NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

The image in the feature tile is of the remote NT community, Yarralin, west of Katherine. Photo: Hamish Harty. Image source: ABC News article FOI documents show NT government previously forecast it would not meet target to build 650 remote houses in five years, 5 April 2022.

Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

State and territory governments will be required to ensure all First Nations houses in homeland communities and town camps meet or exceed minimum standards for essential services within the next decade, under new targets agreed by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, the Assistant Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, and their state and territory counterparts met Aboriginal peak bodies in Adelaide last Friday to discuss progress on social, health, economic and educational indicators.

Burney said all jurisdictions must come together to address the inequities that too many First Nations people experience across the country. “The importance of closing the gap cannot be underestimated,” she said. Access to essential services and poor housing conditions are a problem for many Indigenous families, particularly those in remote and regional areas. States and territories have agreed in principle that essential services – including to households within town camps or town-based reserve – should meet or exceed “jurisdictional standards.”

To view The Guardian article Closing the Gap: states and territories pledge to lift First Nations housing standards in full click here.

Photo: Dr Simon Quilty. Image source: ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health webpage.

Former NRL player now R U OK? ambassador

In his early 20s Kevin Heath fell into a depression he didn’t see coming. The proud K’Gari Indigenous man and former Rugby League player said it was a single conversation which helped him start tackling his mental health and eventually build the life he once might have dismissed as a fantasy. Rocking his eight-month-old daughter, Mr Heath said it was an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone. “It was through that experience that those close to me told me I needed to speak to somebody,” Mr Heath said.

The former Rugby League player is now a community ambassador for R U OK?, an Indigenous Health Outreach Worker in south east Sydney, and founder of sport-specific training and mentoring company Dream Time Academy. He said his personal experience with mental health proves the message of the R U OK 2022 campaign – that you don’t need a fancy degree to be qualified to ask a mate “are you OK?”.

The article RUOK Day 2022: Kevin Heath, mental health advocate, Dream Time Academy founder referred to above appeared in the Daily Telegraph here.

Kevin Heath. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

GPs fill mental health system gaps

Dr Tim Senior, a long-standing GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service, an ACCHO in South West Sydney, and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine has co-authored a article for InSight+ with Louise Stone, a GP with clinical, research, teaching and policy expertise in mental health and Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Medicine group, ANU Medical School and works in youth health.

In the article they say “GPs are used to filling gaps in the health system. Over our careers, we have lived through times where we are seen as underqualified and then essential to a range of services, including maternity care, dermatology, sexual health and more recently, urgent care, infectious disease and psychiatry. An ability to flex with community need is one of the core capacities of generalists, and enables the health system to rapidly adapt to changing community need.”

“If we are to understand and respond to the breadth and depth of mental health issues in the community, we need to think beyond simplistic views of episodic “disorders”. General practice mental health care ranges from disorder management, to prevention, to individual trauma (domestic violence, sexual abuse, medical trauma), to crisis (natural disasters, major medical illness) to life stressors (eg grief, suicide postvention) to social harms (discrimination, harassment) to existential crises (infertility, death and dying).”

To read the InSight+ article General practice: the liquid in the mental health system in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

More NT nurses transition to Country

Ten Territory nurses will spend the next 12 months building their skills and providing services to remote communities under the Transition to Remote Practice Program. This year is the first time the program recruited a second cohort of participants. They will join the 12 nurses who commenced the program at the beginning of 2022. The program is designed to bolster the Territory’s remote nurse workforce and help nurses develop a broad range of skills to cover emergency care and general primary health care issues with a focus on culturally safe practice and Indigenous health needs.

Over the next 12 months the second intake of nurses will work at health clinics including: seven nurses will be stationed in the Top End region including Jabiru, two in Wadeye, Palumpa, Peppimenarti, Gunbalanya and Wurrumiyanga. Two nurses will be based in the East Arnhem region, including Alyangula, and Angurugu.One nurse will work at the health clinic in Numbulwar in the Big Rivers region.

Nurses receive a Transition to Primary Health Care Certificate following completion of the program, enabling them to apply for remote area nurse positions. To view the Chief Minister of the NT, Natasha Fyles media release Another Cohort of Territory Nurses Transition to Country click here.

Below is a short video of the Mpwelarre Health Service Clinic Manager, talking about her work in Santa Teresa, a remote NT town of 600 people. Mpwelarre Health Service is a community controlled health service led by the Mpwelarre Health Aboriginal Corporation. is one of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress’ five remote health services.

Prisons an opportunity to address complex health needs

Police watch-houses present a unique opportunity for medical interventions in high-risk populations, according to the authors of an article recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The authors examine the opportunities to “intercept a vulnerable, complex and otherwise hard-to-reach population, and identify unmet health needs” in Queensland police watch-houses.

The report said 43 of the 505 deaths (9%) in police custody between 1991 and 2016 occurred in a police station, police vehicle, police cell, or watch-house. Almost half of those were deaths due to a medical cause (49%). Lead author Julia Crilly, Professor of Emergency Care at Griffith University, studied the key challenges for people and systems responsible for the health and safety of detainees in short-term custody alongside her colleagues.

“As a group, [police watch-house detainees] are largely disconnected from health services, so beyond their immediate, untreated health problems, comparatively little is known about underlying and unaddressed social determinants,” the paper stated. Issues such as substance dependence, mental illness, and chronic health conditions like hypertension and asthma are all significantly more prevalent than in the general population for vulnerable groups. “This is especially evident for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who represent 30% of the custodial population despite comprising only 3.3% of the Australian population.”

To view The Mandarin article Police watch-houses offer opportunity to address complex health needs in full click here.

Melbourne Remand Centre. Photo: Joe Castro, AAP. Image source: The Mandarin.

New forum to give young leaders a voice

Aboriginal youth need to stand up to reverse the declining state of social justice in Australia’s North West, according to the organiser of a young leaders group. The first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering was held this week on Gooniyandi Country at a remote Kimberley community. More than 50 Aboriginal youth aged 18–35 were encouraged to raise their concerns at the meeting hosted as part of a series of AGM’s held at Kupartiya Community for the Kimberley Land Council.

West Kimberley Empowered Young Leaders Coordinator Toni Wajayi Skeen said the youth forum was a long time coming. “When you’re constantly being talked to and being told about your community issues you feel as thought you don’t have a say in decisions that affect yourself and community, we intended this space to be solution based,” she said. “We are asking for young people to have a seat at the table, to make their own decisions and create their own voice. In terms of the social justice issues here, it has gotten worse. We hear this term that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but what are we doing today to make sure they are the leaders of tomorrow.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article New forum launched to give young Kimberley Indigenous leaders a voice in full click here.

Attendees of the first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

myGov is changing soon

myGov has given people a simple and secure way to access My Health Record for many years. But the way people use government services is changing, so myGov is getting an upgrade to meet these growing needs. If you access My Health Record through myGov, you’ll start noticing some changes soon.

When myGov changes, you won’t need to do anything different. You’ll still find myGov at the same web address, use the same sign in details and all your linked services will stay the same. The upgraded myGov will be modern, offer personalised information about government services and have a new look.

When your My Health Record is linked in your myGov account, the important health information that you and your healthcare provider organisations have added can be viewed securely whenever it’s needed, including in an emergency.

You won’t need to do anything different to access My Health Record through myGov.

Explore the changes and learn more here. You can do everything you currently do in myGov using myGov Beta – it’s just as safe and secure.

The myGov eKit will help you inform people in your community. You can download the myGov community resources here so you can let people know about the changes.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Women’s Health Week 2022

In 2013, realising that there was no event dedicated to women’s health in Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health ran the very first national Women’s Health Week. Thousands of women across Australia subscribed to take part in a week of events and online activities, learning more their health.

Now in its 10th year, Women’s Health Week is a celebration of women in Australia, women from all walks of life. In 2021 (despite a second year impacted by lockdowns and restrictions), more than 128,000 women participated in 2.277 events, over 54,000 women subscribed to the online campaign and we reached over 3.6 million people via social media. Women’s Health Week is recognised as the biggest week for women’s health and wellbeing in Australia and takes place annually in the first week of September.

For more information about Women’s Health Week visit the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health website here.

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