NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Long COVID data lacking for mob

COVID-19 virus sitting on top of page with graphs

The image in the feature tile is from the National Institute for Health Research’s report Living With COVID-19 Second Review, Tuesday 16 March 2021.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly. The content included in these new stories are not necessarily NACCHO endorsed.

Long COVID data lacking for mob

Long COVID research continues to be hampered by a lack of data, and a government committee hearing was told last week this is an especially acute problem for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The House Standing Committee on Health’s inquiry into Long COVID and repeated COVID infections held the hearing last Friday following months of receiving submissions, including a significant volume from people with lived experience of Long COVID.

“We have no clear evidence on Long COVID cases amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Dr Jason Agostino, a GP, epidemiologist and medical advisor to NACCHO said. “Most jurisdictions have not shared data on presentations to their Long COVID clinics by Indigenous status. Our primary care data systems cannot provide reliable or timely data, and no researchers have approached NACCHO to partner with them. NACCHO is most concerned about the impact of COVID on the burden of chronic disease, but this too lacks appropriate data. There is concern both about the impact of COVID illness and the impacts of access to health services through the pandemic.”

“There is a perception that we are seeing an increase in the prevalence of chronic disease or significant deterioration in clinical status among people with these chronic diseases through the pandemic. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Health Protection subcommittee have requested data on excess mortality to assess these concerns, but there are no data available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We’re also concerned that instead of investing in ACCHOs, the response to Long COVID in many jurisdictions appears to be investment in standalone disease-specific clinics that will likely be difficult to access for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.”

To view the Medical Republic article No Long COVID data for Indigenous Australians in full click here.

rear view of man at computer with blank screen

Image source: Medical Republic.

Return of NT alcohol bans seen as ‘second chance’

Nearly a year ago, against the spectre of alcohol bans lifting in his community, Palmerston Indigenous Village leader Phillip Goodman offered his prediction of what would come next. “All hell’s gonna break loose,” said Mr Goodman at the time. He foresaw a return to what he refers to as “the bad old days” before alcohol bans were introduced to his community, on the outskirts of Darwin, in 2007 – when alcohol abuse ran rampant.

Commonwealth Intervention-era bans lapsed in July last year, and without any systems in place to help communities transition out, towns like Alice Springs saw a steep rise in alcohol-related crime. After months of refusing to reinstate the bans, and after weeks of national scrutiny over the surge in crime, the NT government backflipped and passed laws to see the bans put back in place.

As the bans return for dozens of Aboriginal living areas across the NT, Mr Goodman sees it as a “second chance” for communities like his, to this time get things right.  Others in the Aboriginal health and justice sector agree with Mr Goodman’s sentiments that the conversation now needs to take place territory-wide, about what happens next. Olga Havnen, the co-chair of the NT’s Aboriginal Justice Agreement, has called for public forums to be held to “have the broader community involved in these conversations”. “This is not just a problem for Aboriginal people,” Ms Havnen said. “Perhaps it’s time for some sort of territory-wide forum, in each of the regional centres, to discuss a comprehensive alcohol management plan; what is it that would work, how do we manage this situation better?”

To view the ABC News article Alcohol bans are returning to the NT, and some Indigenous leaders see them as a ‘second chance’ in full click here.

Olga Havnen, co-chair of NT Aboriginal Justice Agreement

Olga Havnen. Photo: Matt Garrick, ABC News.

VALS welcomes raising criminal responsibility age

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has flagged an intent not to wait for a nationwide action on raising the age of criminal responsibility, hinting his government will go it alone should the process drag on. Currently, children as young as 10 can be held in prison across Australia. Indigenous children are drastically over-represented in the system. “We’re giving that one more go to try and get a national consensus and if we don’t – as we said some time ago – we won’t hesitate to do our own thing,” Mr Andrews said. “We’d prefer not to do that, I think a national law would be better, but at some point you have to call time on national processes that just don’t deliver.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) welcomed the news from Mr Andrews, saying Victoria needs to lead the way with the caution “it must be done right”. “Raising the age is not just about the children who are being held in prison, but the children who are targeted by police,” VALS chief executive Nerita Waight said. “Every child that comes into contact with police and prison is being harmed.

“Criminalising children traumatises them. Traumatising children does not make communities safer. Making sure children have the security and support they need is what makes communities safer.” Ms Waight said programs currently in place to support young people deserve the funding required to operate properly and have desired impact and the money spent saves governments millions in the long run factoring in police, justice system and jail expenses all entangling vulnerable kids.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service urges greater reforms as Dan Andrews flags raising age of criminal responsibility in full click here.

drawing of ATSI person holding Raise the Age sign & photo of front of VALS

Image sources: L-R Penal Reform International and VALS website.

Aboriginal Go4Fun healthy lifestyle program

Aboriginal Go4Fun is a FREE culturally tailored evidence-based healthy lifestyle program for parents and children aged 7–13 years who are above a healthy weight, siblings are also able to join. The program was developed in partnership with Aboriginal communities and is delivered by local Aboriginal organisations together with NSW Health. The program encourages the whole community to join in.

Aboriginal Go4Fun takes place after school once a week for ten weeks, during school terms. It’s also run by qualified health and community professionals, but our team includes members of your local Aboriginal organisations.

Participants receive the same great healthy lifestyle information as the standard Go4Fun program, all delivered in a culturally tailored way for Aboriginal families and communities.

To view The Beagle article Aboriginal Go4Fun – Register now article in full click here.

Mardi Gras Rainbow Serpent 10 years in the making

Years of waiting will come to an end tomorrow, as Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras makes its welcome return to its homeland on Oxford Street. The pandemic saw the annual parade relegated to Allianz Stadium for two years, but relaxed restrictions have restored the to celebrations to their historic route. For Jinny-Jane Smith, this year’s Mardi Gras has been even longer in the making. The Wiradjuri Walbunja woman is a Team Leader for First Nations projects at ACON, the NSW-based gay health organisation.

Tasked with designing this year’s First Nations float, Ms Smith finally had the chance to realise a long-held dream. “So with it being World Pride, we wanted to ensure that we showcased a Dreaming story that represented not only our culture but also our connection to our queerness,” she said. “The rainbow serpent is our creative spirit that created the world, and everybody kind of has a connection story to the Rainbow Serpent.”

To put such a recognisable element of First Nations culture on display for the Indigenous float, which always marches at the front of the parade, Ms Smith didn’t want to hold back. “The message that we hope we get across is just how deadly and how connected we are to our culture, and the way that intersects with our sexualities as well.” That intersectionality of being Blak and queer has historically been suppressed and subjugated. Ms Smith struggled to see herself reflected anywhere growing up.

To view the NITV article This Mardi Gras Rainbow Serpent has been ten years in the making in full click here.
First Nations float marching at the head of the modern Mardi Gras parade

The First Nations float always marches at the head of the modern Mardi Gras parade. Image source: NITV In the Community webpage.

Reducing burden of ill health from chronic diseases

The Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney is conducting research, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to reduce the burden of ill health from chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The aim is to better understand and address workforce issues, environmental contributors and nutrition and physical activity risk factors, as well as offer health education opportunities. Another aim is to be strong advocates for improved health on the issues that matter to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The research theme engages with a number of multidisciplinary project nodes at the Charles Perkins Centre. By doing so, researchers can better examine the complex and interconnectedness of issues surrounding diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease and their related conditions. The research strives to provide insights that contribute to alleviating the burden of ill health borne by many of Australia’s first people.

To view The University of Sydney webpage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in full click here.

tops of sandstone building University of Sydney and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags flying

Image source: The University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre webpage.

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