NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aboriginal healing, an alternative treatment option

feature tile ATSI hands massaging ATSI person's ankles; text 'Traditional Aboriginal healing methods used in Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Task Force trial projects'

The image in the feature tile is from the ABC News article Traditional Aboriginal healing methods share space with Western medicine in WA’s north published earlier today, 16 May 2023. Photo: Tallulah Bieundurry, ABC Kimberley. The caption for the image in the article is ‘The group of women travelled to Derby to run 3-day healing workshops.’

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.

Aboriginal healing, an alternative treatment option

Under gumtrees on Nyikina country in WA’s West Kimberley, the healing songs of elders singing rings out into the silent afternoon air. Painted red with ochre, made of powdered clay from the landscape, the group has gathered in the name of repair and recovery. The ancient ritual, performed by the traditional Aboriginal healing group Jalngangurru, involves physical touch to help manage conditions from headaches to joint pain.

Jalngangurru has partnered with the Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS) and Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation to provide alternative health and well-being treatment options. The program started in 2019 after community leaders called for solutions following a spate of suicides in the region. It was one of various trial projects as part of the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Task Force.

Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation helped establish the program in Derby. Chief executive Ben Burton said calls for alternative medicinal practices were growing. Youth worker Brett Manado who was chosen by the men’s healing group to learn the ropes said the program could offer better coping mechanisms for young people dealing with trauma, “Mental health is a pretty big issue in Derby and this healing tackles that. Western medicine can often fall by the wayside. A lot of people suffer misdiagnosis from Western medicines. After clients come and get the healing you can see the relief they have on their face and they’re really taken aback by it.”

To view the ABC News article Traditional Aboriginal healing shares space with Western medicine amid youth suicide crisis in WA’s north in full click here.

ATSI healer with hands on back of ATSI youth

The healers use traditional methods such as singing, ochre, and massage. Photo: Tallulah Bieundurry, ABC Kimberley. Image source: ABC News.

New national approach to First Nations gender justice

Bold new approaches from First Nations Australian women for improving their future were unveiled at the historic Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) National Summit held in Canberra last week, including a new National Framework for Action and a new dedicated First Nations Gender Justice Institute at the Australian National University.

The summit, delivered by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), was most significant gathering ever of First Nations women. It was attended by over 800 First Nations women from across Australia with the aim to ensure Australia responds to the rights, health, safety, wellbeing and prosperity of First Nations women and girls. Delegates have issued a Summit Communique, available here, and a Youth Statement, available here, outlining their perspectives, calls to action and recommendations for Australian governments and other stakeholders to work with them to realise their vision for First Nations gender justice and equity.

The recommendations include:

  • Our voices, experiences and solutions to be centred in decision-making about our futures
  • The recognition that our cultures are foundational to societal and ecological health and wellbeing
  • The development of models for financial reinvestment through a First Nations gender lens
  • Placing care at the heart of policy design
  • Genuine and authentic collaborations to address and overcome systemic challenges
  • Policies for First Nations women to embrace our voices equally in all their diversity, including sistergirls and transwomen, non-binary people, children and people with disability.

The Communique also calls on governments across the country to commit to the development and implementation of a new National Framework for Action that will provide a ‘blakprint’ for delivering lasting change across relevant policies and programs of government, industry and service providers. Alongside the Framework, the new ANU First Nations Gender Justice Institute will contribute vital research, ideas, analysis and leadership to help continually shape the form, content and direction of advocacy for First Nations women and girls.

To view the AHRC article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to ‘design’ their future with new national approach to First Nations gender justice in full click here.

Water rights top Indigenous talks agenda

Professor Peter Yu believes understanding and recognising Indigenous water rights are vital for the health, wellbeing and survival of this country’s First Peoples. “It’s really inseparable from our worldview about social, cultural and economic importance,” he said. The urgent need to improve Indigenous people’s access, control and say over water to improve their health, wellbeing and economic outcomes will be the theme of a roundtable at the Australian National University in Canberra this week. At the same time in Alice Springs, a separate community roundtable will examine how Indigenous people and communities can participate in and benefit from the clean energy transition.

Professor Yu, vice-president First Nations at the university, said recognising Indigenous people’s rights to water was vital to addressing historical injustices of exclusion and denial, and to advancing reconciliation, “This has been neglected space for a number of years now. We’re pleased that the government is moving towards engaging First Nations interests in a very serious way.

While First Nations Australians have access to more than 50% of the Australian landmass through native title and land rights, we have access to less than 1% of water allocations. That’s inequitable and doesn’t reflect the very serious nature of the obligations and imperatives that Aboriginal people have regarding water – not just from a cultural and social point of view, but also in terms of economic opportunities.”

To view The Canberra Times article Water rights and energy top Indigenous talks agenda in full click here.

ATSI soman with Aboriginal flag draped across shoulders standing on banks of a river

A 2020 Productivity Commission report into national water policy recommended a First Nations-led model of water reform. Photo: Richard Wainwright/AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Bowel Cancer Screening Kits available for ACCHOs

Leading into Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (June) ACCHO’s are reminded that they can register and distribute Bowel Cancer Screening Kits to their community.

ACCHOs can register now to help their community members get screened for bowel cancer. Click here to register, order and issue kits.

For more information you can also visit the NACCHO website here.NACCHO created Bowel Cancer - Just Get Screened logo & image of hand holding National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Home Test Kit

Cultural exchange targets suicide prevention

Six young Indigenous Australians, including three from WA, will travel to Canada today for a new cultural exchange program focused on suicide prevention and wellbeing. The inaugural Anika Indigenous Cultural Exchange, funded by the Anika Foundation and the Poche Centre of Indigenous Health at the University of WA (UWA), will enable six participants aged 18 to 30 to spend two weeks in Winnipeg with Canadian First Nations youth and Elders. They will engage in cultural connection, discussion and knowledge-sharing related to Indigenous suicide prevention and wellbeing, and bring back new learnings to share with their communities.

In Australia the average rate of suicide among Indigenous people is twice as high as that recorded for other Australians. For youth aged 15 to 24, it is 3.5 times higher. UWA School of Indigenous Studies Professor Pat Dudgeon, who developed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project, said the Anika Indigenous Cultural Exchange represented a potentially life-changing opportunity for the young people chosen, “An important part of the cultural exchange is that they will have conversations about youth perspectives in suicide prevention. They will come back stronger and wiser, with a global appreciation of the issue. This is an important event for us. Indigenous youth are our future, and we are delighted to provide this opportunity for them.”

To view The University of WA article New cultural exchange targets Indigenous suicide prevention in full click here.

gathering at ceremony - 1st row - Anuty Roma Winmar; 2nd row (L to R): Michael Spratt, Jess Lister, Aunty Tjalaminu Mia, Pat Dudgeon, Aunty Alta Winmar

First row: Aunty Roma Winmar. Second row (L to R): Michael Spratt, Jess Lister, Aunty Tjalaminu Mia, Pat Dudgeon, Aunty Alta Winmar. Image source: The University of WA’s New cultural exchange targets Indigenous suicide prevention webpage.

$18m for new SWAMS Aboriginal health hub

Last Friday, Premier Mark McGowan was joined at the South West Aboriginal Medical Service’s (SWAMS) Forrest Avenue clinic by Bunbury MLA Don Punch and SWAMS chief executive, where he announced funding to boost the service’s capabilities. Speaking to a packed medical centre Mr McGowan said “One of the things we wanted to do with this Budget was to make sure we funded important initiatives for health across regional WA. Here in Bunbury we are contributing $18m to the SWAMS new facility to provide the right accommodation and support for this important medical service across the South West. The Commonwealth will be matching that money, so that’s a $36m commitment to health here in Bunbury to service both this community, and the South West community.”

The funds will go towards to building a new Aboriginal health hub in the South West. The purpose-built hub would improve access to services that best meet the needs of local Aboriginal people, including culturally appropriate care, which can lead to better diagnosis and treatment outcomes to provide a more comprehensive healthcare model.

SWAMS chief executive officer Lesley Nelson said the funding boost was “momentous” for the local Noongar people, “This is a very significant occasion for our Noongar people in the South West — this has been a vision for many years, which has been brought to fruition today. There’s been a lot of hard work over a long time. Bringing this to fruition is a momentous day for our Noongar people here in the South West. This opportunity will ensure we have the capability to accommodate many of the new technologies, many of the services that we can provide.

To view the Bunbury Herald article State Budget: $18 million boost to South West Aboriginal medical care in full click here.

You can also view WA Premier Mark McGowan’s and WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson’s joint media release $18.3 million to build new Aboriginal health hub in Bunbury in full here.

Premier Mark McGowan with SWAMS chief executive officer Lesley Nelson and Don Punch MLA

Premier Mark McGowan with SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson and Don Punch MLA. Photo: Jacinta Cantatore, The West Australian. Image source: Bunbury Herald.

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