NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Image in feature tile is of Stan Grant. Image source: The Monthly.

Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi journalist Stan Grant delivered an impassioned and eloquent keynote address reflecting on the scars of colonisatio at the recent Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists Congress in Sydney. Grant said that after years of “dragging my history around with me”, which took “an enormous toll”, he decided to leave Australia – a “foreign country, for other people” where he never felt he belonged. “I felt a great sense of liberation, freed from the history of this country and what it does to us, written on our bodies,” he said.

Overseas, reporting on the legacies of “colonisation, empire, dictators and despots, kings appointed by foreign powers”, he recognised in oppressed people, “positioned on the other side of history”, a familiar grief where “only the afflicted know the truth. I saw the eyes of my own family, people for whom all certainty had been removed, who cou;ldn’t believe in the promise of Western liberalism and all it purported to deliver,” he said. Grant reflected on the cumulative trauma of growing up Aboriginal in Australia, culminating for him in a breakdown whilst posted overseas with an “irrepressible surging wave” to end his life. Grant seeing a psychiatrist was very important in his recovery, but absolutely nothing was as important as “standing on my land.”

To view Croakey Health Media article Yindyamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in click here.

You can also watch a video below of Stan Grant delivering a National Reconciliation Week 2022 Keynote Address.

NACCHO CEO welcomes end of cashless debit card

Labor will push ahead with plans to abolish the cashless debit card scheme with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth saying last week that she was in discussions to terminate the program, which was a Labor election commitment. She pledged to work with communities to find “better local solutions”. The decision followed an Australian National Audit Office ­report released on Thursday last week which highlighted a lack of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scheme. “The former Coalition government spent more than $170m on the privatised cashless debit card – money that could have been spent on services locals need,” Ms Rishworth said.

Implemented under the ­Abbott government in 2016, the scheme was designed to encourage socially responsible behaviour by quarantining 80% of a person’s welfare payments on a debit card to prevent it being spent on alcohol and gambling. It was initially introduced in Ceduna, SA, East Kimberley and the Goldfields in WA, and then ­expanded to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland. The cost of the program reached $36m in 2020–21, with nearly 17,000 people participating as of February this year.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO, said the scheme had caused “unnecessary embarrassment” for Indigenous Australians. “I certainly welcome the scrapping of the cashless debit card,” she said. “The Auditor-General’s report confirms what we already knew and why we were so opposed to the scheme. It’s simply poor public policy to run trials as the former government did for five years.”

The above has been extracted from an article by Jess Malcolm’s Cashless welfare card to be folded article published in The Australian on Friday 3 June 2022.

Image source: Crikey, 3 June 2022.

Using culture to turn suicide tide

Rocked by a spate of suicides, Shepparton’s Aboriginal community is using culture to turn the tide It began in October 2021 when a group of Shepparton’s First Nations community members came together in a backyard to figure out how to change the situation on youth suicide rates in town. “We had a cuppa and said, ‘what are we going to do about this?’,” Yorta Yorta woman and founding member of Dunguludja Dana Jean Miller said. “Our kids have been exposed to way too much trauma here, and something needs to be done.” Shepparton is home to the largest Aboriginal community and one of the highest rates of suicide in regional Victoria. Jean Miller said last year the community experienced about seven suicides by youth in just two months. This is when Dunguludja Dana was formed with a purpose to change the numbers. “It’s a Yorta Yorta word for strong pathways or strengthening journeys, and that’s what we want to do, that’s our vision,” Jean Miller said. “It was just about trying to engage our youth and let them know that no matter what life path they’re currently on, there’s always someone that loves them and cares and wants to support them.“ It could be a friend, it could be a cousin, it could be someone they knew in their school, but the impact is a ripple effect.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Each Wednesday, the group run three sessions where First Nations students partake in painting, drawing, charcoal, and burning art – as well as creating possum skin cloaks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Undrinkable water, casual racism the reality

Rebecca Davis, a Senior News & Features Writer for MamaMia, has written a lengthy article Undrinkable water and casual racism: The reality of Indigenous health in Australia. In the article Ms Davis includes several accounts from Indigenous women about:

  • undrinkable water contaminated with uranium in Laramba, NT
  • Betty Booth from Doomadgee who died after being given Panadol by the local hospital and told to go home
  • a Melbourne woman routinely soiling herself as her bathroom door is not wide enough for her walker

For her article Ms Davis spoke to Pat Turner, a revered figure; a Gudanji-Arrernte woman with a long history as an Indigenous and women’s rights activist. Aside from being CEO of NACCHO, she was the founding CEO of NITV, and is an advisor to the establishment of an Indigenous voice to government. NACCHO facilitates 144 ACCHOs across the country, bringing comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It’s not just for Indigenous people – it’s largely run by them too, with more than half of their 6,000-strong staff of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

Speaking with Mamamia from Darwin, Pat reflected on the impact of institutionalised racism that still plagues many state-run hospitals. “Many Indigenous people also discharge themselves against medical advice, which I think is a sign of being unhappy with how they are treated, and not having access to their families,” she says. “There is still a lot of unconscious bias and racism across the board, particularly where you have large numbers of Aboriginal clients, so it’s about getting staff that are more culturally competent. Some of the worst offenders are the nurses. They really have to smarten up their attitudes. They think they know everything, and they can be very direct and rude. A lot of Aboriginal people feel very confronted by that.”

To read the article in full click here.

Feature Image: Children from the remote Indigenous community of Laramba in the Northern Territory, a region affected by undrinkable tap water. Credit: Marianna Massey, Corbis via Getty Images, Mamamia.

Moves to save Coonamble’s Marrabinya program

Petitions are circulating in each of the western NSW communities served by the Marrabinya program as Aboriginal people react to a decision by the Western NSW Primary Health Network (Western PHN) to cease funding the service from the end of 2022. Marrabinya is a Wiradjuri word meaning “hand outstretched” and since 2016, the Aboriginal-run program has acted as brokerage service to assist Aboriginal people with a diagnosed chronic illness to access medical support services, even in the most isolated communities. The priority chronic diseases are heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney and liver disease and cancer.

The Western NSW PHN are yet to issue a statement regarding the end of funding for Marrabinya’s program however, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service CEO Phil Naden told the Coonamble Times that the situation was not all doom and gloom. “A major review was conducted and feedback provided from right around the region,” he said. “Whilst Marrabinya might not continue in its current form the service will not be lost.”

To learn more about the Marrabinya program you can listen to a podcast “Marrabinya – Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” here. You can also read the May 2022 Marrabinya News, including details of the Save Marrabinya Campaign 2022 here.

To view the Coonamble Times article Moves afoot to save Marrabinya in full click here.

Alarming STD-caused throat cancer

The prevalence of throat cancer caused by a prominent sexually transmitted disease among Indigenous Australians has been laid bare by new global research. University of Adelaide (UOA) researchers human papilloma virus-led throat cancer was 15 times more prevalent in Indigenous Australians than young non-Indigenous Australians, and five times higher than rates found in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Finland.

UOA Indigenous oral health unit director and Yamatji woman Joanne Hedges said Indigenous communities had worked closely with the researchers on the project. “Participants wanted to be part of this HPV project because they wanted to be part of change,” she said. “The theme coming out was, ‘I had a family member pass away with this throat sickness, and I don’t want to happen to any other Nunga in my community or my family’. There was a real strength of participation.”

HPV is normally associated with cervical cancer, but can spread to the throat, head and neck via oral sexual activities, and is increasing at a rapid rate globally. UOA Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health director Lisa Jamieson said extending the study would allow a deep dive of the knowledge they had already learnt.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Alarming STD-caused Indigenous throat cancer statistic laid bare in new report in full click here.

Lisa Jamieson and Joanne Hedges (inset). Photo: University of Adelaide. Image source: University of Adelaide.

Home Stretch WA supports kids leaving OOHC

The WA State Government has committed $37.2 million to support the Department of Communities state-wide roll out of its Home Stretch WA program over the next three years. Home Stretch WA will support young people who exit the State’s child protection system at 18 years of age, until they turn 21, helping them successfully transition to independence. Research shows young people leaving care are at greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and interacting with criminal justice systems.

The Home Stretch WA program will provide flexible one-to-one individualised support focused on coaching young people towards independence. This support can include to obtain stable accommodation, enrol in further education, progress to work opportunities, identify where to access assistance in the local community, access health services, build support networks and improve financial skills.

The WA Department of Communities is looking forward to working in partnership with Yorganop Association Incorporated (Yorganop) to deliver Home Stretch WA to young Aboriginal people preparing to leave the child protection system  in the metropolitan area. Yorganop’s readiness to deliver Home Stretch WA is built from direct involvement in development of the ‘Nitja Nop Yorga Ngulla Mia’ (our boys and girls are staying home) model that formed part of the Home Stretch WA Trial.

You can view the WA Government Department of Communities article Young people to benefit from the state-wide roll out of Home Stretch WA click here.

Image source: WA.gov.au.

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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