NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Place-based approaches improving health and wellbeing

feature tile: image of 10+ hands forming circle in the sand; text 'ACCOs are LEADERS in place-based approaches to improving health and wellbeing'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Meeting in the middle: How governments and Indigenous communities can work together, differently published in The Mandarin on 23 May 2022.

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.

Place-based approaches improving health and wellbeing

ACCOs are leaders when it comes to principles of place-based approaches to improving health and wellbeing and addressing complex challenges. ACCOs and ACCHOs emerged from the failure of mainstream services to address their communities’ needs. They have also been leaders in taking holistic and responsive approaches, with community engagement and control central to all they do.

According to an Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) 2016 review, available here, ACCHOs “have always been at the heart of Aboriginal communities, grounded in local values and culture, and providing a place for engagement, activism, employment and safe haven, in addition to delivering high quality evidence-based health care.”

CEO of FamilyCare Inc, David Tennant, says that place-based approaches can transform communities. But, he says, echoing the warnings of ACCHOs over decades, if they are done to a place or community, rather than with them, place-based approaches can not only fail but cause significant harm.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Place-based interventions: reflections on what helps, and what doesn’t in full click here.

ATSI man having chest checked by health professional at Ummoona Tjukagka Health Service SA

Ummoona Tjukagka Health Service website.

Targeted funds needed to address oral health inequities

The Australian Medical Association  (AMA) is calling on Commonwealth, state and territory governments to collaborate and make targeted investments in programs that provide health care services based on need. AMA President Professor Steve Robson said achieving health equity required a broad focus beyond just treating disease and managing risk factors, “There are many social inequalities within Australia that give rise to serious health issues among disadvantaged communities. Poverty, discrimination and a worrying lack of appropriate health care all contribute to significant oral health inequities between First Nations peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.”

The AMA’s submission highlights the several oral health inequities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face, including higher rates of dental disease, which can lead to other health issues such as heart disease and strokes. Professor Robson said many Indigenous Australians relied on public oral health services, which were in short supply, “Government funding for these services is typically provided in short term arrangements, meaning the availability of oral health care is often very limited for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Increasing Indigenous Australian participation in the dental practitioner workforce, improving oral health awareness and collecting comprehensive oral health data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are among other recommendations emphasised in the submission. The AMA is also calling for service models to be developed and implemented in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, while ensuring investments reflect the varying cost of providing services in remote areas.

To view the AMA’s media release Targeted investments needed to address oral health inequities in full click here.

gloved hands holding X-ray of human teeth

Image source: AMA website.

First of its kind study explores mob’s experiences of cancer

A first of its kind study exploring cancer in Indigenous Australian communities has begun data collection. The Kulay Kalingka study led by the Australian National University (ANU) will gather information about First Nations’ experiences of cancer where no data currently exists – it will fill important gaps in understanding experiences of cancer – the fourth leading cause of burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The Kulay Kalingka cancer study arose from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community needs, to better understand cancer attitudes, beliefs and experiences and from calls for the inclusion of First Nations patients, families and communities in cancer research,” Professor Ray Lovett from ANU said. Funded by the Australian Government, through Cancer Australia, it’s the first cancer study designed, governed and controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The study is being led by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research team at the ANU National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research.

While Australia’s cancer survival rates are among the best in the world, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher incidence and cancer mortality rates, and lower participation rates in bowel, breast, and cervical cancer population screening programs. The collection of up to 3,000 stories told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as part of this study will provide the evidence needed to inform the Government’s policies, programs and services to improve cancer outcomes.

To view the ANU article Data collection underway in First Nations-led cancer study in full click here.

Professor Ray Lovett in suit standing at base of staircase

Professor Ray Lovett. Photo: ANU. Image source: ANU Newsroom webpage.

$150m+ for healthcare in Far North QLD and Torres Strait

More than $150m will be invested into six new or updated primary healthcare centres on Badu, Boigu and Horn Islands, and in Laura, Lockhart River and Bamaga. The investment is part of the Queensland Government’s $943m Building Rural and Remote Health Program. Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman and Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui announced the new investment ahead of their arrival into Thursday Island yesterday.

To help grow the workforce in the region an additional $1.1m will be invested into the First Nations workforce in the Torres and Cape through traineeships, scholarships and leadership programs. This includes $800,000 in scholarships for up to ten students who reside in the Torres Strait Islands to assist with the travel and living costs associated with studying tertiary health courses away from home.

An additional $300,000 will be invested into the Deadly Start program, to provide 15 new traineeships to First Nations health students in the Torres and Cape Region.  Minister Fentiman said “We know that more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in our hospitals directly helps us improve health outcomes for First Nations people. To improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples we need more First Nations doctors, specialists, nurses, carers and allied health professionals.”

To view the Queensland Government media statement Health boost for the Torres Strait, Cape York and Northern Peninsula in full click here.

aerial photo of Thursday Island township

Photo: Brendan Mounter, Far North. Image source: ABC News.

Funding boost for SA community initiatives

The SA government has announced a more than $1m investment to support vulnerable members of SA’s Aboriginal communities. The funding package has allocations to programs offering rehabilitation, counselling and advocacy for members. The package includes a $100,000 allocation to the SA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (SASGAC) to strengthen advocacy and support for Stolen Generations survivors.

Aboriginal population data from 2018 provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Healing Foundation reported there are 2,100 Stolen Generation survivors in SA, and Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants account for 46% of the state’s Aboriginal population. “The report also identifies that Stolen Generations and their descendants experience higher levels of disadvantage across all social and economic indicators than the Aboriginal population as a whole,” SASGAC chair Dr Jennie Caruso said. “It is well known that the best people to find the solutions to problems are those who are experiencing or have experienced the issues.

The funding allocation also contributes $140,000 to the SA ACCO Network to co-design a new support service for female Aboriginal victims of crime, and $945,000 for the Department for Correctional Services to design, develop and deliver cultural programs for Aboriginal people in prison and under community supervision to support rehabilitation.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Funding boost for South Australian Aboriginal community initiatives in full click here.

SA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation chair Dr Jennis Caruso

SA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation chair Dr Jennis Caruso. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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.

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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Each day during National Diabetes Week 2023 NACCHO is sharing information relating to diabetes as it impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Diabetes Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit lobby state and federal governments to provide culturally appropriate services, support and education programs that align with the National Diabetes Strategy. They work closely with communities, health sectors and government agencies to ensure this support is community-centred.

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