NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: PHC investment needed for people living in poverty


elderly ATSI woman sitting head in hands, black dog, One Mile Dam community camp near Darwin

The image in the feature tile is on an Aboriginal woman at One Mile Dam, an Aboriginal community camp close to Darwin, where Indigenous people live in extreme poverty. Photo: Jonny Weeks, The Guardian.

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.

PHC investment needed to help people living in poverty 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on government to help GPs get on with the job of caring for people experiencing poverty. It comes following the RACGP’s submission to the Senate Community Affair’s inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia. RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that the solutions to poverty must include general practice care. “A key part of tackling poverty is improving the health of people living in poverty,” she said.

“If people are experiencing poor health, it makes it harder to work, and to care for themselves and their family. There are concrete steps government can take to help patients experiencing poverty get the right kind of care when they need it. Longer consultations with a GP are crucial for many people experiencing poverty when you consider that these patients are more likely to present with poorly managed chronic conditions and increased rates of mental health issues. GPs also spend lots of time helping out with complex paperwork for agencies including Centrelink, the NDIS and state housing, just to name a few.”

“The solution is boosting investment in general practice care. That way, we can put primary care on a more sustainable, long-term financial footing and ensure that no patients anywhere are left behind. If patients living in poverty can access care from their GP when they need it, they are far less likely to end up in a hospital bed with a condition that could – and should – have been managed in general practice. Even aside from the consequences of enabling people to work, care for their families and live their lives to the fullest extent possible, it just makes sense economically. To take one example, every dollar invested in primary health care in a remote Indigenous community results in savings in hospital care from $4 to $12.

To view the RACGP media release RACGP: Help GPs and practice teams care for people experiencing poverty in full click here.
outside view of Utju Clinic (Areyonga), Central Australia, NT

Utju (Areyonga) Clinic, Central Australia, NT. Image source: Flinders University website.

New my health app is live

As of today the my health app is live and available to download. my health is a secure and convenient way for Australians to view key health information that a consumer or healthcare provider has uploaded to an individual’s My Health Record. You can:

  • visit the Digital Health website here to learn more, and
  • download the app from the Apple App Store here and the Google Play Store here or search “my health gov” in your relevant store.

Please spread the word!

To help with the launch of the my health app, the Australian Digital Health Agency has created a range of promotional collateral that can be used on your channels. Refer to their Communications Overview for Partners here which contains key messages and an overview of how you can use these assets.

If a consumer or healthcare provider needs assistance, they can call the Help line on 1800 723 471 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).

Shining a light on an invisible disability

Indigenous health experts are eager to shine a light on an “invisible disability” impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The new campaign Strong Born aims to raise awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the dangers of drinking while pregnant or breastfeeding. The program, being run by NACCHO, builds on the research done for the Lililwan (little ones in Kimberley Kriol) Project, led by the Aboriginal community of Fitzroy Crossing in WA, in partnership with Sydney University and George Institute for Global Health.

Chief executive of the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre Emily Carter, a Gooniyandi and Kija woman who was part of the Lililwan Project, said from the beginning of the study in 2010, community had been at the centre. “For a long, long time there, this was seen as an Aboriginal problem,” she said. “But it was Aboriginal people, Aboriginal women as strong women, that brought it out to the wider consciousness of Australian society. “It was because of our grandmothers at that time were saying to us that their grandchildren’s behaviours were so different to their children growing up and they didn’t know why.”

Malarndirri McCarthy, the assistant minister for Indigenous health, said foetal alcohol spectrum disorder was not confined to any one community. “FASD is often referred to as the invisible disability but as far as many families and communities are concerned, it’s a very visible part of daily life,” she said. “It is a disorder that crosses socio-economic, racial and educational boundaries.”

To view the Perth Now article No blame and no shame: Focus on foetal alcohol syndrome in full click here.

Strong Born poster Aboriginal family with baby girl, grandmother, text 'pregnancy and grog don't mix, Our mob, strong babies, strong futures, NACCHO logo

Strong Born poster. Image source: NACCHO website.

NACCHO Chair addresses First Nations Conference

The aim of the Australia and NZ School of Government (ANZSOG) is to build public service capability in First Nations Public Administration, and ensuring public services are culturally competent. Public servants working in all areas of public administration must change their thinking and upskill, in order to engage successfully with First Nations peoples for improved outcomes. Part of this work is ANZSOC’s regular First Nations public administration conferences which bring together public servants, academics and not-for-profit community leaders to engage with First Nations speakers and listen to their views. These events deepen public sector understanding of the value of First Nations knowledges and cultures, and their importance to public policy

This year’s ANZSOG conference First Peoples to All Peoples: partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing is being held in Brisbane from 1–3 March. The conference will examine First Nations policy through the lenses of Australia’s National Agreement on Closing the Gap commitments, particularly the four Priority Reforms, as well as the NZ Public Service Act 2020, which now clearly sets out the responsibility of the public service, particularly its leadership, in supporting the Crown’s relationship with Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The title of Day two: session one held earlier this morning was Building the Community-Controlled Sector. At the opening plenary session NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills was one of three speakers addressing the question How do governments devolve responsibility for service delivery to First Peoples?

For more information about the conference, including details of the key speakers you can visit ANZSOG’s webpage 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference: First Peoples to All Peoples – Partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing webpage here.

tile for 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference First Peoples to All Peoples: Partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing - Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre 1-3 March; portrait of Donnella Mills, NACCHO Chair

Promotion tile for 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference, ANZSOC website and NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills – image source: Wuchopperen Health Service website.

Pat Anderson – NT women’s leadership award winner

Pat Anderson AO, chair of Batchelor Institute, was announced yesterday as the 2023 NT Award recipient of the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. The prestigious award celebrates “exceptional Australian women who encourage change and make important contributions to advancing equity across all facets of our society”.

Ms Anderson, a proud Alyawarre woman known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will accept her award at the online Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium on 1 September. “It’s an honour to receive this award, I’d like to thank everyone who nominated me. I’d also like to thank everyone who has supported my work at The Lowitja Institute and Batchelor Institute over the years – and more recently with The Uluru Dialogues. There are so many women out there from different backgrounds doing incredible work, it’s hard not to feel energised and hopeful about the future,” she said.

The Award organisers said Ms Anderson’s work in advocacy for Indigenous rights and health “has had profound impacts on Australia and will continue to do so in years to come”. Women & Leadership Australia chief executive Karen Taylor noted that Ms Anderson has received numerous accolades “for her inspiring work as a human rights advocate”. “Ms Anderson is a role model, not only for Alyawarre women but for women across the nation, as she tirelessly campaigns for improved health, educational, and protection outcomes for First Nations people. We hope to shed light on her integral work in building a better future for First Nations as an advisor to the government on the path to a referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Pat Anderson AO honoured with Excellence in Women’s Leadership award in full click here.

Pat Anderson AO standing at a podium

Pat Anderson AO. Image source: UNSW Sydney Centre for Ideas webpage.

Life-course approach to Aboriginal ageing

While we know that our population is ageing rapidly on a national and global scale, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations are in fact ageing at a faster rate than our non-Indigenous population. Aboriginal Australians also record high mid-life rates of multiple chronic diseases including heart disease and stroke, lung disease and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, for example, is more than twice as common in the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population. There remains a life expectancy gap of approximately ten years between the Aboriginal population and the non-Indigenous population.

Research conducted by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is centred on partnering with communities to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians and find better ways to support their cognitive health as they age. An important part of this work involves finding better ways for Aboriginal communities to gain access to the health services they need as well as suggesting positive changes to services dedicated to improving Aboriginal health, especially in older populations.

Researchers at NeuRA have found that dementia prevalence is three to four times higher in Aboriginal people compared to estimates for the general Australian population. This disparity in dementia rates is consistent across remote, regional and urban communities. By liaising with Aboriginal communities and representatives, we have identified that there is great interest amongst Aboriginal people to understand the scope of age-related diseases like dementia in their communities.

For more information visit NeuRA webpage Aboriginal Ageing here.

Aboriginal female Elder & Aboriginal male Elder

Image source: NeuRA webpage Sharing the Wisdom of our Elders.

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.

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