NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Gap is not closing, but Voice can help: Burney

image of Min Linda Burney sitting in House of Representatives; text 'Only 4 of 19 Closing the Gap targets on track - Minister Burney says the VOICE can help'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Only four of 19 Closing the Gap targets on track published in the Financial Review earlier today, Thursday 15 June 2023. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

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.

Gap is not closing, but Voice can help: Burney

Federal minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney says an Indigenous Voice to Parliament can help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Ms Burney’s comments come as new Productivity Commission data shows only four of the 19 Closing the Gap targets are on track. Progress has been made in the number of First Nations children enrolled in preschool and fewer First Nations youth aged 10–17 years in detention. Both targets are considered ‘on track’ to be met by 2025 and 2031, respectively. However poor results in the number of First Nations children in out-of-home care and First Nations adults in prison continue. The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in incarceration and the rate of overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (0–17 years old) in out-of-home care are both considered ‘not on track’ and worsening. Overall, just four of the 19 Closing the Gap targets are “on track”, 11 targets are “not on track” with four targets unable to assess a trend.

Ms Burney said the Voice is a necessary change to better address the disadvantages experienced by First Nations peoples. “The latest Closing the Gap data shows once again that the status quo is not working,” Ms Burney said. “More of the same isn’t good enough, we have to do things differently. An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament can help us close the gap, because it’s only by listening to communities that we can make better policies that lead to better outcomes.” The most recently released Closing the Gap data is more detailed than previous, with new disaggregations for six targets including remoteness, relative socio-economic disadvantage or state and territory. It shows that that poorer outcomes regarding Closing the Gap targets are still occurring in poorer communities and in those more distant from urban and regional locations.

Assistant minister for Indigenous Australians and assistant minister for Indigenous health senator Malarndirri McCarthy said the new data provides a new viewpoint of the “layers of disadvantage” experienced throughout the country. “We are all frustrated by the lack of progress on some Closing the Gap targets and it’s only through monitoring the data we can move in the right direction,” Senator McCarthy said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Gap is not closing, but Voice can help: Burney in full click here.

Photo: Lukas Cohh, AAP. Image source: The Mandarin.

Long history of fighting for health and justice

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) is the largest ACCHO in the NT, one of the most experienced organisations in the country in Aboriginal health and a national leader in primary healthcare. A recent event to mark 50 years since the organisation’s founding in 1973 provided an opportunity for sharing important stories and achievements.

The event was centred around the findings of the Congress Arrulenye project that looked into the organisation’s history and the impact it has had on Aboriginal health in Central Australia. Acacia Lewis, a key contributor to the project said the project’s purpose is for the stories and learnings of the past 50 years to live on, “We want our young people to learn about the history of our old people – the stories of resilience, courage, and strength. We are grateful for our old people and their contributions.”

To help answer the question “after 50 years, what has Congress achieved?” Congress’ Chief Medical Officer Public Health Dr John Boffa presented some initial, indicative findings from the Congress Arrulenye project, which demonstrate some significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal people in Central Australia over the years.

To read the full article by Croakey Health Media click here.

Neville Perkins and Graham Dowling, cutting the CAAC 50 Years birthday cake. Source: Croakey Health Media.

Conference breaks down barriers for chronic conditions

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) teamed up with the NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation’s  Aboriginal Chronic Conditions Network for the third annual Aboriginal Chronic Conditions Conference. The theme was Aboriginal Workforce and Chronic Care Models, aiming to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce across the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sectors and Local Health Districts. The aim of the conference was to increase the workforce’s knowledge and foster networking opportunities for healthcare staff.

AH&MRC said the conference had a fantastic turnout, seeing more than 140 people attend in person, along with an additional 200 people online, including representatives from AH&MRC members: Dubbo AMS, South Coast Womens Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation (Waminda), Bullinah Aboriginal Health Service, Coomealla Health Aboriginal Corporation, Griffith AMS, Walhallow Aboriginal Corporation, Yerin Aboriginal Health Services, Walgett AMS, Illawarra AMS, Bourke Aboriginal Health Service, and Awabakal Ltd.  The conference also welcomed anyone passionate about improving Aboriginal Health outcomes.

The conference included presentations about workforce, service delivery models to address chronic conditions, barriers to accessing healthcare, and developing cultural sensitivity among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff to create a partnership in breaking down barriers.

Learn more about the conference here.

Aboriginal Chronic Conditions Conference 2023. Source: AH&MRC website.

More commitment needed to close the gap

New data on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap has raised alarms, with several socio-economic outcome areas not on track to meet 20302031 targets. The Coalition of Peaks said action by governments to implement the National Agreement in full is urgently required to end systemic disadvantage. Coalition of Peaks Deputy Lead Convenor, Scott Wilson said, “The Coalition of Peaks had been encouraged by some progress of governments to embrace and implement the Priority Reforms in the National Agreement, but overall effort is patchy. It’s not what we had hoped and not in line with the commitments made.”

For the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to be met in full, the Coalition of Peaks said structural and systemic change is key, “…This is what the Priority Reforms are all about in the National Agreement, but we are not seeing them implemented properly by governments. It is the comprehensive adoption of the Priority Reforms that government parties need to understand and embrace if we are going to be able to work together to finally close the gap,” Mr Wilson said.

To read the Coalition of Peaks article in full click here and to access the latest data on Closing the Gap click here.

Women don’t always access health care after head injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious yet commonly under-recognised injury sustained by women as a direct outcome of family violence. Although healthcare and support services are critical, many women do not access support services following this injury. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 69 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be hospitalised with head injuries due to assaults. At present, there are few relevant qualitative studies that have elevated the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Research published this week describes the barriers that prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from accessing hospital and support services after experiencing a TBI from family violence in one regional (Queensland) and one remote location (NT). Interviews and focus-group discussions were conducted with 28 community members and 90 service professionals. Thematic analysis identified four key factors influencing women’s access to health care: all women fear child removal; fear of escalating violence; prioritisation of other competing demands; and insufficient awareness of the signs of brain injury.

The research concludes that given child protection systems perpetuate cycles of discrimination based on poverty and structural inequalities that have generated fear and contributed to the reluctance of women to engage with services, child protection processes and practices need to be transformed to consider the impact of head injury on the everyday lives of women. Pathways need to be implemented to assist women to access healthcare and support services as well as strengthen families to maintain the care of their children.

You can view the research article Barriers Preventing Indigenous Women with Violence-related Head Injuries from Accessing Services in Australia in full here, a related article First Nations women don’t always access health care after head injuries from family violence. Here’s why published in The Conversation today, in full here, and listen to an ABC RN interview with Dr Kristen Smith, a senior research fellow in the Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne on the tole of brain injury in family violence here.

Image source: ABC Radio National webpage.

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.

Men’s Health Week – 12–18 June 2023

Each day during Men’s Health Week NACCHO is sharing information and resources relevant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. Today’s information is about Healthy Male, a national organisation, established in 2000, to provide information for men’s health, facilitate action on men’s health in collaboration with others, advocate for change, empower men and boys to take action on their health, and build the capabilities of the health system and workforce. Healthy Male is working towards their vision of generations of healthy Australian men.

Healthy Male aims is to make the information they provide available to everybody, regardless of gender, age, education, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. To do this, they collaborate with Australia’s leading researchers, specialists, clinicians and educators to develop information that fills the gaps in men’s health. Healthy Male prioritise their efforts to close the health and wellbeing gaps in specific groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, who face significant barriers to health service access, particularly in remote areas. Healthy Male, with the support of the Department of Health and Aged Care, have developed a range of resources designed to help break down those barriers and improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. The resources include:

  • Online training modules for health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males
  • Male health education video series – ‘A lot of Aboriginal men sort of keep it to themselves.’
  • Clinical summary guide
  • Clinic/community centre poster – ‘Your health is important. It’s OK to talk about it.’

For more information you can view the Healthy Male webpage Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in primary health care here.

In this video Mick Ryan, an Aboriginal Health Programs Officer talks about his work at Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative Limited – North Geelong, Victoria.

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