NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

The image in the feature tile is of Palm Island cemetery. Image source: ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island, Wednesday 21 September 2022.

Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

People on Palm Island cannot find room to bury their loved ones as increased deaths from suicide and chronic disease prematurely fill the island’s cemetery. Authorities are concerned people on the remote island in north Queensland missed out on essential care when healthcare workers were diverted to the COVID effort.

Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam said it led to a rise in preventable deaths in the Indigenous community of roughly 3,000 people. “I have one of the busiest cemeteries in this nation,” he said. “Having at least 50 funerals a year, those kinds of stats are unheard of in communities of a similar size.” Mr Sam said there had been a funeral on the island near Townsville almost every week for the past two years. “When you’re constantly lining up and paying your respects, it’s taking a toll,” he said.

Like many Indigenous communities, residents on Palm Island are more than two-and-a-half times more susceptible to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. NACCHO senior medical advisor Jason Agostino said treatment was made harder due to severe health staff shortages. “If it’s harder to get an appointment and it’s more difficult to see people that know you … then managing your chronic disease becomes more complicated,” Dr Agostino said. “So what we’re concerned about is people won’t have chronic health concerns picked up earlier and they might have them picked up later when they’re already a bit sick.”

To view the ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island in full click here.

Gavin Congoo says the frequency of funerals on Palm Island is taking a toll on the community. Photo: Jade Toomey. ABC News.

Jalngangurru Healing in Kimberleys

On the banks of the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley’s central desert, a group of women gather. They run their hands over the knee of a patient and sing an ancient song. Their meeting is part of a program called Jalngangurru Healing — a pilot project that works with cultural healers to treat patients in the outback Kimberley. The women’s practices are slow and meditative, and among the people of Fitzroy Crossing are said to be effective.

Jalngangurru Healing was developed in 2019, and was aimed at engaging cultural healers to help patients who were complaining of ailments beyond the reach of other health providers. While some families in the Kimberley have their own private access to traditional healers, Jalngangurru tries to “bridge the gap” for those who don’t. The project was put on pause during the COVID pandemic but has recently returned in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing.

Work is also underway to develop a model on how the program can be rolled out across the Kimberley. The pilot is funded by the WA Primary Health Service and is supported by the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service as a part of its suicide prevention strategy. It is auspiced by the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre with Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation and is being evaluated by the Nulungu Research Institute to improve access to services like bush medicine, songs, smoking, maternal health, and palliative care.

To view the ABC News article Jalngangurru Healing links cultural healers with patients in outback Kimberley in full click here.

The women tend to aches and pains, as well as mental illlness. Photo: Andrew Seabourne. ABC Kimberley.

Gel to improve chronic would care

The pigment that gives plums, grapes and berries their deep purple hue could be a key to better health care for people living in remote Australia. That’s the focus of University of Southern Queensland student Dinuki Seneviratne’s PhD project, which involves developing gel wound dressings using the anthocyanin pigment. Ms Seneviratne is investigating using anthocyanins as pH indicators, meaning the dressings would change colour to show whether a wound is healing or deteriorating.

She said the project aims to create better chronic wound care for people in remote areas, particularly Indigenous Australians, who may live far from health services. Several Australian studies have shown First Nations people are more likely to have amputations after suffering diabetes-related chronic wounds than those who are non-Indigenous. “Chronic wound care is an area of great concern when it comes to First Nations’ health,” Ms Seneviratne told AAP. “People often can’t achieve the same type of care they would get in a metropolitan area. I want to make a hydrogel dressing that is effective in healing and preventing chronic wounds and is self-applicable, so there’s no worry about coming into a clinic.”

To view the Bendigo Advertiser article Purple patch to help remote health care in full click here.

Uni student Dinuki Seneviratne wants to improve chronic wound care for people in remote areas. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Our Vision in Our Hands

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit at University of Melbourne refreshed its Advistory Board this year to have majority Indigenous membership chaired by the esteemed human rights leader Pat Anderson AO, who is an Alyawarre woman. It is one step in a move towards Indigenous leadership throughout the organisation. Another significant shift saw the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group that led the organisation and development of the 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference.

This year’s conference saw a significant shift, with the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group (CLG). This transition should be seen in the wider context of the long, ongoing journey to expand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and self-determination into eye care. This shift in leadership is strongly reflected in this year’s theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, set by the CLG, which represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and ownership of eye health.

This year’s theme is significant as it shows in clear and plain terms the centrality of self-determination to any effort to improve eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Moreover, this year’s theme is written from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective for the first time, which also indicates the internal shift in the leadership of the conference, to the all-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CLG.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Our Vision in Our Hands: eye health conference highlights shift to First Nations leadership in full click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to suffer blindness than the general population. Image source: The Senior.

Mob invited to speak about medicines

NPS MedicineWise are inviting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to speak about medicines. This will inform the MedicineInsight system and tools that doctors and some ACCHOs can use to improve medicines use.

NPS would like to invite you to help them know what they need for these tools. Once they have made some new tools, they would like to ask you whether they should change them. This will mean online meetings to talk about what they should do. These meetings will happen between September and November.

Your comments will help improve the tools and ensure that they reflect the point of view of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The resources will be used for MedicineInsight and published online.

For attending the meetings NPS can give you a gift voucher of $50 per meeting, up to $200.

To express your interest in taking part in this project contact Shannon Barnes, MedicineInsight Program Governance Officer, using this email link.

You can find out more about MedicineInsight by clicking here and here.

Image source: The Senior.

Scholarships for women in health sector

Women & Leadership Australia is dedicated to supporting women leaders to achieve their leadership potential, and they are pleased to be able to offer scholarships of up to $5,000 for women working in the Health Sector. When it comes to career advancement, for many women, gender inequity is still a barrier. More than 8 in 10 of women leaders surveyed by Women & Leadership Australia were concerned about dealing with gender bias in the workplace, and more than 7 in 10 were concerned about their limited opportunities for promotion.

By supporting more women to step into leadership positions, Women & Leadership Australia hope to improve opportunities for women in the workplace. They have programs designed for women with limited leadership experience through to executive leaders and scholarships are available across four key levels.

You can access more information about the scholarship here and APPLY for a scholarship here.

Participants in Indigenous leadership course ACU. Image source: ACU website.

National Birthing on Country Conference

The Best Start To Life: a national gathering is an initiative of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. First Nations women, community advocates, scholars, researchers, health service providers and clinicians will attend the conference from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 October 2022 to reflect on the achievements and challenges of returning maternity and childbirth services to First Nations communities.

It follows on from the first Birthing on Country meeting, held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) 10 years ago, where the Australian Maternity Services Inter-jurisdictional Committee, in collaboration with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), held the first national workshop to progress Australian Government commitment to Birthing on Country.

The conference provides an opportunity for delegates from across Australia to showcase new research and ideas, and to network and invest in a shared vision to address inequities in birthing services for First Nations mothers and babies.

For more information about the conference click here.

Image from the Best Start to Life: a national gathering website.

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.

World Alzheimer’s Day

Today is World Alzheimer’s day.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs memory and other mental function. It is the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities causing difficulties with daily life. Raising awareness for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families is an important part of the work done by Alzheimer’s charities all over the world.

You can access Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Dementia: A Review of the Research – A Report for Alzheimer’s Australia, Paper 41 October 2014, by Professor Leon Flicker and Kristen Holdsworth here.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease click here. and for more information about world Alzheimer’s Day click here.

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