NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Sod turned on Elders’ independent living project

feature tile; Leonie & 'Big Al' Harris with BADAC CEO Karen Heap at turning of the sod for supported residential village

The image in the feature tile is of Leonie and Alan ‘Big Al’ Harris with BADAC CEO Karen Heap (middle). Image source: the article Supported residential village for First Nations elders in Bakery Hill set for completion late 2023 published in The Courier on 31 March 2023. Photo: Adam Trafford.

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.

Sod turned on Elders’ independent living project

Aboriginal Elders in Ballarat will soon have access to a culturally specific independent living village, thanks to support from the Andrews Labor Government. On Friday last week Minister for Regional Development Harriet Shing met with representatives of the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BADAC) to turn the first sod on the Elders’ Independent Living Community, backed by a $2.6m investment from the Labor Government’s Regional Infrastructure Fund.

Located near Ballarat’s city centre, the village will help older Aboriginal people share their culture and lead their communities. The project includes 8 self-contained units, a central hall for community meals, treatment rooms for medical personnel and a vegetable garden. It will enable Elders to live independently while receiving care. Ballarat-based D.R.A.R. Constructions will build the village, creating 160 jobs during construction and four ongoing roles at BADAC once complete. Cultural themes and spaces are being designed in consultation with Elders.

There are more than 700 Aboriginal people aged 45 and over across five local government areas in western Victoria – including Ballarat, Moorabool, Hepburn, Golden Plains and Pyrenees – who may need support as they get older.

To view The National Tribune article Supporting Aboriginal Elders in Ballarat in full click here.

BDAC CEO Karen Heap

CEO of the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative, Karen Heap says she does not want to put residents in a place where it feels like an institution again. Photo: Christopher Testa, ABC Ballarat.

Podcast aims to raise health literacy

A new podcast called Coffee on Country launched last week aims to raise health literacy among the local indigenous community. There will be an initial six episodes, many featuring notable Indigenous and non-Indigenous health professionals and community members discussing topical health concerns and general health awareness.

It’s the brainchild of the First Nations Health Team at Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network and Community Engagement Officer, Josh Fuller, says the podcast will provide a better understanding of First Nations health in a holistic approach. “The gap is only getting wider, so it’s time we start to increase health literacy,” he said. “The podcast gives us a platform to reach our communities across the Central Coast, Hunter and New England areas especially our mob from rural or remote areas who we wouldn’t cross paths with every day.

“The podcast provides us with a platform to yarn about the health programs available, interview guests, have a laugh and to educate people on our health care system. We want our communities to understand who the Primary Health Network is, what we do, and how they can access services to be proactive about their health care. Voice is a powerful tool that can reach far and wide and my co-host Robbie and I are feeling very grateful to have this platform to be able share these conversations and people’s stories.”

To view the Community Coast News article Podcast raising awareness about Indigenous health in full click here.

Josh Fuller & Robbie Watson recording Coffee on Country podcast

Josh Fuller and Robbie Watson recording the Coffee on Country podcase. Image source: Coast Community News.

New model to deliver mental health, AOD support

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) has appointed a team of highly experienced health care agencies to deliver improved mental health and alcohol and other drugs (AOD) services in the Geelong Otway region. Neami National, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, Drummond Street Services and Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery have been chosen to run the new Regional Care Partnerships mental health and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) program that will start from 1 July 2023. More than $3.5m in funding has been allocated each year for three years towards the program.

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive officer Simon Flagg said the co-operative prided itself on offering a holistic service to the community. “The importance of having integrated care through physical health, mental health and AOD support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those services being delivered by trusted people in culturally safe environments, is so important.”

The introduction of the new service model for mental health and AOD support follows a lengthy consultation process involving people with lived experience, their families and carers, and the health professionals who are responsible for delivering care. WVPHN will transition to the new model over the next three months.

To view the Bellarine Times article New model to deliver mental health, AOD support in full click here.

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative CEO Simon Flagg

Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative (WAC) CEO Simon Flagg. Image source: WAC website.

Australia has lost a giant – Yunupingyu

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, says Australia has lost a giant. Yunupingu, a Yolngu man of the Gumatj clan, has passed away. A pioneer of the Aboriginal land rights movement, including the landmark Gove Land Rights case and the Yirrkala Bark Petitions, in 1978 Yunupingu was named Australian of the Year. Yunupingu served as the Chair of the Northern Land Council for 23 years.

He worked with more than 10 PMs of Australia on the struggle for Indigenous recognition, and lived through the many disappointments. Yunupingu hosted PM Albanese at Garma last year when the government committed to holding a referendum on constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament.

To view the The Hon Linda Burney MP – Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy – Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health and Marion Scrymgour MP – Member for Lingiari joint media release Yunupingu in full click here.

A related article ‘A giant of the nation’: Indigenous leader Yunupingu dies, aged 74 published today in The Sydney Morning Herald, available here, described Yunupingu as “one of the most prominent and influential Indigenous leaders of the past century” – he advanced Aboriginal rights, particularly land rights, under successive governments, was outspoken about education and housing availability for Yolngu peoples, and more recently focused on the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. His passing brought immediate tributes from national leaders, who praised his passion and dedication to his people.

Yunupingu, pictured in 2019 with toddler on knee in ceremonial body paint, surrounded by young male child & youth in ceremonial body paint

Yunupingu, pictured in 2019, has died at the age of 74. Photo: Peter Eve, Yothu Yindi Foundation. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Victoria’s suicide rate “deeply concerning”

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

The rate of suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria makes for “sobering” reading, says the CEO of Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS). A recent report by the Coroners Court of Victoria revealed that, despite a slight decline in 2022, the number of suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria continued to be high. The report found between 2018 and 2022, the rate of deaths by suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 27.4 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 10.6 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides happened more frequently in regional areas (52.8%) than metropolitan areas (47.2%). For non-Indigenous people, 65.7% of suicides happened in metropolitan Melbourne.

MDAS cCEO Darlene Thomas said the report highlighted the ongoing divide between metropolitan and regional areas, particularly in relation to Aboriginal people. She said it was “deeply concerning” that three years on from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, and 14 years on from the launch of Closing the Gap, we were still seeing Aboriginal people disproportionately represented in suicide rates. She said this showed a need for increased funding for wrap-around support services with a focus on early intervention and prevention.

Reflecting on what she believed must be done to address the issue, Ms Thomas said that while there had been notable investment in mental health awareness activities, it should be matched with targeted funding for regional services. “We know the need is there, we see it every day and these latest statistics paint the picture – if you live in a regional area, and you’re struggling with mental health issues, you’re less likely to get a good outcome,” Ms Thomas said. “This should not be the case. Geography should not dictate health outcomes any more than cultural background should.”

To view the Sunraysia Daily article Indigenous suicide concern in full click here.

MDAS CEO Darlene Thomas

MDAS CEO Darlene Thomas. Image source: Sunraysia Daily.

If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76,

Lifeline – 13 11 14,

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636,

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Still battling to rebuild months after record floods

Communities in WA’s northernmost region are still battling to rebuild, months after record flooding and widespread damage. Although ringing in the New Year amid torrential rains and the threat of cyclones isn’t unusual for those living in the state’s far north, this year saw strange weather activity that caused a local river to smash previous flood records.

The damage to transport infrastructure effectively cut Fitzroy Crossing off from the rest of the state, and caused massive food shortages at supermarkets across the Kimberley, with supplies unable to be trucked in from Perth or the NT. Now, nearly three months on from the “one in 100 year flood event,” as it was often referred to by WA’s Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson, the clean-up and recovery effort is still under way.

Wheatbelt Development Commission chief executive Rob Cossart was appointed state recovery co-ordinator in late January. He said his focus for the region has been social recovery, but also economic recovery. “A big focus of the role has been meeting with the community … working across the community with state government, the commonwealth, not for profits, and the Aboriginal corporations to co-ordinate flood recovery,” said Mr Cossart. “The role is about ensuring the delivery of that recovery is meeting the needs of the community, and making sure our recovery initiatives are on track.”

To view the article Kimberley Floods: Three months since “one in 100 year” disaster in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl & boy with Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health donated critical non-food items

Fitzroy flood affected community members with donated critical non-food items, organised by the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH) team. Photo: FISH. Image source:

Sector Jobs

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World Autism Awareness Day 2023

April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, has been an officially sanctioned United Nations General Assembly Day of Observance since 2008, with this year’s theme being “Transforming the narrative: Contributions at home, at work, in the arts and in policymaking”.

This year, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) asked the Autistic community what they would like people to know if they find out that a person is Autistic. The most important message is that no two Autistic people are the same and that autism may not be what you think it is. It’s not a one-size-fits all approach and there is so much misunderstanding out in the public. You can access the Autism Spectrum Australia website here to find out more about autism and what changes you can make to help support and celebrate Autistic people and get a better understanding of why awareness is not enough!

According to the Macquarie University We Look After Our Own Mob research, very little is known about how autism is understood and supported in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including First Nations People. As a result, there are very few culturally-sensitive resources and teaching materials available. You can also view an article on the launch of the first major report into autism in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, conducted by researchers at Macquarie University here.

Positive Partnerships, is a national project funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment through the Helping Children with Autism package, has created a vast array of dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander resources to create opportunities for a more inclusive culture where Autistic students belong and thrive. The resources, which include books, videos, podcasts, storyboards and talking points, have been developed with the support, guidance and input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, schools and communities across the country, and can help guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family’s conversations about how children and students learn and behave.

Below is a short video from Autism Queensland featuring a young boy called Ned created to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families understand and recognise the early signs of Autism.

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