NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pleas for governments to ‘listen’

Image in feature tile is from The Guardian article NT intervention a ‘debacle’ and second attempt should be made, commission told, 22 June 2017. Photo: David McLain, Getty Images, Aurora Creative.

Please for governments to ‘listen’

The intervention rolled into the NT like an unseasonal storm. That’s how some Territorians who lived through the policy – formally named the emergency response – remember its arrival, 15 years ago. John Daly, a remote community resident from Nauiyu, was the Northern Land Council’s chairman at the time, says “I think it was done in a way that was so hurtful. When you look at the intervention, it was based on a report – this wasn’t the response [the authors] wanted from their report. Ten years after allegations of abuse and violence in the Indigenous community of Mutitjulu sparked the NT intervention, locals say very little has been achieved.

“Why basically ride in there and take away the rights of every traditional owner and Aboriginal person?” In north-east Arnhem Land, Djambarrpuyngu clan cultural leader Lapulung Dhamarrandji remembers residents from Milingimbi fleeing to neighbouring homelands and communities out of fear. “To us, it was like there wasn’t any blue skies around us, it was covered with thick grey clouds – when the intervention came, it was like that,” he said. “The fear inside us all, I mean we are parents just like you people you know.”

To view the ABC News article Residents who lived through the NT intervention plead for governments to ‘listen’, 15 years on in full click here.

Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann said there was a failure to listen deeply and hear residents’ solutions. Photo: Felicity James, ABC News.

PAMS Healthcare Hub built for the desert

Through a series of projects in the arid environment of WA predominantly built for Aboriginal communities, Kaunitz and Yeung Architecture has proposed a different approach to working with the beautiful, yet harsh, desert environment. Designing with, not for, remote Aboriginal communities, Kaunitz and Yeung are changing the narrative of remote regional architecture – creating a new vernacular for Australian desert architecture.

While one of their most recent projects, the award winning Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) Healthcare Hub, may be the most prominent of Kaunitz and Yeung’s work, some of their earlier Western Desert projects were fundamental in breaking the architectural tradition already present in Australia’s desert areas. The work of Kaunitz and Yeung has been iterative. Starting with the Wanarn Health Clinic in 2015 which, in David Kaunitz’s words, “smashed the mould of verandah buildings” then the Punmu and Parnngurr clinics in 2018, each project has learned from the previous and the design has evolved.

To view The Property Tribune article Creating architecture for the Australian desert in full click here.

The new PAMS building has been constructed around an internal courtyard which provide shad in summer and shelter from the harsh sun. Image source: The Property Tribune.

Pharmacy trial puts patients in danger

A small Aboriginal community in Far North Queensland, the town has in effect been selected as one of the sites for a radical and potentially dangerous experiment in patient care. That experiment is the Queensland Government’s plan to allow pharmacists to diagnose, prescribe and dispense up to 150 different S4 drugs across 23 medical conditions.

Dr King, a Yued/Whadjuk Noongar man, explains why he fears the worst. I first learnt that Yarrabah would be a site for the North Queensland pharmacy trial back in March. I found out because a journalist sent me those secret, confidential documents that had originally been leaked to Australian Doctor earlier this year. I did not find out because the community was consulted about what was coming— the local council, the ED next door to us, both knew nothing. I was confused, and I was angry.

The government says this trial will allow pharmacists to compensate for GP workforce shortages in North Queensland. If Yarrabah is on the list, then that is nonsense. We have seven FTE GPs, and even in the most difficult parts of the pandemic, we haven’t had shortages. To slap us with this trial with no consultation about what is happening is ludicrous and offensive. It also shows a deep level of ignorance at the highest level of Queensland Health for what actually goes on within communities from a primary health perspective and the vulnerabilities of our patients.

To view the Australian Doctor article Pharmacy prescribing trial: ‘The lives of my patients are in real danger’ in full click here.

Dr Jason King, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, Yarrabah, QLD. Image source: Australian Doctor.

Use the NDIS? We want your story

Do you or your family use the NDIS??

We’d like to film your story?!

People from all locations welcome.

Your time will be paid $$.

Please contact Chris Lee by email here or by phoning 02 6246 9352.

Urgent need for more mental health services

More than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21 more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a health care professional for their mental health. These sobering statistics are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, with in-depth data from more than 5,500 people aged 16 to 85 years old. The study found that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 21.4% of Australians had experienced a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months, with anxiety the most common disorder. Almost half (47.1%) of those who had a mental health disorder in 2020–21 sought support, an increase since the last study in 2007.

Across their entire lifetime around one in six (16.7%) Australians reported having had suicidal thoughts or behaviour, with females (18.7%) having a higher rate than males (14.5%). 38% of Australians were close to someone who has attempted or died by suicide, a tragedy which impacts family, friends and communities.

You can read the media release Major Mental Health Study Released issued by Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler MP and the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride MP in full here.

Other organisations also issued media releases in response to the ABC data:

Image source: High Street Medical Clinic.

Change starting for VIC LGBTQI community

From growing up with his ‘foot in two camps’ – queer and Indigenous, to being the voice of the LGBTQI community in Victoria, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities Todd Fernando says it’s been an exciting journey. Todd Fernando is the first out queer, Indigenous person to be appointed a commissioner in Australia. For this descendant of Kalarie people from the Wiradjuri nation, growing up with his “foot in two camps” was not an easy task.

“Being a young Wiradjuri person, we were fighting for the recognition of our culture. I had to put my queerness on the back burner and, and really not allow it to overshadow what we were trying to do within the Wiradjuri space,” Fernando said. Fernando grew up in the regional rural town of Condobolin, located on the Lachlan River in central-western NSW. “I was very fortunate to grow up on country and to learn about my culture in a variety of ways with my family. One of the things that I did miss out on was connecting to my culture through my queerness.”

To view the Star Observer article We’re starting to see change, says Todd Fernando Victorian Commissioner for LGBT communities in full click here.

Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities at the opening of the Victorian Pride Centre in July 2021. Photo: Gabriel Jia. Image source: Star Observer.

Better anti-racism training needed

Monash researchers have found medical practitioners are promoting ill health through racist practices with Aboriginal health consumers. Monash academic Petah Atkinson published the findings from her PhD research Aboriginal Health Consumers Experiences of an Aboriginal Health Curriculum Framework in The Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Journal with co-authors Professor Karen Adams and Professor Marilyn Baird.

The study found unwanted care included three racism themes: 1) The practitioner perpetuating and being unresponsive to racism; 2) Assimilation; and 3) An inability to consider the impacts of settler colonialism. Desired care included four anti-racist themes: 1) Responsiveness to racism and settler colonialism; 2) Advocating within the settler colonial health system; 3) Engaging with the diversity of Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing; 4) Lifelong learning and reflection.

In settler colonised countries, medical education is situated in colonist informed health systems. This form of colonisation is characterised by overt racism and contributes to the significant health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples. Curriculum in these countries includes content relating to Indigenous peoples but doesn’t recognise Aboriginal knowledge as valuable nor consider the Indigenous health consumer’s nuanced lived experience of the delivery of medical care.

To view the Monash University article Better anti-racism training needed for medical practitioners in full click here.

Image source: INSIGHT Into Diversity.

Broaden your horizons with AGPT program

General practice is the perfect career choice for any doctor who enjoys diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions and building long term relationships with their patients. With GPs at the frontline of primary healthcare during this recent pandemic, there are more opportunities than ever for a rewarding career in general practice – particularly those who choose to train in rural and remote Australia.

The Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program

Expressions of interest are open for the 2023 Australian General Practice Training (AG{T) Program (AGPT). The AGPT trains medical registrars in general practice. Registrars who achieve their fellowship through the program can work as GPs anywhere in Australia. Explore our pathway to Fellowship for a visual representation of the suggested steps for your journey.

By expressing interest, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will support you will valuable information through the application process.

You can express your interest by visiting the RACGP website here.

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.

16th National Rural Health Conference

In the lead up to the recent Federal election, the crisis in rural health received considerable media attention. It is well understood that the lack of sufficient health professionals and limited access to healthcare, result in lower life expectancy and higher levels of disease and injury in rural, regional and remote communities compared to metropolitan populations.

“If we are going to make significant inroads into improving access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, we need to bring together the whole rural health sector to learn from others about effective, innovative and tailored, place-based solutions for our rural communities,” said Dr. Gabrielle O’Kane, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance). To this end, the Alliance will host the 16th National Rural Health Conference from 2-4 August 2022 in Brisbane, Queensland.

To read the National Rural Health Alliance media release 16th National Rural Health Conference from 2–4 August 2022 ‘Bridging social distance; rural health innovating and collaborating’ in full click here.

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