NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Raising awareness of COVID-19 antiviral treatments

antiviral tablet smashing into COVID-19 virus cell; text 'Raising awareness of COVID-19 antiviral treatments has the potential to SAVE LIVES'

The image in the feature tile is from the NPS MedicineWise webpage Antiviral treatments for COVID-19 available here.

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.

Raising awareness of COVID-19 antiviral treatments

A new local campaign encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to check in with their doctor or AMS about their eligibility for COVID-19 antiviral treatments. Terry Hill, Aboriginal Health Community Engagement Consultant with COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN said the organisation recently met with local Elders to yarn about prevention and treatment options for COVID-19. “We yarned with Aboriginal Elders and young people across South Eastern NSW and the majority were not aware of these potentially lifesaving COVID-19 medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS),” said Terry.

Elias Rees a videographer with Beyond Empathy said: “I didn’t know anything about antivirals until today which I’m a bit annoyed about because I could have gone and gotten some when I had COVID a couple of weeks ago because I felt like crap!”  Terry added: “We need to get the word out that this product is available, especially for our Elders.

We’ve created a couple of videos to share with communities with the message that eligible people can get COVID-19 antivirals after speaking to a doctor, but they need to act fast. Making a plan now will help save valuable time if you test positive for COVID-19.” By reducing how severe the illness is, people are less likely to need to go to hospital, or develop breathing difficulties and need assistance with oxygen or intensive care treatment.

Dr Katherine Michelmore, COORDINARE’s Medical Director said: “COVID-19 can be very serious for adults in high-risk groups, even when they are fully vaccinated. Antiviral treatments, taken as tablets or capsules, help to stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe – but they need to be started early after testing positive, within 5 days of developing symptoms.” Antiviral medicines target the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 to prevent it infecting healthy cells in your body and multiplying. This helps stop the spread of the virus inside your body and helps your immune system to fight off the infection. COVID-19 antivirals do not work against other viruses like the flu. There are different antivirals for the flu and antivirals are not a substitute for vaccination. Vaccination is still the best protection against COVID-19.

The images below if from the campaign videos, available here and here and you can view The Beagle article Raising awareness of potentially lifesaving COVID-19 antiviral treatments in full here.

screenshots of young ATSI man & older man speaking about COVID-19 antivirals

Screenshots from the COVID-19 antiviral treatments campaign videos. Image source: The Beagle.

How can institutions centre Indigenous knowledge?

Raelee Lancaster from the University of Queensland has written an article for THE (Times Higher Education) Campus providing four reflective questions that institutions can ask themselves when considering how to respect and elevate Indigenous knowledge.

Decolonisation seeks to reverse the violent acts of colonialism and is a popular concept within higher education institutions (HEIs). However, the very definition of decolonisation centres the coloniser. That’s not to say that decolonisation cannot be effective, but there are other conceptual frameworks that centre the colonised. Indigenisation recognises Indigenous people’s sovereignty, the erasure of which enables and emboldens colonialism. Seeking to elevate and respect Indigenous perspectives and knowledges, Indigenisation shifts the focus away from colonial power.

Indigenisation is increasingly popular within Australian HEIs. There are movements to Indigenise the curriculum, engage Indigenous data, engage Indigenous data practices and employ ethical considerations in research. However, a foundation on which to implement these initiatives is required. While many institutions are eager to engage in Indigenisation, the focus tends to be on the challenges instead of the opportunities. The reflective questions and examples outlined here are a starting point. It’s time to recognise the invisible labour Indigenous people exhaust in institutions and to engage Indigenisation in a genuine, reflective way.

1. How do you support the social, emotional and cultural well-being of Indigenous staff and students?

2. How do your recruitment strategies consider lived experience and transferable skills?

3. How do you minimise cultural load for Indigenous staff and students?

4. How are you implementing Indigenous governance practices and procedures?

To view THE Campus article Decolonisation to Indigenisation: how can institutions centre Indigenous knowledge? in full click here.

close up image of Aboriginal flag flying

Image source: THE Campus.

Healing Landon’s hearing

Just months after an unexpected hearing loss diagnosis, two-year-old Landon pointed up with amazement to a plane in the sky. For the first time he could not only see the plane but hear it too. Since he was little, Landon has suffered from recurring ear infections – a common problem disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Landon was referred for a priority diagnostic hearing assessment, which revealed he was experiencing partial hearing loss. Further consultation also determined he would need Grommets.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a diagnosis such as this can significantly impact development and overall health when healthcare is not accessed in a timely manner. This is where HEALS comes in. HEALS (Hearing EAr health Language and Speech services) is an NSW Health initiative aimed at providing ENT and speech-language pathology services for Aboriginal and Torres Straight children. The program is led by The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network in collaboration with ACCHOs, with support from Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, and helps families circumvent barriers in access to care such as distance, waiting lists and other financial considerations, in order to improve healthcare outcomes.

For Landon’s mother, Jayla, the help HEALS provided was invaluable. “I remember getting an unexpected call from RivMed (Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation), they had received the letter for Landon from the ENT and were coordinating the HEALS program,” Jayla said. “We found out they could assist in getting Landon’s surgery organised and fully funded, with a wait time of only three weeks.”

To view The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network article Healing Landon’s hearing in full click here.

2-year old ATSI boy in hospital bed with spoon to his mouth

Two-year-old Landon in hospital. Image source: The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network website.

Family fought for self-determination: Voice, next step

In an opinion piece written for SBS NITV, Daniel Morrison, whose “bloodlines flow from the Noongar, Yamitji, and Giga clans of WA, the says constitutional change is the continuation of the fight of our past generations, for the benefit of future ones. Mr Morrison is the CEO of Wungening Aboriginal Corporation, an ACCO, with a staff of over 250 people who work across Noongar Boodja.

They run preventative, therapeutic and accommodation services in important areas like alcohol and other drug support, homelessness, child protection, justice, and family and domestic violence. Over the last five years, they have expanded rapidly to the point were they were able to support nearly 10,000 people across their programs in the last financial year.

Mr Morrison said he was writing the opinion piece not only as the CEO of this organisation, where he has worked for the last 13 years, but also in his own right as a father of two, who simply wants his children and his grandchildren “to have it a little easier than me”.

To view the SBS NITV article My family fought for self-determination. A Voice is the next step in full click here.

Noongar man Daniel Morrison, CEO Wungening Aboriginal Corporation

CEO Wungening Aboriginal Corporation, Noongar man Daniel Morrison. Image source: SBS NITV.

Special court for kids aims to reduce prison rate

A special court to hear cases involving Aboriginal children and a series of diversion and assistance programs are among a suite of measures to reduce the level of Indigenous incarceration in SA. The state government will establish an Aboriginal Justice Agreement to develop a collaborative approach to improve justice outcomes. It will also build a new community corrections centre at Port Augusta with culturally appropriate rehabilitation and reintegration spaces, develop a program to ensure Indigenous offenders are ready to return to the workforce upon their release, and establish a drug and alcohol treatment facility.

In a two-year trial, a Youth Aboriginal Community Court in Adelaide will aim to address escalation points in the offending of young people and implement protective strategies to divert them away from a life of crime. Children aged between 10 and 13 and charged with minor offences will be specifically directed away from custody through a program of assistance, including short-term accommodation where no other suitable bail option has been identified.

The government has allocated $25m over four years to cover the initiatives. It said Aboriginal people in SA were 12 times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population, with that figure rising to 18 times greater for youth offenders. “The rates at which Aboriginal people are imprisoned are unacceptable. Past government policy has not worked to change this state of affairs,” Attorney-General Kyam Maher said. “This needs to be addressed urgently. Providing a significant investment and concentrated effort will work to achieve the transformative change that is required.”

To view The Canberra Times article Special court for Aboriginal kids to reduce prison rate in full click here.

entrance to SA sandstone court with 4 large Greek style pillars

SA will establish a special court for Aboriginal children among measures to reduce incarceration. Photo: Kelly Barnes/AAP Photos. Image source: The Canberra Times.

16-year-old involved in Banksia Hill riot speaks out

A 16-year-old girl who was among the last kids to be brought down from the roof of Perth’s Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre during last month’s riot, has spoken of the experience for the first time. The girl was doing a three month stint in the facility and said the riot was sparked by anger amongst the detainees over continual lock downs lasting up to 23 hours per day. She stayed on the roof for almost 9 hours during a wet and cold night. “I was angry and upset, you’re in a cell 4m by 3m  and it’s so tiny and there’s not much you can do. It was cold, I wasn’t thinking about nothing when it poured down. I would rather sit on the roof than in my cell. You get fresh air and a large space to walk around,” she said.

Lawyer Dana Levitt is spearheading the Class Action against the WA government involving more than one thousand current and former Banksia Hill detainees from across the state, alleging serious mistreatment by the WA government since it opened in 1997. “This is state-sanctioned child abuse and it’s not right. The images of female detainee being held at gunpoint on a roof ought to shake the nation out of their stupor,” she said.

It is not a trauma-informed age appropriate culturally adapted place, it is, in many ways I think, it’s worse than an adult prison. “What’s going on inside Banksia Hill is concentration-camp-esque. This is a situation of hopelessness. These kids don’t have a voice, they don’t have any power.”
To view the SBS NITV article 16-year-old girl involved in recent Banksia Hill riot speaks out for the first time in full click here.
aerial view of Banksia Hill Detention Centre, Perth

Banksia Hill Detention Centre is located in the southern suburbs in Perth. Image source: SBS NITV website.

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