NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Governments failing to share decision-making

feature image: NAIDOC march Melbourne 7.7.23; text 'Governments are failing to SHARE Decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people'

The image in the feature tile is from on a NAIDOC march in Melbourne earlier this month. The image appeared in The Conversation article Governments are failing to share decision-making with Indigenous people, Productivity Commission finds published this morning, Wednesday 26 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.

Governments failing to share decision-making

Governments have failed to properly share decision-making with Indigenous people to accelerate Closing the Gap, despite formally undertaking to do so, according to a scathing indictment by the Productivity Commission. The commission says too many government agencies consult Indigenous people “on a pre-determined solution, rather than collaborating on the problem and co-designing a solution”.

The broad-ranging criticism is contained in the commission’s first review, available here, of the 2020 “National Agreement on Closing the Gap”. The Albanese government will use the findings to reinforce its pitch for the Voice – which is that Indigenous people are not being properly heard on what needs to be done to tackle the problems in health, housing, employment, education and other areas of disadvantage.

The review says: “There appears to be an assumption that ‘governments know best’, which is contrary to the principle of shared decision-making in the Agreement.” The national agreement was put in place in negotiations with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations. Federal, state, territory and local governments and the Coalition of Peaks share accountability for the agreement’s implementation. Then-prime minister Scott Morrison lauded it as a new collaborative way forward. But Productivity Commission chair Michael Brennan says while the agreement holds significant promise, “so far we are seeing too much business as usual and too little transformation”.

To view The Conversation article Governments are failing to share decision-making with Indigenous people, Productivity Commission finds in full click here.

cover of Aust Govt Productivity Commission July 2023 Review of the National Agreement on CTG draft report

Mental health issues for LGBTIQA+ youth

Nearly one in two young Indigenous LGBTIQA+ Australians have attempted suicide at some point in their life, new research has found. More than 600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, aged between 14–25 and who also identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or asexual, were surveyed as part of a national study. The findings, published today, show nearly one in five of the participants had tried to take their own life in the past year.

The Walkern Katatdjin: Rainbow Knowledge survey — the first of its kind — also found more than 90% of those surveyed experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in the prior two weeks.

Lead author of the report Shakara Liddelow-Hunt said the extent of the poor mental health among the Indigenous, LGBTIQA+ youth was “shocking” but not unexpected, saying “Our findings confirm what our communities have known for a long time. But capturing these statistics through the survey was an important step.”

To view the ABC News article Walkern Katatdjin: Rainbow Knowledge survey shines spotlight on mental health issues faced by Indigenous LGBTIQA+ youth in full click here.

James Hill is a queer Ngarrindjeri

James Hill is a queer Ngarrindjeri man who took part in the survey. Photo: Daryna Zadvirna, ABC News.

Rural GPs on climate change front line

A heavy burden of responsibility for responding to climate-induced health impacts will likely fall to rural GPs, so our National Health and Climate Strategy should reflect this, says the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). “Rural generalists are uniquely placed to lead the response to the burden of disease resulting from climate change, including mental illness, and to provide high quality care and keep people healthy and out of hospital,” ACRRM says in its response to the strategy.

Noting the intertwined health disparities of rural and Indigenous Australians, ACCRRM’s submission highlights the need to defer to Indigenous traditional knowledge of the environment and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to lead climate action planning. “Best practice principles to facilitate this will include place-based adaptation and mitigation strategies, leveraging valuable biocultural knowledge and sustainable resourcing, all as outlined in the recent Lowitja Institute discussion paper,” the college says.

ACRRM specifically calls out “one-size-fits-all” approaches outlined by the strategy and highlights the challenges, and higher costs, smaller practices will likely face in implementing the climate change strategies. “The Strategy must recognise that there will be different challenges for different communities, requiring purpose-built solutions. Strong partnerships and a multi-agency approach, which is flexible to adapt to the specific needs of rural and remote communities is required to address health inequity.”

You can access more information on the National Health and Climate Strategy on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

To read the Medical Republic article Rural GPs on the Climate Change front line in full click here.

housing in Aboriginal town camp

Aboriginal town camps Town camp housing typically lacks simple features to keep cool, such as insulation and wide awnings. Photo: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Students spend day in the life of a physio

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from across SEQueensland have experienced a day in the life of a physiotherapist thanks to a new pilot program at Mater Hospital Brisbane. The school-based trainees from the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Pathways Our Way Academy (POWA) were part of The High School Health Adventure program for First Nations students, run by Mater Education, in conjunction with Mater Physiotherapy.

The enthusiastic cohort learned how to strap an ankle injury, assist with movement and baby handling techniques and took part in simulation physiotherapy sessions in a make-shift Intensive Care Unit. Mater physiotherapist Felicity Prebble facilitated the program and said that, according to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, only 0.7% of physiotherapists are recognised as a First Nations person.

“Increasing the representation of this population in healthcare is vital to ensure we are delivering considered and specific healthcare,” Mrs Prebble said. “Research has shown that increasing the involvement of First Nations people within healthcare delivers positive outcomes, helping to close the gap and leading to increased cultural awareness, understanding and exposure.”

To view the Mater article First Nations students inspired to pursue career in healthcare in full click here.

group of 10+ students who took part in the 'day in the life of a physio' Mater program

School-based trainees from the IUIH, Pathways Our Way Academy were part of The High School Health Adventure program for First Nations students, run by Mater Education, in conjunction with Mater Physiotherapy. Image source: Mater News.

BRAMS funded to pilot Kids Club program

Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS) will receive more than $230,000 in Cook Government funding through Healthway to pilot the Kids Club program. The program will address health behaviours such as unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity and poor mental and oral health in young children aged 0–16 years and is set to benefit nearly 3,000 Aboriginal children and their families living in and around Broome.

Aboriginal people make up 43% of the Kimberley population with half under the age of 20 years. BRAMS, in conjunction with the community, identified a need for a community-based, early intervention and prevention program to address poor health and social outcomes for young people, which can lead to health issue.

The pilot project which aims to instil lifelong habits and promote the importance of regular health check-ups, vaccinations, and screenings will:

  • facilitate culturally appropriate relationship building, engagement, and education opportunities for local Aboriginal children on improving health and wellbeing;
  • develop a youth committee of young Aboriginal people who can support project co-design and provide guidance on health promoting strategies for Aboriginal youth;
  • develop a ‘Kids Club’ that will utilise birthday incentives, prizes, and culturally appropriate mascots to motivate Aboriginal children and their families to complete annual health checks and engage in healthy lifestyles;
  • deliver school holiday family activities that provide educational and participation opportunities; and
  • build capacity of families through educational sessions and appropriate activities during their annual health check.

To view the media statement Keeping Kimberley kids healthy now and into the future released earlier today by Hon. Amber-Jade Sanderson, WA Minister for Health and Mental Health in full click here.

ATSI kids eating fruit

Image source: UNICEF Australia website.

Study backs tax on sugar-sweetened beverages

New research showing more than 500,000 cavities could be prevented over 10 years if a sugar tax was introduced provides yet another reason for the federal government to introduce the AMA’s proposed sugar tax. The research from three Australian Universities has concluded a tax on sugar sweetened beverages would have a major positive impact on dental heath in Australia and save the country millions of dollars.

The Monash University-led collaboration with Deakin University and the University of Melbourne provides important new data for Australia. AMA President Professor Steve Robson said there is now more impetus for the government to adopt a sugar tax which both improves health outcomes and raises revenue. “We’ve known a lot about how high sugar consumption contributes to obesity and chronic disease, but oral health is often excluded from studies.

“This important research deepens our understanding of the impact of sugary drinks on dental health across a wide range of age groups in the Australian context. It’s further evidence a tax on sugary drinks is the right decision for Australia and puts to bed industry arguments there is insufficient evidence to support a sugar tax. We know the government is focusing on ways to prevent chronic disease in Australia and we continue to urge them to implement a sugar tax like more than 85 other jurisdictions across the world.

You can read the AMA’s media release Australian study backs AMA calls for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in full here.

group of different softdrinks

Image source: The Conversation.

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