NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Remote mob with disability in desperate situations

Image in feature tile is of Emily Sherwood who has to share Tennant Creek’s main street with trucks because her scooter does not cope on non-sealed terrain. Photo: Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Image source: ABC News.

Remote mob with disability in desperate situations

A mother resorted to rummaging through a rubbish tip to find spare parts for her daughter’s wheelchair, the disability royal commission was told last week. The First Nations woman was among many in remote communities who spoke of trying to navigate a system with no “cultural competence”. The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability was also told the “one size fits all” approach of the NDIS wasn’t working and showed “a complete lack of understanding” of the lives of First Nations people with disability.

The royal commission travelled to Alice Springs to hear firsthand from First Nations people with disability about the barriers they faced to get the appropriate supports from the NDIS. Approximately 66,000 First Nations people live with severe disability. About 38,500 are NDIS participants and 10% of those live in remote and very remote communities. 28 witnesses, including 13 with lived experience, gave evidence about their lives in West Arnhem Land, Thursday Island, Fitzroy Crossing, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

Pat Turner, the CEO of peak body the NACCHO, said the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not taken into account when developing the NDIS. She said it had resulted in a system that had “created accessibility and gaps at best, and exploitation at worst.” Ms Turner said the NDIS assessment process was open to “unconscious bias” because of a lack of “cultural competency” in the organisation and scheme. “If you don’t have that cultural respect and understanding throughout the organisation you are not going to have the returns on the investment.” Ms Turner said improvements for the lives of First Nations people with disability were being made through the Remote Community Connectors Program (RCCP).

To view the ABC News article ‘Desperate situations’ of First Nations people with disability living in remote communities laid bare at royal commission in full click here.

‘Daisy’ said her wheelchair had been damaged for “a long time”. Photo: Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. Image source: ABC News.

APPLY NOW for the Antimicrobial Academy

CPD Accredited

Amazing opportunity for any health worker or health professional working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector to gain valuable skills to address antibiotics use and resistance in your community.

• 5-month program August – December 2022
• Fortnightly Zoom sessions
• Certificate upon completion

Candidate nominations to participate will come from interested health care organisations who support the candidate to develop skills and implement change in their organisation. Fostering colleagues with these skillsets will be critical for safe prescribing, improved stewardship and advocacy to ensure that remote living Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are included in national efforts to address antimicrobial use and resistance.

For more information on how you can join this program click here.

Applications close midnight Sunday 24 July 2022.

Mob lived with more anxiety about COVID-19

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government’s pandemic response struggled to include the country’s most minoritised groups, including First Nations people. Daily press conferences were broadcast, but the messages were not delivered or received equally across the country. Trust in the people delivering the messages and ability to follow health advice varies according to personal, social and cultural experiences..

A study has found First Nations people in rural NSW experienced significantly more anxiety and fear about COVID-19 than non-First Nations Australians. At the beginning of the pandemic Australia’s strategy resulted in low numbers of infected people until the Delta variant emerged. Then First Nations rural and remote communities were essentially left to fend for themselves. Even though First Nations people were found to be at greater risk of death and illness during past influenza pandemics.

The Aboriginal community-controlled health sector’s strengths based communication strategy led to culturally appropriate responses including the creation of pandemic tool kits and infection control advice. In some places this included closing remote communities and developing localised social media campaigns for these sites.

To view The Conversation article First Nations people in rural NSW lived with more anxiety and fear about COVID-19 than non-First Nations people in full click here.

At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, First Nations people were identified as a high priority list. Despite this, access to the vaccine for First Nations communities was quite limited. Photo: Dan Himbrechts, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Addressing NT GP shortage critical

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) leaders are visiting Alice Springs to meet with local GPs today (Monday 18 July 2022) and discuss how to address the Territory’s GP shortage and improve patient health outcomes. RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said “The GP shortage is an issue right across Australia, and it’s particularly bad for many rural and remote communities in the Northern Territory. Lack of access to general practice care has a very negative impact on people’s lives. Those living in rural and remote communities often have poorer health outcomes compared to people living in cities, including higher rates of chronic disease and more complex health needs. For example, the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows people living outside major cities have higher rates of diabetes, asthma and arthritis.”

Adj. Professor Price continued “More support for culturally safe healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people is also critical to close the gap and achieve health equality. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a disease burden 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous people – this is shameful. And we know that culturally inappropriate services and the experience of racism is a key barrier to care for communities, which is why cultural competency training for health practitioners and services is so important. We are also urging the Government to invest in longer consultations for complex cases – which would make a real difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, because we know they are more likely to need these consultations due to higher rates of chronic health issues, and multimorbidity which requires more time to care.”

To view The National Tribune article RACGP Leaders meeting GPs in Alice Springs to tackle workforce concerns in full click here.

Dr Melanie Matthews, Mala’la Aboriginal Corporation Health Service, Maningrida, Arnhem Land NT. Image source: ABC News.

Community-based smoking cessation research

A ground-breaking Newcastle-based study is set to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women quit smoking. The ‘Which Way?’ findings, published today (Monday 18 July 2022) in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), is the first Indigenous-led study developed for, and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to develop ways to quit smoking. The project found that resources and funding is urgently needed to improve culturally safe and effective support for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are trying to quit smoking.

University of Newcastle research fellow Michelle Kennedy led the three-year study to find culturally effective quitting methods. “A lot of evidence that we use when we are developing or implementing services to quit smoking are drawn from the general population or even overseas and implemented in an Aboriginal community and what we find is that they are usually not successful,” said Dr Kennedy. “The project specifically looked at what is of interest to women of reproductive age to try and stop them from smoking before or during their first pregnancy, or ahead of subsequent pregnancies. Smoking and pregnancy is a key target for the ‘Closing the Gap’ campaign and it has been ever since it was established,” said Dr Kennedy. “We know that it impacts our low birth weight babies which is a real concern because that hasn’t changed much over the years of the campaign but we have never found that thing that is going to help empower Aboriginal women to quit smoking in pregnancy.”

To view the Newcastle Herald article Newcastle based study finds ways to help Aboriginal women quit smoking in full click here. You can also MJA article Doing “deadly” community‐based research during COVID‐19: the Which Way? study in full click here. Below is a short video of Dr Kennedy explaining the Which Way? study.

Trauma leaves a mark on our genes

Freud once famously said that the child is the father of the man. However, even the good doctor probably never imagined just how true this statement would prove. Indeed, science is increasingly demonstrating that the child of trauma often bears many sons and daughters. Traumatic experiences, the evidence suggests, don’t just change us for a time. Rather, they can leave seemingly indelible marks that endure across multiple generations. The stigmata of trauma are neither figurative nor behavioural, though. Instead, the alterations induced by trauma occur from the inside out, marking us on the genetic level even as they change us on the psychological and behavioural levels.

The article covers: 1) the Genetic Basis of PTSD and Other Mental Illnesses 2) Traumatic Childhood Experiences and Gene Expression, and 3) Generational Trauma and PSTD.

Traumatic experience of poverty, intergenerational racism has been linked to higher rates of physical and mental health conditions among Indigenous groups in Australia, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Once again, this can be connected not only to the deleterious effects of economic and healthcare inequities, but also to the generational impacts of chronic stress, fear, and anxiety in the face of racial trauma. Trauma can inflict pain that lasts not only for a lifetime but for generations. Indeed, traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, can produce heritable genetic alterations that may leave one’s descendants at elevated risk for mental illnesses, such as PTSD.

To view the Open Forum article Trauma leaves a mark on our genes in full click here. Below is a short video about intergenerational trauma produced by The Healing Foundation.

Excellence in Health Care Medal winner

The AMA Queensland Excellence in Health Care Medal has been awarded to Professor Cindy Shannon AM, a First Nations woman and Emeritus Professor who has led major reforms in Indigenous health. Prof Shannon is a descendant of the Ngugi people from Moreton Bay and is one of Australia’s foremost higher education Indigenous leaders. She is the first Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous) at Griffith University, where she works alongside colleagues to enable all aspects of the university’s First Nations engagement. Prof Shannon led the development and implementation of Australia’s first degree level program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers.

She also played a key role in supporting the establishment of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, which improves the health of First Nations people across South-East Queensland. She was recognised as a Queensland Great in 2017 and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2020 for her contributions to Indigenous health and medical education. “Prof Shannon has made a massive contribution and lasting legacy to Indigenous health in Queensland and we are very proud to award her with the Excellence in Health Care medal,” Dr Boulton said.

To view the AMA Queensland article Top doctors win AMA Qld awards in full click here.

Professor Cindy Shannon. Photo: Glenn Hunt. Image source: Brisbane Times.

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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