NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Significant gaps in access to maternity services

The image in the feature tile is from the Gomeroi Gaaynggal Study 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.

Significant gaps in access to maternity services

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) recognises the essential need for equitable delivery of health services in Australia. Time and time again, data highlights a significant maldistribution of the workforce – country towns suffer from a dearth of doctors and nurses – and a lack of upskilling and training opportunities in rural, regional and remote areas.

Limited access has made it difficult for GP Obstetricians to undertake supervised procedural training. Consequently, there are significant gaps in access to maternity services in rural, regional and remote Australia. RANZCOG’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology Education and Training (OGET) project is helping to narrow this gap.

An Australian-Government-funded project, OGET brings together medical professionals including GP Obstetricians, midwives and O&G specialists, offering upskilling and education in rural and remote maternity care. The project is delivered via four hubs providing onsite and outreach training to rural and remote areas of Australia, with plans to expand to all states and territories (excluding the ACT) this year.

To view the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) article Narrowing the gap in access to maternity care in full click here.

12 people around table with screen undertaking Obstetric Gynaecology educ and training in Broome, WA

OGET participants in Broome, WA. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance Partyline webpage.

More evidence of strain GPs are under

Only 8% of Australian GPs say they enjoy their work and do not have any symptoms of burnout, and more than half of Australia’s GPs surveyed said their job was extremely/very stressful according to a new report out of the UK. Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Professor Steve Robson said the crisis facing general practice was reflected in the results of the UK Health Foundation report: Stressed and Overworked, available here, and if something is not done Australia could face a further exodus of GPs.

Less than half of Australia’s GPs are ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ with practising medicine, with this number having fallen from over 60% in 2019. “While this report is very much focused on the impact of the survey results for UK GPs, it provides further evidence of just how difficult things are for our GPs,” Professor Robson said. “The results of this survey are no surprise given how difficult it has been to maintain a practice in the face of rising costs, poor Medicare indexation and workforce issues. The most recent Report on Government Services released by the Productivity Commission revealed that government expenditure per person on general practice had fallen in real terms despite growing demand and the increased complexity of GP services. They reflect Australian research by the RACGP that found concerning themes relating to general practice sustainability, such as unsustainable workload, burnout, mounting administrative burden and inadequate remuneration.”

“The AMA’s plan to Modernise Medicare, available here campaign includes a seven-point plan outlining practical and implementable solutions to help GPs who are under enormous pressure.

To view the AMA’s media release UK report provides more evidence of the strain Australia’s GPs are under click here.

vector image stethoscope chest -piece shattered; text 'Stressed and overworked'

Image source: The Health Foundation (UK) website, Reports webpage.

AMA says Australia failing to uphold human rights

Australia continues to fail to uphold the basic human rights of young people in the legal system and all people in custodial settings, with systemic racism entrenched, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has said. In a new position statement released today the AMA has called on governments to ensure the medical and health rights of young people and adults in custody and has once again called for the age of criminal responsibility in all jurisdictions to be raised to a minimum of 14 years of age.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said the fundamental human rights of all people must be upheld in custodial settings, including through access to safe and appropriate health care at all stages of the custodial cycle and by raising the age of criminal responsibility to a minimum of 14 years of age.

To view the AMA’s media release Australia failing to uphold the human rights of people in custody, including children, says AMA in full click here.

A protester holds a sign at a Black Deaths in Custody Rally at Town Hall in Sydney, Saturday, 10 April 2021

A protester holds a sign at a Black Deaths in Custody Rally at Town Hall in Sydney, Saturday, 10 April 2021. Photo: Mickl Tsikas, AAP. Image source: SBS NITV website.

TB outbreak leads to calls for new vaccine

Screening and checks to contain an outbreak of tuberculosis cases on SA’s Indigenous lands are continuing amid new calls for extra funding to eliminate the disease by 2030. Earlier this month SA Health reported 10 confirmed TB cases in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands), prompting an immediate response with wider community checks and general screening. About 50 people have reportedly gone through that process so far. Senior health officials also visited the area with the state’s Aboriginal Public Health team leading the engagement in impacted communities including those at Pukatja, Amata and Pipalyatjara.

The response included contact tracing and active case finding to treat and contain the outbreak. Health and education advocacy group Results International pointed to the cases on the APY Lands as it marked World Tuberculosis Day today with calls for a new vaccine by 2025 as part of efforts to eliminate the disease by the end of the decade.

“The progress we were making in reducing TB cases and deaths over the years has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as TB infections have gone undetected and unmanaged,” chief executive Negaya Chorley said. “Now, for the first time in more than a decade, TB deaths are on the rise. “TB could soon reclaim the title of the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent yet the disease is entirely preventable and curable.” Ms Chorley said the same concerted global momentum harnessed to tackle COVID-19 needed to be applied to ending TB. “We need to use all the tools in the toolbox including scaling up prevention, treatment and cure,” she said.

To view The West Australian article TB checks continue as calls grow for new vaccine in full here.

adult ATSI hands around waist of baby

SA Health has reported 10 confirmed TB cases in the APY Lands. Photo: Marianna Massey, AAP Photos. Image source: The West Australian.

Greg Inglis in outback talking about mental health

League legend Greg Inglis was in Bourke and Walgett last week on a special mission – and it had nothing to do with football. The former Kangaroo, Queensland, Storm and Rabbitohs powerhouse travelled to Bourke and Walgett to talk about mental health, through the Goanna Academy, a mental health education provider, which Greg founded following his own health battles.

The Goanna Academy is the first accredited and Indigenous-owned mental health education provider in Australia. Greg has devoted his post football career to sharing his story and the skills he has developed, to empower young people facing challenges in their own lives. The Goanna Academy partnered with NSW Education Department, the Police and the PCYC to deliver the program, with the support of the Bourke and Walgett shire councils.

“It’s about bringing awareness to preventative mental health and demonstrating the difference between mental illness and mental health,” Greg said. “The Goanna Academy workshops cater to all young people, but we are getting involved with kids from Year 5 to their late 30s.

To read The Western Herald article Greg Inglis tells his story in Bourke and Walgett in full click here.

Greg Inglis presenting to class of students; Goanna Academy logo; Greg Inglis with group of young ATSI kids outside PCYC building

Images of Greg Inglis with students from Walgett, Lightning Ridge and surrounding communities. Image source: Goanna Academy Facebook page.

Ingenious engineering helped mob source food

For many millennia, Indigenous Australians have engineered the landscape using sophisticated technological and philosophical knowledge systems in a deliberate response to changing social and environmental circumstances.

These knowledge systems integrate profound understanding of Country, bringing together an understanding of the topography and geology of the landscape, its natural cycles and ecological systems, its hydrological systems and its natural resources, including fauna and flora. This has enabled people to manage resources sustainably and reliably.

Below are just three examples of how Aboriginal people have used engineering to source food:

  • the kalwa raft from the Bardi community, One Arm Point WA – this raft can be pulled apart allowing one half to be tied to a harpooned dugong, which will swim around and become exhausted, while the hunter floats on the other half of the raft
  • the Gunditjamara community in SW Victoria farmed eels and harvested galaxia fish in a series of dams and water channels constructed out of the basalt lava flows – the eels remained in pools designed for collection for long periods, where they would breed and provide a food supply all year round
  • the Brewarrina fish traps, are considered the oldest and longest-lasting dry wall construction on earth – the traps are an example of collaborative knowledge sharing and governance – when the water was high, the lower traps were inaundated, but the upper traps were opened upstream and fish swam in with the water flow. When the traps are closed the fish remain in the traps until they are ready to be caught. When the water dropped, the lower traps were then used

You can view The Conversation article 5 Indigenous engineering feats you should know about in full click here.

Fish traps on the Darling River at Brewarrina

Fish traps on the Darling River at Brewarrina. Photo: Dean Lewins, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

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Dietitians Week 2023 

Today is the fifth day of Dietitians Week 2023 and as part of raising awareness of the importance of diet and nutrition, today we are sharing a short video featuring bush tucker specialist, Banaga woman, Pat Torres. Her family have followed traditional methods of collecting plants, fruits and seeds off the land for food, health and medicine for generations.  The bush food they collect is full of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is considered a superfood. It is used in food, powders, creams, spices, and used in local kitchens to top restaurants around the world.

Check out Pat’s story about her connection to bush food, country, culture and the love she pours into her work in the video below.

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