NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nation handling of COVID shows why the Voice to Parliament is needed

Feature tile Tue 10.7.23 - Handling of COVID shows why Voice to Parliament needed

The image in the feature tile is of Professor Fiona Stanley from ABC News: Daryna Zadvirna.

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.

First Nation handling of COVID shows why the Voice to Parliament is needed

During a panel discussion supporting the Voice to Parliament, former Australian of the Year, Fiona Stanley praised the response of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to COVID-19, stating that they had the best response “in the world.” She attributed their success to the presence of a voice through organisations such as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

According to Professor Stanley, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians had significantly fewer COVID-19 cases compared to non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, despite the high-risk factors they faced.

“We would have anticipated because of the high risks of Aboriginal people — chronic disease, overcrowded conditions, and most Aboriginal people actually live in cities, only 18 per cent live in remote communities – they were of high risk [of contracting the virus],” she said.

“Well, within the first 18 to 20 months of the pandemic, Aboriginal people had six times fewer cases than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did. How did they do it? They had a voice.

You can read the full story in ABC News here. 

Boost for health care centres in the north east

The State Government plans to allocate over $150 million to establish or upgrade primary healthcare centres in the Torres Strait and Cape York regions. Health Minister Shannon Fentiman will visit the area following significant demands for an inquiry into health services. The funding will be used for the development of centres in Badu, Boigu, Horn Islands, Laura, Lockhart River, and Bamaga. An additional $1.1 million will be invested to support the growth of the Torres Strait health workforce through traineeships, scholarships, and leadership programs.

Among the initiatives, scholarships will be provided to up to 10 students from the Torres Strait Islands to assist with the costs of studying tertiary health courses away from home. The Deadly Start program will receive $300,000 to offer 15 new traineeships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health students in the Torres and Cape regions.

The investment aims to enhance health services for individuals living in the Torres Strait while creating employment opportunities for residents of the region. Minister Fentiman highlighted the importance of having more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals, including doctors, specialists, nurses, carers, and allied health professionals, to improve health outcomes for First Nations people.

You can read the media statement by Queensland Government here.

Torres Strait Islanders family living on the coast of Cape York Queensland Australia

Torres Strait Islander family living on the coast. Country around the tip of Cape York.
Image source: chameleonseye

Medical Termination Pill access expanded in landmark move

Australia is set to expand access to medical abortions through significant regulatory changes that will allow all doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe the pregnancy termination pill and all pharmacies to stock it. Currently, only a small percentage of healthcare professionals are certified to provide the medication, leading to obstacles for women seeking timely care. The new rules, which will come into effect in August, remove certification requirements and allow all pharmacies to dispense the medication. Nurse practitioners, who represent about 1% of nurses and can work in various healthcare settings, will also be able to prescribe the pill for the first time.

The move marks the first major regulatory change since the abortion pill was approved for use in Australia in 2006. It aims to improve equitable access to healthcare for all Australians, particularly in regional and rural areas where structural barriers exist. The Australian College of Nursing Practitioners and the Royal College of Australian General Practitioners have praised the changes, stating that they will have a significant impact and improve access to medical abortions, especially in remote areas.

The decision aligns with a Senate inquiry’s recommendation to make the medical abortion pill easier to prescribe. The Australian government is yet to formally respond to the inquiry’s report.

For related article, visit SBS NITV here.

You can read the full story in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

The abortion pill will this year be available to be prescribed by every doctor.

The abortion pill will this year be available to be prescribed by every doctor. Image source: JAMES ALCOCK

ILSC offers grants for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities impacted by natural disasters

The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) is providing up to $20,000 in funding through the Disaster Recovery Quick Response Grants to support First Nations organizations affected by natural disasters. This initiative builds upon the ILSC’s previous commitment of $250,000 in funding to 13 remote Indigenous community groups across Australia that were severely impacted by floods earlier this year.

The ILSC aims to streamline the application and approval process to allow Indigenous corporations more time to focus on immediate recovery efforts following disasters.

Joe Morrison, the CEO of the ILSC, highlighted the increasing occurrence of bushfires, storm damage, and floods due to climate change. With the Bureau of Meteorology and the UN World Meteorological Organization predicting an El Niño cycle and potentially challenging bushfire seasons, the ILSC wants to ensure it is prepared to support Indigenous communities. The funding provided through the Disaster Recovery Quick Response Grants will assist Indigenous organizations in recovering and getting back on their feet swiftly.

Interested parties can find additional information on how to apply for the grants on the ILSC website here.

You can read the full story in the National Indigenous Times here.

Fitzroy river flood

Western Australia’s Fitzroy Valley region.
Image source: Foundation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sustainable Health

Climate change and the effects of fire on peoples’ connection to Country

The devastating impact of bushfires on First Nations communities and their connection to the land is being explored through an innovative art and yarn program led by Kisani Upward, a Gamilaroi, Yinaar, and Wiradjuri woman and PhD candidate at the University of New England. The program aims to address the trauma experienced by Aboriginal communities by providing a space for conversations and artistic expression. Through painting and casual discussions, participants have found healing and a sense of rejuvenation as they reconnect with their culture and express their experiences.

The program, which consists of eight sessions, facilitates discussions about the bushfires while participants engage in painting and share cups of tea. Upward, who works with the university’s Bushfire Impacts Project, initially started the program to explore how Aboriginal communities could heal from such traumatic events. The sessions have had a profound impact on participants, helping them build confidence and move forward from the devastation caused by the fires.

You can read the full story in the ABC News here.

Uncle Alex Munro shoeing his painting of Mother Earth

Uncle Alex Munro says creating a painting of Mother Earth nurtured him.
Image source: ABC New England: Lani Oataway

Diabetes – Great Debate Series

It is National Diabetes Week (NDW) from Sunday 9 to Saturday 15 July 2023. The national campaign aims to kick-start Australia’s biggest conversation about the impact of diabetes, to drive change and create hope for the future.

The theme for NDW 2023 is Join the conversation. Diabetes Australia will host a Great Debate Series over five days featuring people living with diabetes and diabetes experts discussing topics relevant to the future of diabetes in Australia. The debates will be a mix of in-person (livestreamed) and virtual events.

During the week people are also invited to provide feedback to Diabetes Australia’s national community consultation to inform a response to the Australian Government Parliamentary Inquiry into Diabetes.

This series of debates will run during National Diabetes Week 2023 and feature people living with diabetes and diabetes experts discussing topics relevant to the future of diabetes in Australia. The series is co-hosted by Diabetes Australia’s Group CEO Justine Cain and Dr Norman Swan AM. Debate topics include:

  • Monday 10 July Timely and affordable access: Who cares?
  • Tuesday 11 July Brain drain: Is diabetes research in Australia in crisis? 
  • Wednesday 12 July Australia’s obesity crisis: Is there a magic pill?
  • Thursday 13 July Type 2 diabetes remission: Hype, hope or happening?
  • Friday 14 July Keeping pace with treatments and tech: Is Australia falling behind?

The debates can be attended online or in-person.

For more information on times and how to register click here.

Test Blood Glucose For Diabetes in Pregnant Woman With Glucometer

Type 2 diabetes check. Image source: Good Medicines Better Health


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