NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Structural reform needed to CTG

feature tile of Aboriginal mother holding baby & young girl interacting with the baby; text 'Structural and systemic change will have a positive effect on trajectory of CTG targets'

The image in the feature tile is from am article More to be done on closing gap for Indigenous wellbeing published in The Canberra Times on 8 March 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.

Structural reform needed to CTG

The Productivity Commission’s third Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report shows only four of the 19 targets are on track, while four have deteriorated. “Four targets are getting worse – this is not acceptable. More of the same isn’t good enough, we have to do better. A Voice to Parliament will help to close the Gap, because we know that listening to communities leads to better outcomes that improve people’s lives,” said Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. Similarly, Coalition of Peaks lead convenor [and NACCHO CEO] Patricia Turner said that “When structural and systemic change is made, there will naturally be a positive effect on the trajectory of the Closing the Gap targets.”

Encouragingly the latest report shows the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25–64 who are employed is improving and on track. There has been a 30% reduction in the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (10–17 years) in detention, while preschool enrolments have improved. Land subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests also remains on track.

However the data shows a slide in the number of children developmentally on track, increased numbers of children in out-of-home care, increased adult incarceration rates and an alarming rise from baseline in suicide. Peak body for Indigenous Children SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said the gap was becoming a chasm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. “More and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being removed from families and put into out-of-home care. Fewer children are developmentally on track when starting school. Where we are seeing progress it’s encouraging but it’s not happening at the scale required for genuine reform. Australia needs to do things differently if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are going to have a brighter future.”

To view the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal (ANMJ) article Voice to Parliament the structural reform needed to Closing the Gap in full click here.cover of Australian Government Productivity Commission Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report July 2023

WAMS launches Freedom Rides Memorial and website

The Freedom Riders arrived in Walgett on 15 February 1965. They protested outside the Walgett RSL Club because they had been told the club was refusing to admit Indigenous ex-servicemen. After their protest their bus was run off the road by a car driven by an unidentified person. This event led to Walgett, the Freedom Riders and the plight of Indigenous Australians in rural NSW getting national and international media attention. Little of the history of the Freedom Rides however was publicly recorded or known from the perspective of local Aboriginal people from Walgett, who both themselves and their ancestors took part in this significant event in history.

On Monday this week (17 July 2023) the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) launched the Freedom Ride Memorial Park and Freedom Rides to Walgett website. The Remembering the Freedom Ride to Walgett project was initiated by WAMS Chairperson Mary Purse, the daughter of the late Harry Hall who was a primary leader, along with the late Charles Perkins (AO). The project includes history and archival research to tell the story of the Freedom Rides and its surrounding events from the perspective of the local Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay people. It is being led by Mary Purse, assisted by Christine Corby OAM, the CEO of WAMS. WAMS has been collaborating on this project with a historian from Nura Gili, University of NSW to research the history through participation of local community members and their families who took part in these events.

The project began with WAMS securing state government funding to develop an artwork to commemorate the Freedom Ride to Walgett to be displayed in a park in Walgett.  The display’s focus is on Walgett’s association with the Freedom Ride, identifying significant local Aboriginal people who had a key role in the demonstrations and events specific to the town.

To access the Freedom Rides to Walgett website click here.

WAMS staff in front of Freedom Rides to Walgett 1965 Memorial Park sign, 17.7.23

WAMS staff at the launch of Freedom Rides Memorial Park. Image source: WAMS.

Financial barriers to sight-saving treatment

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are ending up with avoidable blindness because of the high out-of-pocket costs of sight-saving treatments, according to Dr Guy Gillor, Lose (Rose) Fonua and Associate Professor Mitchell Anjou. As well, the most common treatment for diabetic retinopathy, an intravitreal injection, is challenging to access, as it involves multiple and regular treatments, predominantly in private ophthalmology clinics. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the three conditions that contribute most to avoidable blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Gillor, Fonua and Anjou from the Indigenous Eye Health Unit (IEHI) at the University of Melbourne, say “Without a public or no-cost option, these fees mean the difference between retaining one’s vision, and losing it.” In the absence of such a solution, the IEHU has developed a new information sheet – Diabetic Retiopathy Treatment and Cost in Private Practice, available here, to support patients and healthcare teams in negotiating access for intravitreal injection treatment with private ophthalmology clinics.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Financial barriers to sight-saving treatment are leading to avoidable blindness in full click here.

ATSI man having an eye test

Image source: AHCSA website.

ACCHO to deliver healthcare in youth justice centre

Barwon Health has been commissioned to deliver healthcare services to young people at the new Cherry Creek Youth Justice Centre, just outside of Little River, a town approximately 44kms SW of Melbourne. To open next month, the $419m facility is funded and managed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety and will accommodate young men aged 15–17 who are sentenced or on remand.

Barwon Health public health and primary care co-director Deborah Kay said the regional health service’s vision for Cherry Creek was to offer a range of comprehensive culturally safe services tailored to the needs of the young people in the facility. “We will work with the young people to build knowledge, health literacy, resilience and trusted relationships while preserving dignity and enhancing health outcomes. We know that young people need to be engaged and empowered to understand their own health needs and treatment options.”

Barwon Health will partner with Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative to ensure safe and high-quality care is provided. Ms Kay said it was important to establish a safe, appropriate and sustainable service that was culturally safe for young people from a range of backgrounds.

To view the Geelong Times article Barwon Health to provide services at Cherry Creek in full click here.

exterior of Cherry Creek Youth Justice Precinct

The Cherry Creek Youth Justice Precinct will accommodate young men aged 15 to 17 who are sentenced or on remand. Image source: Geelong Times.

New research to look at dietary practices

Victoria University (VU) researchers have received a VicHealth $230,000 grant to investigate Aboriginal Australian dietary practices and place-making in public health equity. The two-year project, led by Dr Kristina Vingrys together with VU’s Indigenous Academic Unit Moondani Balluk, hopes to uncover ancestral Aboriginal knowledge about the ‘deadly tucker’ and Aboriginal food practices that can be used by the Aboriginal community today. “The project aims to support Aboriginal people and Country, to strengthen social and emotional wellbeing, inter-cultural understanding, skills and knowledge to support sustainable, healthy food systems, and reduce health inequities currently experienced by Aboriginal Australians in Victoria,” Dr Vingrys said.

The multidisciplinary project will involve Aboriginal community and researchers, with research expertise also from dietitians, community psychology, sociology and ecology teams. “We hope to also gather information through lived experiences – we want to uncover the lost knowledge about traditional foods that were grown in the Kulin Nation and the practices around growing, harvesting and preparing them” Dr Vingrys explained. “We are also really interested in identifying the potential nutritional benefits that might have been prescribed to those consuming these foods.”

Moondani Balluk Executive Director Karen Jackson said: “Once the knowledge has been gathered, it will be protected and used by and for the local Aboriginal community for cultural healing and place-making to support their social and emotional wellbeing.”

To view the University of Victoria article VicHealth funding for new research looking at Aboreiginal Australian dietary practies and place-making in full click here.

Pelargonium - a tuberous root plant that was used by Aboriginal people

Pelargonium – a tuberous root plant that was used by Aboriginal people. Image source: Victoria University News webpage.

Mob contribute to health and climate strategy

The Australian Government is engaging with First Nations leaders as it develops Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy. Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney MP is holding a roundtable today with First Nations peak bodies and representatives from across Australia. The Strategy will provide a plan of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the health system and better prepare the sector for the challenges presented by climate change, including threats specific to the health and wellbeing of First Nations people.

Climate change threatens to disrupt connections to Country, further limit access to safe drinking water and increase the difficulty in accessing appropriate housing, infrastructure and health services. Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and expertise in the strategy will strengthen climate adaptation and mitigation planning. Co-designing the strategy in partnership with First Nations peoples across the country is essential to its successful development and implementation.

Minister Kearney said “The World Health Organisation has described climate change as the greatest threat to public health in the 21st century. First Nations people already face inequality in health outcomes, and these will only be exacerbated by climate change – it is critical we hear from First Nations people as we develop this strategy.”

To view the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Ged Kearney MP’s media release First Nations voices input to National Health and Climate Strategy in full click here. In the below video residents of Poruma (Coconut) Island, a low-lying coral cay in the Central Islands group of the Torres Strait, calling for urgent action to help protect their island from the coastal flooding and erosion linked to climate change.

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