feature tile image Pat Turner, text ; Closing the Gap with Pat Turner - The upcoming referendum is the most important vote of our collective lifetimes

The image in the feature tile is of Pat Turner from a tile used on the University of Canberra’s Facebook page promoting the Voice to Parliament Lecture Series: Closing the Gap with Pat Turner.

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.

Most important vote of our collective lifetimes

“Put simply, it (The Voice) says, we should have a say in the laws, policies and programs that have a significant effect on our lives and communities.”

Last night NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner spoke at the University of Canberra Voice to Parliament Lecture Series. Ms Turner said although there have been strong individual advocates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a collective voice is needed to reap significant change.

Dismayed at how the debate on the Voice has been hijacked by all sorts of nonsense and misinformation, Ms Turner stated, “We have a simple truth here. Believe it or not, Aboriginal people know what’s best for Aboriginal people. All we want is a say in our own affairs, not a veto, not an advantage over others. We want a fair go. And a Voice will help us get it.

“I will tell you what happens when we have a Voice. Lives are saved. The gaps will begin to close. We have a concrete example. And again, I am talking from first-hand experience. It is something I saw for myself as the CEO of NACCHO. It relates to the pandemic. Not much positive came out of COVID, but it did give us a great example of what happens when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are heard. When we have a voice.

“Based on government data, about 2,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives were saved during the pandemic. This was because our communities spoke up and designed and implemented urgent COVID responses for their own communities. We asked the Commonwealth to sit down with us and get an emergency plan in place. They agreed. They listened to us. We cut red tape, got funding out quickly and designed our own response. We were lucky that the Department of Health was listening to us.”

You can read Ms Turner’s speech The significance of the Voice in Closing the Gap speech in full on NACCHO’s website here.

Michelle Grattan, Chief Political Correspondent at The Conversation; Maree Meredith, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership ; Pat Turner, CEO NACCHO on panel of UC VTP lecture series

Michelle Grattan, Chief Political Correspondent at The Conversation, Maree Meredith, University of Canberra Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership, and Pat Turner, CEO NACCHO. Image source: NACCHO.

Kowanyama patients travelling hours for dialysis

A dad and his young family had to pack up and move 100s of kms from the only home they have ever known, in order to save his life. Dale Josiah, who has four children aged between 12 months and seven years, moved to Cairns in October last year – about 600 kms south-east of his remote home in Kowanyama, on the far west coast of Cape York. The 40-year-old has severe kidney disease which requires dialysis but Kowanyama — a town of about 1,000 people — has no renal dialysis unit, forcing Mr Josiah and his family to move to Cairns, leaving friends and kin behind. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday Mr Josiah is hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine for four hours each session to rid his blood of toxic wastes and excess fluid.

A planned four-chair, $4.5m dialysis unit in Kowanyama — expected to be operational by March next year — will allow some residents with kidney failure to receive their treatment closer to home, depending on the complexity of their condition. The Kowanyama unit will be the fifth dialysis centre of its kind in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service region, after others were established on Thursday Island, Weipa, Cooktown, and Bamaga.

Project manager Daniel Winters-McAppion, a clinical nurse consultant, is training registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners to administer the medicines needed for kidney dialysis patients, a skill previously only in the realm of registered nurses. But a change in regulations under the Medicines and Poisons Act allows Indigenous health practitioners to increase their scope of practice to administer the medicines used during haemodialysis. Mr Winters-McAppion said “The dialysis community has been dreaming about [this] for many years, to be able to provide dialysis closer to home, dialysis that is leading to better outcomes for patients and certainly in terms of quality of life. In haemodialysis, I think we might be leading the way in terms of providing the governance and training and employment opportunities for the health practitioners, so it’s quite exciting.”

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama has higher rates of diabetes than average and patients are travelling hours for dialysis in full click here.

Dale Josiah having kidney dialysis Cairns & Hinterland Hospital and Health Service

Dale Josiah moved from Kowanyama to Cairns to have regular kidney dialysis. Photo supplied by: Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. Image source: ABC News.

AMA welcomes successful 60-day dispensing vote

In just a matter of weeks, millions of Australian patients will be able to access half-price medicines after the Senate passed the federal government’s 60-day dispensing policy yesterday. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said it thoroughly welcomes this outcome, ending the years-long wait for this policy to become a reality. AMA President Professor Steve Robson thanked the Senate for ensuring that patients, from 1 September 2023, can access cheaper medicines while making fewer trips to the pharmacy to refill scripts.

“We thank not only the government, but all the senators who stared down the negative scare campaign against this policy,” Professor Robson said. “This is an important day for Australian patients, who have been desperately waiting for much-needed financial relief amid this cost-of-living crisis. “The carrot had been dangled in front of patients for far too long. The former Coalition government decided not to implement this measure in 2019, disregarding the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommendations in 2018.” Professor Robson said the final Senate vote followed years of advocacy by the AMA and other health and consumer groups.

The AMA called for Australia’s Senate to prioritise health policy that puts patients first, allowing them to access half-price medicines under the 60-day dispensing policy. “The AMA reignited the call for this policy in February this year and we have advocated for it every day since., [yesterday] it came down to the wire in the Senate, we were there to help ensure that it was successful.” Professor Robson thanked the many doctor, health and consumer groups that helped get 60-day dispensing over the line — including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), Consumers Health Forum, NACCHO, Asthma Australia, Breast Cancer Network Australia and many more.

To view the AMA’s media release AMA welcomes successful 60-day dispensing vote in full click here.

torso of chemist in white lab coat holding medicine boxes

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Study warns of air conditioning health fears

Darwin can be brutally hot and humid. Many of its 150,000 residents seek refuge from the tropical elements in air-conditioned homes, offices and cars. But research from the Australian National University (ANU) suggests that air-conditioning, which is often set at 21 degrees Celsius, is making people more vulnerable to heat-related death. Heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest natural hazard. They kill more people than bushfires, floods and storms put together. The ANU asserts that “climate change is increasing heat-associated mortality particularly in hotter parts of the world.”

Dr Simon Quilty from the ANU’s  National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, and the study’s lead author, says avoiding the heat and humidity may prevent people from adapting to the climate. “Being exposed regularly to the prevailing climate in which you live actually acclimatizes your body,” he said. “We know that acclimatisation takes roughly 14-days to occur for a human body and that changes the way that we sweat, it changes the way that we breathe, it changes our kidneys and it even changes the way that our hearts pump. What is happening now is that our entire lives are set at 21 degrees Celsius and so for people who are living in very hot climates like the NT that deacclimatisation is actually probably increasing heat vulnerability.”

Dr Quilty said the research also finds that First Nations communities in the NT are less vulnerable to heat because they are often less inclined or able to use air-conditioning. “Yes, it is very, very uncomfortable in really hot weather in Darwin and other places in the Tropics around the world, but we do not all need to live at 21 degrees Celsius,” Dr Quilty said. “And certainly, my experience of Aboriginal people is they really do not like over air-conditioned environments. They feel very uncomfortable in it.” Dr Quilty says that First Nations people have shown “extraordinary resilience to extreme weather” over thousands of years. The ANU study believes that “hot climate communities need to start considering socio-cultural means of adapting to hotter weather.” Indigenous Australians invariably stay out of the hot afternoon sun and reduce physical exertion in warmer parts of the day. The study recommends that housing in hot climates should also be designed to ensure passive cooling to reduce energy costs.

To view the Science and Health article Australian Study Warns of Air Conditioning Health Fears in full click here.

external view Yuendumu house boarded windows replaced with air con

Yuenduma, NT. Photo: Dr Simon Quilty. Image source: ANU News webpage.

Innovative program educates men about HIV

How do you educate people about difficult-to-talk-about, yet incredibly important, health topics? And which settings are ideal for such conversations? Those were the questions plaguing Cairns Sexual Health Service, whose providers sought to reach members of the Indigenous community in their area. The Indigenous community in Cairns has historically been disproportionally affected by HIV. In recent years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males have been diagnosed at a rate of almost three times that of their non-Indigenous peers. Complicating matters is the stigma around HIV and the community’s historical mistrust of healthcare professionals.

“If we just sit back and wait for the young men to come, they don’t arrive,” says Dr. Darren Russell, Program Director at the Cairns Sexual Health Service. “So we can’t teach them about sexual health and HIV prevention, and we can’t test them.” The team ultimately found the solution by connecting with Fresh Start Academy, a non-profit dedicated to teaching the barbering trade to young men. Recognizing that a barbershop could provide the type of safe environment needed to educate patrons about sexual health, the Cairns clinic collaborated with the organization to involve young local barbers in the HIV prevention effort.

“It was a lightbulb moment,” says Rob Hodge, founder of the academy. “We realised this could go a long way in normalizing the HIV conversation and demonstrating how straightforward the testing process is.”

To read the Gilead Science article A Cut Above the Rest: Innovative Barbershop Program Educates Indigenous Men About HIV in full click here.

IUIH $600k social isolation grant

The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Ltd (IUIH) was one of 10 successful recipients, announced yesterday, of grant funding ($600,000) through the first round of the Queensland’s Government’s $4m Communities Innovation Fund. The Fund provides small grants of up to $50,000 for short-term initiatives and large grants of up to $200,000 per year for longer-term initiatives that create meaningful connections for Queenslanders experiencing social isolation and loneliness. Successful applicants span the breadth and width of Queensland and have developed a range of innovative and community-led projects, programs, services and supports. The Communities Innovation Fund is a flagship initiative of Communities 2032 – the Queensland Government’s ten-year plan for supporting vibrant, inclusive, safe and welcoming communities.

Minister Enoch said “From Napranum in Far North Queensland to the suburbs of Brisbane in the south east corner, we know that social isolation and loneliness are complex issues, with no simple, one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why we have established the Communities Innovation Fund, which is a critical part of our government’s response to the serious issues of social isolation and loneliness in Queensland. It recognises the vital role that communities play in supporting and empowering every person to connect, participate, contribute and thrive.”

To view Minister Enoch’s media statement Grants to support innovative responses to social isolation and loneliness across Queensland in full click here.

ATSI Elder & IUIH male worker

Image source: IUIH Mob Link webpage.

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.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Most important vote of our collective lifetimes

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