NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Prohibition doesn’t address underlying issues

empty beer cans on Todd River's dry bed, Alice Springs

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Tim Wimborne of empty beer cans lying on the Todd River’s dry bed in Alice Springs. The photo appeared in a Reuters article Australia limits alcohol sales in Alice Springs amid crime wave, published on 24 January 2023.

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.

Prohibition doesn’t address underlying issues

Alcohol management in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has been a deeply divisive issue, as seen recently in Alice Springs in the NT. Indigenous leaders called for and welcomed emergency restrictions on the sale of alcohol from January 24 2023. This approach resulted in an immediate decrease in alcohol-related harms, including family violence and emergency department presentations.

But Elders in Alice Springs have warned these restrictions “should not let governments off the hook” from addressing the underlying social determinants of alcohol-related harm. This reflects a long-standing community concern that prohibition alone does nothing to address issues such as intergenerational trauma, poverty, housing, education, unemployment, access to alternative activities, access to adequate health care and racism.

Critics of government-imposed alcohol management argue the allocation of resourcing is too strongly weighted toward supply reduction – and especially law enforcement – with inadequate funding of demand-reduction and harm-reduction strategies.

To view the Australian Herald article To reduce harm from alcohol, we need Indigenous-led responses in full click here.

Budget ‘excellent’ for remote healthcare

This month’s Budget included a raft of good news for general practice in regional and remote areas, the RACGP’s Rural Chair has said. Associate Professor Michael Clements has called the measures introduced by the Federal Government last week – which heeded many of the calls made by the RACGP – as “an excellent, rurally loaded Budget.” Among the moves that will most impact rural doctors is a tripling of the bulk billing incentive, a central request of the college’s pre-budget submission – and one which will particularly benefit rural general practices.

However, while the broad budgetary picture is a positive one for Assoc Prof Clements, he is realistic about how quickly it will solve the challenges of general practice in regional and remote areas. “I think this will have a positive impact on rural workforce as it does financially incentivise more rural and remote work,” he said.

Assoc Prof Clements said “This should be seen as a start of a multiple stage process to reinvigorate rural workforce. I think the Federal Government has shown significant new investment into rural health and now is the opportunity for state governments to come to the party as well.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article Budget ‘excellent’ for remote healthcare: RACGP Rural Chair in full click here.

white 4-wheel drive red dirt road Australian outback

Photo: Francesco Ricca Iacomino, iStock. Image source: The Medical Republic.

NSW’s first mobile CT imaging van unveiled

Communities in the NSW’s north west will soon have better access to the latest diagnostic imaging technology, with NSW’s first mobile CT imaging van officially unveiled by NSW Minister for Health and Regional Health, Ryan Park, during his visit to Walgett Multipurpose Service yesterday.

CT – or computed tomography – takes detailed images of the internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels. The new Remote Mobile CT Service will be used for non-emergency patients to help diagnose causes of pain from muscles or joints, detect diseases or prepare patients for further treatment or surgery. The ground-breaking service will begin welcoming patients in the coming weeks, and is expected to see around 1,500 per year as it rotates between Walgett, Bourke and Cobar.

Mr Park said, “Bringing these specialist services closer to people’s homes is tremendously important in this part of the state, where the cost and complexity of travel and leaving family or community can be a disincentive. Having the Remote Mobile CT Service at their doorstep will help many patients avoid hours on the road, some of them up to 10-hour round trips to Dubbo, to have scans. It will also be a huge benefit as we continue improving health outcomes among our Aboriginal communities.”

To view the NSW Government article Remote communities benefit from state’s first mobile CT service in full click here.

NSW's first mobile CT service (van)

Mobile CT Service van. Image source: NSW Government website.

New vision clinic opens at GRAMS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in WA’s Mid West will be able to access eye screening and treatment at a new vision clinic opened yesterday at Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Services (GRAMS). The clinic has been established by The University of WA’s Eye Health Centre of WA with the support of The Fred Hollows Foundation, WA Centre for Rural Health and GRAMS.

UWA Head of Optometry Professor Garry Fitzpatrick said the state-of-the-art clinic would deliver culturally safe eye care services, “Affordable and accessible primary eye care services will be available for people of all ages who are experiencing eye health issues like blurred vision, dry eyes, low vision or who need glasses or lenses and who will be able to access services without a referral.”

GRAMS CEO Deborah Woods acknowledged the partnerships with The Fred Hollow Foundation and UWA. “GRAMS is extremely excited to be able to deliver next level eye health service to our clients all under one roof,” she said.

To view The University of WA article Cultural safety focus of new eye health clinic in Geraldton in full click here. You can also view more photos of the new vision clinic on the GRAMS website here.

Photo (L-R): Deborah Woods (CEO GRAMS), Wilfred Tang (Program Director UWA) and Eric Dalgety (Eye Health Practitioner GRAMS) pictured with the new state-of-the-art technology

Photo (L-R): Deborah Woods (CEO GRAMS), Wilfred Tang (Program Director UWA) and Eric Dalgety (Eye Health Practitioner GRAMS) pictured with the new state-of-the-art technology. Image source: GRAMS website.

New course to help close health gap

A new course to help close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Care has been announced by the TAFE Queensland Bowen Campus and eligible students may be able to study for free. The Certificate lll in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Care is being offered for the first time at the Bowen Health Hub. It is predicted that the Indigenous health worker sector will grow strongly over the coming years and could increase by 17%.

Community and Health Faculty Manager for TAFE Queensland in Far North and North Queensland, Melanie Clarke, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers are a vital link between individuals, communities, and health services. “The course will teach students how to undertake basic health assessments, as well as how to identify community health issues and needs, and assist with health screening, promotion and education services,” she said.

The year-long course begins this month and will encompass seven week-long training blocks at the Bowen Health Hub. “The facility is a simulated clinical training ward which replicates a real-life hospital environment, allowing students to gain vital hands-on skills using industry equipment and technology,” said Ms Clarke.

To view the Mackay and Whitsunday Life article New Course Launches For Bowen Health Hub in full click here.

male health worker taking woman's blood pressure in clinic room at Bowen Health Hub QLD

Bowen Health Hub. Image source: TAFE Queensland Student Handbook 2023.

Why the Voice is nurses’ business

For far too long, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people haven’t had a say on decisions, policies and laws that affect their lives, says Sye Hodgman, a Trawlwoolway Palawa-Pakana nurse and First Nations Strategy, Policy and Research Officer with the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU).

“There are constitutional powers that are given to government to make laws specifically in respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” explained Sye, in an address to the Coalition of National Nursing & Midwifery Organisations (CoNNMO) in Melbourne earlier this month. “Every time that happens, communities get hurt. But there is no power or protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to even be involved, or recognised, in that process, apart from being a recipient.”

“The very fact that we require predominantly white Australia and non-Indigenous Australian people to give us permission to have a Voice and to be voting on this particular process is symptomatic of the endemic systemic racism within the Australian political system,” Sye told CoNNMO attendees, which included Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan, and Australian Nursing and Midwifery (ANMF) Federal Secretary Annie Butler.

To view the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal article ‘Nothing about us without us’: Why the First Nations Voice to Parliament is nurses’ business in full click here.

Sye Hodgman, a Trawlwoolway Palawa-Pakana nurse and First Nations Strategy, Policy and Research Officer with the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU)

Sye Hodgman, a Trawlwoolway Palawa-Pakana nurse and First Nations Strategy, Policy and Research Officer with the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU). Image source: Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal.

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