NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pressure to raise income support payments

feature tile image: notepad with a list of bills, cash, pen; text 'NACCHO CEO Pat Turner among many to sign open letter calling for a SUBSTANTAL INCREASE to JobSeeker and related income support payments'

The image in the feature tile is from an ABC News article What difference will increased Centrelink payments make amid surging inflation and rising cost of living? published on 17 March 2023. Photo: Sharon Gordon, ABC News.

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.

Pressure to raise income support payments

At Parliament House in Canberra yesterday, a group of cross-party politicians, academics, business leaders and health and community advocates called on the Albanese Government to deliver a substantial increase to JobSeeker and related income support payments in the May Budget. Brought together by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), these prominent Australians all signed an open letter, available here, to PM Anthony Albanese urging him to increase income support payments to help address “structural injustice” and “increased deprivation”.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner was among the 14 health sector signatories to the open letter. The strong support for this measure from health leaders builds on longstanding advocacy over many years from health groups for an increase in the Newstart and Youth Allowances  and raises questions about the role of the health portfolio in advising broader government decision making on issues impacting the social determinants of health.

The open letter states that “Even before the cost-of-living crisis, income support payments were’ nearly enough to cover basic expenses, but now people struggling to get by on $50 a day face increased deprivation. $50 a day, the current rate of Jobseeker, isn’t even enough to cover the essentials like weekly food and medicines let alone get a haircut, or buy a new shirt for a job interview.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Albanese Government under pressure from all sides to raise income support payments in full click here.

gathering of supporters of Raise the Rate at Parliament House 26.4.23

Supporters for Raise the Rate. Photo: Senator David Pocock’s office. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

It seems some lives matter more than others

For most people, the idea of a loved one vanishing or being murdered is beyond comprehension, but it is a scenario that is all too familiar for many First Nations communities. When a non-Indigenous person is murdered, it’s a front page news story. When a black woman or man dies, or is murdered, you don’t hear about it.

This also applies to young Indigenous men that have gone missing in WA’s north. Despite calls for a senate inquiry in January 2023 into murdered and missing First Nations people and in particular women, and with a petition formally tabled in WA’s Parliament, there has been no change. First Nations people can’t help but feel some lives may matter more than others.

In October 2022 there were a total 68 Indigenous women, and 124 Indigenous men, believed to be missing or murdered. 23 of the 192 total are under the age of 18. This number has since risen. It is a community and government responsibility to award the same attention, empathy and mobilisation of resources to bring home all missing people, or at the very least bring closure to their families, regardless of their cultural identity.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Some lives may matter more than others in full click here.

backs of 3 ATSI women looking towards sun & crowd

Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom webpage.

Water ownership will have health benefits for mob

Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, say the Albanese Labor Government is embarking on an ambitious world-leading initiative to deliver First Nations water across Australia. “First Nations have been calling for enduring water holding arrangements for more than a decade. Now, the Albanese Labor Government is investing $9.2m to make it a reality. Currently First Nations peoples hold rights to about 40% of Australian land through native title – yet own and control less than 0.2% of our surface water entitlements.”

“This lack of water has robbed Indigenous Australians of economic opportunities, particularly in rural Australia, while disrupting important cultural practices. The Government will consult and design an enduring arrangement for First Nations peoples to own, access and manage water in Australia.”

The following quote, included in the media release, is attributable to Coalition of Peaks member Jaime Lowe:

“The Coalition of Peaks welcome this announcement and are happy that decisions will be made in partnership with our people as outlined in the National Agreement Closing the Gap. “It is important to remember that all water once belonged to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These waterways sustained our communities for millennia and we know how to best care for them. “Greater ownership of water for our people will not only mean greater economic opportunities but it will improve our health, education and well-being; as the Cultural and social determinants of health are all interconnected.”

To view Minister Pilbersek and Minister Burney’s joint media release Delivering water ownership for First Nations in full click here.

rear view of Barkandji Elder William 'Badger' Bates looking out to Darling River

Barkandji Elder William ‘Badger’ Bates on the bank of the Darling River has advocated for Aboriginal people to have a meaningful voice in how the river system in managed. Image source: ABC News.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2022

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has released the latest edition of their annual evidence-based publication, the Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2022. By reviewing and translating all the available data into one publication, the 2022 Overview provides a ‘snapshot’ of the most recent indicators of health. New Census data has provided fresh insights, as well as detailed findings from the latest Australian Burden of Disease study which revealed that mental and substance use disorders and injuries were the leading contributors to the overall burden of disease. In 2021, ischaemic heart disease was the leading specific cause of death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT. In 2020–21, the most common reason for hospitalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia after care involving dialysis was injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes (e.g., vehicle accidents). Sexually transmissible infections continue to be a health issue.

The data also showed positive changes with the proportion of women attending their first antenatal visit during the first trimester of pregnancy now at 71% – an increase from 50% in 2012. In 2020, 92% of pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women self-reported not consuming alcohol during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy had decreased from 49% in 2010 to 43%. In 2022, the Commonwealth Closing the Gap annual report outlined that there is more to be done towards achieving parity in a range of indicators. With health targets, the gap in life expectancy while trending in a positive direction is not on track, however the target to increase the proportion of children with a healthy birthweight is showing progress with the latest figure of 90% – close to the 2031 target of 91%.

You can access the Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2022 here; a plain language inforgraphic summary version here and a PowerPoint presentation of key points here.

tile 2 copies of booklet Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2022

Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website.

Heartbreak and hidden costs of IMG journey

Tens of thousands of dollars, months of missed family time, and an exam with a 30% pass rate are a few of the hurdles to clear before International Medical Graduates (IMG) you can even get their first doctor job in Australia. Dr Nitinkumar Chaudhary moved to Australia in 2014. Despite being ready and willing to practice in rural Australia, he didn’t work as a doctor until 2018.

Stories like this are not uncommon, which makes this a staggering stat: the RACGP estimates that 52% of the vocationally-registered GPs working in Australia gained their primary medical degree overseas.

Rural healthcare depends almost entirely on overseas-trained doctors. Australia’s immigration rules funnel most of them into “areas of workforce need”, which until recently were almost exclusively rural and remote locations. In order to claim from Medicare, migrant doctors have to serve out a moratorium in an area of need for a decade.

To view the Medical Republic article Heartbreak and hidden costs on the IMG journey in full click here.

image of map of Australia with centre ripped back revealing dollar notes & 3 planes flying in from west, north & east

Image source: Medical Republic.

Autism, Our Kids, Our Stories resource

Positive Partnerships is proud to offer a new resource called Autism, Our Kids, Our Stories: Voices of Aboriginal Parents Across Australia. Positive Partnerships has addressed the lack of awareness or recognition of autism in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Focusing on the lack of appropriate services, appropriate diagnostic assessments and tools, the absence of trusted relationships, and the fear of shame and blame, have led to fewer children being formally diagnosed with autism.

This illustrated book aims to connect with community and raise awareness through the authentic voice of lived experience and features 10 stories of Aboriginal families with a child on the autism spectrum and is available free for parents, carers, communities and schools across Australia here.

Autism is a developmental disorder that occurs in boys and girls across all cultures and communities. Autism affects how a person learns and interacts with others and their surroundings. All people on the autism spectrum are unique. People on the autism spectrum have strengths and skills, too, so progress can be made with regular, consistent support.

To view the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care webpage Austism, Our Kids, Our Stories click here.

cover of Autism Our Kids, Our Stories Voices of Aboriginal Parents across Australia booklet cover - multicoloured Aboriginal painting circles, wavy lines, dots

Cover of Autism Our Kids, Our Stories Voices of Aboriginal Parents across Australia booklet developed by Positive Partnerships. Image source: DHAC website.

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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