NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Vanuatu eliminates trachoma

The image in the feature tile if from the World Health Organization’s news release Vanuatu leads the way for Pacific elimination of trachoma – the world’s biggest infectious cause of blindness published on 12 August 2022.

Vanuatu eliminates trachoma

The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) confirmation that Vanuatu has ended trachoma as a public health problem, making it the first Pacific island nation to eliminate the disease. The foundation, with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, The UK Government’s The Commonwealth Fund and the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) funding, has helped drive the final push to eliminate the infectious disease.

It comes as Australian health authorities struggle to stamp out trachoma in Indigenous communities, with a 2020 elimination target pushed out to 2022 due to COVID, and then again to 2025. Australia remains the only developed nation with endemic trachoma. According to Fred Hollows, the disease thrives in areas where drinking water and sanitation is poor. It is easily spread through personal contact and by flies that have been in contact with people’s eyes or noses. It disproportionately affects mothers and children.

Fred Hollows CEO Mr Ian Wishart congratulated Vanuatu for declaring trachoma is no longer a public health problem. It’s the second neglected tropical disease eliminated from the archipelago nation of 83 islands, after lymphatic filariasis in 2016.

To read the Insight News article Vanuatu first Pacific island nation to eliminate trachoma in full click here.

Dr Anasaini Cama, Fred Hollows Pacific trachoma expert, assessing a child’s eye health. PHoto: Shea Flynn, RTI International. Image source: Insight News.

47 years since start of land rights movement

The historically significant gesture of then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring a handful of red soil into the hands of senior Gurindji man, Vincent Lingiari on 16 August 1975, symbolised the legal transfer of more than 3,000 square kms of the Wave Hill cattle station back to the Gurindji people. It also meant the Gurindji became the first Aboriginal community to have land returned to them by the Commonwealth Government and would be a turning point – the start of the Aboriginal land rights movement for the rest of Indigenous Australia, that continues even today.

“Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever,” Gough Whitlam said.

Almost 56 years ago on the 23 August, the Gurindji people of the NT made their name across Australia with the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off. A landmark event that inspired national change: equal wages for Aboriginal workers, as well as a new Land Rights Act. Many people know a small part of the walk-off story because of the song From Little Things, Big Things Grow about 200 stockmen, house servants and their families who walked off Wave Hill Station on 23 August 1966, in protest at appalling pay and living conditions. But what is not widely known is that the walk-off followed more than 80 years of massacres and killings, stolen children and other abuses by early colonists.

You can read more about the Wave Hill Walk-Off and the transfer of leasehold title to the Gurindji on the National Archives of Australia website here.

Prime Minister Whitlam pouring a handful of earth back into the hand of Gurindji elder and traditional landowner Vincent Lingiari – marking the return of his people’s is traditional lands. Photo: Mervyn Bishop. Image source: Head On Foundation.

$3m to address family violence in Alice Springs

Foot patrols and women’s support services will be among programs funded under a Federal Government deal to address high family and domestic violence rates in Alice Springs. Announced on Wednesday, the $3 million injection of funding to address domestic and family violence hopes to address disproportionately high levels of abuse across the NT. Among organisations to receive funding is the Tangentyere Council Aboriginal Corporation, which will expand patrol activities and increase support services through its Women’s Family Safety Group.

“One woman dies every ten days at the hands of her former or current partner in Australia. This is unacceptable,” Federal Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said. “We know Indigenous women are more likely to experience family and domestic violence – more than 34 times likely. We’re committed as a whole-of-government to reducing this scourge.” The provisions intend to expand the reach of local services, support victims and increase work to prevent reoffending in central Australia. Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjara Women’s Council Aboriginal Corporation will similarly expand its rollout of women’s support services.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney self-determination played a key role in addressing domestic violence “As well as intervention and responding to incidents, (the funding) will empower leaders in the community to address some of the underlying factors that lead to violence and unlawful behaviour, and support women to take a leading role in keeping the community safe,” she said.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Federal cash injection for street patrols, safety services to tackle Alice Springs domestic violence in full click here.

Alice Springs. Photo: Neda Vanovac. Image source: ABC News.

Is vaping a threat to public health?

With their alluring scent and brightly coloured packaging e-cigarettes or vapes have become increasingly popular with young people but their addictive nature and a lack of understanding about what’s really in them continues to spark concern. Megan Varlow, Director Cancer Control Policy at Cancer Council Australia, says e-cigarettes are deliberately made in a way that is attractive, marketed and made in flavours and designs that are interesting and engaging for younger people.

Research show the vast majority of Australians are supportive of action to better regulate the usage of e-cigarettes. Unlawful over the counter availability is threatening to undo decades of public health success in Australia. You can listen to the SBS News – News in Depth podcast Is vaping a threat to public health? in full here.

Image source: News Medical Life Sciences.

Pharmacist of the Year takes on UTS role

Along with winning Pharmacist of the Year at PSA’s Excellence Awards, Faye McMillan MPS was recently appointed Professor of Indigenous Health at Sydney’s University of Technology (UTS). But growing up in remote NSW, Wiradjuri woman Associate Professor Faye McMillan AM MPS never expected a career in pharmacy – let alone becoming the first Aboriginal registered pharmacist. Working as a pharmacy assistant in the local pharmacy in Trangie, about 75 kms from Dubbo in central west NSW, Faye McMillan enjoyed interacting with the local community. ‘People would come in just to talk about how their day was going or if something significant had happened in the town,’ she says. ‘It really was such a wonderful place to be.’

Encouraged by the pharmacist she worked with, A/Prof McMillan became a dispensary technician before deciding to study pharmacy as a mature-aged student at 27.  After graduating in 2001, A/Prof McMillan did her intern year at a community pharmacy in Wagga Wagga. She became fully registered in 2002, unknowingly becoming the first Aboriginal person in Australia to do so. ‘For me personally, I didn’t think about it … But when it was pointed out to me, I felt a sense of obligation as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to take it on,’ she says.

To read the Australian Pharmacist article New beginnings for PSA’s Pharmacist of the Year in full click here.

Pharmacist of the Year Associate Professor Faye McMillan MPS. Image source: Australian Pharmacist.

Final chance to win $350 voucher

Australian Indigenous HealthINfoNet is conducting an online survey designed to gather feedback from users of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet as part of its continual improvement. The survey will take about 5-10 minutes to complete. Survey responses will remain anonymous. Choosing to answer the survey questions indicates your informed consent to participate. You can stop the survey at any time by closing the computer window in which the survey appears.

At the end of the survey, you have the option to submit an entry for a prize draw for a $350 Coles Group & Myer gift voucher. The winner’s name will be drawn at random and they will be contacted by phone or email after the survey closes. Your contact details will not be linked to your survey responses. Survey respondents who enter the prize draw within its first week will automatically be entered twice.

For your final chance to win a $350 Coles-Myer voucher, take the HealthInfoNet’s 2022 User Survey by the end of this week. The survey is open until 11.59pm (AWST) Sunday 21 August 2022.

Click here to start the survey.

Extent of WA homelessness revealed

New data shows Aboriginal people remain radically over-represented in WA’s homeless population. The figures also show a sharp rise in the number of people using government-funded homelessness services in the state, particularly in the north. Compiled by the University of WA Centre for Social Impact, the Ending Homelessness in WA 2022 report provides an overview of homelessness in WA, a decade of data held by community agencies, and studies of the initiatives and programs aimed at ending homelessness in the state.

Centre director Paul Flatau said the data showed a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in WA’s homeless population. “While making up only 3.1% of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders form 29.1% of the homeless population in the Census,” he said. “Aboriginal people make up an even higher proportion of those receiving support form homeless services. The population of people experiencing homelessness in WA is characterised by an over-representation of Aboriginal people who have experienced family or domestic violence, people with mental health issues, young people, and people with substance use issues.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article New report reveals extent of Indigenous WA homelessness crisis in full click here.

The Fremantle Homeless camp is providing a sense of community and security. Image source: National Indigenous 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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