NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Community Control in Action

The image in the feature tile is of the SAWCAN team during a planning session. Photo: Robert Lang. Image source: Reconciliation Australia website.

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.

Community Control in Action

The winners and highly commended organisations of the 2022 Indigenous Governance Awards show that community works best when First Nations people are in the driver’s seat. Normally held every two years, last year was the first time the Indigenous Governance Awards were able to take place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judged on innovation, effectiveness, self-determination, sustainability, and cultural legitimacy, the winners epitomised Indigenous-led excellence. In particular, finalists were commended by the judges for demonstrating profound resilience in the face of lockdowns and restrictions, adapting to protect their communities, as well as continue their work in the toughest of circumstances.

The following organisations – Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council Human Research Ethics Committee; the Koling wada-ngal Committee; South Australian West Coast ACCHO Network (SAWCAN); Brewarrina Local Aboriginal Land Council; and Wungening Aboriginal Corporation – were all either winners or highly commended in their categories, and their stories encapsulate self-determination and community control in action.

To view the Reconciliation Australia article Community Control in Action in full click here.

Four NT remote communities evacuated due to floods

Hundreds of residents from four remote communities in the NT are being evacuated due to major flooding in the region. NT Police Commander Danny Bacon said on Wednesday afternoon this week that emergency services were working to relocate as many as 700 people from Kalkarindji, Daguragu and Pigeon Hole, to Darwin via Katherine, as soon as possible, with the evacuation effort has now also extended to the community of Palumpa.

The announcement comes after NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles signed an emergency declaration Wednesday morning covering the communities of Kalkarindji, Daguragu, Pigeon Hole,  Palumpa and Yarralin. Commander Bacon said he could not yet say when the residents being evacuated would be able to return home. “With these flood events, it’s a case of assessing the damage and doing a survey of the communities when the water level goes down,” he said.

“Depending on the damage that’s occurred during the flood event, then that’ll give us a bit of a timeline of when people can safely return back to those communities. “We don’t want people returning … when there’s no sewerage, no power, no water, and the dwellings are uninhabitable.”

To read the ABC News story Residents being evacuated from NT remote communities of Kalkarindji, Daguragu, Pigeon Hole, and Palumpa amid major flooding in full click here.

flooding of remote NT community

Heavy rainfall is causing major flooding in a handful of remote communities south of Darwin. Image source: ABC News.

Few obese Australians receive targeted GP support

More than two-thirds of Australian adults are classed as overweight or obese and that figure is projected to increase in coming years. Obesity rates have doubled over the last decade at an annual cost of almost $12 billion. The findings are contained in a report released ahead of World Obesity Day tomorrow by Research Australia, which warns GPs need targeted assistance to support their patients. Less than 1% of obese Australians who visit their GP receive weight management support, the report says, despite research indicating many cases can be linked to genetics, family history and ethnicity.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) specialist Georgia Rigas said obesity is a complex medical condition that affects individuals in many different ways, ranging from metabolic complications to mental health issues. “Obesity management is not about loss of weight but rather gains in health,” she said. Obesity remains “greatly misunderstood”, leaving patients at risk of stigmatisation, miscommunication and a lack of formal medical diagnosis.

The report highlighted the disproportionate impact of obesity upon Indigenous people, those living in the regions and older adults. More than 70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 15 or above are overweight or obese, contributing to the health gap with non-Indigenous Australians, the report found.

To read the yahoo! news article Few obese Australians receiving targeted GP support in full click here.

stethoscope on scales

Image source: Medical Journal of Australia.

Aboriginal Benefits Foundation grants open

A number of grants for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander projects and initiatives open this month. The Aboriginal Benefits Foundation provides grants to assist Aboriginal communities and individuals by providing funds to support projects which advance the aims of the Foundation. The current focus is on supporting art, literacy, education, health and cultural projects with a connection to Aboriginal art or artists.

There is expected to be a high level of interest in this grant funding, which will be distributed between states and territories. Grants will be awarded to eligible recipients on a first come, first served basis under the funding is exhausted in each jurisdiction.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Grants open to support Indigenous business, art, energy, film, education, health and cultural projects, which includes more information on all of the grants available including application details, click here.

An example of a previous project funded by the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation is the artistic promotional materials created by the Mujaay Ganma Foundation (Mujaay Ganma) to increase awareness of the culturally nurturing service MiiMI Aboriginal Corporation provide to people and their families who are dealing with cancer. For more information on this project click here.

Mujaay Ganma Foundation artwork to raise awareness of MiiMi AC cancer services

Promotional material to raise awareness of cancer services provided by MiiMi Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: Aboriginal Benefits Foundation Trust website.

No room COVID complacency as winter wave threatens

The AMA is encouraging people to check their eligibility and get a COVID-19 booster to protect themselves for the onset of winter and future waves of COVID-19. Vaccines reduce transmission, reduce the severity of illness and there is emerging evidence that vaccination reduces the chance you will develop long covid. AMA President Professor Steve Robson said anyone aged over 18 years who has not had a COVID-19 booster or a confirmed COVID infection in the past six months is eligible for another booster.

The Government in early February accepted advice of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), which particularly recommended that those over 65 years and adults aged 18–64 years with complex health needs get a 2023 booster if their last COVID-19 vaccine dose or confirmed infection (whichever is the most recent) was 6 months ago or longer,  regardless of the number of prior doses received.

Professor Robson said people needed to prepare for the “next wave” of COVID-19 or the next variant to emerge. “With the COVID-19 virus very capable of mutating it’s inevitable there will be further variants and new waves in the community, and with winter just around the corner, we really want to encourage people to get their booster shot if they are eligible. It’s natural over time that we tend to become complacent with the risks associated with COVID-19, however, last year there were 8,800 deaths due to COVID-19 and there has been an increase in people dying with COVID-19 as the pandemic has progressed. Clearly there is no room for complacency. The AMA’s strong advice is for eligible people to get their booster shot.”

To read the AMA’s media release Get boostered! No room for COVID complacency as winter wave threatens in full click here.

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

Racism, the most significant public health issue

Over 120 staff members and managers from Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) gathered at the ParkRoyal in Parramatta for the first Aboriginal Staff Conference in the district. The event involved workshops, presentations and addresses by key stakeholders in the business. Attendees were encouraged to be open to learning and sharing in the space, while unpacking issues like cultural safety and how WSLHD staff can better support and engage with Aboriginal patients and workers.

A special address was also delivered by keynote speaker Honorary Associate Professor Carmen Parter, who spoke about her PhD area of racism and how it impacts the healthcare system. “Racism is the most significant public health issue facing Australia,” Associate Professor Carmen said. “Our ways of being, knowing or doing are either diminished, devalued or not recognised due to racism and exclusion. This not only relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but any marginalised group that accesses healthcare services and provisions.”

“Racism remains invisible and is not often spoken about or fully understood in terms of the violent realities and subtleties that manifest themselves in clinical and non-clinical environments of health, and in the workplace for Aboriginal staff.”

To view The Pulse article ‘Building an environment of cultural safety’: Western Sydney Local Health District holds Aboriginal Staff Conference in full click here.

Associate Professor Carmen Parter speaking at WSDLHD Aboriginal Staff Conference

Associate Professor Carmen Parter. Image source: The Pulse.

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