NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Sorry Day 2023

Feature tile image of Katrina Fanning; text 'National Sorry Day is about having empathy - providing support to others should not be limited to people you have personally wronged'

The image in the feature tile is of recently named 2023 Canberra Citizen of the Year – Wiradjuri woman Katrina Fanning AO PSM. The image appeared in today’s ABC News article Today is National Sorry Day, but many Indigenous Australians say they’re still being asked: ‘Why should I apologise?‘.

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. The content included in these news stories are not necessarily NACCHO endorsed.

National Sorry Day 2023

Australia marks National Sorry Day on 26 May each year, remembering and acknowledging the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed as children from their families and communities, otherwise known as the Stolen Generations. Children were taken because of official laws and government policies at the time, which aimed to assimilate the Indigenous population into the non-Indigenous community. The children were renamed, forced to stop speaking their native language, and were told their parents no longer wanted them. The policies were in effect right up until the 1970s, and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still searching for lost parents and siblings today.

The first National Sorry Day was held 25 years ago, commemorating one year after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in federal parliament. The report found the forced removal of Indigenous children had caused lifelong impacts on Stolen Generations survivors and their families. Ten years later, in February 2008, then-prime minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; saying sorry to the Stolen Generations.

Former rugby league star and proud Wiradjuri woman Katrina Fanning says National Sorry Day is about having empathy. “Where there’s parts of our history where there’s tragedy, where there’s struggle, I feel emotions for those people,” she said. Ms Fanning said providing support to others should not be limited to people you had personally wronged. “I haven’t caused a drought, I never fought in a war, but I have empathy for the situation that fellow Australians went through and the sacrifices they made to make this country a better place.”

Ms Fanning said she felt a sense of sadness for those who did not acknowledge the Stolen Generations or want to say sorry, as they weren’t able to understand the shared history of Australia. “They don’t understand that this whole community of people exemplify what it is to be Australian, with resilience and toughness and dignity and pride,” she said. “I feel like they’re missing out on the fabric of Australia, not the other way around.” Ms Fanning said her family had been subject to similar comments about not wanting to apologise, but they tended not to react. “They lived at a time where reacting would have them arrested, have them banned from town, have them banned from school,” she said. “I see a simmer in them. I see something that they’ve had to carry, and a burden that they’ve had to shoulder for a very long time.”

To view the ABC News article Today is National Sorry Day, but many Indigenous Australians say they’re still being asked: ‘Why should I apologise?‘ in full click here.

Trauma and poor mental health linked

The link between exposure to trauma and increased risk of poor mental health is well established. Where trauma is unacknowledged, it can result in the re-traumatisation of later generations. The colonisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the oppressive practices that followed has resulted in a legacy of unaddressed intergenerational trauma. This prolonged and continuing exposure to trauma and risk factors places Indigenous Australians at a heightened risk of mental ill-health.

A paper Intergenerational trauma and mental health recently released by the Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) aims to define the link between intergenerational trauma and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and to identify current best-practice policies and programs to address this issue.

You can view the AIHW paper Intergenerational trauma and mental health in full here.cover of AIHW Intergenerational trauma & mental health paper 2023

Butt Out Boondah tackles youth smoking

Butt Out Boondah, the Tackling Indigenous Smoking team of Grand Pacific Health, is urging young mob in Cooma, Yass, Queanbeyan and Goulburn to take a stand against tobacco use and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is being held on Wednesday 31 May 2023. Butt Out Bondah focuses on educating Indigenous communities in the aforementioned areas about the dangers of Tobacco smoking and e-cigarettes to help in bridging the health gap.

The program addresses the pressing concern of vaping among young people in these communities, which is mistakenly seen as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. Butt Out Boondah’s Strategic Coordinator for Aboriginal Health, Iona Marsh said World No Tobacco Day provides an opportunity to emphasise the detrimental effects of smoking and vaping.

“The concerning reality is that Indigenous young people in regions like Cooma, Goulburn, Yass and Queanbeyan are often unaware of the hazardous substances they are inhaling, and it is our duty to equip them and their parents with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions about their health,” she said. To raise awareness, the program actively engages with local primary and high schools, educating school-aged children about the dangers associates with smoking and vaping.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Butt Out Boondah tackles Indigenous youth smoking and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day in full click here.

Butt Out Boondah promotion stand in school grounds under a tree

Butt Out Boondah is encouraging First Nations peoples to take a stand against tobacco use and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day Photo: Butt Out Boondah. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Darwin, Broome, Port Hedland will be uninhabitable

Three major economic centres, Darwin, Broome and Port Hedland, are set to become uninhabitable by the end of the century, with global temperatures on track to warm by 2.7C. The destinations are just three of many in the northwestern section of Australia facing “niche displacement” in the next 70 years. New research by The University of Exeter, published in the science journal Nature Sustainability this week, calculates the human cost of climate inaction based on current insufficient policies and government inaction. Two billion people will be living with unprecedented mean average temperatures (MAT) above 29C, the report states.

MAT >29C is the point at which wellbeing scientifically declines, labour productivity and cognitive ability shrinks, negative pregnancy outcomes are produced, and mortality rates soar. 20% of Australia — about 374,977 Australians — will be impacted in this way by a 2.7C temperature increase, the report calculates. They would join a third of the world’s population, including in South-East Asia, India, Africa and South America. In Darwin, a 3C warmer world would mean that, for 265 days of the year, temperatures would soar higher than 35C. At 40C, humidity increases and temperatures become lethal, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

The University of Exeter report also explains the effects of a “wet-bulb temperature” — where temperature and humidity are combined. In temperatures above 28C (WBT) the body struggles to cool itself by sweating, and fails to do so in temperatures above 35C (WBT), which can be fatal. By limiting global warming to just 1.5C — which is the aim of the Paris Agreement — 80% of those globally at risk of rising temperatures would remain in their climate niche. But a 1.5C increase will still unleash severe and irreversible effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems, scientists warn.

To view the 7 News article Three Australian regions that will become unlivable within a lifetime due to climate change in full click here.

GYHSAC videos amplify public health message

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) has just released a deadly public health promotion music video produced for GYHSAC by Saltwater People. The video’s message, in Language, encourages kids to keep their bodies and minds strong. The tune and accompanying music video are not only catchy but have an important health literacy message for all young mob out there.

The video was a project involving the GYHSAC Public Health team and several outside groups, including:

  • Singer / Songwriter / Producer Normey Jay
  • Patrick Mau – One Blood Hidden Image Entertainment Group (the first Torres Strait independent record label operating out of the Torres Strait Islands)
  • Yarrabah State School
  • David Mundraby – Local Language Translation

GYHSAC have thanked these groups and the incredible Yarrabah kids for their willingness to work with the GYHSAC Public Health team to help create a positive public health message, and assist GYHSAC to amplify the positive message to community and the wider social media world.

You can view the 3-minute Bina-N Wanggi music video below as well as the 1 minute Bina-N Wanggi Behind the Scenes video, which gives you a look behind the scenes of the filming and production of the music video.

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.

Key Date – National Palliative Care Week 2023

As part of National Palliative Care Week 2023 (21–27 May) NACCHO has been sharing a range of information and resources specifically developed for for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and professional workers. The term palliative care refers to person and family-centred care provided for someone with an active, progressive, advanced disease, who has little to no prospect of cure and who is expected to pass on, and for whom the primary goal is to optimise the quality of life. Palliative care identifies and treats symptoms which may be physical, emotional, spiritual or social. Due to a person’s individual needs, the services offered can be diverse. The term end-of-life care refers to the last few weeks of life in which a patient with a life-limiting illness is rapidly approaching passing. Of note, sometimes these terms can be used interchangeably or have different definitions.

When providing person-centred care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is important to ask the person who they would like involved in discussions about their health care as they may have decision makers or spokespersons who should be involved in all discussions and decisions regarding that person’s care. The time surrounding the end of someone’s life is precious and needs to be respected and approached in a safe, responsive and culturally appropriate manner. It is important that a person has the option to decide where they will pass, if possible. This may include a choice to be on Country, at home or in a hospital at the time of passing.

A collaboration between Palliative Care Australia and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet with funding from the Australian Government have developed the Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care portal. The portal is designed to assist the health workforce who provide care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their families and communities. It seeks to support both clinicians and policy-makers in accessing resources, research and projects on palliative and end-of-life care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The above information has been extracted from the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s webpage Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care, available here. In the video below you can hear Aboriginal Community Support Worker, Chris Thorne talk about his personal experience with a family member and the value and importance of having an advance care plan in place.

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