NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Breaking down barriers to support mums-to-be

feature tile ATSI mum & baby at smoking ceremony; text 'Various initiatives implemented across Western Sydney to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be'

The image in the feature tile is of Aboriginal Elder Uncle Elvis and Kiralee Moss performing the smoking ceremony for Anne-Shirley Braun and baby Amelia at the first yarning circle at Westmead Hospital’s Cultural Gathering Place in June 2021. The image appeared in article Breaking down barriers to support western Sydney Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be  published in The Pulse yesterday, Monday 5 June 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.

Breaking down barriers to support mums-to-be

The Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mums and Bubs Program Steering Committee is working hard to implement various initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be and their families across the district. With over 30 attendees, 40% of who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, this committee is breaking down silos to improve health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait families in a culturally appropriate way through establishing sustainable partnerships.

Committee member Jo Fuller is the Integrated and Community Health Priority Populations program lead at WSLHD, and since 2016 has managed the Aboriginal Health portfolio and was a founding member in starting this committee. Jo is passionate about service collaboration and strongly believes that reconciliation needs to be driven by non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples. “Through the Mums and Bubs Program Steering Committee, we have been able to establish culturally sensitive and appropriate services and provide alternative pathways for the delivery of non-Aboriginal services to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across western Sydney,” said Jo.

One example of this is the Westmead Hospital Midwifery Caseload Practice and Westmead Dragonfly Midwifery group that offers culturally safe midwifery continuity of care for women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with a service that runs 24/7 during pregnancies and up to six weeks following birth.

To view The Pulse article Breaking down barriers to support western Sydney Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be in full click here.

Belinda Cashman (Acting Director Aboriginal Health Strategy), Koorine Trewlynn (Principal Project Officer Kimberwalli)

Belinda Cashman (Acting Director Aboriginal Health Strategy), Koorine Trewlynn (Principal Project Officer Kimberwalli). Image source: The Pulse.

Stolen as a child, now training others to heal

Aunty Lorraine Peeters’s last memory of her homeland was watching the mission gates fade into the distance from the back of a rattly truck. After being snatched from her parents at Brewarrina Mission in NW NSW in 1942, four-year-old Lorraine was taken 650 kms south with her five sisters to Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. The Wailwan Gamilaroi woman’s life was about to change forever.

Separated from her sisters, Aunty Lorraine described being ripped from her family and culture and “plonked into another” as a government-led assimilation strategy to get rid of her people. “Brainwashed, abused, and the whip — if you ever used your own culture,” she said while reflecting on the former home’s mantra of ‘act white, speak white, be white’. “I really think it was a genocide of our race.”

Lorraine Peeters has step up a program, Maumali, to help other members of the Stolen Generations, and the wide community, work through and understand trauma. Marumali is a Gamilaroi word for “put back together”.

To view the ABC News article Lorraine Peeters was stolen and trained to be a servant in NSW, now she trains others to heal in full click here.

Aunty Lorraine Peeters leaning on bridge wall

Aunty Lorraine Peeters. Photo: Carly Williams, ABC News.

Health advocate address UN delegates

To deliver a speech for your own nation among the nation states of the world in diplomatic Geneva is always deemed a privilege, but one personal address from the heart of the world’s oldest continuous living culture was worth the wait of the journey. There Pat Anderson from the podium was surveying the eyes of the room of delegates of United Nations members staring back, all the while carrying the weight of 65,000 years of history proudly on the resilient Alyawarre woman’s shoulders.

The internationally-recognised advocate for Indigenous health grew up from humble beginnings and that upbringing was not far from her mind in that moment. “All I was thinking is, ‘I am a long way from Darwin, let alone a long way from Parap camp’,” Pat says. Parap camp, which she called once home, was a collection of surplus army tents, pegged down and sheltered away from the rest of established Darwin for Aboriginal and “mixed” families to exist.

“That’s where my parents instilled in us a really strong sense of justice and what was right and wrong. They also encouraged us to be brave, to stand up and say what you needed to say. I’ve spent my life of trying to make change, trying to educate, trying to convince, trying to coax, trying to cajole what is a wider community to our cause,” Pat says. “We are a sovereign people, an ancient people, we have knowledge and we are of value.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Pat Anderson’s long journey has important steps to come in full click here.

Pat Anderson arms crossed across chest standing under gum tree

Pat Anderson. Photo: Andrew Mathieson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

JCU welcomes first Indigenous Chancellor

Last Thursday 1 June 2023, at James Cook University’s (JCU) Bebegu Yumba Campus in Townsville, on the lawns in front of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library Professor Ngiare Brown was welcomed as JCU’s  sixth Chancellor. Professor Brown is the first female and first Indigenous to assume the university’s most senior governance and strategy role.

“I’m a Yuin nation woman from the South Coast of NSW. I’m a doctor by trade, a mother, a researcher, a clinician, and I get up to lots of mischief,” she said. “I find this quite an extraordinary opportunity. I would never have anticipated being approached for such a role. I am hoping that I can be a good role model for other women, girls, other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but also people who have limited opportunities in their current context. There are institutions that want them to be part of their journey.”

Deputy chancellor Jayne Arlett said the appointment of the institution’s first female and first Indigenous chancellor was “significant. She is an exceptional person with very high standing at a national and international level,” she said.

You can read more about Professor Ngiare Brown in the ABC News article New James Cook University chancellor hopes to bridge education divide amid ‘growth period’ here.

16 seated people, 13 in academic robes, 3 women in civilian attire; Professor Ngaire Brown at investiture as Chancellor of JCU

Professor Ngaire Brown seated in the middle of the front row at her investiture as Chancellor of James Cook University on 1 June 2023.

Perception Alice Springs unsafe deters workers

Top NT doctor John Boffa says alcohol restrictions mean Alice Springs is “back to being a safe place” but and healthcare workers are being put off coming to the area by “a situation which has largely been addressed”.

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) chief medical officer Dr John Boffa said the “single most important factor” in attracting healthcare workers to the region was to “get the message out that Alice Springs is now safe. The crisis is over, we’re back to where we were in 2021 and we had no staff not coming in because they said it was unsafe,” he said.

“But unfortunately in the national picture there’s still this perception that this town is unsafe as it was leading up to Christmas last year — that’s not true.”

The above has been extracted from the NT News article Top Alice Springs doctor John Boffa says alcohol restrictions mean the town is now ‘safe’ published earlier today.

CAAC Chief Medical Officer John Boffa speaking to media outside building

CAAC Chief Medical Officer John Boffa said the “situation” in Alice Springs had largely been addressed by alcohol restrictions. Photo: Laura Hooper. Image source: NT News.

Culturally appropriate mental health support coming

People in the Alice Springs region will soon have access to free, and culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing support in their own community. Together, the Australian Government and NT Government are investing $11.5m to establish and operate new adult and kids Head to Health services, which are expected to open in 2024.

The Head to Health services in Alice Springs will be safe and welcoming places for all people, with a strong focus on being culturally safe and responsive to meet the needs of First Nations people. Head to Health services provide compassionate, flexible and high-quality mental health and wellbeing support from multidisciplinary care teams. People can be seen  without an appointment, to get the services they need from a range of professionals, which may include First Nations health workers, psychologists, paediatricians, nurses, social workers and peer support workers.

The new Head to Health service for adults will provide short to medium-term care for people with moderate to severe levels of mental illness. This new service will take a holistic approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing, and provide immediate support and follow up for people who are in crisis or distress. The new Head to Health Kids service will deliver culturally appropriate specialist therapeutic services for children ages 0 to 12 years, strengthening outcomes for children’s mental health and wellbeing and their families throughout the Central Australia region.

Both of these Head to Health services will be co-designed in close partnership with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and First Nations representatives, health professionals and service providers, as well as local communities, including people with lived and living experience of mental ill-health and families experiencing childhood difficulties.

To view The Hon Emma McBride MP, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health’s media release New free mental health services for Alice Springs in full click here.

Head to Health logo: Aboriginal boy Dujuan Hoosan sitting on hells near home in Hidden Valley in Alice Springs

Head to Health logo and Dugjuan Hoosan sitting in hills near his home Hidden Valley in Alice Springs. Photo: Maya Newell – Director of In my blood it runs. Image source: Alice Springs News.

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