NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mitigating the impacts of racism on health

feature tile hand holding Aboriginal flag; text 'substantial evidence racism contributes to physical and mental ill health and reduces access to health services

The image in the feature tile is from an NITV article Study finds racism leads to poor health published on 26 June 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.

Mitigating the impacts of racism on health

Indigenous people’s health and health rights have been harmed and undermined by racism globally. There is substantial evidence that interpersonal and structural racism contributes to Indigenous people’s physical and mental ill health and reduces access to health services. In Australia, the racist violation of Indigenous human rights since colonisation has a profound impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across generations.

This has resulted in an unacceptable health equity gap, which the 2007 Closing the Gap strategy sought to address. Recognition of the urgent need to address the health and wellbeing impacts of racism guided The Boatshed Racism Roundtable Declaration in 2009, which called on the PM and First Ministers of Australia to initiate constitutional, policy and practice reforms underpinned by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) — particularly Article 3 (the right to self‐determination) and Article 42 (calling on United Nations signatories to implement the Declaration) — to ensure protection against racial discrimination.

Recent work through the Partnership for Justice in Health and the Lowitja Institute has potential to inform the evidence base, health policy, legislation and rights to strengthen Indigenous access to justice and health, particularly through the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services sector under the auspice of the Closing the Gap Partnership and Coalition of Peaks.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia research article Mitigating the impacts of racism on Indigenous wellbeing through human rights, legislative and health policy reform in full click here.

drawing of an ATSI child with 5 white hands pointing at child's face

Image source: ABC Everyday website. Image Credit: Molly Hunt.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Fran Vaughan MPS

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) SA/NT Branch has announced the winners of its Annual Excellence Awards. The SA/NT Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Fran Vaughan MPS, for her work in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in particular those living in remote areas.

With a background in hospital and community pharmacy and Home Medicines Reviews, Fran has been able to transition these skills to onsite clinical pharmacist practice roles in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of the NT and Queensland. She is a strong advocate of the value of embedding a pharmacist into Aboriginal Health Services. Pharmacists working within Aboriginal Health Services can provide patients with culturally safe access to information about their medicines, provide education and training to existing staff on appropriate use of medicines, and assist in managing medications at transitions of care, such as discharge from hospital.

In her role as pharmacist adviser for NACCHO, she helped to facilitate the IPAC project (Integrating Pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to Improve Chronic Disease Management) which showed positive benefits of integrating pharmacists into 18 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.  She is an experienced educator and has helped to prepare health professionals, including pharmacists, nurses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Practitioners (AHPs) and Workers (AHW) for remote and rural practice at the Centre for Remote Health, Flinders University. She has also played a key role in the development of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) which guide health care delivery in remote areas.

To view the medianet. news story SA/NT Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Fran Vaughan MPS in full click here.

Fran Vaughan MPS holding PSA SA/NT Pharmacist Awards 2023 - Lifetime Achievement Award

Fran Vaughan MPS was presented with the PSA SA/NT Pharmacist Awards 2023 – Lifetime Achievement Award. Image source: PSA Twitter post 4 March 2023.

RACGP and NACCHO aim for preventive healthcare

On Friday last week the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and NACCHO convened an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health roundtable. Held over two days and attended by people from across Australia with experience in primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the roundtable provided attendees with a special forum to exchange ideas on how best to support health services nation-wide so that they are prevention-focused, culturally safe and responsive, equitable, and free from racism.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said “There is plenty of work to be done and not a moment to lose. As President this is right at the top of my priorities over the next two years, and I look forward to working closely with NACCHO on a range of endeavours that will make a real difference in healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our organisations are currently working in partnership to develop flagship resources that support effective, culturally safe, and responsive primary healthcare that is valued by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Faculty, Dr Karen Nicholls, said she was “optimistic that if we put our minds to it and listen carefully to health experts and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients we can improve primary healthcare outcomes. The focus will very much be on how to support genuine shared decision making and partnerships, and carefully considering how the cultural and social determinants of health impact primary healthcare for these patients.” The RACGP and NACCHO will publish the fourth edition of the National guide to preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people later this year – a flagship publication, spearheaded by NACCHO in October this year.

To view the medianet. article RACGP and NACCHO working together to achieve high-quality preventive healthcare in full click here.

cover of National guide to a preventive health assessment for ATSI people 3rd edition - RACGP & NACCHO

Keeping kids connected to siblings and culture

Victoria’s former Aboriginal children’s commissioner has called for increased allowances for kinship and foster carers in a bid to increase the pool of First Nations people looking after children in out-of-home care, and ensuring they remain connected to culture. Andrew Jackomos, who held the commissioner role for five years between 2013 to 2018 and was the first person to hold an Aboriginal children watchdog role, has also appealed for greater safeguards to ensure Indigenous siblings in the out-of-home care system remain in contact.

The Yorta Yorta and Gunditjmara man said it was a challenge to get enough Indigenous carers to step forward when a First Nations child was removed from their family and could not be placed with relatives. “When children cannot be placed with family they should be placed with people within our community,” he said.

Jackomos said increasing remuneration was one way to incentivise more First Nations people to become carers and ensure Indigenous children separated from their families could remain connected to their culture. “We need to make it attractive for people to step forward. And people are absolutely committed, but the problem is carers have become burnt out. There needs to be more after-care as well,” he said.

To read The Guardian article Calls to increase allowances for Indigenous carers to keep children connected with culture in full click here.

portrait of former Victorian Aboriginal children’s commissioner Andrew Jackomos

Former Victorian Aboriginal children’s commissioner Andrew Jackomos says it is vital that siblings remain in contact in the out-of-home care system and that separation should be the ‘absolute last resort’. Photo: Victorian government. Image source: The Guardian.

Enduring disgrace of deaths in custody

There can be little doubt that the final report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, delivered in April 1991, was a watershed moment for our nation. Established in October 1987, the commission inquired into the circumstances surrounding the deaths over a 10-year period of 99 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people while they were held in detention. It produced more than 5,000 pages of documents and a list of 339 recommendations.

The Albanese government’s reconciliation envoy, Senator Pat Dodson, has now demanded the government immediately act on the commission’s recommendations and is calling for a national Indigenous justice committee, a federal office to oversee state coronial inquests and ensure the provision of Indigenous-tailored health services in jails.

He says the responsibility is “absolutely” on the shoulders of the Albanese government, which has inherited the obligation to act on the work of the royal commission notwithstanding the abject failure of previous administrations, both Labor and Coalition, to end what can only be described as an enduring national disgrace.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article Act now on enduring disgrace of Indigenous deaths in custody in full click here.

portrait shot Senator Pat Dodson

Senator Pat Dodson, the Albanese’s government envoy on reconciliation, has called for immediate action to prevent Indigenous deaths in custody. Photo: Rhett Wyman. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

TB outbreak on the APY Lands

Health authorities are working to contain an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. So far, the SA TB Service has diagnosed 10 cases linked to the outbreak. SA’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier and other health officials travelled to the APY Lands last week to try and contain the outbreak through contact tracing and treatment.

Professor Spurrier said she had met with community leaders and service providers, including schools. “Tuberculosis is not commonly seen in Australia but is treatable and preventable. It will need a sustained response over a prolonged period,” she said. “Strong relationships with community allowing co-design are essential. It’s important that all people in the community have the information they need to prevent the cluster from growing and to facilitate quick testing and treatment.”

To view the ABC News article Health authorities declare tuberculosis outbreak on the APY Lands after 10 cases diagnosed in full click here.

aerial shot of long straight road in APY Lands, SA

The APY Lands are in SA’s far north. Photo: Kent Gordon, Australian Story. Image source: ABC News.

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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