NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Budget shows new Government is listening

feature tile image of Donnella Mills; text 'Last night's Commonwealth Budget "is full of important health measures that will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country" Donnella Mills - NACCHO Chair'

The image in the feature tile is of the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills from the NACCHO website page Donnella Mills, available here.

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.

Budget shows new Government is listening

Earlier this morning NACCHO issued the following media release in response to last night’s Commonwealth Budget:

This Budget shows that the new Government is listening to Aboriginal people.

Last night’s Commonwealth Budget contains welcome measures to help close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In Cairns this morning, Donnella Mills, the Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said, ‘This Budget shows that the Government is listening. It is full of important health measures that will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country’.

‘You would have to say that the Government has been bold. Be it in the improvements to Medicare, the cheaper access to pharmaceuticals, the courageous plan to stamp out vaping, or the mental health funding for the referendum on the Voice. All these measures will help. But I am particularly pleased to see the $238m announced to help close the cancer gap. Cancer is the number one killer of our people’.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times more likely to die from cancer than other Australians. Cancer outcomes, while improving for other Australians, have been worsening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The acting CEO of NACCHO, Dr Dawn Casey, said ‘When we told the Government that the cancer gap was widening and that we needed a national strategy to address this, they listened and supported our proposal. More importantly, they worked with us to co-design a plan’.

In 2019, the potentially avoidable mortality rate from cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was over three times the rate for other Australians: 323 and 98 per 100,000 respectively. While mortality rates have been declining for other Australians for at least two decades, there has been an uptrend in cancer mortality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The situation is far worse in regional, remote and very remote areas.

Donnella Mills said, ‘In a year in which we are moving towards a referendum on a Voice, this Budget measure shows what happens when you listen to Aboriginal people and how genuine partnerships can be formed with governments in which we co-design solutions. Nobody knows better than local people what local solutions should be. And it is great to see a government that is prepared to listen’.

‘Of course, there are areas we still need to progress. For example, the health funding gap ($4.4b per year or about $5,000 per Aboriginal person) needs to close. And NACCHO is concerned that palliative care, related to cancer and other health issues, remains unfunded in the ACCHO sector. But today, we want to acknowledge the ambitious cancer package and the positive outcomes that it will undoubtedly deliver for our people. The Albanese Government has listened to us, and we look forward to working with them on the cancer package’.

You can access view the NACCHO media release This Budget shows that the new Government is listening to Aboriginal people. in full on the NACCHO website here.

tile NACCHO logo, text 'Media Release - This Budget shows that the new Government is listening to Aboriginal people'

Rural healthcare needs more than modest measures

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) sees the Federal Budget 2023–24 as a missed opportunity to significantly address healthcare needs in rural Australia. This is despite their poor health status, which is below that of their urban counterparts. “While there are some modest measures included to improve healthcare access, this is not a Budget that will provide rural health improvements – which is disappointing,” said Alliance Chief Executive Susanne Tegen.

In relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare measures, the Alliance said “We support and applaud the Indigenous preventive health initiatives, including free annual health checks, national expansion of the Deadly Choices program, extending the Tackling Indigenous Smoking initiative to include vaping, culturally appropriate knowledge and skills support to prevent alcohol-exposed pregnancies, as well as early treatment through the new national lung cancer screening program. These are important measures as rates of daily smoking in First Nations Australians increase significantly with remoteness, from 30.1% in major cities to 52.3% in very remote areas.”

The Alliance said it “is disappointed that significant reform of rural health care has still not been tackled, with these modest Budget measures failing to address major medical and health workforce inequities. These measures also do not allow for the innovative community-led models of multidisciplinary primary health care that are desperately needed in rural areas. There is still work to do beyond tinkering around the edges. Further reform is needed to support the 30% of the population who live outside urban centres.”

To view the National Rural Health Alliance media release Rural communities continue to miss out on healthcare services amid modest Budget measures and economic surplus in full click here.

National Rural Health Alliance logo

Support for mob’s mental health during Voice campaign

Just as  exposure to negative sentiment during Australia’s same-sex marriage debate led to increased mental stress in the LGBT community, debate around the Voice has the potential to similarly impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health. In anticipation of this last night’s federal budget has allocated funding to support Indigenous mental health through the Voice campaign after concerns about potential racism and misinformation during the debate. Budget papers reveal the Department of Health and Aged care will be given an extra $10.5m to increase mental health support for First Nations people during the referendum.

A word frequently used in the media to negatively describe supporters of the Voice is ‘woke’. According to columnist and freelance writer Natalie Morris the word ‘woke’ originally meant to be awake to social injustice, particularly injustices about race. Its meaning however has been hijacked and subverted in recent years with the word now being used to suggest ‘a performative, insincere social consciousness, and inherent weakness. It’s a pjgorative term used to make fun of socially liberal ideologies and position them as inferior of silly.”

You can read:

  • The University of Sydney article Study show same-sex marriage vote damaged LGBT mental health here;
  • the National Indigenous Times article Budget allocates millions to support First Nations mental health during Voice campaign here; and
  • the Metro article How the word ‘woke’ was hijacked to silence people of colour here.
Aboriginal flag flying with new Parliament House in the background

Photo: Lukas Cosh, AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Building healthier, stronger Torres Strait communities

A James Cook University-based health research team will collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the fight against chronic disease. The Healthy Ageing Research Team (HART) has embarked on a two-year project with communities in the Torres Strait region to co-design both individual health screening tools and community-level interventions. It will be funded by a $470,000 National Health and Medical Research Council Medical Research Future Fund grant.

HART researcher and clinical dietitian, Mel Kilburn, is completing her PhD on the project. She said the genesis of the project – Strong Communities, Strong Health: co-designing chronic disease prevention in the Torres Strait – came from the communities themselves. “Communities in the Torres Strait have expressed a need for these tools and will play a central role in developing these and other strategies. There will be ongoing consultation with communities at every stage of the project,” said Ms Kilburn.

She said there is limited data on diet and none on physical activity habits in adult residents, despite the escalating rate of chronic diseases in the region, including type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, and dementia. “This crucial knowledge gap is partly due to the geographic isolation of many communities, as well as the lack of culturally appropriate health assessment tools,” said Ms Kilburn. “This, in turn, has inhibited the development of sustainable health programs that are relevant and acceptable within communities.”

To view the James Cook University Australia article Building healthier, stronger Torres Strait communities from within in full click here.

Torres Strait Islander family on Thursday Island standing in front of taxi van

Torres Strait Islander family on Thursday Island. Image source: Let’s Learn about the Torres Strait Islands, Oz Publishing.

Completing your final year of a pharmacy degree?

Are you an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person completing your final year of a pharmacy degree?

Ever thought about completikng an internship in hospital pharmacy?

Opportunities exist at University Hospital Geelong. Give them a call or drop them a line!

Benefits of working at Barwon Health:

  • Based in Geelong on Wadawurrung country, close to the Great Ocean Road
  • Culturally safe and supportive environment
  • Aboriginal Employee Network Program
  • 1:1 mentorship
  • Structured intern program led by experienced educators
  • Work in a tema of 6 interns

To view the related flyer click here.

For more information contact Diana Bortoletto – Lead Pharmacist Education and Training by email here or Sophie Jahnecke – Intern Preceptor by email here or phone Pharmacy Direct Line (03) 4215 1582.

tile Barwon Health logo; text 'Are you an ATSI person completing your final year of a pharmacy degree? Ever thought about completing an internship in hospital pharmacy?'


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.

World Lupus Day – 10 May

World Lupus Day was established to take place on 10 May by the World Lupus Federation (WLF) to unite lupus groups around the world during Lupus Awareness Month and call attention to the impact that the disease has on the more than 5 million people globally affected by lupus. This year the World Lupus Federation is urging the global public, including those living with lupus, their friends and family members to raise awareness and share facts about the disease on social media and in their communities.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of the body, including the heart, kidney, lungs, blood, joints and skin. With lupus, the immune system, the body system that usually fights infections, attacks healthy tissue. While anyone can develop lupus, 90% of people with the disease are women. It has no known causes or cure, and can be disabling and potentially fatal. Access to care and medications continue to be a significant challenge for people with lupus around the world. A recent WLF global survey found that 1 in 4 respondents delayed or did not get medical care when needed in the last 12 months, with top reasons including wait times (44%), fatigue (22%), cost (22%). Those that delayed or did not get care also were twice as likely to have multiple flares, a time when lupus symptoms, such as pain and inflammation, worsen.

“It is an extremely important promote World Lupus Day because it is an opportunity to raise awareness of the devastating impact that lupus can have on physical, emotional and economically,” remarked Cr Barbara Ward, CE and Board member, Lupus Australia, and member of the eight-nation WLF steering committee. In Australia (where lupus disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) and around the world, lupus isn’t understood, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and for those living with the disease to feel misunderstood and unable to receive the care they need for this debilitating disease. Each voice sharing facts on World Lupus Day can have an incredible impact and bring greater attention and resources to efforts to end lupus.

To view the World Lupus Federation media release World Lupus Federation Urges Global Community to Raise Lupus Awareness on May 10 for World Lupus Day 2023 in full click here.

purple white yellow tile tile World Lupus Day logo; text 'May 10, 2023 - Today is World Lupus Day -'

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Budget shows new Government is listening

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