NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Meaningful steps needed to reduce poverty

feature tile Mon 8 .5.23, image of ATSI boy reading a book; text 'If POVERTY is not reduced the impact of investment in health reform will be GREATLY UNDERMINED'

The image in the feature tile is from What is poverty? webpage of The Smith Family website.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is 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.

Meaningful steps needed to reduce poverty

If the Federal Government does not take meaningful steps to reduce poverty in Australia, then the impact and value of its investment in health reform and suicide prevention will be greatly undermined. That is a clear inference from the interim report, available here, of a Senate inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia, whose release last week was perfectly timed to influence debate around the Federal Budget.

The inquiry considered submissions from many health and medical organisations including the NACCHO and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, cohealth, National Rural Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

The report illustrates many ways that poverty undermines physical and mental health and wellbeing, including through its impact on the determinants of health and access to healthcare. People are missing healthcare appointments and not accessing essential medicines, unable to afford healthy foods, and experiencing chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidality as a result of poverty, the report found. Children’s physical health and development is being affected, as are family relationships.

A Salvation Army spokesman told the inquiry that “the best clinical care in the world won’t make a difference if you’re sending them out to sleep in their car afterwards”. Lifeline Australia told the inquiry that socioeconomic status has reliably been identified as a factor which impacts suicide risk. It noted that over the past decade, age-standardised suicide rates in Australia were highest for those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Will the Federal Budget deliver for these key health issues? in full click here.

exterior of poor conditions of remote housing

Overcrowding in remote housing is regarded as a primary cause of rheumatic heart disease. Photo: Lucy Marks. Image source: ABC News.

BRAMS CEO wins 40under40 Award

Last Friday night at a gala dinner at Crown Perth, Cassie Atchison, CEO of Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS) was announced a winner in this year’s Business News Annual 40under40 Awards for her outstanding work in WA.

Business News senior journalist and chief judge Mark Pownall said, “Judges were looking for the entrepreneurs, the people who were willing to take a risk rather than follow the safe path, those who have stepped outside their comfort zone.”

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO was very proud to attend the event and said, “It was so good to see one of the CEOs from our sector receive such a prestigious award.”

Mitchell Matera, managing director of Maali Group, was announced as First Amongst Equals at the 40under40 Awards for 2023, taking the top spot ahead of a varied cohort of WA’s young business and community leaders. The proud Noongar man also won the Indigenous Business Category for his electrical, mechanical and civil contracting company, Maali Group. Mr Matera said “As a young Aboriginal apprentice, I saw that while some resource sector companies celebrated diversity, there was no real on-site support or sustainable career pathways for Indigenous apprentices. Unable to find businesses genuinely committed to employment, upskilling and career diversity for Indigenous people in the sector, I started one myself.”

View the Business News article Matera wins first place at 40u40 awards.

Cassie Atchinson, CEO BRAMS, holding 40under40 award & group photo including NACCHO CEO Pat Turner & Cassie Atchinson

40under40 award winner Cassie Atchinson, CEO BRAMS and NACCHO CEO Pat Turner (second from left in group photo) joining in the celebrations. Images from Business News.

First Nations women to speak at historic forum

150 young First Nations women will gather in Canberra tomorrow to help set an agenda for change in relation to the rights, health, safety, wellbeing and prosperity of young Indigenous women and girls. The Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Youth Forum is a precursor to the landmark Wiyi Yani U Thangani National Summit (9–11 May), Australia’s most significant gathering ever of First Nations women which will be attended by over 900 women from across Australia (90% First Nations women). The 150 young First Nations women attending the Forum will also attend the Summit.

The Forum and the Summit are designed to help First Nations women and girls reshape many of the policies and programs which impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities. The Summit is designed for First Nations women to speak on their own terms to government, policymakers and service providers about addressing issues affecting First Nations women and girls. The Summit is the climax of the five-year Wiyi Yani U Thangani systemic change project led by the Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO. Leading First Nations women’s rights advocate Michelle Deshong is co-hosting the Summit.

Commissioner Oscar said: “These young women are the next generation of First Nations female leaders. Indeed, many of them are already providing vital leadership across their communities and countries. “Around half of all First Nations people are under 25 years of age so it’s very important that we engage productively and respectfully with our young people and ensure their voices are heard and acted on.”

To view the Australian Human Rights Commission article Young First Nations women to raise their voices at historic forum in full click here.

Push to reduce stigma around FASD

As a little boy, Jazpa Pinnell was so hyperactive he’d run up and down the balconies at school, was unable to concentrate in class, and his meltdowns were so bad friends and family would tell his mum he needed a “belting”. “I was thinking I was a bad parent,” mum Sam Pinnell said. But her fears were allayed, and the Queensland teenager’s life changed for the better at age seven when he was diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These days, with help from psychologists, physiotherapy, occupational therapy – and an understanding of his diagnosis – the Year 11 student is described as well-mannered and respectful.

Jazpa was one of the first children diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder at the Gold Coast University Hospital’s FASD clinic, Queensland’s first dedicated clinic for the condition, which opened in 2014. It remains one of the few clinics in Australia. Ms Pinnell is Jazpa’s biological aunt and the woman he calls mum, having cared for him since birth. “So many times they’re put into the too-hard basket or they’re expelled, they’re suspended, because the teachers do not understand that they’re not naughty, they’re not playing up, they’re just struggling to learn,” said Ms Pinnell, who founded a FASD support group. The group has a “no blame, no shame and no judging” motto.

Gold Coast FASD clinic director Doug Shelton said the issue was one for society to address, not just individual women, particularly given Australia’s drinking culture. Dr Shelton, a paediatrician, said the recommendation was for women to drink no alcohol during pregnancy to avoid FASD, but acknowledged about half of pregnancies were not planned. “If you had a precisely badly timed binge in the first few weeks of pregnancy, even if that was just one binge, and there was nothing else, that could be sufficient to cause lifelong problems with that baby,” he said. People with the disorder can also experience problems in school, getting a job, with relationships and some come into contact with the justice system.

To view the ABC News article Gold Coast family push to reduce stigma around foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in full click here.

woman's hands resting on top & base of pregnant belly

The exact number of FASD cases in Australian is unknown. Photo: Tracy Nearmy, AAP. Image source: ABC News.

National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030 launch

Among all the talk last week about a crackdown on vaping – the most significant robacco control reforms in a decade – has been the roll-out of another major document – the launch of the National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030, available here. A key priority of the strategy is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking and Closing the Gap. The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program would be extended and widened – with $141m funding – to reduce both vaping and smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is urgently needed  – tobacco legally kills over 57 Australians a day. That’s equivalent to extinguishing an entire country town of 21,000 every year.

It’s still the single biggest preventable risk factor for disease and premature death. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, more than a third of all deaths are caused by tobacco. Over the past decade we have lost more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives due to smoking. Multiple policy failures beyond health – from poverty, education, employment, housing, family removals, dislocation and the systematic embedding of tobacco as rations in lieu of wages – mean Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately impacted by the harms of Big Tobacco.

There have been huge achievements in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking. In 2018–19, 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults smoked daily, down from 50% in 2004-05. A target of 27% is achievable. But to get there we need something “extra” to accelerate those reductions. So the funding to expand the TIS program is urgently needed to have no more than 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking by 2030 (5% of all Australians).

To view The National Tribune article New funds will tackle Indigenous smoking. But here’s what else we know works for quit campaigns in full click here.

cover of the National Tobacco Strategy 2023-2030

Scathing report over Doomadgee woman’s death

The Queensland Health Ombudsman has released a scathing report into the preventable death of a First Nations woman at Doomadgee Rural Hospital in the state’s north-west, describing poor record-keeping, “completely unacceptable” follow-up in care and racial stereotyping. Adele Sandy, 37, a mother of four children who had been diagnosed with life-threatening rheumatic heart disease since she was a child, died at the remote hospital after previous presentations to the emergency department, only to be sent home with Panadol.

The Queensland Health Ombudsman’s report followed a Four Corners investigation last year, Heart Failure, into the deaths of not just Ms Sandy, but also her teenage niece, Shakaya George and Shakaya’s best friend, Betty Booth, who also had rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and had been turned away with Panadol from Doomadgee Hospital. Two months before Ms Sandy died, in March 2020, Queensland Health completed a review, Betty’s Story, into the failures of care for Betty Booth before she died, finding clinical risk and poor governance.

The Ombudsman’s report into Ms Sandy’s death said it was “concerned with the lack of progress” since Betty’s Story was delivered. “The tragic loss of Miss Sandy is an ongoing source of grief for the Doomadgee community which is deepened with the knowledge that many of the issues identified in the ‘Betty’s Story’ report are replicated in Miss Sandy’s care,” the report said.

To view the ABC News article Scathing report into Doomadgee Rural Hospital following First Nations woman’s death reveals clinical failures in full click here.

sign at entrance to Doomadgee Hospital, Queensland Government logo & words

Multiple women died after seeking treatment at Doomadgee Hospital, in remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu, Four Corners. Image source: ABC News.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

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