NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: JulEYE champions eye care

Image in feature tile is of Dean Saffron; courtesy of Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source Optometry Australia website.

JulEYE champions eye care

JulEYE is National Eye Health Awareness Month. Led by the Eye Surgeons Foundation of Australia, this campaign aims to: raise community awareness of eye health issues; raise funding for vision research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness; and support international and domestic development projects whose goals are aligned with those of the Foundation. The campaign promotes six top tips to maintaining healthy eyesight: 1) wear sunglasses 2) get regular eye tests 3) eat right 4) wear eye protection 5) don’t smoke, and 6) don’t strain your eyes.

The are a range of initiatives in the eye health space in relation to First Nations peoples. The Royal Australian and NZ College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), for example, maintains a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Committee, which brings together ophthalmologists from across Australia who have particular experience in service provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including via innovative service delivery models. The Committee informs RANZCO’s projects, policies, and advocacy work in this area.

RANZCO works in close collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, including via Vision 2020 Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee which has developed a Strong eyes, strong Communities 5 year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision 2019–2024. RANZCO is also one of the original endorsers of the Roadmap for Closing the Gap for Vision. RANZCO also works in close collaboration with Indigenous medical education organisations (such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association – AIDA, and the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education – LIME) to ensure cultural competency is best embedded into the RANZCO Vocational Training Program.

RANZCO, in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation, recognises that we need practical steps towards reconciliation and closing the gap in eye health. In a 2020 joint statement, available here, the two organisations called on the eye health sector to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health in practical ways such as bulk-billing, patient-centred approaches to care and equity of access to essential eye surgery.

‘Shameful chapter’: NT Intervention ends

The end of the Howard-era ‘Intervention’, which saw unprecedented government control over First Nations communities in the NT, has been welcomed by advocates. Human rights law centre director and Arrernte man Nick Espie described it as “a shameful chapter” in the treatment of First Nations people in the Territory, which began in 2007. “This is a time for reflection, on an era of systemic failures, the disempowerment of Aboriginal people in the NT and the silencing of our voices,” he said.

“During these 15 years, we have seen the demonising of Aboriginal people and culture and the erosion of self-determination.” While most Intervention laws ended on Sunday, Commonwealth legislation enabling compulsory income management continues. “The Albanese government has promised to abolish the Cashless Debit Card Scheme and all forms of compulsory income management, which still live on in other legislation. These are some of the last paternalistic hangovers from the Intervention and should have been scrapped years ago.  The prime minister must keep this promise,” Mr Espie said.

To view the SBS NITV article ‘Shameful chapter’: Intervention ends in the NT after 15 years in full click here.

The infamous blue signs at the entrance to communities became a symbol of the intervention. Image source: Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

Mental health a silent diabetes complication

For 19-year-old Sebastian Harris, the constant pressure to be carefully managing his type 1 diabetes can feel overwhelming. “I sometimes feel that no matter what I do, my diabetes can be extremely hard to control,” Mr Harris said. “Some weeks my blood glucose levels can be unreasonably low or unreasonably high and it doesn’t make any sense, no matter what you do. “It makes me question whether I am managing it well. I know in the long run it will be fine but, in that moment, it’s hard not to feel defeated.”

Mr Harris, from the Gold Coast, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years after his younger brother learned he had the same condition. “You want to switch off and forget about it, but you can’t do that with diabetes,” Mr Harris, an ambassador for Diabetes Queensland, said. “There’s no holiday from it. The consequences if you do try to ignore it can be life-threatening. “We need to make sure people are aware of the issues, both physical and mental.”

According to data from Diabetes Australia, almost 700,000 people in Australia living with diabetes experience a mental or emotional health challenge every year. Diabetes Australia Group CEO Justine Cain said diabetes mental health was the most prevalent, yet least recognised, diabetes complication.

To view the Narromine News article Mental health the silent complication of diabetes epidemic in full click here.

Image source: Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program website.

Youth vaping a serious concern

Physicians and paediatricians from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) say that the rise in youth vaping, exposed in a recent ABC Four Corners report available here, is seriously concerning. The RACP says the Federal Government should consider strengthening importation laws and their enforcement to reduce the growing black-market supply of vaping products to children and young people.

Professor Emily Banks, a public health physician and RACP Fellow, says: “the rise in vaping that we’re seeing in young people is extremely concerning. All nicotine e-cigarette use that is not on prescription is illegal, yet there are massive volumes of high concentration nicotine vaping products being imported into Australia for use by young people.”

To view the RACP media release Physicians and paediatricians say rise in youth vaping is seriously concerning – calls for urgent strengthening of importation laws in full click here.

Image source: Toronto Star.

NT alcohol bans end

Laws banning alcohol from Aboriginal communities across the NT expired at the weekend, making liquor legal in some areas for the first time in 15 years. Some advocates and politicians say the laws were racist, and removing them is an important step towards self-determination. Others – including Aboriginal health groups – say the changes have been rushed and will create more alcohol-related harm.

To listen to the ABC News PM segment NT alcohol bans end click here.

Alcohol was often smuggles into remote NT communities. Image source: ABC News PM.

Service helps reduce number of kids in care

Data from WA’s Department of Communities has revealed a 20% drop in the number of Wheatbelt children in care since the same time last year. There were 242 children in care last June and that has fallen to 194. The department’s executive director of service delivery Glenn Mace said the reduction is a sign prevention programs are working. “Up until the last couple of years we’ve seen year-on-year increases of children entering care, so these latest figures are really pleasing,”

He said in the past year almost all regions have seen a reduction of children in care. Mr Mace said the department’s wraparound services play a vital part in making families stronger. “It’s really aimed at trying, where we can, to build safety within families, building their own capabilities and capacities so that their children don’t have to come into the care system,” he said. Mr Mace said Aboriginal children were over-represented in the care system and there were many reasons for that. “But generally, and in part, Aboriginal children tend to come into care as part of the larger sibling group,” he said. “They tend to enter care at a younger age and they stay in care.”

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal support service shown to help reduce the number of children in care, department says in full click here.

Image source: Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) website.

Raising criminal responsibility age only first step

In some Australian states, children can legally be detained from the age of 10 years old. This has led to over- policing and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. First Nations children represent 50% youth incarcerated during 2021. Incarcerating children can cause irreparable harm, particularly for those who have complex health and social needs. Children who are removed from their families and communities during crucial stages of development and placed in youth detention are exposed to a form of social control, stigmatisation and criminalisation that in many cases inflicts lifelong harm.

Indigenous voices are seeking not just to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years. but to implement an Indigenous-led model of care that provides culturally appropriate early childhood holistic care. In addition, addressing social issues of poverty, employment and access to health and housing would help provide stable lives for otherwise at-risk children.

You can read The Conversation article Raising the age of criminal responsibility is only a first step. First Nations Kids need cultural solutions in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono 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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