lack of safe, affordable and high quality housing, and the experience of mental illness could affect access to suitable housing.

The recently release Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness paper

  • synthesises the evidence of what works and does not work for mental health and suicide prevention programs and policy initiatives that address housing and homelessness for Indigenous Australians
  • reports key information about research, evaluation, program and policy initiatives
  • identifies best-practice approaches and critical success factors for implementation
  • outlines limitations and gaps in the evidence.

You can access the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report here.

Aboriginal art: The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston

The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston featured on the cover of the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report.

A related article in the National Rural Health Alliance online Partyline magazine looks at how empowering rough sleepers via the charity, Wheels of Wellness (WoW) can save lives. WOW provides an innovative and dynamic model of primary health care to some of regional Australia’s most vulnerable people on the streets of Cairns in Far North Queensland.

WOW’s van is fitted out as a GP consulting room and goes out during the day and after hours with a doctor, Indigenous health worker and mental health social worker. They provide free holistic primary health care to people sleeping rough, staying in a night shelter, or living in transitional and temporary accommodation.

The focus of the WoW team is to build rapport and long-term relationships with the people they meet on the streets. They actively support those wanting to address their health issues, which may include chronic disease, acute care, pain management, mental health, post-trauma stress, domestic violence, drug and alcohol dependency – and the list goes on. The WoW team strongly believes that, along with stable accommodation, focusing on holistic primary health care is crucial to empowering the lives of our most vulnerable Australians.

You can view the Saving lives by empowering rough sleepers article here.

WOW outreach van. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance Partyline online magazine.

Action urged on health, justice and ‘Voice’

Leading Indigenous advocacy groups have called on the Coalition and Labor to promise major reforms to the justice, health and welfare systems ahead of the federal election, and for a Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution. Change the Record, an alliance of legal, health and family violence prevention organisations, has demanded the major parties agree to increase Centrelink payments, raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and urgently build more housing in remote communities to address overcrowding.

Cheryl Axleby, a Narungga woman and co-chair of Change the Record, said problems in areas such as housing were linked to other issues like social security. “We’ve been saying this for decades; if we have appropriate shelter and affordable housing that would solve a lot of issues for our families who are living under welfare or are struggling to make ends meet,” she said. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to urgently address overcrowded housing, which became a serious problem during an outbreak in western NSW last year. “Where family members are trying to self-isolate, well, how do they do that when they don’t actually have anywhere else where they can actually go?”

You can access the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record standing in front of yellow orange brown white Aboriginal art

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Growing positive food habits in remote schools

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation believes every young person deserves to benefit from a fun, hands-on approach to food education – in every part of the country. This is especially important for kids growing up in remote cities and towns, which form the backbone of the nation’s food system.

In the Gibson Desert, 550 kms north of Kalgoorlie, Willuna Remote Community School is revitalising their kitchen garden and striving to create connections to country. “We want to use the garden to bring Aboriginal cultural learning into the school,” explains teacher, Scott Olsen. “We already grow a native bush banana, a silky pear, and are having conversations with local elders about food native to the area.”

Teaching students how to grow food is a practical way to gain access to fresh produce. “Because we are a remote place, fresh food and vegies can be expensive and hard to find,” says Scott. “One thing we grew last year was peas – the kids absolutely loved picking the peas and eating them fresh in the garden. If they had to go to the shops to buy that big bowl of peas, they might have cost $50. Or they might not even stock them.”

To view the National Rural Health Alliance article in its online magazine Partyline in full click here.

collage: young Aboriginal boys holding seedling, 2 girls carrying water jerry, boy with tray in garden, close up image of plants

Students from Wiluna Remote Community School in kitchen garden.

caring@home Indigenous art competition winners

The caring@home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families project recently announced the winners of its caring@home Indigenous Art Competition. What begam as am ‘off the cuff’ idea from Project Director, Professor Liz Reymond, grew into a powerful palliative and end-of-life care conversation starter in many communities around Austra.ia.

“The caring@home art competition has had an amazing impact here. Patients and families have really gotten into it and it has brought up amazing conversations about spirituality, culture and our multicultural community…the conversations it has started have been beyond anything I could have imagined.” Nurse, Remote Palliative Care Service

Thanks have gone out to:

  • the judging panel members: Karl Briscoe – CEO, National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP); Fiona Cornforth – CEO, The Healing Foundation and The Hon Ken Wyatt, AM MP – Minister for Indigenous Australians,
  • the 757 people voted in the People’s Choice Awards, and
  • the artists, whose experiences, stories and artistic expression provided a deeper and profound understanding of palliative care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

You can view all the artworks on the caring@home website here until June 2023.

winner of caring@home Indigenous Art Competition - Life's Journey by Lee Hall

Overall winner of the caring@home Indigenous Art Competition – Life’s Journey by Lee Hall.

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.

WA Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy

The WA Department of Communities is working with Aboriginal people and communities on a strategy to address family violence impacting Aboriginal families and communities. Aboriginal women and children experience family violence at disproportionately high rates with devastating impacts on their own health and wellbeing, and on the health and wellbeing of community.

The contributing factors to family violence in Aboriginal communities include colonisation, dispossession, intergenerational trauma and racism. We need to develop an approach that recognises these differences and considers the specific drivers of family violence in Aboriginal communities.

To guide deliberate work and coordinated effort from government and community over the next decade, we are developing a dedicated Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy. Comprehensive consultation with a range of Aboriginal stakeholders and Aboriginal community members has occurred to inform the content of the draft strategy.

Feedback on the draft Strategy is now open until 5:00 PM AWST Thursday 14 April 2022. To have your say complete the survey here. If you have questions or would like to speak to someone about the project, please send an email using this link.

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