NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Health leaders slam Big Tobacco

feature tile image: hand holding vape; text 'BIG TOBACCO SLAMMED "It's our duty to ensure young people know vaping is harmful, and those selling vapes to minors need to be stopped"

The image in the feature tile appeared in the article Maari Ma Slams Big Tobacco on World No Tobacco Day written by Stuart Kavanagh and published in the Barrier Truth yesterday Wednesday 30 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.

Health leaders slam Big Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day is a time to inform the public on the dangers of using tobacco and highlight what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic. NSW ACCHO Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation is rallying against Big Tobacco’s insidious influence, calling for communities to join in the battle.

Maari Ma’s CEO, Richard Weston says there is an urgent need to support those trying to quit smoking and the young from health damages caused by vaping: “Health authorities are now reporting that 99% of vapes in Australia contain nicotine, and they are being marketed towards our young people – the next generation of smokers for Big Tobacco.”

Mr Weston said Big Tobacco is targeting the next generation of smokers with sweet-smelling, coloured and flavoured vapes laden with highly addictive nicotine. Despite the federal government’s recent introduction of regulations to prohibit selling vapes to anyone under the age of 18, schools have reported an alarming rise in vaping among students. Mr Weston said the entire community has a role to play in addressing this health crisis, “We are ready to support our community to kick the addiction and prevent our children from becoming the next generation of smokers through vaping.”

You can find out more about World Tobacco Day on the WHO website here and read the Barrier Truth article Maari Ma Slams Big Tobacco on World No Tobacco Day in full here.

Racism continues to plague lives of mob

Dr Hannah McGlade, Kurin Minang human rights expert and member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says “Australia is a racist country. It has a racist history which continues to impact on the lives of Aboriginal people. Evidence of racism in Australia against Aboriginal people is extensive.” Nearly three decades on from her 1997 analysis of the Race Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) review, Dr McGlade said “with racism and racist views being displayed overtly to Aboriginal people, including from politicians, we must ask – how far have we really come in addressing racism, a serious violation of human rights?”

The issue of racism against Aboriginal people took national stage recently over the treatment of ABC journalist Stan Grant who stood down in the face of shocking racial abuse directed towards him and his family. This abuse had intensified during Grant’s reporting of the King’s Coronation where perspectives of Indigenous peoples on the Crown were aired. Initially no one from ABC’s management spoke publicly in his defense, although they had in the past done just that when it concerned a prominent white journalist who’d experienced harassment. Stan Grant told us to keep our sympathy for those in our community that don’t have his privilege, and who are feeling alone and abandoned.

Dr McGlade said that she has recently for the first time in her life been on the receiving end of racist emails, in response her speaking out about the children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre; Aboriginal children who’d had guns pointed at their heads by police after they rioted in response to successive lockdowns, which have been declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. Dr McGlade said she knew she could simply delete the racist messages and continue her human rights advocacy in relative safety. She acknowledged, however, that this was not so for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Racism continues to plague the lives of Aboriginal people in full click here.

ABC staff outside of ABC Sydney HQs holding 'I stand with Stan' signs

ABC staff gathered outside the organisation’s Sydney headquarters in support of Stan Grant. Photo: Keana Naughton, ABC News.

Ear health vital to improve education outcomes

Up to nine in 10 Aboriginal children in remote areas experience middle ear disease, according to Ear Science Institute Australia, which left untreated can cause hearing loss and have a profound effect on language development, education and employment. Ear Science Institute Australia recently formed a partnership with Mineral Resources (MinRes) to increase resourcing to the Lions Healthy Hearing Outback program for the Nyiyaparli and Martu people in the East Pilbara region in WA. Under the partnership Ear Science Institute Australia is able to deliver an integrated service model combining telehealth with an Ear Health Coordinator providing on-the-ground logistical support to patients that need treatment.

Audiologist Lucy Mitchell took on the role of Ear Health Coordinator in March and will travel to Newman, Jigalong, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kunawarritji to tackle what she described as “a massive social justice issue”. “Aboriginal children will experience ear disease earlier, sometimes from two weeks old, they’ll experience it more severely and more frequently than non-Aboriginal children. This will have long lasting impacts throughout someone’s life because if you can’t hear, you can’t learn,” she said. “Even with mild hearing loss it can be very difficult to hear the teacher in a classroom or to communicate with family at home. Overcrowding in housing, hygiene and nutrition are all factors that can contribute to poor ear health.”

The program is run by Ear Science, Rural Health West and the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), with MinRes’ $600,000 commitment over three years bolstering service delivery. Nurses and Aboriginal health workers in the communities will be trained to use a video otoscope that captures photographs and video inside a patient’s ear, with the examinations facilitated by an ENT specialist 1,600km away in Perth.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Tackling the ear health gap vital to improving education outcomes for Indigenous children in full click here.

Dr Anton Hinton-Bayre, ENT Consultant Aboriginal girl's ear

Dr Anton Hinton-Bayre, ENT Consultant, at work. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Uni receives $3.5m Birthing on Country grant

Imagine being 38 weeks pregnant and having to leave your family and community behind to travel hundreds of kms to get the care you and your baby will need for the birth. Though far from ideal, this is the reality many Aboriginal women in remote communities face when it’s time to have their babies – and it’s something Southern Cross University (SCU) and its partner organisations are committed to changing.

SCU has secured a $3.558m grant from the Department of Health and Aged Care to collaboratively scope and design an innovative program for Birthing on Country with three ACCHOs. The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme – Workforce and Maternity Services Grant will include help for Aboriginal mums-to-be to quit smoking. The project will be led by Professor Gillian Gould and Australia’s first Aboriginal Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialist, Dr Marilyn Clarke, both from the University’s Faculty of Health.

“I’m very excited to be part of this successful research grant, which will allow the Birthing on Country movement in Australia to be further explored and integrated with culturally competent smoking cessation care.” said Dr Clarke. Professor Gould leads iSISTAQUIT, a program for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are wanting to quit smoking. “We know that Birthing on Country has a very powerful impact on Aboriginal women, and that quitting smoking is one of the most important things they can do for their own health and the health of their babies,” said Professor Gould. “Coupling the already successful iSISTAQUIT program with a long-term plan to facilitate safe Birthing on Country will create a holistic pre-natal health plan for Aboriginal women living remotely.”

To view the Southern Cross University News article Southern Cross receives $3.5m Birthing on Country grant to improve Indigenous midwifery services and quit smoking program in full click here.

Professor Gillian Gould & Dr Marilyn Clarke holding iSISTAQUIT purple carboard frame text ' change starts with a chat - I'm helping mob to be smoke-free'

Project leads Professor Gillian Gould and Dr Marilyn Clarke. Image source: Southern University News webpage.

Study finds smoking target ‘cannot be achieved’

A plan to cut adult smoking rates in Australia to 5% by 2030 is likely to fall short by several years, the authors of new research have warned. The target, which also forms part of the recently published National Tobacco Strategy 2023–30, will not be met according to modelling carried out by the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney. Their research, available here, was published this month in the Tobacco Control journal.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate around one in 10 adults (10.1%) smoked in 2021–22. However, while smoking has fallen significantly in recent decades – with more than one in four adults (26%) recorded as smokers as recently as 1998 – plans to halve the current rate by the end of the decade are not on track, the article suggests.

“[The] 5% adult daily smoking prevalence target cannot be achieved by the year 2030 based on current trends,’ the authors wrote. “Urgent investment in concerted strategies that prevent smoking initiation and facilitate cessation is necessary to achieve 5% prevalence by 2030.” Professor Nick Zwar, Chair of the RACGP’s smoking cessation guidelines’ Expert Advisory Group, agrees that without further action the target is likely to be missed. However, he remains hopeful of an improved outlook. “The recently released National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030 sets out actions, proposed by the Government at the Commonwealth level, which could change that situation,’ he said.

To view the RACGP newsGP article Smoking target ‘cannot be achieved’ on current trends: Study in full click here.

Aboriginal woman's hand holding a cigarette

Aboriginal smoking rates can be over 70% in some remote communities. In the early days after invasion Aboriginal people were paid with tobacco. Source: Creative Spirits webpage.

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Key Date – Reconciliation Week 27 May – 3 June

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) runs from 27 May to 3 June each year, with the dates representing significant milestones in the fight for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Advocates say this year’s event is especially significant due to the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum. NRW organisers say the 2023 mission is to encourage “all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in tangible ways in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise”. Each year, NRW features community events around the country that promote greater awareness and respect for First Nations culture and history and aims to strengthen the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

In the regional city of Armidale in NW NSW, the anniversary of the Bridge Walk (28 May 2000) is marked with a community event at a local bridge, drawing 200 people from around the region for a day of music, speeches and food. Co-organiser Diana Eades said attendance has grown over the past 13 years.

“It’s the biggest event in this region for reconciliation. And really what we’ve been saying, especially this year now more than ever, is it is the time for non-Aboriginal people to stand with Aboriginal people very publicly and say that we stand for justice, equality, respect. And we stand against racism and scaremongering,” she said.
To read the SBS News article National Reconciliation Week is here. What does it represent and why is it significant? in full click here.
CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine (right) addresses Stolen Generations survivors and advocates on the first day of Reconciliation Week 2023

CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine (right) addresses Stolen Generations survivors and advocates on the first day of Reconciliation Week. Source: Image source: Twitter / Reconciliation Australia – SBS News website.

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