NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Tamworth Stroke program could soon go national

feature tile: Dr Amarasena & patient Cecilia Washington sitting on bench against wall with Aboriginal painting; text 'Tamworth program Yarning Up After Stroke could soon go national'

The image in the feature tile is of Walhallow Aboriginal Health Corporation GP Suruchi Amarasena and her patient Cecilia Washington from article Tamworth program to improve stroke care to have nationwide effect by Jonathan Hawes published in The Northern Daily Leader earlier today. Photo: Gareth Gardner.

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.

Tamworth stroke program could soon go national

A Tamworth program to improve quality of life and reduce disability for stroke survivors could soon go national, and not a moment too soon according to the community and doctors leading the charge. Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers, claiming the lives of more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. Dr Heidi Janssen and Professor Chris Levi, two stroke researchers from Hunter New England health’s Hunter Stroke Service are working with the Aboriginal community of Tamworth on a research project called “Yarning Up After Stroke”.

“The [project’s] aim is understanding what people need after a stroke, what’s their experience, and to understand the gaps in care. Led by community, we can build a stroke recovery yarning tool to ensure people have control over how they go about their recovery,” Dr Janssen said. Yarning is a respectful form of talking which involves authentic two-way sharing of stories and knowledge. The yarning tool being developed aims to give decision-making power back to people living with stroke, empowering them to self-manage aspects of their recovery. “We’re working with community to understand that and we’re fortunate to be guided by them. There’s much strength within community and family which we are learning is fundamental in supporting people after stroke,” Dr Janssen said.

The program has been working alongside local Aboriginal Medical Services like the Walhallow Aboriginal Coporation’s Coledale Community Centre, with guidance from Aboriginal elders Joe Miller, Aunty Audrey Trindall, and community elder Uncle Neville Sampson. The three-year Tamworth stage of the project was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the Stroke Foundation along with support from Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle. If the research is successful, the community will work with Dr Heidi and Professor Levi to seek more funding to adapt the yarning tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples across Australia in the hopes of empowering many more people to take control of their stroke recovery.

The above is an extract from an article Tamworth program to improve stroke care to have nationwide effect published in The Northern Daily Leader earlier today. You can find more information about the Yarning Up After Stroke program here.

Professor Chris Levi, Uncle Neville Sampson, Dr Heidi Janssen, Tracey Dawson, Aunty Audrey Trindall and Yvonne Patricks at an artwork gifting for the Tamworth Stroke Unit

Professor Chris Levi, Uncle Neville Sampson, Dr Heidi Janssen, Tracey Dawson, Aunty Audrey Trindall and Yvonne Patricks at an artwork gifting for the Tamworth Stroke Unit. Photo supplied by the Hunter Stroke Service. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

Solving aged care and disability worker shortfalls

Solving the shortfall in aged and disability care, especially in rural and regional Australia, might come down to helping care workers and community groups band together to form their own “social care” firms as they do in many other countries, with a trial under way to gauge worker and consumer interest. The Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has been given a $7m grant from the Albanese government to start a series of support programs in social care focusing on worker- or even client-owned businesses, rather than the current model of either for-profit or non-profit business ownership. Care Together will focus on regional, rural and remote areas where current models are not working.

BCCM chief executive Melina Morrison said the funding would “give people a stake” in the delivery of social care, which includes aged and disability care, veterans’ care, Indigenous services, allied health and primary healthcare. “For instance, the government’s aged-care strategy is built around supporting people to stay in their own homes and out of institutional settings for as long as they are able, but current business models and the funding system doesn’t prioritise that preference,” Ms Morrison said. “We’re looking to trial a range of innovative ideas to help people achieve this, especially in areas where service provision is in short supply.

“Communities are coming to us desperate for support in this space, we have a pipeline of 20 projects. They are already co-operating, and innovating, across these various care services, but need a structure that supports a sustainable business model,” Ms Morrison said. Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said the government funded Care Together as part of its push to find “new ideas and innovation in aged care”. “In some rural and remote areas, and some First Nations communities, current approaches to service delivery simply aren’t working as well as they should,” she said. “Quality, appropriate care and support services should be available to everyone, no matter where they are in Australia.”

The above is from an article Worker-owned care firms could bring services to rural and remote areas by Stephen Lunn, Social Affairs Editor, The Australian published yesterday, 6 August 2023. You can read more about the Care Together Program here.

William Tatipata, co-founder and owner of XtremeCARE Australia, sits with Charlie Kris, an NDIS participant, on Thursday Island, Torres Strait

William Tatipata, co-founder and owner of XtremeCARE Australia, sits with Charlie Kris, an NDIS participant, on Thursday Island, Torres Strait. Image source: HireUp.

New service to help keep families together

Aboriginal families and children in care will have improved access to culturally-safe legal and social support following the launch of a new specialist service aimed at keeping families together. The Family Law Service for Aboriginal Communities (FamAC) is an Aboriginal-led service of Legal Aid NSW comprising of lawyers and allied professionals, who can assist  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children in family law and care and protection matters.

Solicitor in Charge Bianca Dufty, a Ngemba and Gamilaraay woman, said the launch, which coincided with the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, was about self-determination and keeping children connected to kin and culture. “We know from the Family Matters Report that Aboriginal children and families have better outcomes if we are together and are supported to make decisions about our families and our children,” she said.

The Family Matters Report found Indigenous children in NSW are 10 times more likely to be placed in care, a figure that has increased 15% to 9.7 entries per 1,000 children in 2020–21 compared to the year prior. The FamAC, which has been officially operating since the end of 2022, is available to Aboriginal people with family law disputes or who are at risk of or involved in the care and protection system. In the past six months alone, the service has already provided advice to 266 clients.  In addition to legal representation, support and advice from specialist solicitors, FamAC provides non-legal support including access to a specialist mental health worker and support from Aboriginal Field Officers who can link Aboriginal people with housing and health supports.

To view the National Indigenous Times article New service to help keep First Nations families together in full click here.

Family Law Service for Aboriginal Communities Aboriginal field officer Susan Phillips standing against gum tree trunk

Family Law Service for Aboriginal Communities Aboriginal field officer Susan Phillips. Photo supplied by Medianet. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Connected Beginnings program expanded

Australian Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly has joined Minister for Youth Malarndirri McCarthy to mark National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day with the announcement that the Connected Beginnings program will expand. Delivered in partnership with SNAICC National Voice for our Children and NACCHO, the Connected Beginnings program is a community-led project delivering results.

The program connects First Nations children aged 0–5 years with a range of early childhood education, health and family support services to help them meet the learning and development milestones necessary to achieve a positive transition to school. At existing sites offering the program, the average attendance of First Nations children in centre-based care has increased by more than 10% from 2019 to 2022. Additionally, the number of children on track in all five Australian Early Development Census domains has increased. “The expansion of Connected Beginnings to new sites means more place-based and community-led efforts to support First Nations children to thrive in their early years,” Ms McCarthy said.

The expansion will see an additional six sites come on board, with the capacity to support an additional 4,500 First Nations children. The new locations – five in Queensland (Bundaberg, Cairns, Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Rockhampton) one in NSW (Broken Hill) – will bring the total number of Connected Beginnings sites to 40 across Australia, supporting 16,400 First Nations children. Connected Beginnings is a key contributor to the Closing the Gap early childhood education targets – partnering with First Nations communities in ensuring activities are delivered to First Nations people, in their own places and on their Country. “The Connected Beginnings program has been structured so that communities are empowered to design and deliver the program in a way which supports their individual needs and aspirations,” Dr Aly explained.

You can view the Minister Aly and Senator McCarthy’s joint media release here and read The Sector article Expansion of Connected Beginnings program announced on Children’s Day in full click here.

female educator with ATSI child at table threading

Connected Beginnings program participate. Image source: The Sector.

Pipeline of doctors for rural communities vital

The shortage of doctors in remote, rural and regional Australian communities is a longstanding health policy challenge. It is the main reason why almost 3,000 overseas‐trained doctors enter the labour force annually — a similar number to the domestic graduate output of Australian medical schools. Most overseas‐trained doctors end up practising in major cities. In effect, rurally targeted recruitment of overseas‐trained doctors compounds the problem of geographic maldistribution that it is meant to solve. Achieving a substantial pipeline of Australian‐trained graduates who will willingly pursue regional careers as general practitioners, rural generalists and non‐GP specialists is therefore a first order policy priority.

The evidence on what influences medical graduates to pursue non‐metropolitan careers has been accumulating over several decades. The best understanding is that a systems approach is required — an alchemy that combines the various factors known to enhance rural career choice. Putting aside remuneration and other incentives, a systems design in medical training must consider the full pathway from medical school applications through to GP and non‐GP specialist careers. Strategies that can influence medical graduates to practise rurally include locating medical programs outside of major cities and aligning pathways for graduates with rurally based general practice training. While teasing out individual contributions of other elements of rural program design is difficult, interventions that are common to the programs that have the most success include substantial rural clinical exposure, longitudinal integrated clerkships, a rurally rich curriculum, rural health student clubs, rural teachers, rural clinical mentors, and rural social networks. Quality rural experience is also vital, as positive learner experiences are fundamental to driving rural interest.

Greater self‐sufficiency for Australia’s medical workforce has never been more important. A boost to regional graduate supply that is aligned with rural, primary care and community‐based training and capacity building will be a key reform in producing medical graduates more aligned to future community need. Leadership, collaboration and a focus on outcomes will be key to delivering on the intent of this investment in Australia’s future health care.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia article A sufficient pipeline of doctors for rural communities is vital for Australia’s overall medical workforce in full click here.

Sign for the Urapuntja Health Clinic located on fly dreaming country (Amengernternenh)

Sign for the Urapuntja Health Clinic located on fly dreaming country (Amengernternenh). Courtesy Amnesty International Australia. Image source: Design Observer.

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 Day of Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners – 7 August 2023

On 7 August annually, the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) invites the health sector and all Australians to help celebrate the achievements and evolution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Health Practitioner workforce.

Within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community this workforce is renowned as a vital and reliable resource critical to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Yet, across mainstream Australia few would know, understand or recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners as stand-alone professions or, more significantly, that together the professions comprise the only culturally based health workforce underpinned by national training and registration in the world.

Unofficial accounts and narratives indicate the workforce was established by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people close to a century ago, in response to the need for geographically accessible and culturally safe health care. And, since this time under the guidance, knowledge and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the workforce has continued to grow and progress.

For more information on the National Day of Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners click here.

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