NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Thurs 30.6.22

Image is feature tile is of health staff working long hours to test residents in Bidyadanga. Photo: KAMS. Image source: ABC News 28 February 2022.

KAMS’ quick response to COVID-19

At last week’s Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference, Dr Lorraine Anderson shared some valuable insights from the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service’s (KAMS) response to COVID-19.

Medical director at KAMS, Anderson showcased their quick response to the pandemic, urging all conference delegates to consider the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) model of care to “help bring all people on board in the health space”.

In her presentation, Anderson said that communication, leadership, governance and the prioritisation of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual ways, self-determination and empowerment were critical.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Aboriginal leadership key to successful management of COVID-19 in the Kimberley region in full, including Anderson’s full presentation, as delivered at the conference on 21 June 2022 click here.

Vaughan Matsumoto, Senior Aboriginal Practitioner at the Beagle Bay clinic receives a coronavirus vaccine. Photo: KAMS, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Leading the way to improve RHD outcomes

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, between 5 and 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease (RHD) than other Australian children. The broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than other Australians. The prevalence of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is also significant. This was released in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in April 2022.  

To address these alarming issues, NACCHO will develop a new service delivery model for the national Rheumatic Fever Strategy (RFS), for the prevention, treatment, and management of RHD and ARF. This model will be co-designed with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. 

A Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) will oversee the strategy and be co-chaired by NACCHO and the Australian Government Department of Health. The JAC has been established to create a nationally cohesive approach to ARF and RHD, with a focus on improving care pathways and RHD data and includes representatives from: 

  • State and Territory Government Health representatives – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • NACCHO Affiliates – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • Heart Foundation 
  • Australian Medical Association
  • Members of the NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group.

A NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group has also been established and comprises representatives from the ACCHO sector.   

The JAC will meet bi-monthly during the establishment phase of the program. A meeting communique will be publicly available and provided to relevant stakeholders.  

Click here to read the JAC February 2022 communique.  

If you would like to be kept informed about progress in this space, you can contact the NACCHO RHD team using this email link.

Dr Josh Francis, Shannon Brown and Trey Brown in Maningrida. Photo: Mike Hill, Take Heart Program. Image source: NRHA Partyline on-line magazine.

Decolonising healthcare – a call to action

In her final story from the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine, Dr Amy Coopes has written about the call to decolonise healthcare, and for health workers to challenge “inequity and injustice in their work”. Dr Coopes explains that structural inequities and injustices as a legacy of colonisation can only be dismantled by acknowledging that a script of subjugation continues to be played out in healthcare settings, perpetuating a cycle of prejudice and ill health for oppressed peoples.

Disrupting this narrative is urgent work for all healthcare professionals, and begins with reflexive action, interrogating the motivations, power imbalances and potential for oppression, violence and injustice in our practices and approaches in health. These were the central messages of a compelling call to action for emergency doctors at a recent global summit held in Melbourne centred on the themes of equity, sustainability and innovation.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Decolonising healthcare: a call for equity in action in full click here.

REFOCUS makes profound difference

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! and it calls on the community to rally for systemic change and continue to support and secure institutional, structural, collaborative and co-operative reforms.

On a local level, one organisation working day in, day out to make a difference is REFOCUS. The charity is making a profound difference in the wellbeing of Indigenous youth and their families across the region. REFOCUS has been delivering wellbeing support services to the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gympie regions since 2010.

The charity stands for ‘Redirecting and Empowering Families through Culturally Unique Services’ and provides a range of programs to support children to reach their full potential. REFOCUS CEO Darcy Cavanagh first began working in the youth and child protection sector in 1998 and knows firsthand the need for this type of support in the local community. “My interest in this line of work comes from my brief experience of being placed in the foster care system with my two brothers and the life that followed being returned home,” he says.

Launching REFOCUS with six staff, and now with a team more than 60, the charity supports thousands of individuals through a variety of programs across its catchment area, with a specific focus on children under 18. Programs include family wellbeing services, family participation programs, NDIS support services, foster and kinship care as well as Aboriginal medical service Gunyah of Wellness.

To view the My Weekly article It’s time to come together in full click here and to access the REFOCUS website click here.

Calls for VIC Treaty Authority

Last week, Co-chairs of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria called on Victorian parliamentarians to pass legislation enabling the establishment of the Treaty Authority in Victoria. In what Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson described as an “umpire” independent from government, a Treaty Authority would “support Treaty-making in Victoria between the First Peoples of Victoria and the state government.”

Marcus Stewart, a proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, said “the Treaty Authority agreement is decolonisation in action”. Although an agreement has been signed between the First People’s Assembly and the Victorian Government, legislation is required to facilitate the operation of Authority. The Treaty Authority bill passed the Victorian Parliament’s lower house last week.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Lore, law and cultural authority at the heart of Victorian Treaty Authority in full click here.

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Census lacks detail about people’s lives

The census counted 812,728 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on census night, making up 3.2% of the total people counted. That’s up from 649,171 in the 2016 census, an increase of over 25%. Many have estimated the population prior to the arrival of the British was between 750,000 and 1 million. So the exciting news is in only 234 years we are nearing pre-colonial numbers.

Whenever there is an increase in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, there is always speculation as to why. Of course the politics of identity is always at play. There will be the usual commentary that targets the way people look in those old arguments that refer to skin colour as the measure of who counts as Aboriginal and the idea that lighter skin signifies less Indigenous or no Indigenous identity at all.

These worn out tropes never take into consideration that colonial policies and practices such as those that led to the Stolen Generations directly targeted people with mixed heritage. These targeted people suffered unimaginable violence in the nation’s mission to breed the colour out of us.

But unfortunately, given the lack of information in the census about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ lives, we can’t be sure if overall health among Indigenous people is improving and why lifespans seem to be improving. And the census has failed to investigate other ways Indigenous people may choose to identify, and how we live as families.

To view the SBS NITV article OPINION: First Nations population has increased, but census lacks details about Indigenous lives in full click here.

Three generation Aboriginal family. Image source: CHF Journal Health Voices – June 2022 edition.

Preparation for work in communities

Charles Sturt University paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students recently participated in training scenarios as part of their preparation for work in communities throughout Australia.

Associate Head of School – Paramedicine Dr Sonja Maria in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Bathurst said the scenarios were designed to give both groups of students insights into the possible needs of First Nations patients and how the paramedics in particular operate when on-call. Dr Maria said the interdisciplinary training day was created with the assistance of Dr Jola Stewart-Bugg, the Discipline Leader for First Nations at Charles Sturt.

To read the Charles Sturt University article ‘Together we are stronger’; health students strive for better First Nations patient outcomes in full click here.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students in training. Image source: CSU 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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