NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Environmental Trachoma Health Project helps WA mob

hairdresser with ATSI man happy with his new mullet; text 'Environmental Health Trachoma Project helping remote WA communities with health, housing and haircuts'

The image in the feature tile is of an Irrungadji resident who is very happy with the new mullet hairstyle given to him by Mrs DeBonde. Photo: Amelia Searson, ABC Pilbara. Image source: ABC News article Environmental Health Trachoma Project helping remote WA communities with health, haircuts and housing published on 9 July 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.

Environmental Trachoma Project helps WA mob

Tyron Colley usually has to travel hundreds of kilometres to get something as basic as a haircut. He lives in the small Aboriginal community of Irrungadji, in WA’s Pilbara region, where the nearest town with a hairdresser is almost 200 kms away. The lack of accessible basic services in remote Australia extends beyond haircuts to more serious issues, with communities like Irrungadji also facing significant housing and health challenges.

Environmental Health Trachoma Project (EHTP) lead Melissa Stoneham said poor hygiene combined with living conditions and overcrowding can lead to bacterial infections like trachoma – an eye disease that can cause blindness. Australia is the only developed country to still have endemic trachoma, and almost all cases are found in remote Aboriginal communities. In an effort to stop the spread, EHTP is working with the state government, Curtin University and other advocacy groups to take health and housing programs to remote WA communities. The team recently visited Irrungadji to assess its housing situation. Dr Stoneham said a major focus for the team was on plumbing and “anything that helps these people living in their homes with the ability to wash their face, hands, body and clothes”.

Dr Stoneham said health should be approached as a “holistic concept”, with mental and physical wellbeing going hand-in-hand. She said when heading out to remote communities, it was important to provide culturally respectful services that helped people feel taken care of. “We have free haircuts, we have de-licing of hair, we have free clothes that we are giving out,” she said. “Interactions have been great, you know, they’ve been getting a new outfit, a new haircut, they’re feeling fresh and good about themselves.”

To read the ABC News story Environmental Health Trachoma Project helping remote WA communities with health, haircuts and housing in full click here.

Dr Melissa Stoneham - Environmental Health Trachoma Project

r Melissa Stoneham says health should be seen as a “holistic” concept. Photo: Amelia Searson, ABC Pilbara. Image source: ABC News.

Meta to crack down on VTP misinformation

Facebook and Instagram want to be “contributing to democracy” and not exacerbating harms surrounding the Indigenous voice referendum, the company’s Australian policy head has said, as the social media giant beefs up protections on misinformation, abuse and mental health before the national vote. Meta, the parent company of the two apps, has announced it will boost funding to factcheckers monitoring misinformation, activate global teams to locate and respond to potential “threats” to the referendum – including coordinated inauthentic behaviour – and form a partnership with ReachOut for mental health support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We are also coordinating with the government’s election integrity assurance taskforce and security agencies in the lead-up to the referendum,” said Mia Garlick, Meta’s director of public policy for Australia. “We’ve also improved our AI so that we can more effectively detect and block fake accounts, which are often behind this activity. “Meta has been preparing for this year’s voice to parliament referendum for a long time, leaning into expertise from previous elections.”

Meta will tap Australian knowledge to respond to abuse and hate speech. “We have hate speech advisory groups and First Nations advisory groups giving insight and advice on issues they see on the ground,” Ms Garlick said. “Building off our experience with the marriage equality postal survey and elections, unfortunately when a particular group is the focus of debate, vulnerable groups can feel more vulnerable.”

To view The Guardian article Meta vows to crack down on abuse and misinformation surrounding voice to parliament referendum in full click here.

background text Meta & logo, foreground Facebook logo

Groups behind the no campaign against the referendum have already had online posts and ads flagged as ‘false information’ by factcheckers. Photo: NurPhoto/Shutterstock. Image source: The Guardian.

BlaQ CEO on the Voice to Parliament

Shane Sturgiss has been the CEO of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, a national organisation founded to provide visibility to Queer Indigenous peoples and communities, for 18 months. Asked about what inspires him the most about his role, he said, “I think the idea of seeing people’s lives change, knowing that there’s a better tomorrow, knowing that the work that I’m doing will have an impact– will make a difference.”

According to Sturgiss, the aim of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation is to “bring visibility and provide a platform to address the intersectionality of our LGBTIQ+SB Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in order to provide a service where they can identify as their whole authentic self when accessing services.” He added, “To bring a level of comfort, provide safe spaces, and hopefully educate people on how to address intersectionality for our people and provide those safe spaces to create safer communities.”

The biggest challenges facing Queer Indigenous people are disparities in health and education as well as “the lack of awareness and acknowledgement of intersectionality and the idea that we are a homogenous group,” he explained. When it comes to the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, Sturgiss stressed the point that, for Queer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, this will be the “second time in six years that they’ve invited the entire nation to vote on their rights as humans, and as people, and as citizens. Regardless of where your vote lies. This is still something that needs to be done with respect and dignity because it does involve people’s lives and the negative fallout from that can be a loss of life.”

To view the Star Observer article Shane Sturgiss, CEO of BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation, On The Indigenous Voice to Parliament in full click here.

BLAQ Aboriginal Corporation logo & large group of people on outdoor concrete steps

Image source: Star Observer.

Health Performance Framework summary report

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework summary report summarises the latest information on how Indigenous Australians are faring, drawing from the Health Performance Framework (HPF) measures.

In 2018, the burden of disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians. Among Indigenous Australians, mental and substance use disorders were the leading contributor to disease burden (24%). Measures of health status, determinants of health, and health system performance drawn from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) show mixed results. It is important to note that measures in the 3 tiers are interconnected, and understanding the reasons for progress (or lack thereof) in the health status and outcomes of Indigenous Australians may often be best understood by examining relevant measures in determinants of health and health system performance.

Analysis by the AIHW of ABS survey data indicates that about 34% of the total health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is due to social determinants, and 19% due to individual health risk factors (e.g. smoking). It is likely that differences in access to affordable and nearby health services explain a significant proportion of the health gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. In many cases, Indigenous Australians have poorer access to health services than non-Indigenous Australians, for a range of reasons including barriers such as availability, cost and a lack of culturally appropriate health services. For Indigenous Australians to have better health outcomes, improvements in the health system are required.

To view the AIHW’s Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework Summary report July 2023 in full click here.

cover of AIHW 'ATSI Health Performance Framework Summary report July 2023'

Best reform for child wellbeing: raising criminal age

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Professor Steve Robson said child incarceration in Australia is a national problem that requires a nationally consistent response. In a submission to an Australian Human Rights Commission investigation into possible reforms to youth justice the AMA has called on Australia’s Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, to show leadership by encouraging state and territory attorneys-general to raise the age  of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

Professor Robson said “The medical evidence is clear, jailing harms children mentally and impairs their physical development and the younger the child is at first contact with the legal system, the higher the rate of recidivism. We cannot accept a stepped approach of raising the age to 12 — let’s remember that children this age are still in primary school — 14 is the absolute minimum age that we should set criminal responsibility. Countries comparable to Australia don’t lock their children up. We really should be ashamed to know that right now there will be around 4,500 children as young as 10 under youth justice supervision in Australia. 10-year-olds are in year four and year five at school, they still have baby teeth, some still need booster seats in the car and at school they have to earn a pen license. They should not be in jail, no matter where they live in Australia or whatever their personal circumstances may be.”

The AMA’s submission also highlights the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention, making up almost half of all the 10–17 years olds in detention (despite making up only 6% of the population in this age group).

To view the AMA media release Best reform for youth justice and child wellbeing is raising the criminal age across Australia in full click here.

tile text '10 year olds are children, not criminals.' drawing of child in jail cell with head & arms on knees

Image source: UNICEF Australia Tweet 30 November 2017.

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Key Date – National Diabetes Week – 9–15 July 2023

National Diabetes Week runs from Sunday 9 to Friday 15 July 2023. Diabetes Australia want a future where diabetes can do no harm, but say that to achieve this ambition we must act now to change the trajectory of diabetes in Australia and better support people living with or at risk of diabetes.

The Australian Government recently announced an Inquiry into Diabetes in Australia. It is time to amplify the voice of the diabetes community to ensure this Inquiry focusses on the priorities that will change the numbers, change the future, and change lives.

This National Diabetes Week Diabetes Australia are kick-starting Australia’s biggest conversation about the impact of diabetes in this country – a conversation to drive change, and to create hope for the future. No one understands diabetes more than a person who lives with diabetes. Driving change starts with hearing the views and amplifying the voices of the diabetes community.
For more information about National Diabetes Week 2023 click here.
tile text ' National Diabetes Week 2023 - Join the Conversation - Diabetes Australia'

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