NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Coalition of Peaks urge immediate action on housing

feature tile image: run down urban housing; text 'Coalition of Peaks urges politicians to take immediate action to resolve delays on the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Aboriginal housing: Australian biggest policy failure? written by Paul Cleary and published by Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTAR) on 9 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.

Coalition of Peaks urge immediate action on housing

The Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks) has urged politicians to “stop squabbling” and take immediate action to resolve delays on the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) Bill. Coalition of Peaks’ Deputy Lead Convenors, Scott Wilson and Catherine Liddle, said housing was too critical an issue to “fall victim to political game-playing. Housing is a key social determinant of health; our people need housing now. It’s time to stop procrastinating,” Mr Wilson, who is Chair of the SA ACCHO Network, said.

Ms Liddle, who is also chief executive of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, said Federal politicians “should be shamed for holding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ransom. These politicians are letting perfect get in the way of good, forcing our people to languish on the streets and in overcrowded and unfit housing,” she said. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: 18% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in overcrowded households; 20% of those who were homeless in 2016 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; and 34% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults rent through social housing.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA) CEO and Co-Chair of the Housing Policy Partnership, Ivan Simon, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “continue to be severely disadvantaged by the lack of appropriate response from government over many years to the housing circumstances that impact on their daily lives. This also means positive outcomes for the Closing the Gap targets are not being achieved, despite the efforts of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and the hard work to implement the National Agreement on Closing the Gap,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations urge immediate action on housing fund in full click here.

Ninga Mia local man John outside his home in the Pilbara

Ninga Mia local man John outside his home. Photo: Tom Joyner, ABC Goldfields.

$6.5b shortfall in rural health spending

Australia’s leading medical organisations are calling on state and federal governments to revolutionise the rural health system, with research revealing a spending shortfall of $6.5b. The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), whose members include medical colleges, Aboriginal health organisations and the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), commissioned the analysis that shows each rural Australian misses out on $850 in health spending per year.

The report by consultancy firm Nous Group found those who live in the country receive far less funding per capita than those in urban areas and workforce shortages make the problem worse. According to the report, released today, “Further action to address these inequities would improve both social justice and economic prosperity.”

The alliance is calling for funding of place-based rural health programs, which are locally delivered and target specific needs of communities, along with more country-based education that would allow doctors and nurses to train in the regions. It also wants a national rural health strategy to streamline complicated and varied funding initiatives. “Tweaking around the edges with trials and funding that stops after three years has exhausted rural communities,” the alliance’s chief executive Susi Tegen said.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Rural health reform call over $6.5b shortfall claim in full click here and the National Rural Health Alliance media release Rural Australians missing out on $6.5 billion annually in health care access while coffers fill up with rural contributions here.

RFDS plan, patient, health workers, 4WD, outback

A report has found people in the country get far less funding per capita than those in urban areas. Photo: RFDS PR Handout. Image source: Kyabram Free Press.

Alcohol restrictions are having a positive impact

Alcohol restrictions in the NT are having a positive impact, advocates say, as police statistics show a drop in family violence callouts, property offences and other antisocial behaviour. Earlier this year, the NT government faced pressure over rising crime and antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs after Intervention-era bans on alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities came to an end, making liquor legal in some communities for the first time in 15 years. Alcohol bans were reintroduced in central Australia in January, with further restrictions imposed in February. Aboriginal people living in remote communities and town camps in the NT are not able to buy takeaway alcohol, although communities will be able to lift the bans if 60% of residents vote in favour of an alcohol management plan.

NT police statistics collated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) revealed a 37% decrease in domestic violence assaults from January to April. All other assaults dropped 35% while property offences were down 25% over the same time period. The People’s Alcohol Action Coalition, a community-based group aimed at raising awareness over alcohol-related harms and headed by the Alice Springs-based Dr John Boffa, said the renewed restrictions were having a positive impact.

CAAC acting CEO, David Busuttil, said it had been tracking police data on crime and antisocial behaviour for many years, analysing trends and seeing the impacts of different legislation, including alcohol restrictions and policies. “In the data, you can see the historical context, when different legislation or changes were made over time … we’ve been monitoring this for a long time because we think it’s one of the key social determinants of health and a key public health issue.” He said the impact on domestic and family violence callouts was particularly stark: “Everyone deserves to be able to live safely. Domestic violence is a major issue all around Australia, but especially in the NT and Alice Springs.”

To view The Guardian article ‘Incredibly noticeable’: alcohol bans have cut family violence and crime in Alice Springs, advocates say in full click here.

aerial view Alice Springs at night

‘The town is a different place’ … alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs have had a positive impact on family violence and crime rates. Photo: Blake Sharp Wiggins. Image source: The Guardian.

$3m for university to help CTG in health outcomes

The University of Newcastle has received $3m in federal funding to establish new medical research infrastructure that will help close the gap in health outcomes for First Nations people. The project, which is being undertaken in partnership with the Lowitja Institute, will help ensure culturally safe health and medical research for First Nations people.

It includes the establishment of a national ethics committee to provide advice and guidance on future research projects. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Human Ethics Committee will be co-designed with First Nations people to ensure Indigenous Australians have a say in the research projects that affect them. The project is spearheaded by Wiradjuri woman and National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Research Fellow, Associate Professor Michelle Kennedy.

The funding is part of the National Critical Research Infrastructure Initiative, a 10-year, $65m Australian Government investment from the Medical Research Future Fund. The Initiative funds facilities, equipment, systems and services that support world-class health and medical research.

To view the Newcastle Herald story University of Newcastle receives $3million to help close the gap in health outcomes for First Nations people in full click here.

Associate Professor Michelle Kennedy

Associate Professor Michelle Kennedy. Image source: University of Newcastle.

Menzies diabetes program a best practice example

Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) has been involved in two papers published in The Lancet and The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

These have found diabetes is pervasive, growing in prevalence and outpacing most diseases globally, despite increased awareness and ongoing multinational efforts.

In addition, the Diabetes across the Lifecourse; Northern Australian Partnership (the Partnership), available here has been recognised as a best practice case study, to drive innovation in diabetes care and reduce inequity in diabetes outcomes.

You can read the Menzies School of Health Research media releases:

  • Global study highlights Menzies’ program as a leading example of diabetes best practice here and
  • Menzies’ researchers contribute to global studies on Structural racism’s impact on unequal diabetes cases and care here.

Below are the logos of the Menzies School of Health Research NT and Far North Queensland partners.

logos: AMSANT, Apunipima, Baker Institute, CAAC, Diabetes Aust, Miwatj Hlth, Healthy Living NT, KAMS, Qld Govt, NT Govt, Mater, Telethon Kids Institute

Menzies NT and Far North Queensland partners. Image source: Menzies School of Health Research webpage: DIABETES across the LIFECOURSE – Northern Australia Partnership.

Event connects communities in NE and Border regions

A Shields of Emotion Festival in Wangaratta at the weekend was a hit, highlighting connections and services for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in the North East and Border regions. Event manager from Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Services (AWAHS) said as a health service they want to highlight the many services they have including doctors, dentists, family violence support, drug and alcohol and mental health counselling.

“We also wanted to bring community together because it is a very fragmented indigenous community in Wangaratta,” he said. “Events like these help bring people together and share culture and community. It’s part of game plan to keep the connection between culture, community and healing strong. It was great to see people coming from far and wide, and we had people travelling from Moyhu and as far as Albury,” he said.

Mr Jones said the AWAHS health van visits Apex Park every Thursday and up to 40 people generally show up, with some seeing the doctor but others just to share a meal and see community. It’s hoped that the event can be held each year to perpetuate the values of connection within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

To view the Wangaratta Chronicle article Event helps connect the indigenous community in full click here.

Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Servicesw staff Trent Jones, assistant manager Kieran (surname sacred), Rose Kirby

L-R: AWAHS event manager Trent Jones, assistant manager Kieran (surname sacred), and Ros Kirby. Image source: Wangaratta Chronicle.

NACCHO Conference sponsorship opportunities open

Sponsorship opportunities are now open for the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference that will be held 25–26 October at the Hyatt Regency Perth, Noongar Boodjar.

This conference will expose your business to over 400 individuals and up to 200 organisations that are focused on delivering positive health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The conference will be promoted via NACCHO’s social media channels, daily news and website reaching a combined audience of more than 236,000 people.

You can also register to attend the NACCHO Members’ Conference and the NACCHO Youth Conference (23 May).

Download Sponsorship Prospectus or register for the conferences here.

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