NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Oodnadatta welcomes safe drinking water

feature tile ATSI male hands holding water; text 'Oodnadatta welcomes safe drinking water however provision of other basic services still severely lacking'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Something in the water published by ABC News Online on 20 August 2023. Photo: Che Chorley.

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.

Oodnadatta welcomes safe drinking water

The scorched lands of Oodnadatta, in the far north of SA, are some of the most remote in Australia. The desert town, marooned by rusty dirt reminiscent of moonscape, tips 50 degrees Celsius in summer. In the 1980s the state government began issuing warnings to locals about the dangers of drinking and using tap water in the town. After years of community campaigning, the town has a lifeline in the form of safe, clean, drinking water, plumbed straight to residents’ homes.

Until recently, the SA government operated a bore that plumbed groundwater straight from the basin and into Oodnadatta homes, charging locals as much as $300 each year for the service. But it came with a potentially life-threatening illness known as Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM). Authorities started issuing warnings about the potentially-lethal bug some 40 years ago.

CEO of Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) Shane Mohor says he first started asking questions about Oodnadatta’s water supply in 2019. He travelled from Adelaide to listen to locals’ concerns. “I was shocked and started asking the question, ‘how long has this been going on for?’ and the community were saying, ‘we don’t know anything different’,” he says. Shane then started asking questions of government ministers and departments. “The frustration started to mount significantly,” he says. “There were multiple elements of basic human rights being denied. “I was just so surprised nobody had taken it as a major health risk and taken it further.”

In 2020, the state government finally acted. It committed $9m for a new desalination plant at Oodnadatta, to filter water from the Great Artesian Basin. Last month, SA Water flicked the switch. While Oodnadatta locals have welcomed the change, they say the provision of other basic services is still severely lacking. Getting to and from medical appointments. for example, is a big challenge for those without a car, as the closest hospital is a three-hour drive away in Coober Pedy.

To read the ABC News article Something in the water in full click here.

AHCSA CEO Shane Mohor & aerial view of Oodnadatta SA

AHCSA CEO Shane Mohor and aerial view of Oodnadatta, SA. Photos: Che Chorley. Image source: ABC News.

CEO leadership program strengthening sector

The National Health Executive Leaders’ Program is a three-day residential program aimed at strengthening the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector by bringing together CEOs and Deputy CEOs (or equivalent) to support high level leadership across the ACCHO sector.

The National Health Executive Leaders’ Program is a three-day residential program aimed at strengthening the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector by bringing together CEOs and Deputy CEOs (or equivalent) to support high level leadership across the ACCHO sector.

Last week, the second cohort to join the program met in Gimuy (Cairns) from 16-18 August, which saw a lot of networking, fun, and sharing of new and innovative ideas. The leadership participants were pleased with the event, with one participant stating, “It’s been the perfect opportunity to reflect, rest and reset with other like-minded people.” Another leader in the group commented,  “Building peer networks has been an absolute highlight for me. I really enjoyed the collegiality and authentic way that everyone participated in what was a really safe space. Great stuff.”

A fun and engaging activity resulting in some inventive concepts included, a ‘Shark Tank’ style ideas pitching session with judges comprising, NACCHO Chairperson – Donnella Mills; NACCHO Deputy CEO – Dr Dawn Casey and Acting First Assistant Secretary of the First Nations Health Division, Department of Health and Aged Care – Mel Turner.

Other testimonials from participants in the National Health Executive Leaders’ Program include:

  • “Proved to me I am a leader even if I don’t realise it.”
  • “This has been the greatest benefit for me. The knowledge within this group, the expertise, the passion.”
  • “OMG we are truly blessed to work in our sector – what amazing kind, caring, intelligent resilient mob we are. Thank you.”

The National Health Executive Leaders’ Program was identified through the Joint Council approved Health Sector Strengthening Plan and is funded through National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).

Participants of Cairns Aug 2023 National Health Executive Leaders' Program (NHELP) & NHELP logo

Cohort 2 participants of National Health Executive Leaders’ Program held in Cairns 16–18 August 2023.

How a driver’s licence links to better health

For young people living in regional and remote Australia, a driver’s licence isn’t just important to their growing need for independence — it’s a necessity. But some people struggle to clock up the mandatory learner hours because no one in their family can teach them as they don’t have licences either. That’s the reality for many Indigenous people in rural and regional Australia who are disproportionately affected by licensing adversity.

A new community-led program in SA’s Riverland is hoping to change that and improve young Indigenous peoples’ employment and social outcomes as well. Experts say the programs can help end the cycle of licence adversity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. A 2021 study published in the peer-reviewed BMC Public Health journal suggested respondents who participated in driving licence programs had improved job outcomes.

Health outcomes of an individual and their communities were also closely linked to employment status, and the influence that had on improving economic and social circumstances.

To view the ABC News article Nunga Driving program helps Riverland Indigenous drivers get their licences in full click here.

18 year old Bundjalung woman Breah Cooper & David Binney, Nunga Driving

David Binney says Nunga Driving was borne out of conversations with young Indigenous people. Photo: Sophie Holder, ABC Riverland.

Wellbeing programs and health outcomes

Empowerment is an internationally recognised concept commonly incorporated in First Nations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing programs. The Family Wellbeing Program (FWB) is an empowerment program developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that has been widely delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia for close to 30 years. To date, there has been limited quantitative analysis of how this program is linked to health and empowerment outcomes.

There are significant associations between Family Wellbeing exposure and organisation and community level empowerment outcomes, but only for some individual level empowerment outcomes. There is a lower reporting of health risk factors including increased physical exercise, reduced alcohol use and smoking; and educational attainment among FWB participants compared to non-FWB participants. The results suggest individual, community and organisational empowerment needs to be explored further with more robust study designs that can attribute causality and direction of association.

To read the BMC Public Health article Exposure to the Family Wellbeing program and associations with empowerment, health, family and cultural wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: a cross-sectional analysis in full click here.

IUIH health worker with mother & baby

Image source: Moreton Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Family Wellbeing Service webpage.

New housing for PAMS healthcare workers

Last Friday, 18 August 2023, WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson joined the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) in Jigalong to officially open contemporary new staff housing in the remote community. The State Government provided $3.5m to PAMS to construct the new housing, delivering on a 2017 election commitment. The six two-bedroom houses feature a modern design tailored to conditions in Jigalong. The modular buildings replace four aging houses previously used by healthcare workers at PAMS.

Essential to the East Pilbara community, PAMS is an ACCHO that provides culturally appropriate and comprehensive primary health care in Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji and Newman.

Minister Sanderson said, “The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service does a fantastic job supporting communities throughout the East Pilbara and I am so pleased we have been able to assist them with new housing for their staff. Not only are the new houses more modern and functional than those that were there before, but PAMS now also has an extra two houses at its disposal for healthcare workers.”

To view Minister Sanderson’s media release New housing for Jigalong healthcare workers opened in full click here.

WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson joined PAMS in Jigalong to officially open contemporary new staff housing

Last week, WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson joined PAMS in Jigalong to officially open contemporary new staff housing in the remote community. Image source: AHCWA website.

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 – Brain Injury Awareness Week 21–27 August 2023

Brain Injury Awareness Week is held annually to raise awareness of brain injury and its impact in Australia. Brain injury is an invisible disability, as there is often no physical evidence of the injury. Despite not being seen, its impact is felt every day. After suffering a brain injury it’s common to act, feel and respond differently to situations as well as experience changes in your behaviour, personality and thinking. These changes can make it difficult to return to work, sport or activities you enjoyed before. It can also put pressure on your relationships with family, friends, co-workers and other people in your life – but Synapse is here to support, and we can help you navigate living with a brain injury.

Over the weekend ABC News ran a story Why isn’t the brain injury crisis in our homes causing as much concern as concussion in sport? In the article they say contact sports like football have played an important role in raising awareness of concussion and brain injury, but there’s another group who suffer brain injuries at staggering rates but whose suffering too often goes unreported, untreated, unseen: family violence victims. Brain injury in women — and especially family violence victims — is disturbingly understudied, with the majority of concussion research focused on young male athletes

Brain Injury Awareness Week tile

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