NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Calls for safe healthcare in prisons

Aboriginal man with hands on prison cell bars

The image in the feature tile is from an article We need evidence-based law reform to reduce rates of Indigenous incarceration published in The Conversation on 9 April 2018.

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.

Calls for safe healthcare in prisons

The abysmal state of healthcare in Victorian prisons was the focus of a webinar hosted yesterday by Victorian Aboriginal Legal Services. In a pre-recorded discussion shared at the webinar, Professor Megan Williams, head of the Indigenous Health Unit at University of Technology Sydney emphasised that people in prison should have access to the “same standard of healthcare available in the community and have access to the necessary healthcare services free of charge without discrimination”.

Williams, told the webinar that with their “successful, robust Aboriginal workforce”, the ACCHO sector would be ideally placed to deliver culturally safe healthcare in prisons, especially as Aboriginal people are over-represented in prison. Jill Gallagher AO, CEO of the VACCHO, agreed with Williams’s suggestion that many of Victoria’s ACCHOs are “more than well placed to provide those services to Aboriginal people in prisons”. They have strong connections to people in the community and the holistic model of care has culture strongly embedded throughout their services, according to Gallagher. “Culture is a very important protective factor in delivering health services. No private provider can do that or even understand that,” Gallagher said.

Julie Tongs OAM, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services in the ACT, also spoke about their experiences providing culturally safe healthcare in prisons. They have nurses working in prisons 365 days a year from their service, as well as an Aboriginal cultural support worker based in prison. Tongs acknowledged it is a very “challenging environment”, very punitive and “it is about power and control”. However, despite the challenges, their aim is to provide “the right health care at the right time to our men and women who are incarcerated”.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Governments urged to address determinants of incarceration, and provide safe healthcare in prisons in full click here.

back of ATSI woman looking into her prison cell

Photo by Aaron Fernandes published in an SBS News article about the first dedicated mental health unit inside a WA prison.

New provider resources about flu vax for mob

In Australia, seasonal influenza (flu) is the second most common vaccine-preventable disease contributing to hospitalisation. First Nations people are more likely to experience severe influenza. Vaccination providers have an important role to play by offering and recommending the influenza vaccine. The vaccine is available under the National Immunisation Program to all First Nations people aged 6 months and over.

New resources are available to help vaccination providers have culturally appropriate and supportive conversations about influenza vaccination with First Nations families. While the new resources focus on influenza vaccination, you can apply the conversation principles to other vaccinations. The new resources have been developed as part of the Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) communication package to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The resources include:

You can find these resources and other helpful links through the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (DH&AC) Supporting conversations about vaccination with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people webpage, available here. For more information you can access the DH&AC New provider resources about influenza vaccination for First Nations’ people webpage here.

ATSI dad with toddler on his knee talking to a health worker

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

Positive impact of social interaction for aged

It’s the town where time stands still – a small community on the western Darling Downs that has a higher proportion of older folk living on their own than almost anywhere else in Queensland. ABC TV’s smash hit ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ proved to Australian audiences the powerful and positive impact social interaction has on the lives of people as they age. Now, the community 300 kms NW of Brisbane on the western Down is taking some of the lessons from the ground breaking reality TV show and transferring the concept to a new development on a bigger scale with a multi-million-dollar budget attached.

Southern Cross Care Queensland (SCCQ), which has operated in the community as an aged care provider for more than 40 years, is leading the scheme, with a host of local businesses, local government representatives and allied health organisations getting behind the concept. Local Federal MP and Nationals Leader David Littleproud says the project was a “game-changer”. “This is a model the federal government should seriously look at as it has the potential to be overlaid across other regional parts of Australia that are facing similar challenges with aged care.”

Littleproud’s comments come as SCCQ seeks $3.22m from the federal government to fund a new community centre as part of the complex, the last piece of building infrastructure required to fulfil the master plan. It is hoped the training facility, to be used in partnership with Southern Queensland Rural Health, will help grow and up-skill qualified allied health and nurses undertaking clinical placements in the district. An Indigenous health service, in partnership with Goondir Health Services will make allied health available onsite for the local Indigenous community.

To view the InQueensland article Quiet Darling Downs town where people live at home and never seem to get old in full click here. You can also watch the below video, one of a selection of helpful videos on VACCHO’s website, that looks at supporting aged people to remain in their own homes.

Institutional racism is an insidious problem

Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, describes the existence of racism in the structures that make up modern society. It manifests when institutions, organisations and governments directly or indirectly discriminate against an ethnic group. It systematically disadvantages those groups and further marginalises them within society.

In Australia, mob know the impact of institutional racism all too well. This insidious problem is a product of Australia’s historical legacy of dispossession and racism against First Nations people, and a reflection of the colonial ways of living and thinking that continue to dominate the country’s institutions. As a result, it is deeply ingrained into our political, social, legal, criminal and education institutions.

The impacts of institutional racism within different systems can be interconnected. For example, racial discrimination can restrict access to employment which can increase exposure to homelessness or unnecessary contact with the justice system. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, this means that the odds are heavily stacked against us. It also means that we can get stuck in cycles of poverty and have poorer life outcomes.

To view the NITV article Institutional racism is at work in Australia. How does it affect Indigenous people? in full click here.

ATSI man carrying Aboriginal flag in front of Old Parliament House

Institutions across the country, including parliament, have deeply ingrained structural biases that are hard to displace. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP. Image source: NITV.

Advice for new NSW Labor Government

The new Labor Government in NSW faces calls to step up its climate ambitions, and to address Aboriginal health, rural health, wider health workforce issues and gambling harms, reports Alison Barrett. Addressing healthcare will be one of the new Government’s priorities, who will reportedly begin drafting terms of reference for a Royal Commission into NSW’s health services in the coming weeks.

Health leaders called for significant and targeted commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people, including strengthening the Aboriginal health workforce, implementation of the Closing the Gap framework and mental health strategy, while centring Aboriginal people in decisions. “It is critical that Aboriginal people are at the forefront of the new Government’s policy efforts, this will ensure a collaborative approach to achieving health equity for Aboriginal people,” the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) has said.

Whilst the AH&MRC applauds the Labor Government’s commitment to a Fresh Start Plan for healthcare, hich will include strengthening rural and regional areas with 500 new paramedics and workforce incentives for rural and regional GPs to support the engagement of nurses, allied health, and other health professionals, they believe there needs to be a targeted commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

ACCHOs across the country have continued to deliver high-quality integrated primary health care to Aboriginal communities despite the ongoing challenges they face. As the preferred primary healthcare provider for Aboriginal people, it is crucial that the new Government prioritise strengthening the Aboriginal health workforce and more broadly, the ACCHO sector in their rollout of the Fresh Start Plan for healthcare.

To view the Croakey Health Media article After the New South Wales election, some expert advice for the new Government in full click here.

NSW Premier Chris Minns giving acceptance speech

NSW election 2023: Chris Minns claims victory in front of Labor party supporters in Sydney. Follow live results and updates. Photo: Dean Lewins, AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Public intoxication research trial

A new health model to provide help in cases of public drunkenness is set to be trialled in the Mount Alexander Shire. Castlemaine’s Dhelkaya Health will work alongside specialist Indigenous corporations and emergency services to increase access to health and social services as the primary response to public intoxication as part of the Public Intoxication Reform trial. The trial comes ahead of public drunkenness being decriminalised in Victoria in November 2023

The program includes outreach services, training for first responders and helping to transport people to a safe place where they can receive support if needed. As part of the Mount Alexander trial there will be two service streams on public drunkenness. A stand-alone Indigenous-led response will be delivered by Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BDAC) and the Aboriginal Community Justice Panels.

This is set to run alongside a general service to the Mount Alexander community, delivered by Dhelkaya Health from its Castlemaine campus. The “Place of Safety” services provide a supervised area for intoxicated people to stay while they sober up if their home or another private residence is not safe or suitable.

To view the Bendigo Advertiser article Castlemaine chosen as location for Public Intoxication Reform trial in full click here.

plastic cup half filled with alcohol on side of outdoor walkway

Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: The Bendigo Advertiser.

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