NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National CTG Agreement focus will not change

feature tile ATSI mum & young child standing in middle of outback dirt road; text 'Productivity Commissioner says Voice referendum result will not change focus of the National Agreement on CTG'

The image in the feature tile is from the Coalition of Peaks webpage National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

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.

National CTG Agreement focus will not change

The result of the Voice to Parliament referendum will not change the focus or the mandate of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, Productivity Commissioner, Natalie Siegel-Brown, has told a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) livestream audience. “If the Voice comes about through the referendum, we’ve suggested that it could augment or support holding governments to account under the Agreement,” said Ms Siegel-Brown. “A Voice shouldn’t mean…that governments resile from any of their commitments under those priority reforms or…under the targets.”

Facilitated by Australian Unity General Manager for Indigenous Business and Community Engagement, Trish Oxford, the Productivity Commission Chairman, Michael Brennan, and Commissioners, Romlie Mokak and Natalie-Siegel-Brown, joined CEDA to discuss the outcomes of the latest Closing the Gap draft report, released in July 2023.

Mr Brennan said that although a constitutionally enshrined Voice would potentially help to bolster the National Agreement’s accountability mechanisms, other avenues will be explored if the referendum does not pass. “It’s really about us remaining nimble and noting that the importance of this Agreement is sustained, irrespective and whatever the outcome, we have to make sure that we’ve got the right architecture to achieve the promise…at the heart of the 2020 Agreement,” Mr Brennan said. “The Agreement isn’t just words on the page, these are commitments…firm commitments made by governments in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, as representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisations and communities,” Commissioner Romlie Mokak said.

To read the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) article Productivity Commission says that Voice to Parliament Outcomes will not change the focus or mandate of the Closing the Gap Agreement in full here.

World-first service for First Nations stroke survivors

WA researchers have developed and trialled a world-first service that will enhance the rehabilitation experience for Aboriginal Australians who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury. The Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator role was rolled out between 2018–2022, providing support, education, information and advocacy. The role was filled by Aboriginal health professionals and was developed as a way of providing culturally appropriate care and support for Aboriginal people during their recovery.

The Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator service was trialled in WA as part of the Healing Right Way study, led by Professor Beth Armstrong and a team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clinicians and researchers.  It was performed in partnership with Aboriginal Medical Services, eight hospitals across WA and the Stroke Foundation. “Aboriginal Australians experience stroke and traumatic brain injury at significant rates and a culturally appropriate response to rehabilitation and recovery has been really lacking,” says Chief Investigator, Professor Beth Armstrong.

Over 100 Aboriginal people who had experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury participated in Healing Right Way. They came from across WA, with many people living in rural and remote areas where there are few support and rehabilitation services.  In studies prior to Healing Right Way, Aboriginal stroke survivors had shared with Professor Armstrong’s team that their care would have been enhanced had there been greater cultural responsiveness, including in the communication with health professionals and by having more Aboriginal health professionals involved in their care. Healing Right Way was the direct result of these recommendations, and the Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator role was developed. 

To view the Stoke Foundation’s media release World-first service to help First Nations stroke survivors in full click here.

Rebecca Clinch, Healing Right Way Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator, and Justin Kickett, stroke survivor and Healing Right Way Research Assistant sitting outside laughing

Rebecca Clinch, Healing Right Way Aboriginal Brain Injury Coordinator, and Justin Kickett, stroke survivor and Healing Right Way Research Assistant. Image source: Government of WA – WA Country Health Service website.

More rural doctors good for the bush

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) has welcomed the federal government’s announcement of new funding agreements with states and the NT which will increase the number of doctors in regional, rural and remote locations. “The John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program will promote training opportunities for the growth of the rural medical workforce,” said Susi Tegen, Chief Executive of the Alliance. “We know that when doctors have opportunities to train in rural locations, they are more likely to want to stay in those areas when they finish their medical training.

“Rural Australians have poorer access to local health care, including primary and specialist care. They are often required to travel long distances to receive care, compared to their metropolitan counterparts. Having more doctors available can make a difference in rural communities. We also welcome the priority for high need areas including those that support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and service delivery, which is also a strategic focus for the Alliance,” said Ms Tegen.

The Alliance advocates for better rural medical training as an incentive for the attraction and retention of medical graduates and junior doctors in rural medical practice. The Alliance also advocates for the funding of a place-based multidisciplinary model of primary health care, called the Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) that gives healthcare funding flexibility to communities to address workforce shortages and accessibility issues in rural areas. “We see this program by the federal government as a step toward addressing the dire situation faced by our rural communities” said Ms Tegen.

To read the NRHA media release Increasing doctor numbers in rural Australia is good for the bush in full click here.

doctor with stethoscope around neck standing in a paddock

Image source: Health Times.

Renewed focus on NT health workforce

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has welcomed a renewed focus on the NT health workforce and future of general practice care following a Primary Health Care Workforce Summit held in Alice Springs on Wednesday 23 August 2023. RACGP NT Chair, Dr Sam Heard, said that the Summit was a great opportunity to secure the future of general practice care, “the NT is the best place in Australia to train and work as a GP. There is so much important work to do in general practice care and it is really rewarding to work in an extraordinary team, to be highly valued, and to give back to the community. You can really make a difference to the lives of people in your local area and the opportunities for building experience and for career advancement are well recognised.”

Dr Heard said “It was great to see the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney, and NT Chief Minister and Health Minister Natasha Fyles, come together to directly engage with healthcare workers and experts from across the NT. “RACGP representatives also met with several organisations including the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and NT Health, to discuss a range of solutions ahead of the Summit. “We agreed on an ambitious seven-point plan, which we took to the Summit, to help ensure no patients anywhere in the NT are left behind,” Dr Heard said.

“The NT is facing a critical shortage of GPs, with survey results from last year showing shortages across private general practice, the Aboriginal Community Control Health sector, and the public sector. It is no surprise that remote and isolated areas of the NT are disproportionately affected; in some communities the loss of one GP can mean no access to general practice care without travelling vast distances. GPs are central to patient care right across Australia, but this is especially so in remote areas” Dr Heard said.

To read the RACGP media release Focus on boosting the Northern Territory health workforce welcomed in full click here.

NT GP checking heart of ATSI boy

Image source: Charles Darwin University website.

ADHA Consumer Digital Health Literacy sessions

The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has developed a suite of  free live online learning sessions which will enable participants to find out how they can use digital health tools such as My Health Record, the my health app and electronic prescriptions.

During September and October 2023 you can join our free online learning sessions remotely from anywhere with an internet connection, and learn from a range of presenters and have your questions answered. You can register here, for any of the upcoming sessions (listed below) or view a recording here, including Auslan interpreted recordings. ADHA also have a range of self-paced eLearning resources, available here, that can be accessed at any time.

  • Keeping your My Health Record private and secure
  • Introduction to My Health Record
  • How can I view test results or scans in My Health Record?
  • Medicines information, allergies and adverse reactions in My Health Record
  • How My Health Record can help support your mental health management
  • My Health Record for carers
  • Health on the go: my health app for travellers

You can find more detail about each of the information sessions, including registration links here.

ADHA have recently published a YouTube playlist of their past digital health learning sessions, available here, which all include an Auslan interpreter. The sessions have a been broken down into ‘chapters’ on YouTube so attendees can more easily pinpoint the content they are most interested in.

ADHA tile text 'Australian Digital Health Agency - Upcoming consumer online learning session'

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

During Brain Injury Awareness Week, held annually to raise awareness of brain injury and its impact, NACCHO has been sharing stories and information. One in 45 Australians live with a brain injury. It’s an invisible disability, as there is often no physical evidence of the injury, but it affects how people think and feel as they recover and reintegrate into everyday life.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District’s (LHD) South West Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service (SWBIRS) provides support to assist people affected by brain injury to regain skills required to so they can participate in home, school, work and community activities. The SWBIRS Transitional Living Unit, Tarkarri provides a bridge between hospital and home for people learning to live with a traumatic or acquired brain injury. “Tarkarri is an Aboriginal word that means ‘creating futures’,” said Jenny Goodfellow, an OT who coordinates the Transitional Living Unit program.

Ms Goodfellow explained that “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. At Tarkarri we work with clients who have an acquired or traumatic brain injury to work on the skills they need to get back to life, including independent living skills, life roles and responsibilities and individual goals, so that they can create the future that they want. The team also work with your family to help them understand what’s going on with you, what’s changed and how they can support you.”

To view the NSW Government Health Murrumbidgee Local Health District media release Brain Injury Awareness Week 2023 in full click here.

Jenny Goodfellow, Coordinator of Tarkarri Transitional Living Unit and clients Cooper Maher and Adam Scott

Jenny Goodfellow, Coordinator of Tarkarri Transitional Living Unit and clients Cooper Maher and Adam Scott during Brain Injury Awareness Week, 21-28 August 2023. Image source: NSW Health Murrumbidgee LHD webpage.

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