NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness

Image in feature tile is of Pat Turner AM, delivering the Dr Charles Perkins Memorial Oration for 2020, Great Hall, University of Sydney. Image source: ABC Speaking Out website.

Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness

Yesterday the CEO of the NACCHO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM issued the following media release to mark the start of NAIDOC Week 2022:

Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness

NAIDOC Week 2022: Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!

CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM says NAIDOC Week 2022 calls upon us to Get up, Stand up and Show up, which can be tough! But as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we know how important it is.

‘We know that to achieve the changes necessary to improve the health, wellbeing, and economic prosperity of our people, we have to make this choice every day.

‘On the days that are especially tough, I remember that we stand on the shoulders of exceptional humans who have changed Australia for the better! Like my Uncle, Dr Charlie Perkins, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Eddie Mabo, Gladys Elphick, Albert Natmajira, Faith Bandler, Vincent Lingiari, all our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who’s presence and strength are endless, and to our ancestors who maintained and handed down a rich culture that makes us who we are today. That makes us strong.

NAIDOC Week 2022 with quote from NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of Coalition of the Peaks, Pat Turner AM

‘I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman and I grew up in Alice Springs. Being Aboriginal and of the First Peoples of this Country is my story, the story of who I am.

‘And this is just one of the multitudes of worthwhile reasons that help me to Get Up, Stand Up, and Show Up, every day.

Pat further added, ‘Over time, and through our continual storytelling, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have reclaimed some of our Country back through native title and land rights, and as momentum builds towards a national Treaty as part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the significance of our stories continues.

‘As the first CEO of NITV and working in the Aboriginal space for a long time, it is exciting to see the explosion of young people on social media, advocating for social justice, celebrating, and reconnecting with their identities and languages.

‘The stories I grew up with were told under big gum trees, out on porches, sometimes laying in swags and looking up to the stars. I would listen as my mother and father told the stories of my family and about our Country, and from others, I heard the stories of the fight for the civil rights of Aboriginal people.

‘Both these stories helped to shape who I am today. They gave me my sense of what it means to be an Aboriginal person and instilled a fire in me to imagine and work towards a better future for our peoples.’

You can view Pat Turner’s media release Standing on the Shoulders of Greatness in full on the NACCHO website here.

Interrogating intentions for First Nations health

In the PM’s 2020 Closing the Gap statement to Parliament, he reported “despite the best of intentions; investments in new programs; and bi‐partisan goodwill, Closing the Gap has never really been a partnership with Indigenous people”. The “best of intentions” for Closing the Gap has been widely questioned in academic literature, and mainstream media, including highlighting the lack of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples involvement in decision‐making processes and acknowledgement of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services as exemplars of best practice in providing holistic health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 2021, with a reformed agenda for Closing the Gap now established with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented by their community‐controlled peak organisations, the Coalition of Peaks — an Aboriginal‐led research team — felt it timely to interrogate the intentions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through a critical review of research outputs since Closing the Gap was established in 2008.

To read the MJA article Interrogating the intentions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health: a narrative review of research outputs since the introduction of Closing the Gap in full click here.

Image source: Oxfam Australia.

CATSINaM demonstrates governance excellence

Wiradjuri academic Juanita Sherwood was working at The Block in Redfern in inner Sydney in the late 1980s when she first saw the need to decolonise research to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Professor Sherwood is a founding member of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives(CATSINaM), a member of its Elders Circle and a Board director. She said CATSINaM’s model of Indigenous governance today was “a beacon of light in how to do business in Indigenous health” compared to a generation ago when she started work as a nurse. “Our governance model reflects on what is important in our culture, our lore, how we pay respect to Elders, and how we promote primary healthcare as critical care for our community,” she said.

Board President Marni Tuala, a Bundjalung registered midwife, said CATSINaM’s model of Indigenous governance could be seen in multiple layers of the organisation where the distribution of power often seen in Western systems was replaced by the reciprocal distribution of knowledge that reinforces “our Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing”. “What we’re doing at CATSINaM is demonstrating the model of excellence in Indigenous governance,” she said.

To view the Croakey Media Health article Demonstrating excellence in Indigenous governance: Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives in full click here.

CATSINaM member Kamilaroi-Wiradjuri nurse and artist Kisani Upward painted this portrait of CATSINaM founder Dr Sally Goold – the first Aboriginal nurse at the first ACCHO in Redfern – for the 2022 Archibald Prize. Photo courtesy of Kisani Upward. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Adolescent health strategy a glaring gap

The current lack of a national strategy for Indigenous adolescent health in Australia is a glaring gap. While there has been work to establish a policy framework for Australia’s young people, there is no national strategy for Indigenous adolescent health. As a result, investments to date have been limited, reactive and fragmented. Efforts have been siloed around health issues including sexually transmitted infections, social and emotional wellbeing, youth suicide, rheumatic heart disease, and risk behaviours including substance misuse. However, these foci are inadequate given the persistent high rates of potentially avoidable mortality; unintentional injury (a key driver of adolescent mortality) is a notable gap.

Additional policy gaps relate to the health needs of Indigenous 10–14‐year‐olds, including the excess burden of sexually transmitted infection, injury, substance use, and poor mental health (including self‐harm and suicide). Young adolescents typically cannot access youth services independently and have needs beyond those currently provided for in paediatric services. Further, many existing efforts focus on diseases and risks amenable through the health system, too narrow a focus to address needs largely driven by complex social and structural determinants.

More than one‐third of Indigenous adolescents report high rates of psychological distress, a symptom of systemic racism and discrimination, intergenerational trauma, and associated socio‐economic deprivation. While responsive health services play a critical role, broader investments in health promotion and prevention are also required.

To view the MJA article The need for a roadmap to guide actions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health: youth governance as an essential foundation in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: BBC.

No telehealth puts vulnerable at risk

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the Federal Government has failed an early test of its pandemic response by refusing to extend COVID-19 telehealth services despite the ongoing challenges to our health system. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the refusal of the Government to extend Medicare-funded COVID-19 telehealth services from 1 July would limit vulnerable patients’ telephone access to doctors. “This decision means telephone access to doctors will be significantly limited and this will hit vulnerable patients hardest, including those who do not have access to high bandwidth internet and those who can’t operate the necessary IT systems,” he said.

“This means that older patients, those with chronic health conditions including cancers and those who
are immune suppressed will have less access to care from tomorrow and may be put at increased risk of
contracting COVID if they now have to attend their doctors appointment face to face. “Each day thousands of Australians are required to self-isolate because of a COVID-19 infection and as
a close contact. Many of these people will not be able to continue to access medical care when they
need it.”

To view the AMA media release Government failure on telehealth services puts vulnerable patients at risk in full click here.

Image source: The West Australian.

Growing First Nations population a proud moment

Co-founder of The Demographics Group based in Melbourne and columnist with The New Daily has written an article about Australia’s growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, “Earlier [last] week, I was able to get a glimpse of the census data. The joys of writing a column include getting embargoed press releases the day before the official data launch. One figure, more than anything else, jumped out at me. Australia’s Indigenous population has increased sharply to 813,000 (3.2% of the population).”

“This 25% increase over 2016 data is huge. Obviously, this increase cannot, by definition, be due to migration, nor was it the result of an outrageously high birth rate. On the contrary, more people identified themselves as Aboriginal on the census form. Social progress still seems painfully slow for the relevant cohort, but zooming out, looking at longitudinal data, allows us to be much more optimistic about societal trends. We have collectively created an environment where more people are confident enough to proclaim their legacy loud and clear.”

To read The New Daily article The Stats Guy: Increase in Indigenous population a proud moment for Australia in full click here.

Photo: Wayne Quilliam, Oxfam Australia. Image source: AHRC.

Hope for Health program changing lives 

An Indigenous-led program in Arnhem Land is combating chronic illness and promoting healthy living using a combination of traditional and Western knowledge. The Hope for Health program has seen profound results among participants including weight loss; better control over diabetes; a reduction of medication use; and half of participants quitting smoking.

Co-founder of the framework Time Trudgen says the program could benefit communities across Australia to close the gap in health education and safeguard future generations.

You can listen to the SBS story Indigenous-led health program changing lives in Galiwin’ku here.

Hope for Health team recruiting for health retreat. Photo: Aneeta Bhole. Image source: SBS News.

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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