NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 2023 CTG report calls for greater and faster change

feature tile, image of Australian and Aboriginal flags flying; text '2023 Close the Gap Campaign Report highlights essential role of ATSI-led decision-making and self-determination

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Lukas Coch/AAP published in The Guardian on 8 October 2020.

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.

2023 CTG report calls for greater and faster change

This years 2023 Close the Gap (CTG) Campaign Report was launched earlier today at the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) in Little Bay Sydney. The theme this year is, ‘Strong Culture, Strong Youth: Our Legacy Our Future’ which highlights the essential role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led decision-making and self-determination in shaping a vision of health and wellbeing built upon a strong cultural foundation.

You can download the report here and watch a video of the launch using this link. You can also watch a short ABC News video Close the Gap report calls for greater and faster change here.

A bit of history. . .

The CTG Campaign is an independent, Indigenous-led campaign that calls on political leaders from all levels of government to take action on health and life expectancy equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It is separate to Closing the Gap, which is an Australian Government strategy.

The CTG Campaign, launched in 2006 to address the unacceptable gap in life expectancy and other health indicators between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, helped influence the establishment of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, and the formation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in July 2020.

The Campaign is made up of 52 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health, NGO and human rights organisations. More than 200,000 Australians have signed a pledge supporting the Campaign.

cover of the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2023; 9 photos of ATSI people/children; text 'Strong Culture, Strong Youth: Our Legacy, Our Future

Early Years Strategy must focus on equity and justice

Experts in child and family health are developing submissions for the Federal Government’s new Early Years Strategy, which it says will “shape its vision for the future of Australia’s children and their families”. Among a number of groups who have shared their concerns and priorities the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is concerned the early focus of the strategy “does not demonstrate a health equity lens”. We note the verdict on that is mixed. The ACN points to the Discussion Paper’s aim that a national Strategy “will seek to ensure that all children, wherever they live, enjoy the same opportunities to learn, develop and thrive.”

The ACN says “this is not a health equity lens. Instead, it assumes all children, irrespective of class, culture and context, require the same opportunities. This ignores some of the children who need this most, like those children that have different abilities or grow up in specific cultural contexts like First Nations children.”

Maybe the Federal Government should also be turning a sharp eye on all the policies, programs and, of course, politics that are currently causing major harm to young people in Australia, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and/or threaten to further entrench inequity.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As governments entrench disadvantage, will Australia’s Early Years Strategy focus on equity and justice? in full click here.tile purple, lime green, pink, orange; text Australian Government The Early Years Strategy in white font & Australian Coat of Arms

First podcast for mob with disabilities

Having to learn how to walk and talk again after an incident left him in an induced coma, Bernard Namok, a proud St Paul, Badu, and Erub Torres Strait Islander man, is now advocating for Indigenous people living with disabilities in the Far North. Mr Namok is teaming up with the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) to help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a focus on giving a voice to the voiceless. Today, on National Closing the Gap Day, Mr Namok and the FPDN launched a first-ever podcast dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disabilities.

Mr Namok said one of the barriers facing people with disabilities from Indigenous communities is simply knowing what help is out there and how to access it. “Creating the podcast was about finding a way to get information to people who may be living in remote areas in places like Thursday Island where I grew up, as well as telling their stories,” he said

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that almost a quarter (24%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia living in households lived with a disability with 8.8% living with a profound or severe limitation.

The above story featured in the Herald Sun article First podcast for First Nations people with disabilities launches published earlier today.

Bernard Namok, TSI disability advocate

Bernard has been working in disability advocacy in Cairns after previously working in radio broadcasting in the NT.

Culture + Kinship program has positive outcomes

Yesterday the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) launched the groundbreaking Culture + Kinship program evaluation report in the lead up to today’s National Close the Gap Day. VACCHO noted that last year’s Closing The Gap report data and the Coroners Court of Victoria suicide Report in February this year provided “unmistakable evidence” that the devastating gaps in health and wellbeing outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Victorians continue to blight health equality in Victoria.

VACCHO said its Culture + Kinship Report demonstrates that by focusing on the cultural determinants of health, “there are constructive approaches that can be taken to close the gaps in health and wellbeing disadvantage”. The report notes that through the Culture + Kinship program, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been able to re-connect with Community, Culture and Country.

VACCHO said “The Culture + Kinship program was uniquely Community driven with a flexible funding model that empowered Communities to lead the way with their own solutions in the form of self-determined, locally led programs.” VACCHO also said a social return on investment analysis showed the program “produced significant value for its stakeholders, with Community Members benefiting especially through reconnecting with Community, Culture and Country, and in doing so, experiencing a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal-led Culture + Kinship program makes breakthroughs in health and wellbeing in full click here.

Budja Budja Yarning Circle

Budja Budja Yarning Circle

Scholarship helps Palm Is AHW realise dream

A young Indigenous woman awarded a scholarship to study nursing at Mater Private Hospital Townsville is realising a dream to follow in her family’s footsteps. “My grandma is a twin and she and her sister worked at Mater for many years as registered nurses,” said Tehanna Tanerau-Love, who works part-time as a health worker on Palm Island.

Ms Tanerau-Love, 20, a Yorta Yorta woman with Māori ties, said she had a number of great role models. “My other grandma is a CEO of an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation and my sister is a social worker,” she said.

Ms Tanerau-Love said the Indigenous scholarship to study a Diploma of Nursing at Mater would help her connect with her community and provide the opportunity to give back to her mob. “My ultimate goal is to work in remote and rural Aboriginal communities to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” she said.

The above story featured yesterday in the Cairns Post article Palm Island health-worker Tehanna Tanerau-Love to become nurse at Mater Townsville.

Tehanna Tanerau-Love in hospital room

Young North Queensland woman Tehanna Tanerau-Love has been awarded an Indigenous scholarship to study a Diploma of Nursing at Mater Private Hospital Townsville. Image source: Cairns Post.

Pioneering Cape ear health program gaining traction

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Integrated Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) program, launched as a pilot in 2021 to target hearing problems in Cape York and the Torres Strait, is seeing exponential growth, with the number of patients seen almost doubling within 12 months.

The team includes a GP with specialist ENT training, a senior ENT nurse, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, an audiologist and a speech pathologist who travel to 13 remote communities across the region. They treat both children and adults, predominantly for hearing issues, but also with other ear, nose and throat conditions. The team saw more than 1,300 patients during 2022, well up from the 861 seen in 2021.

A further $1.6m of state government funding has been committed to the program over 18 months which will allow for additional staff to support the huge growth. Senior audiologist Kristen Tregenza said she believed the project’s success was due to the culturally-appropriate service they were providing, with patients now seeking them out instead of learning about them via referral. She said most of the hearing conditions being seen and treated were caused by treatable ear infections. “It is well documented that remoteness, lower socio-economic living and all the things that come with that – access to nutritious foods, housing conditions, exposure to passive cigarette smoke – significantly increase the number of ear infections, severity and recovery time,” she said. “It is all preventable.”

To view the Cape York Weekly article Pioneering program launched in Cape gaining traction in full click here.

Kowanyama’s Naveen Accoom getting his ears tested by Dr Stephen Johnston

Kowanyama’s Naveen Accoom getting his ears tested by Dr Stephen Johnston as part of the successful ENT program. Image source: Cape York Weekly.

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