NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: The Voice explained

The image in the feature tile is of Torres Strait Islander man Thomas Mayer, a tireless campaigner for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice. Image source: Twitter, 26 August 2022.

The Voice explained

The Albanese government has put forward a preferred form of words to insert into the constitution to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament, starting with a simple question for us all to vote on. “We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as: ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’” Anthony Albanese said in July during a landmark speech at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land.

The government is now in “the consultation phase of this important nation-building project”, according to the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. She has promised a public education campaign ahead of the referendum, to answer the most commonly asked questions. But the PM has said there is “already an extraordinary level of detail out there from the work that Marcia Langton and Tom Calma did”.

The Guardian article How would an Indigenous voice work and what are people saying about it? available in full here, goes on to answer the following questions:

  • What do we already know?
  • How would the national voice work?
  • How would it be structured?
  • How would local and regional voices feed in?
  • What would a voice not do?
  • How would disputes be resolved?
  • What action is being taken?
  • What are people saying about the plan?

NBA legend supports the Voice

The PM has enlisted the support of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal in calling for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and a Voice to Parliament. Anthony Albanese praised O’Neal after meeting with the basketball great in Sydney on Saturday morning, highlighting his work “in the United States about social justice and lifting people up who are marginalised”.

“He knows that we’re a warm and generous people,” Mr Albanese said. “And he wanted to inform himself about what this debate was about.” The PM argued the world was watching the debate in Australia about recognition of First Nations people. “I just believe that it will send a really positive message to the world about our maturity as a nation,” Mr Albanese said.

The PM, along with Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, presented O’Neal with a boomerang handmade by First Nations artist Josh Evans, and two jerseys from Mr Albanese’s beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs. “I’m here in your country, whatever you need from me, just let me know,” O’Neal said.

To view the ABC News article Shaquille O’Neal joins PM as Anthony Albanese says ‘world is watching’ Voice to Parliament debate in full click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Healing Works suicide prevention workshops

Healing Works Australia is an Indigenous Company that provides an array of suicide prevention and cultural services is leading the rollout of I-ASIST training across Australia and in August / September the development of the safeYARN suicide alertness workshops to 12 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations in NSW involved in the “Building on Aboriginal Communities Resilience initiative “ with NSW Health.

They aim to empower organisations and communities through education and sustainable outcomes. Healing Works achieve this by working with organisations and communities, to determine their unique needs so that they can more effectively respond to suicide and broader emotional wellbeing. The two workshops on offer are I-ASIST Indigenous Applied Suicide Skills Training, and safeTALK/YARN, Suicide Alertness For Everyone. Their delivery model for suicide prevention training is stepped in care and built around a solid framework that directly relates to their community members.

To view the Healing Works Australia press release in full click here.

Australia’s HIV diagnoses lowest ever

There were 552 new HIV diagnoses in Australia in 2021, meaning the number of new diagnoses has halved over the past 10 years, according to a new national HIV report released today by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.

  • There were 552 new HIV diagnoses in Australia in 2021, the lowest number since the beginning of the HIV epidemic.
  • The majority of new diagnoses remain in gay and bisexual men (68%), but have reduced by more than 52% over the past 10 years. The decline is due to a range of successful HIV prevention strategies including the scale-up of biomedical prevention tool PrEP, particularly over the past five years.
  • HIV diagnoses among heterosexual people have reduced at a lower rate; 28% in the past 10 years.
  • In 2021, HIV diagnoses remained stable among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Almost half (48%) of new diagnoses were ‘late diagnoses’, meaning that the person may have been living with HIV for four or more years without knowing. It is estimated that nearly one in 10 people living with HIV are unaware they have it.
  • Timely initiation of treatment is crucial, and by the end of 2021, an encouraging 98% of people on treatment had achieved viral suppression, which makes HIV untransmittable.
  • Further work is needed to optimise and tailor HIV programs to meet our global and national targets, and to achieve virtual elimination of transmission in Australia.

To read the scimex article Australia records lowest ever HIV numbers, but late diagnoses are concerning in full click here.

In a related Queensland University of Technology (QUT) article Zeroing-in on HIV transmission in Australia, available here, QUT health expert Dr Jo Durham says Australia had done well to reduce HIV transmissions, but insufficient focus on cultural and language differences had created inequities in healthcare access. We can’t reduce the number of people already living with HIV, but we want to stop further infections by reducing the transmission. A more targeted approach is needed to ensure access to HIV information and health care for populations experiencing HIV, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” Dr Durham said.

Image source: Health Times website.

Sleep disorders common for NT’s Top End kids

Sleep disorders are more common and more severe in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than non-Indigenous children, with Indigenous children often having higher screen use before bed, later bedtimes and reduced sleep, an analysis of NT data has found. The authors say targeted interventions and further resources are needed to address sleep quality issues, in order to improve the health of NT children.

“While sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), are a common and significant health issue in children, there has been very little research investigating their prevalence in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in the Top End region of the NT,” says study senior author Associate Professor Subash Heraganahally, affiliated with Flinders University in the NT and a respiratory and sleep physician based at the Darwin Private Hospital and Royal Darwin Hospital.

“If left untreated, OSA and issues with overall sleep quality can lead to the development of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, anxiety and depression, in addition to the potential lasting effects of reduced academic engagement in childhood. Given what we know from previous research in other populations into the impact of sleep disturbances, the presence of OSA and other sleep disorders is likely to have a dramatic impact upon the Indigenous and non-Indigenous paediatric population”

To read the scimex article Sleep disorders common for children in NT’s Top End region in full click here.

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies website.

Trek tackles Australia’s rising RHD rates

A group of highly experienced doctors, health workers, and First Nations’ leaders from across the nation have begun a ‘Deadly Heart Trek’ in Queensland. The trek aims to help tackle the rising rates of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While virtually eradicated amongst non-indigenous Australians, rates of RHD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly those living across northern and central Australia, are the highest in the world.

“If not diagnosed or treated, RHD can cause heart failure, disability, and even death,” says Paediatric Cardiologist and Deadly Heart Trek member Dr Bo Remenyi. “Without action, it is estimated that more than 9,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, most under 25 years of age, will develop acute rheumatic fever or RHD by 2031. “We must prevent this, through education, the upskilling of local community members, and early detection and treatment – particularly in communities with restricted access to medical facilities.”

The trek started on Thursday Island and will see two teams travel from Cape York to Mount Isa, visiting communities by invitation, where there is a high burden of disease.

To read the Retail Pharmacy Assistants article Trek tackles rising RHD rates in Australia in full click here.

Image source: Take Heart Deadly Heart website.

RPHC Manuals August 2022 update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated with monthly updates being provided to health services and other organisations to keep them up-to-date during the review process.

The RPHCM team recently attended the National Rural Health Conference in Brisbane to promote the upcoming publication of the new manuals. The team will also attend the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia (CRANAplus), Rural Medicine Australia and NACCHO conferences. All manuals are now making their way to the publishers for final formatting and editing.

All sales of the Clinical Procedures Manual will cease tomorrow Wednesday 31 August 2022.

The RPHCM team will be meeting with health services and key organisations over the coming months to discuss the changes made to protocols and new content in the latest edition. You can access the RPHCM Project Update August 2022 flyer here, the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals website here and the RPHCM team by email here if you would like a change to the report or to meet the team.

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