NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: $1.48 Million upgrade for Indigenous Health Training Facility

The image in the feature tile is NSW Premier Chris Minns at AH&MRC Training. Source: AH&MRC.

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.

$1.48m upgrade for Indigenous Health Training Facility

To bolster Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare and support the training of future First Nations health workers, the NSW Government has committed $1.48m to upgrade the training headquarters of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) located in Little Bay.

The AH&MRC is the peak body for ACCHOs in NSW, and its training headquarters play a crucial role in equipping the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare professionals while enhancing the skills of the existing workforce. The facility currently houses lecture rooms, clinical demonstration areas, and training laboratories designed to simulate real-life medical emergencies.

With completion slated for later this year, the planned upgrades will bring the building in line with modern standards and align it with the latest National Construction Code. This renovation will provide an enhanced learning environment for students and ensure that the facility remains a hub for excellence in Indigenous health training.

Chris Minns, the Premier of NSW, expressed his support for the project, stating, “There is really important work happening at this site, and we’re proud to ensure that it continues for years to come.” The government’s investment underscores its commitment to fostering Indigenous health and underscores the recognition of the vital role played by the AH&MRC in promoting culturally appropriate healthcare and training.

For the complete media release from the NSW Government, please click here.

Source: AH&MRC

Why culturally appropriate maternity care matters

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies are vastly over-represented in areas of still birth, preterm, perinatal deaths, and infant mortality. Mothers are often faced with no choice but to travel alone to birthing centres scattered across Australia, far away from their Country. Aiming to provide culturally appropriate maternity care, the Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence at Waminda, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in Nowra NSW, is set to be operational in 2025-26.

Dr Yvette Roe, a proud Njikena Jawuru woman and researcher said returning birthing centres to Aboriginal communities will give babies the best start in life. Dr Roe said, “We want to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are at the forefront of what we do. Aboriginal women want healthy babies.”

To ensure deliveries are both culturally and clinically safe, Dr Roe is calling for contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and practices to be combined with western medicine in Birthing on Country Services.

Leading a study titled Indigenous Birthing in an Urban Setting, Dr Roe and a team of researchers determined that mothers in urban settings faced similar challenges to those in remote communities. The study included a Birthing in Our Community service which followed a cultural safety framework and included an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce. The team saw significant decreases in pre-term birth, epidural pain relief in labour, caesarean sections, third stage labour interventions, neonatal nursery admissions, and unborn notifications.

For the complete National Indigenous Times article click here.

Dr Yvette Roe

Dr Yvette Roe. Source: National Indigenous Times

Voice to Parliament debate taking a toll on mental health

Concerns are being raised by mental health practitioners and organisations focused on social and emotional wellbeing about the detrimental effects of the increasingly negative public debate surrounding the Voice to Parliament, particularly on young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Professor Helen Milroy, a Palyku woman and fellow of the Rural Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), has highlighted the potential for even a slight increase in vitriol to disproportionately impact the emotional well-being of young individuals. She expressed her concerns, stating, “When there is a barrage of misinformation and people are making exaggerated claims or misrepresenting what the Voice is truly about, it becomes extremely challenging for young people to counter those narratives.”

The spread of hateful rhetoric can quickly erode the self-esteem and sense of empowerment of young Indigenous people. Karlie Stewart, a Yuin woman and social worker, emphasized the significant disconnect between the political discussions surrounding the Voice and the understanding of young Aboriginal individuals in the community. Stewart explained, “…There’s a big element of confusion. All this conversation is happening above and around, but they actually don’t even know what it is that’s going on,” Steward said.

“It’s up to us as older people, who have the knowledge and the capacity and the connections to engage in these conversations, to go back to our young fullas and say, ‘Here’s what it is, here’s what it means, here’s what it might mean for you.”

The impact of the ongoing public debate on the Voice to Parliament has raised serious concerns about the mental well-being of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It calls for urgent action to counter the spread of misinformation and provide accurate information to empower and support young individuals in understanding the significance of the Voice and its potential implications for their future.

For the complete WAToday article click here.

Helen Milroy

Fellow of the Rural Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Professor Helen Milroy. Source: WAToday

Cultural healing sites promote wellbeing and reconciliation in healthcare

During Reconciliation Week, the Berri Barmera Council unveiled a cultural healing site, named Healing Place, near Barmera Hospital. This community space aims to provide a culturally safe place for individuals awaiting medical appointments, undergoing treatment, and visitors who find themselves in anxious circumstances at the hospital.

The opening of Healing Place has sparked a nationwide call for the establishment of additional cultural healing sites across different states and territories. Tyson Lindsay, Cultural Safety Officer, expressed the need for an increase in such spaces, not only in South Australia but throughout the entire nation. The inclusion of cultural healing sites in healthcare facilities has the potential to enhance holistic wellbeing and promote cultural connection and understanding.

In Mount Gambier, healing circles have been constructed at the Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation. These circles represent various stages of the healing process. The first circle encourages individuals to openly discuss their problems with respected elders. The second circle emphasizes utilizing the wisdom and knowledge of elders and the community to seek solutions. Finally, the “song and dance” circle enables people to pay homage to the knowledge and stories that have contributed to their healing. South East Elder, Uncle Doug Nicholls said, “It was important people go through the entire healing process”

“We’ve got to make sure once we’ve done the talking that we’re talking to the right people who know the business about what the medicines are, where to go to get the right treatment, and right stories for the value of the health treatment,” Uncle Doug said.

For the complete ABC article, please click here.

Source: ABC South East SA: Sam Bradbrook

Health and alcohol facilities key to decreasing incarceration rates

Amidst the ACT Government’s independent review into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra’s criminal justice system, calls for dedicated mental health and drug and alcohol facilities have emerged. The Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO, Julie Tongs, expressed scepticism about the review, emphasizing the need for action rather than further discussions.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization says that the information sought in the review has already been provided to the Territory Government. Tongs stressed the urgency of implementing a preventive model to address the glaring gap in incarceration rates, stating, “It’s very, very frustrating when we see shattered lives every day, lives that could have been prevented in the first place.”

Disturbing statistics reveal that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals now account for 26% of the Canberra prison population, representing the highest incarceration gap in the country. ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury acknowledged that addressing underlying social issues is crucial to reducing the disproportionate rates of Indigenous incarceration.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and their advocates stress the importance of moving beyond repetitive discussions and implementing concrete measures to provide support and prevent the cycle of incarceration. By investing in targeted healthcare facilities and addressing systemic issues, governments can take significant steps toward reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system.

The government said an interim report would be delivered by March 2024, with a final report to be completed late that same year.

For the complete ABC article, please click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Source: ABC News: Greg Nelson.

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