NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Protecting mental health in referendum lead up

The image in the feature tile is of Wiradjuri man Stan Grant as he announced he was taking some time out from his high-profile media role. Photo: Getty Images. Image source: article True Reconciliation or just history repeating? published on the University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage on 27 May 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.

Protecting mental health in referendum lead up

Campaign messaging in the 2017 marriage equality plebiscite saw LGBTQIA+ communities experience frequest sex and gender discrimination. It’s beginning to feel like history is repeating itself, with hatred and racism toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being shared publicly amongst Australian citizens amidst the referendum.

Discourse, particularly on social media, surrounding the Voice highlights the prevalence of racism in Australia. Proud Wiradjuri man, Stan Grant, who recently stepped down from his high-profile media role to prioritise his health, urged others to: “Please send that support and care to those of my people, and all people, who feel abandoned and alone, who are wondering whether they have a place in this country and do not have my privileges.”

There’s concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are faced with the current racist abuse dominating conversations across the country, who do not have a support network. The Government has provided extra funding to support mental health during this time, but the mental health system is still in crisis mode following COVID-19. The educational campaign promoting empathy understanding and social inclusivity needs to be intensified and promoted.

To view the Pursuit article True reconciliation or just history repeating? in full click here. You can also read a related article We need to learn from our mistakes in the Marriage Equality Voice and Support First Nations Peoples during the Voice debates published in Lifehacker Australia here.

The same-sex marriage Yes vote provided the LGBTQIA+ community with a feeling of being accepted and supported, protecting against poor mental health. Photo: Wikimedia. Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

NACCHO Sexual Health Update webinar

Please join the NACCHO Communicable Diseases Team for an update on sexual health during the NACCHO Sexual Health Update webinar.

This webinar will include:

  • Review of the Kirby Surveillance Report
  • Changes to ASHM testing guidelines
  • Training/workshop needs in ACCHOs
  • Discussion and question time

WHEN: Wednesday 31 May 2023, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM (AEST)

We look forward to having you attend the event!

To join the on-line webinar click here.

tile re NACCHO Communicable Diseases Team update on sexual health webinar

Aboriginal peacemakers discuss conflict resolution

Fifty “peacemakers” from remote communities across the NT have met in Katherine to discuss ways to resolve disputes without using violence. The program, run by the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), brought community leaders together last week from Yuendumu, Galiwin’ku, Wurrumiyanga, Lajamanu, Groote Eylandt and Yirrkala. Peacemaker Danny Garrawurra, from the remote community of Galiwin’ku, said he worked with service providers to resolve disputes while maintaining his Yolngu cultural obligations. “We are facing those problems within family to family, and it really is a struggle for us,” he said.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showed the rates of hospitalisations of Indigenous Territorians due to assault were the highest in Australia, particularly in disadvantaged remote areas. Last week, a young man from Wadeye was sentenced to prison for his involvement in a violent riot that left a man dead.

NAAJA’s principal legal officer Nick Espie said local mediators required more support and resourcing to prevent family and domestic disputes from escalating. “There are a lot of people here that have worked very hard in this role that often takes a personal toll,” he said. “They’ve done this unnoticed, and often without funding and without being paid.”

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal peacemakers meet to discuss conflict resolution in remote NT communities in full click here.

Aboriginal peacemaker Danny Garrawurra from Galiwin'ku green shirt standing against tree

Peacemaker Danny Garrawurra from remote community of Galiwin’ku. Photo: Samantha Dick. Image source: ABC News.

ACCHO hosts family violence forum

Domestic and family violence is disturbingly common in the Orana region, with 2,860 incidents recorded by NSW Police between 2021 and 2022. The real number though is much higher as many victims will never report their experiences, and this is something that needs to change. To help foster this, the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Services (WACHS) hosted a domestic violence forum called ‘Let’s Make Change’ last week on Thursday, 25 May 2023.

One of the guest speakers at the event was notorious bank robber turned Indigenous leader and lifestyle coach Jeff Morgan, who after experiencing homelessness and spending more than 18 years in maximum security prison turned his life around by embracing important lessons from his crimes and accepting accountability and changing his mindset. Experiencing abuse as a young man and growing up in Redfern, Sydney, Mr Morgan has seen the impact of domestic violence both personally and within communities.

He now travels the country delivering well-being and mindset programs, believing that if things are going to change with domestic violence there is a genuine need for role modelling and facilitating honest conversations. Mr Morgan said he wanted the Wellington domestic violence forum to be a place where residents could sit with a “taboo” topic and have “courageous” conversations so they could learn new skills, ideas, tips, or tools to change their outlook on domestic violence.

“You plant the seeds, and you nurture it and all of a sudden you’re creating more leaders and you’re building on resilience throughout the community,” he said. Mr Morgan said forums like this were important not only for the adults but to educate the next generation. “Everything is around your habits, and I know after 18 years in jail as a bank robber, my habits were about survival initially and that evolved into a life of crime,” he said. “Then that one courageous conversation helped me tap into a different version of myself and one I couldn’t see before. Mr Morgan urges people to go to events and forums like this one to listen and learn as much as you can.

The above has been taken from an article Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Services hosts domestic violence forum published in the Daily Liberal yesterday, 29 May 2023.

Lewis Bird, Leteisha Peckham, Ursula Honeysett, Jay Forrester, and Jeffrey Morgan standing in front of sign 'Domestic Violence Forum - End the Silence' Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service logo

Lewis Bird, Leteisha Peckham, Ursula Honeysett, Jay Forrester, and Jeffrey Morgan. Photo: Belinda Soole. Image source: Daily Liberal.

New culturally appropriate PCOS resource

A prominent women’s health organisation says there is an “unmet need” for culturally appropriate information around Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in remote Central Australian communities. PCOS is a condition caused by a hormone imbalance which results in painful or irregular periods, excessive facial or body hair, weight gain, challenges with fertility and in many cases insulin resistance.

Jean Hailes CEO Sarah White said while PCOS generally impacted one in 10 women, among Indigenous women that rate was as high as one in six. She said this was compounded by research showing Indigenous women were more likely to forego general health appointments or not engage with their GP around the issue. “There’s been a lot of research which says Aboriginal women feel like they face more barriers in terms of seeing a doctor or being heard by a health professional,” she said.

Working alongside Alukura Women’s Health Service on behalf of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, a team from Jean Hailes has been engaging with Arrernte communities around Alice Springs to produce culturally sensitive resources around PCOS. She said they found information around PCOS and periods in general were missing in ways communities could relate to or understand, or were culturally appropriate.

“For Aboriginal women it was very much understanding the language they used to describe symptoms, the resources are also badged very clearly as being women only because these are issues that are only acceptable to discuss in front of other women and not with men,” she said. Released in late 2022, the resources are now in their third print run in less than six months.

She said the organisation was receiving orders from “all over Australia” including Queensland and Victoria, with the resource opening up conversations nationally. “I think uptake from around Australia demonstrates there is very much an unmet need in terms of having resources that are culturally appropriate,” she said. “A lot of women think that periods should just be painful, we rarely talk about women’s health issues, one of things we can do with these resources now is bring these issues into the open.”

To above was extracted from an article New resource tackles ‘unmet need’ for culturally appropriate information on PCOS published in The Chronical on Saturday 27 May 2023.

cartoon drawing of ATSI woman with acne looking in the mirror

An illustration featured in the resources, which Ms White says is helping more women discuss PCOS and women’s health in general. Picture: Illustration by Coolamon Creative 2022. Image source: The Chronicle.

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 – Reconciliation Week 27 May – 3 June 2023

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023, Be a Voice for Generations, encourages all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in tangible ways in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise, and urges all Australians to use their power, their words and their actions to create a better, more just Australia for all of us.

For the work of generations past, and the benefit of generations future, let’s choose to create a more just, equitable and reconciled country for all. Reconciliation Australia’s research shows large community support for the next steps in Australia’s reconciliation journey, including the Voice to Parliament, treaty making and truth-telling.

You can learn more about the history of NRW here and read more about what Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine has to say about the NRW 2023 theme here.

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