NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Inquest hears tragic victim statements

The image in the feature tile is of the sign outside the Doomadgee Hospital in the remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS. Image source: ABC Far North article Queensland coroner to travel to remote Doomadgee for rheumatic heart disease inquest published on 20 May 2022.

Inquest hears tragic victim statements

Family members of three women who died from complications associated with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the remote Gulf community of Doomadgee have given emotional victim impact statements to the inquest into their deaths. The three young women, whose families requested they be referred to as Kaya, Ms Sandy and Betty, died in 2019 and 2020.

Outside court, Alec Doomadgee, the brother of Ms Sandy and cultural father of Kaya, said the world needed to know the women were human beings and a crucial part of their families. He hopes the inquest would help bring these women’s lives — and the injustice they faced — to the public’s attention. He said that, if Kaya had been white, her treatment at various hospitals would have been very different. “It is an issue of race. It is an issue of systemic racism, institutionalised racism, and it is an issue of stereotyping Aboriginal people,” he said.

“We’re sick of being helped. We know what’s best for us, and we know how to help ourselves. We just need you to start listening to us.” He called on the state government to take real action and responsibility. “[Ms Sandy] didn’t die due to neglect, didn’t die due to negligence. She died because the system and the people [who are] supposed to help didn’t care.”

To view the ABC News article Inquest into deaths of three Indigenous women in Doomadgee hears tragic victim impact statements from family in full click here.

Alec Doomadgee, Ms Sandy’s husband, Edgar Sandy, and her daughters — Tinisha, Ellisha and Simona — outside the court. Photo: Holly Richardson, ABC News.

Traumatic brain injury data project

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the largest contributor to death and disability in people who have experienced physical trauma. There are no national data on outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI in Australia. Details of a study to o determine the incidence and key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe TBI, both for Australia and for selected population subgroups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, was published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) earlier today. The findings will be disseminated by project partners, including NACCHO, with the aim of informing improvements in equitable system‐level care for all people in Australia with moderate to severe TBI.

To read the MJA article The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) project: a mixed methods study protocol in full click here.

The news of this study comes at the end of this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week which ran from15–21 August with the theme Life is bigger than a brain injury. For further information about Brain Injury Awareness Week, including access to stories of those living with brain injury, you can access Synapse Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation website here. Below is a video relating to a previous study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traumatic brain injury.

Kowanyama dog control a big job

As the sun begins to take the chill out of the morning air, a litter of puppies emerges from its den of building materials on a vacant block of land. Soon the puppies disperse onto the streets, disappearing among dozens of other dogs that roam without boundary across Kowanyama, a remote Indigenous township in Queensland’s far north. The western Cape York community has a problem with loose dogs. They fight, they breed uncontrollably, they attack other animals and sometimes, they turn their attention on humans.

Samuel ‘Sinker’ Hudson, Kowanyama’s animal control officer is part of a small team of people trying to change the way locals care for their animals in Kowanyama. And he has a big job on his hands. There are 455 dogs registered with Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, about one for every 2.5 people in the community. It’s not known how many unregistered dogs there are, and unchecked breeding is an issue.

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama dog control reduces disease and keeps community safe, but more is needed in full click here.

Takeaway grog ban hotly debated

As communities in northern WA search for solutions to alcohol-fuelled violence and harm, a proposal to severely restrict takeaway grog is subject of a hotly contested debate. The state’s director of liquor licensing, Lanie Chopping, has been investigating whether all takeaway alcohol except light beer should be banned in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions since mid-2020. Crime rates, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour have led to the regions being compared to war zones.

The inquiry was launched after an application in 2019 by former police commissioner Chris Dawson in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse; his successor, Col Blanch, has given in-principle support. While it’s been met with widespread backlash from the tourism and hospitality sectors, which believe it would damage the area’s reputation, leaders in health care and social services have different views.

To view the ABC News article As officials consider a ban on most takeaway alcohol in northern WA, what do people on the ground say? in full click here.

The proposal has drawn a mixed response from the Pilbara community. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

Successful early childhood program

The school-based program, Getting on Track in Time has received a substantial financial boost to continue its fantastic work. A highly successful Aboriginal early childhood program has received a $2.7 million funding boost to ensure even more young children, their families and educators are skilled in discussing and managing, challenging emotions and feelings. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the Getting On Track In Time program – or GOT IT! – was culturally adapted for Aboriginal communities in partnership with local Aboriginal health services and piloted over four years with positive results.

“This program has united parents, teachers, mental health workers and Aboriginal people to achieve an important goal – to support young Aboriginal children to recognise, regulate and talk about any troubling thoughts and feelings they have,” Mrs Taylor said. “I am delighted more families will benefit from this excellent program, which was developed by South Western Sydney Local Health District in collaboration with local Aboriginal people.” Designed for children aged three to nine years, Aboriginal GOT IT! is a school-based program led by a team of mental health workers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal). Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the program aims to support children, families and educators to address emotional or behavioural concerns in children and reduce the emergence of mental health concerns later in life.

To view the NSW Government media release $2.7M for successful Aboriginal early childhood program in full click here.

Female prisoners need protection

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, is calling on the ACT government to guarantee that female inmates at Canberra’s jail are safe from predatory prison officers. It follows disturbing allegations of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and female detainees and ex-detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

On May 12, Tim Rust – a former senior director of operations at Canberra’s prison – blew the lid on a long-standing culture of drug taking and inappropriate behaviour among some corrections officers. Rust’s allegations – which have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission –  include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the matters.

Ms Tongs said she was deeply “concerned” by the allegations and has written to three key ACT ministers seeking an assurance that female detainees are safe. The ministers are ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne. “I’m calling on the ACT Government to guarantee the safety of the women detained in the AMC,” Tongs said.

To view the Canberra City News article Protect women from prison predators, says Tongs in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Innovative pathway to study medical career

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine are encouraged to consider a University of Newcastle pathway program, which could set them on the journey to realising their dream.

The Miroma Bunbilla Program is an alternate entry pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates applying for the University of Newcastle’s Joint Medical Program (JMP). Each year, up to 17 places are set aside for applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent for admission into the JMP. There are currently 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the JMP, and to date, 110 Indigenous doctors have graduated from the medicine program.

The five-day intensive assessment Miroma Bunbilla program, will be delivered from December 5 to 9, pairing students with mentors to successfully start medical school. In 2020, the program was extended beyond Newcastle to reach those outside the Hunter region and now also runs in Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Taree and Orange.

Applications for the Miroma Bunbilla Program are now open and close on 31 October 2022. For further information about the program and how to apply click here.

Medical student Kieran Shipp. Photo: University of Newcastle. Image source: National Indigenous 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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