NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Lack of safe housing a health concern

The image in the feature tile is of a house in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan, WA with water leakage. Image source: NITV.

Lack of safe housing a health concern

Access to safe, secure housing is a key determinant of health and life expectancy. Across Australia, residents in remote Aboriginal communities are often left waiting for urgent repairs, while their homes deteriorate to unliveable conditions. A SBS World News report describes how 57-year-old Mulan (WA) resident Veronica Lulu has difficulty walking around her community unassisted. Making it even harder for Veronica is the pool of water surrounding her house that appears to be coming from a broken underground pipe.

Veronica reported the issue to the WA state government which is responsible for maintenance in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulun, but she says that after nearly two years and repeated requests the problem still hasn’t been fixed and the leak has become so bad that the entire house is now encircled by water. Afraid she might fall, Veronica has moved in with a relative next door where the water is slightly less of a problem.

You can view the video of this SBS News segment, which includes footage of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner reiterating that “housing for health is so important to our people” here and a related SBS NITV News article A third of remote Aboriginal houses at ‘unacceptable’ standard published today here.

Veronica Lulu sitting on her walker outside her house, Mulan WA

Veronica Lulu outside the home she cannot get into. Photo: Aaron Fernandes, SBS NITV.

ACCHO assists votes with candidate information

To assist our ocals understand who the candidates are in the upcoming federal election, and what those candidates believe in,  Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) has  asked every candidate key questions of importance to Yarrabah. Visitors to the GYHSAC have been invited to read through the candidates responses and “make your decision as to who you wish to vote for after you understand what is on offer.”

GYHSAC posed the following questions to the ALP, United Australia Party, Green, Independent and Katter’s Australian Party candidates:

  • How do you plan to improve the telecommunication services in Yarrabah?
  • Overcrowding in housing is an issue in Yarrabah, how do you propose to address this issue?
  • What do you propose to do about the funds lost by Indigenous Australians after the collapse of the ACBF?
  • How do you propose to increase community services in Yarrabah – e.g.: Meals on Wheels?
  • NAPLAN scores were not strong in Yarrabah. How do you propose lifting literacy and numeracy skills in Yarrabah?
  • RHD is a disease of disadvantage and poverty. What do you propose to do about tackling RHD in Yarrabah?
  • Training and employment opportunities are lacking in Yarrabah. What are your plans to address this?

You can access the responses to the above key questions on the GYHSAC website here.

Gurriny Yealamuck Health and Wellbeing Centre & GYHSAC logo

Gurriny Yealamuck Health and Wellbeing Centre (Gurriny).

Independents with First Nations issues focus 

Long-time human rights advocates Megan Krakouer and Gerry Georgatos are fighting to put First Nations issues on the agenda at this Federal election. With more than 500 Indigenous deaths in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody in 1991, and a huge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health, education, housing, employment and other areas, the “social justice independents” are running to represent Western Australia in the Senate.

Ms Krakouer said they have experience working with the most vulnerable and marginalised people across the nation. “We have seen too many brothers and sisters left behind because of racist policies and legislation. We come across a lot of people who are silenced, who are voiceless. We have been failed by one government after another. They make the same promises and they don’t deliver, and that’s reflected in the incarceration rate, in child removals, deaths in custody, homelessness and suicides.

Ms Krakouer said the fact First Nations people make up a small percent of the national population was one factor driving political inaction. “There is no political will to address the suffering and mistreatment of people, particularly when they are in prisons. That is something I can’t accept.” She said she and Mr Georgatos were running as independents so they would be free to “say what needs to be said”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Meet the independents determined to put First Nations issues front and centre in full click here.

WA Independents Gerry Georgatos & Megan Krakouer.

Gerry Georgatos and Megan Krakouer. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Flu vax questions answered 

Yesterday the Australian Government Department of Health First Assistant Secretary COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Dr Lucas De Toca, who leads the vaccine rollout for COVID-19 for GPs, pharmacies and Aboriginal health services, spoke about flu, “I had my flu shot yesterday, and more and more people are getting their flu shot every day. So, it’s really important that we answer some of your questions about flu vaccination as we approach winter.”

Dr De Tocas continued, “How do we decide what virus strains we put in them, also what the ingredients are. And if you look at a list of ingredients of pretty much anything, it can sound pretty scary, but it doesn’t have to be. And we’re also going to talk about whether the vaccines are safe. So, first of all, virus, and the flu virus is no exception, mutates. And when viruses mutate, new strains, variants, versions come up. And we all know that too well with all the talk about variants with COVID.”

“But flu is a virus that generally mutates on a seasonal basis, and there’s several strains of influenza A and influenza B, the viruses that cause the flu, that cause a flu season in one hemisphere, generally during winter. And then once people who could get infected, get infected and the epidemic stops, then they cause a flu season on the other hemisphere, normally in time for their winter. And when that happens, the virus can mutate, which means that by the time it comes back for the following flu season, it could be different.”

You can view Dr De Toca’s presentation in full below and access a transcript of the presentation on the Australian Government Department of Health website here.

$600m for initiatives aimed at Closing the Gap

The WA Government has committed more than $600 million to strengthen services that deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities. The significant State Budget investment supports the WA government’s Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy and Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, targeting initiatives that will improve economic and social opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The funding has been targeted at priority reform areas, which align with the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan; formal partnerships and shared decision making; building the community-controlled sector and transforming government organisations. Initiatives of particular relevance to the health sector include:

  • $7 million to implement an Aboriginal Midwifery Group Practice and Stronglinks to improve the uptake of antenatal care and improve maternity health outcomes for Aboriginal women
  • $3.7 million of additional funding for a pilot program to establish and commence the Aboriginal Health Practitioners (AHP) profession in WA
  • $1.6 million for tympanometers to improve Aboriginal children’s ear health

To read the WA Government’s media statement in full click here.

newborn, AHW & young Aboriginal boy getting hearing checked

Clockwise: Baby Coming You Ready? website; Wirraka Maya Health Service, Port Hedland website; Earbus Foundation of WA website.

NHMRC Indigenous intern program

Sara Lai found her first Indigenous intern experience with NHMRC in 2017–18 so rewarding that she applied again for the 2021–22 program. Sara was in her first year of university in 2017 and is now in her final year. The project that she undertook this time around involved interviewing childcare centres in rural and regional Australia as well as Indigenous communities to determine how the ‘Staying Healthy’ resource is used in remote settings.

Reflecting on her intern experience Ms Lai said, “My research and communication skills have exponentially increased, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of a team. I am also now considering pursuing a Master of Public Health in the future as I have seen first-hand how very important primary health promotion is at the community level.” Ms Lai said “I thoroughly believe that to solve the healthcare gaps in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities we need Indigenous problem solvers and I hope to be able to contribute to this.”

To view the NHMRC article To solve the healthcare gaps in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, we need Indigenous problem solvers click here.

Sara Lai, NHMRC Indigenous intern

Sara Lai, 2022–22 NHMRC Indigenous intern. Image source: NHMRC website.

Mum’s experience of racism impacts kids

A University of Adelaide student has submitted a Master thesis: A longitudinal mediation analysis of the effect of Aboriginal Australian mothers’ experiences of racism on children’s socio-emotional well-being. Although it is known that parental experiences of racism are associated with poorer mental health in children, little is known about how racism is intergenerationally transmitted in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. The thesis explores the effect of Aboriginal mothers’ experiences of racism on children’s socio-emotional well-being mediated by parenting sense of competence.

The conclusion of the thesis is that mothers who experienced racism were at a 28% increased odds of their five-year-old child experiencing socio-emotional problems and this effect was not mediated by sense of parenting competence, despite an effect between parenting competence and children’s socio-emotional well-being. The findings suggest that maternal experiences of racism have a longitudinal effect on their children’s socio-emotional well-being, and this effect is not mediated through the mothers’ sense of parenting competence. These findings highlight the importance of reducing experiences of racism as these have far-reaching effects across generations on socioemotional well-being.

You can view the thesis in full here.

Sasha Houthuysen and her two children. Photo: Amnesty International. Image source: NITV website.

Regional roles led Glenice home

Glenice Smith is a Perth-based Aboriginal Practice Leader for the Department of Communities. She says her regional roles led her home to her Mother’s Country and her Father’s Country. Her trip to Kununurra and current deployment in the Midwest, working in Emergency Services for the Department, provided her with unexpected and amazing opportunities. Glenice was removed from my family on her first birthday in Port Hedland and flown to Perth where she was placed with her foster family in the late 1960s. During her time with the Tropical Cyclone Seroja recovery team in 2021, she was able to work in the Midwest and strengthen her connections with her Mother’s Country and family. Glenice said that being able to reconnect with her biological family this year, has been due to the places her work has taken her.

To view the story published today on the WA Government website in full click here.

Perth-based Aboriginal Practice Leader for the Department of Communities. Image source: WA Government website.

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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