NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Yarrabah community deserve answers

feature tile image tap on wall with paint & child handprints; text 'Yarrabah community want answers about lead in tap water'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Authorities knew key water treatment infrastructure was ‘offline’ 12 months before lead discovered in Yarrabah tap water published by ABC News earlier today, 28 July 2023. Photo: Brendan Mounter, ABC Far North.

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.

Yarrabah community deserve answers

The Queensland government was warned of critical infrastructure failures more than a year before lead was discovered in the tap water of Australia’s largest Aboriginal community. Lead up to 12 times the safe level was detected in May in tap water at schools in Yarrabah, in far north Queensland, and levels above acceptable limits have been found in water at the town’s health services and in some homes.

Kaylene Jackson, an outreach worker at the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, said it had caught her off guard. “Because we don’t know anything about, you know, lead poisoning or anything like that,” she said. Ms Jackson said two of her grandchildren and a family friend had elevated lead levels in their blood. Ms Jackson said she wanted a more widespread investigation. “I feel angry and wild,” she said. “Because in this day and age in Australia, we should be able to go to the tap, turn it on, grab clean drinking water, be able to drink it.”

Jason King, a Yued Noongar man and the director of clinical services at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, agreed that there needed to be a more “widespread understanding of the severity and the spread of [the] water quality issues”. “We then have to drill down and figure out what is the actual cause because if it’s not coming from the water, it needs to be coming from somewhere else,” Dr King said. “There is a genuine interest in getting answers because the community deserves those answers.” Dr King said the health service was in discussions with the paediatrics team in Cairns to include heavy metal testing in situations where doctors had concerns about someone’s neurodevelopment.

To view the ABC News article Authorities knew key water treatment infrastructure was ‘offline’ 12 months before lead discovered in Yarrabah tap water in full click here.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service outreach worker Kaylene Jackson, Yarrabah

Yarrabah resident Kaylene Jackson wants to know why children are returning elevated lead results in blood tests. Photo: Brendan Mounter, ABC Far North.

Pride is about bravery says Mirning artist

Mirning artist Tyberius Larking uses the motif of the butterfly to explore his identity as a trans man. Ahead of an exhibition titled PRIDE showing at the Adelaide Contemporary Experimental (ACE) that features his work, Tyberius explained that to him, “Pride is about bravery.” The bright, first-year University of Adelaide science student explains he has always had a penchant for the environment, but he began observing the prowess of butterflies in particular on bushwalks in 2020. “They know that they’re powerful and that they can get away or let you get close,” Tyberius said. “Sometimes they approach you and I look at it as boldness or pluckiness, self-confidence, and I think there’s something about that, which reminds me of the kind of pride that I have to have in order to insulate and deflect hatred.” Asked what kind of hatred, he says: “Discrimination on the front of both my Indigenous and LGBTI identities.”

The PRIDE exhibition is part of the state-wide Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art and focuses mostly on the multi-disciplinary work of Melbourne-based Ngarigo cross-disciplinary visual artist, Peter Waples-Crowe. One of the exhibition’s curators Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Italian writer Dominic Guerrera said the collection is about: “The colours of survival, the attitude of punk and a deep love of community – Blak and queer, we have always been here.”

Although PRIDE prioritises the political and urgent work of Peter, a queer Indigenous artist infusing over two decades of experience as a community health worker and his personal story as an adopted child, it also includes a mentorship component. Three local emerging Aboriginal Australian artists – comprising Arrente ceramicist and APY Gallery artist Alfred Lowe; Gugada and Wirangu mixed-medium artist Jayda Wilson; and Tyberius – have all been mentored by Peter. They will exhibit these pieces as part of the exhibition.

To view the CityMag article From caterpillar to butterfly: (Trans)formation with Tyberius Larking in full click here.

Mirning artist trans man Tyberius Larking

Mirning artist and trans man Tyberius Larking. Photo: Jonathan van der Knaap. Courtesy Adelaide Contemporary Experimental. Image source: CityMag.

New WellMob resource sheets for workers

The WellMob team have developed some new mental health and wellbeing resources for workers. WellMob’s aim is to make using culturally responsive online resources easier for time poor workers and to support the wellbeing of mob.

The resource sheets for workers, available here, cover a range of topics including: anxiety; cultural identity; depression; drugs and smoking; alcohol; gender identity; parenting; sleep; suicide prevention and support; understanding and healing from trauma; understanding social and emotional wellbeing; and understanding and healing from trauma.

You can access a flyer providing an overview of these resource sheets, with embedded links to each one, here.

collage WellMob Healing Our Way & Short cuts to top resources - WellMob Resource Sheets for workforce

60-day prescriptions webinar for primary care

You are invited to join us for a webinar on 60-day prescriptions for selected PBS medicines. The webinar from 3–4pm (AEDT) on Tuesday 1 August 2023 is for primary care and will discuss the upcoming policy change, with time for Q & A’s.

When you’re ready to join, please use this link.

Password: Cwa9mgyFP43 (29296493 from phones and video systems).

If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using this link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

Speakers will include a representative from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and Department of Health and Aged Care staff:

  • Penny Shakespeare – Deputy Secretary
  • Adriana Platona – First Assistant Secretary, Technology Assessment and Access Division
  • David Laffan – Assistant Secretary, Pharmacy Branch
DHAC tile text '60-day Prescriptions - session for primary care'

Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care tile.

Push back against new powers to detain kids

A coalition of over 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, health, legal, social, community services and youth advocacy organisations from across Victoria have called on Premier Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes to commit to ruling out any new powers for police over children, once the age of criminal responsibility is raised. The calls respond to recent comments from Victoria Police Commissioner Shane Patton seeking power to arrest and detain children as young as 10, after the reforms are implemented.

In an open letter, the coalition calls for the Victorian Government to invest in a model of care for children which ensures they have the critical supports they need. This model must be designed in close collaboration with Aboriginal communities, advocates for children in the care system and other overrepresented communities. The letter also urges the Victorian Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 without exceptions.

In May 2023, Victoria Police Commissioner Patton appeared before the Yoorrook Justice Commission and acknowledged that policing of Aboriginal people today is still influenced by systemic and structural racism. Aboriginal young people are almost six times more likely to be processed by police as alleged offenders than non-Aboriginal young people. Any new police powers would disproportionately affect Aboriginal children and families.

Criminalising children is never the answer to behaviours resulting from complex, unmet needs. Evidence shows that any engagement with the criminal legal system, including first contact with police, can be highly distressing and cause harm to a young child. In a crisis, children need first responders who are skilled in health, youth support and other critical services.

To view the Human Rights Law Centre article Experts push back against Victoria Police’s grab for new powers to detain children in full click here.

child's palm raised in stop motion

Image source: The Conversation article Ten-year-olds do not belong in detentions. Why Australia must raise the age of criminal responsibility published on 23 July 2020.

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 – World Hepatitis Day – 28 July 2023

Today, 28 July, marks World Hepatitis Day 2023, an important opportunity to give visibility to, and raise awareness of viral hepatitis. It also serves to drive better outcomes for people affected by viral hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day is one of only eight official health days declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The theme set for this year is “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”.

If Australian targets are to be achieved, there must be a continuing urgency to redouble efforts to eliminate hepatitis as a global public health threat. Health advocates warn that many people living with viral hepatitis are unaware of their condition or remain unengaged in care. They may not realise their risk of liver disease and liver cancer. Fortunately, after many years of steady decline in testing, and treatment, of hepatitis B and hepatitis C – particularly during COVID – we are seeing an increase in demand for these services. “Public awareness is key. Understanding more about hepatitis B and hepatitis C and sharing this information could save lives and prevent people from developing serious liver disease or cancer,” said Hepatitis NSW CEO Steven Drew.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are disproportionately affected by both hepatitis B and hepatitis C, with prevalence rates above the general community rate. Today Hepatitis NSW has launched a new hepatitis B resource, Yarnin’ About Hep B (a companion to their very popular Yarnin’ About Hep C), available here. The resource has been developed through collaboration with Aboriginal health workers, community members and clinicians.

To view The National Tribune article No excuses on World Hepatitis Day, hepatitis can’t wait in full click here.

tile World Hepatitis Day 2023; image liver & stethoscope

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