NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Michael Amendolia (2014) featured on the Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The new federal minister responsible for Indigenous health has stopped short of backing the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025 as the pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Australia is the most developed country in the world where trachoma — which causes blindness and is linked to poor face hygiene — is still prevalent. New Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy has declared overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities in the job, but said would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. “This is going to be an absolute priority for me and I will be travelling the country to talk to those experts to see what we can do to eradicate this scourge.”

Asked directly whether she backed the 2025 target, Senator McCarthy replied: “I’m having ongoing discussions, I’ve only been in this role a matter of weeks.” In 2009, the Rudd Labor government pledged to eliminate the eye disease by 2020. Since then, Cambodia, Ghana, Mexico and more have achieved the feat. But in Australia, the disease persists. The target was pushed back to 2022, but it is now clear Australia will not meet the commitment. The previous Coalition government announced a new target of 2025 to eliminate all avoidable blindness in Indigenous Australians, including beating trachoma.

To view the ABC News article Goal of eliminating eye disease trachoma by 2025 under threat as pandemic bites in full click here.

The Indigenous Eye Health unit travels to remote communities and teaches face hygiene. Photo: Jack Snape. Image source: ABC News.

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

ACT Government says it is prioritising funding for community sector organisations that provide essential services and programs to Canberrans in crisis. Some the programs and organisations that will receive funding through the 2022–23 ACT Budget include: meeting health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). The ACT Government will provide $9.40 million dollars over four years to continue a holistic model of health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. The funding will support the continuation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services’ model of care at the AMC.

To view the ACT Government website page More funding for the ACT community sector in full click here.

AMC cell converted into an Australian-first Indigenous health clinic in 2019. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Canberra Times.

First Nations aged care voice boosted

The Federal Government has appointed Yugambeh woman Jody Currie to the National Aged Care Advisory Council. The appointment of Ms Currie, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, is part of efforts to close the gap in design and delivery of aged care programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said First Nation voices were vital in the implementation of aged care reforms.

“For far too long older First Nations people have experienced barriers to accessing aged care services in their homes and communities,” she said. “To address service gaps and improve access to care, we must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the design, discussion and implementation of aged care reforms.” While 27% of non-Indigenous people participate in the aged care system’s key programs, only 17% of Aboriginal Elders participate.

In WA’s south-west, including Perth, the gap is the largest in the country, with only 8.6% of Elders participating in aged care programs. Aboriginal Community Elders Aged Care Partnership for Perth and South-West WA chairman Jim Morrison said there was discrimination in the ability for Aboriginal older people to access culturally appropriate aged care services. “All Stolen Generation people will be (at least) 50 next year, and we will qualify for aged care,” he said. “We want to consider our elder care and look after our older people…and it might be that our elder care centres be healing centres where our Elders can depend on their culture.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Jody Currie gains Federal appointment to tackle ‘discrimination’ in aged care system in full click here.

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

First Nations Victorians are being restrained and secluded at a higher rate than the general population, a shocking new report by the state’s peak mental health advocacy body has revealed. The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) third Seclusion Report found more than 5% of people admitted to Victorian mental health facilities subjected to seclusion were Indigenous, despite First Nations people making up just 3.5% of total people admitted. The rate of restraint among Indigenous patients was also higher at 4.6%. The findings come one year after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found poor mental health and substance use disorders accounted for as much as 14% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the new data made it clear why First Nations people might be apprehensive to seek help. “It’s these mental health services and the acute units where people are supposed to go to feel safe,” he said. “And then they’re being harmed by these practices, and traumatised by these practices. That makes people really concerned about seeking help in the future, knowing that these things have happened to them or could happen to them.” Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) social and emotional wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said the figures revealed in the report the tip of the iceberg. “(The figures) indicate that people might have been secluded twice in their stay,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Restraint, seclusion of Indigenous mental health patients in Victoria laid bare in damning report in full click here.

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

NACCHO is conducting a consultation survey to better understand the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services, support and coordination provided to communities by Affiliates and ACCHOs. The survey has been developed in partnership with Professor Pat Dudgeon from the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project, led by the University of Western Australia. Responses to this survey will help to build a national picture of what SEWB services and support are currently available, help to map SEWB services nationally, and identify service gaps. This evidence base will inform NACCHO’s advocacy to government for improved support to Affiliates and ACCHOs to deliver SEWB services and inform policy development.

The survey covers the following topics:

  • SEWB services and support
  • SEWB workforce and training
  • barriers to providing SEWB services or support
  • other SEWB activities that your organisation may be involved in.

NACCHO members should have received a link to the survey, and we are keen to hear from all of you! The survey will be open until Sunday 7 August 2022. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to Sasha Banjavcic-Booker, Senior Advisor Mental Health Policy and Programs via email or call 0409 919 398.

VACCHO Biannual Statewide Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering. Image source: VACCHO website.

headspace Grad Program applications open

Applications for the headspace Graduate Program 2023 have now opened for First Nations Allied Health Graduate roles.

These rewarding positions will be situated in a clinical team at a headspace centre and closely linked to the First Nations Wellbeing & Healing Division at headspace National. You’ll work alongside passionate people and make a real difference to young people, families, and communities. Where you’ll hit the ground running and continue developing your skills and career in youth mental health/social and emotional wellbeing. Find your place at headspace.

These graduate positions are designed to provide social work, occupational therapy and psychology graduates access to a two-year comprehensive youth mental health training and development program with support of cultural supervision.

Further information about this opportunity, including our First Nations information and yarning session, can be accessed at the headspace Graduation program website available here.

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

Two-thirds of Indigenous children in Victoria are meeting encouraging levels of key wellbeing indicators, according to a report from a pair of leading health researchers. The results, courtesy of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) found the vast majority of 9–12 year olds are getting enough sleep, practice a healthy diet with 84% meeting physical activity guidelines.

VACCHO and IHT also found relatively low levels of excess screen time, and a correlation between eating well and higher social and emotional wellbeing. Their Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together report surveyed primary school students in 18 local government areas of the state’s Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions in 2019.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria,” VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said. “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Encouraging data reveals Indigenous Victorian children picking up healthy eating, excercise habits click here.

The Deadly Koolinga Chef Program involves cooking classes that teach skills in food and nutrition essential to improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Image source: Murdoch University Research Tweet 4 March 2021.

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.

National Homelessness Week

Homelessness Week is held annually across the nation to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also a time reflect on the collective action needed by community and all levels of government to help break the cycle of homelessness. In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events, including providing information on the importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a difference.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. For further information about Aboriginal homelessness in Australia click here.

The theme for Homelessness Week 2022 is To end homelessness we need a plan. A range of resources are available on the Homelessness Australia website here including social media tiles, web banners, email signatures, posters and messaging to support your advocacy. One on the website you can also register for the Homelessness Week 2022 launch from 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Monday 1 August 2022.

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

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