NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Local solutions vital for sustainable healthcare

feature tile image pilbara landscape in heatwave; text 'Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service co-designs culturally appropriate heatwave adaption resources'

The image in the feature tile is of the Pilbara region of WA from the article WA’s Pilbara hits 45C as large swathes of Australia swelter in heatwave published in The Guardian on 17 February 2023. Photo: John White, Getty Images.

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.

Local solutions vital for sustainable healthcare

Amid growing global concerns about the impacts of heatwaves upon health and health services, a regional ACCHO in WA is taking steps to adapt to the changing environment. The Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS), which represents eight independent member ACCHOs from towns and remote communities across the Kimberley region, is co-designing culturally appropriate heatwave adaptation resources for the region.

Community consultations as part of the KAMS Climate Health Adaptation Project found that heatwaves are a priority issue in the Kimberley region, according to Dr Sophie Moustaka, public health registrar and project officer employed by KAMS for its Climate Health Adaptation Planning project, “We identified that there was an awareness that it is getting hotter, there is an increased intensity of heatwaves, and also less relief between the heatwaves.”.

How health services are addressing climate mitigation and adaptation will be profiled at the Greening the Healthcare Sector Forum next month on 14-15 September, in-person at the Fiona Stanley Hospital, and online, with the aim of providing “opportunities for connection, knowledge sharing, learning and upskilling for all attendees”. Following its theme, “empowering action for sustainable, climate resilient healthcare,” the forum will focus on ‘how’ to empower action and include sessions on Caring for Country, strategy and systems, engagement, leadership and sustainability in practice.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Cultural context, empowered staff and local solutions are vital for sustainable healthcare in full click here.

exterior of KAMS, WA

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services.

Voice necessary to close the gap

As co-chairs of the National Close the Gap Campaign Karl Briscoe and June Oscar AO say they are privileged to represent 52 First Nations and mainstream organisations, who – since 2006 – have come together as allies to create a national movement committed to ensuring health equity and equality and improved life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Since 2006, this Campaign has advocated for large-scale systemic reform and a paradigm shift in policy design and delivery to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And since the inception of the Uluru Statement from the Heart the Campaign has supported the full implementation of its three components – Voice. Treaty. Truth.

If successful, the Voice, through constitutional recognition, will allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected representatives to make representations to the Executive and to Parliament. The Executive can choose to incorporate these representations when creating legislation, policy, or program design. Equally, they can choose not to. But key to this structural reform is that it provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a constitutionally enshrined voice, a permanent seat at the table, and a genuine opportunity to provide advice on matters that directly affect our lives. The intention of the Voice is to change old practices by governments and their agencies. We cannot keep doing more of the same. Large-scale structural reform is necessary if we ever hope to close the gap.

In truth, across the political and policy spectrum there is a tendency to attribute the lack of progress or success of the Closing the Gap Strategy as the individual failures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. But it is in fact systemic political, institutional and policy failures. It is the continual development of poor policies, pursued and implemented by successive Governments, that consistently fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. This has real and often detrimental consequences. It is felt in our lived experiences, it is visible in our exclusion, and it is crippling this nation’s ability to pursue justice, equity, and equality for all. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities know when policy is harmful instead of helpful, and we know what our own communities need to thrive.

To view the Law Society Journal article The Voice is necessary if we want to close the gap in full click here.

portrait shots of Closing the Gap co-chairs Karl Briscoe & June Oscar

Closing the Gap co-hairs Karl Briscoe (image source: Law Society of NSW Journal) and June Oscar (Image source: IndigenousX website).

Mob must be central to LGBTQIA+ plans and policy

Yesterday Dameyon Bonson was a guest on the podcast Joy 94.9 Radio Drive with Warren, discussing why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be central to LGBTQIA+ plans and policies. Dameyon has extensive experience working in and with remote Indigenous communities in suicide prevention and is the founder of Black Rainbow, Australia’s first and only national Indigenous LGBTIQA suicide prevention charity organisation.

Mr Bonson hopes data that has come out of the recent Walkern Katatdjin: Rainbow Knowledge survey will mobilise work that should have been happening decades ago. He explained that until now there has been no data, and when there is no data there is no policy and when there is no policy there is no funding. To date, Mr Bonson said, there has been no formal recognition of First Nations LGBTQIA+ people in any policy across the country, particularly at a Commonwealth level, that one we exist as a population group but also our needs, because as the report stresses the issue is not just about suicidality it is also around mental ill health, homelessness, and drug and alcohol usage. Mr Bonson wants investment in First Nations LGBTQIA+ led work in this space.

To listen to the Joy Drive 94.9 Radio Drive with Warren podcast episode Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be central to LGBTQIA+ plans and policies click here. You can also read an ABC News article Walkern Katatdjin: Rainbow Knowledge survey shines spotlight on mental health issues faced by Indigenous LGBTIQA+ youth about the report referred to in the podcast here.

banner JOY 94.9 Radio DRIVE with Warren & image of Dameyon Bonson

Banner from Joy Media website. Dameyon Bonson is the founder of Australia’s first Indigenous LGBTI support group. Photo: Anthony Pancia, ABC South West.

Lowitja Institute on health and climate strategy

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and research sectors must be resourced appropriately to respond to climate change, according to the Lowitja Institute’s submission to the National Health and Climate Strategy consultation. The Lowitja Institute said their submission to the National Health and Climate Strategy consultation could be summarised under the following nine themes.

  • strengths-based
  • governance matters
  • resource services
  • emissions reduction
  • building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mitigation and adaptation workforce
  • dedicated research funding
  • human rights and climate justice
  • terminology matters
  • acknowledgements

You can access the National Health and Climate Strategy consultation paper here and read the Croakey Health Media article Nine key messages for the National Health and Climate Strategy: Lowitja Institute in full click here.

cover of Aust Govt Dept Hlth & Aged Care National Health & Climate Strategy Consultation Paper

Understanding the toll of everyday racism

Everyday racism is a familiar experience for many Indigenous people in Australia. Its impact on wellbeing has been understood anecdotally, but a long-term study has recently been able to demonstrate this with data. In an epsiode of BLA.C.K Medicine, Dr Mikayala Couch chatted with Kirsty Nichols about Mayi Kuwayu, a ground-breaking research project tracking Indigenous health over time. The Mayi Kuwayu Study is a large-scale project tracking 12,000 participants over time, providing data for Indigenous-led research projects.

One project that developed from the study was to determine how much psychological distress is caused by everyday racism. Two thirds of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population have experienced the eight types of everyday discrimination included in the study. Examples of everyday racism include being treated with less respect than other people or being given worse service. People reported being insulted or yelled at, being treated as stupid, or dangerous, or followed around in shops. The study demonstrated that for those with high or very high psychological stress, up to half of it was caused by everyday racism. If we eliminated everyday racial discrimination, we could hypothetically half the gap in the prevalence of high to very high psychological distress.

The study aims to provide data for research that can address Indigenous health from an Indigenous perspective. People can apply to access data from the study to develop research projects that align with Indigenous needs. These strategies need to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identified and led. We can no longer afford for anything we do to improve health to be implemented through the white lens. And also, the white savior complex that these western institutional changes are born out of needs to stop.

You can listen to the SBS BLA.C.K Medicine podcast episode Understanding the toll of everyday racism here.
banner for BLA.C.K. Medicine podcast episode Understanding the toll of everyday racism & image of ATSI woman Kirsty Nichols

Kirsty Nichols (pictured left) is a Muran and Kungarakun woman who works in health service policy, public health, system planning and delivery. Image source: SBS.

Too Deadly for Diabetes funding boost

A successful program supporting people living with Type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal communities will benefit from a funding boost so that more people will be able to access the service. NSW Minister for Regional Health, Ryan Park has pledged $40,000 to Too Deadly for Diabetes to work with the Walhallow Aboriginal Health Corporation to expand its community-based lifestyle programs. Too Deadly for Diabetes is a research-based lifestyle program developed by Gomeroi man Ray Kelly, and is run primarily through local Aboriginal Medical Services.

“I was so impressed to see this initiative in action through the Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service and the incredibly positive impact it’s having on the local community,” Mr Park said. “We know that communities are achieving great health results, and with the right support they can accomplish even more. I’m pleased to be able to help this program expand into other communities where it can make a big difference. This funding will allow Too Deadly for Diabetes to expand into more regional communities, including Quirindi, Caroona, and for the first time Werris Creek.”

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, David Harris, welcomed the funding that would improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people, particularly in rural and regional areas. “The further you get from major centres in NSW, the worse your health outcomes are. This is particularly the case for chronic disease in our Aboriginal communities,” Mr Harris said. “This funding boost shows our commitment to closing the gap in health outcomes.”

To view the NSW Health media release Too Deadly for Diabetes given funding boost in full click here. You can also find more information about the Too Deadly for Diabetes program, including videos like the one below on the Too Deadly for Diabetes website here.

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