NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 60-day prescribing gets started

many different bright coloured tablets; text 'Today’s START of 60-day prescribing hailed as a big win for patients'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Medicines Australia Still Seeking Certainty published by on 18 May 2015.

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.

60-day prescribing gets started

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has welcomed the start of 60-day prescribing from today as a big win for patients. AMA President Professor Steve Robson said patients are now able to access cheaper medicines and will save money with fewer tips to the pharmacy. “This initiative, which we have supported since it was first recommended by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee five years ago, will provide much-needed financial relief amid a cost-of-living crisis,” Professor Robson said.

Professor Robson said while there had been a concerted scare campaign against the change, common sense had prevailed, and patients would benefit from the decision by most Senators to support it. “This initiative is supported by many doctor, health and consumer groups, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Consumers Health Forum, NACCHO, Asthma Australia and Breast Cancer Australia.” Prof Robson also warned that any attempt to reverse the initiative will cause chaos and confusion.

Under the policy change, more than 300 medicines will eventually become available for 60-day prescriptions. A list of medicines now available for 60-day dispensing is available here.

You can view the AMA’s media release 60-day prescribing gets started in full here, NACCHO’s media release here as well as a related article New 60-Day Prescriptions: Impacts on You and Your Wallet by University of Sydney’s Andrew Barlett, Associate Lecturer Pharmacy Practice and Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School here.

hand putting a tablet in a 7-day tablet dispenser

Photo: Laurynas Mereckas – Unsplash; Image source: Mirage News.

QLD’s Human Rights Act breach condemned

More than 180 human rights, Indigenous and legal groups have written an open letter to the QLD government, condemning their decision to allow children to be housed in adult watch houses. The letter argues the state government continues to “impose punitive and carceral solutions onto vulnerable and marginalised children.” The letter says “These changes in law undeniably violate children’s rights and exacerbate the human rights emergency in QLD’s already broken youth justice system that disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Although making up less than 5% of the child population in QLD, First Nations children comprise 62.6% of the youth prison population.”

The outcry has led to QLD Council of Social Service CEO Aimee McVeigh exclaiming dismay that the QLD government is seemingly unable “design and implement policies that treat children humanely, keep all communities safe, and act in accordance with established democratic processes.” Chief executive of Sisters Inside, Debbie Killroy OAM, led a protest at QLD Parliament last Thursday, calling for an immediate repealing of the laws. “Children lives must never be used as political pawns,” she said. The watch house amendments, which were rushed through QLD parliament last Thursday and resulted in a provision to override the state’s Human Rights Act, had no oversight from any independent parliamentary committee. QLD is the only state without an upper house in parliament and therefore does not see the same parliamentary scrutiny over legislation.

The open letter notes that the Palaszczuk government has a history of defiance and contempt of UN protocols. “In 2022, it blocked the UN torture prevention body from visiting places where people are detained. It now wishes to exclude indefinite detention of children by police from human rights oversight. These are the places where human rights safeguards are needed most.” It goes on to say: “The QLD government’s actions are of such dire concern that our colleagues at the First Peoples Disability Network have taken the step of notifying the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT).” “This situation has resulted in the systematic denial and breach of the human rights of children in custody, and failure to hold Australia accountable to our UN commitments. Overwhelmingly it is First Nations children and children with disabilities who are experiencing this shocking abusive treatment.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Over 180 organisations condemn Queensland government’s latest breach of Human Rights Act in full click here.

front gates of Qld Government Brisbane Youth Detention Centre

Photo: Darren England. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Griffith University wins FASD grant

A project designed to help screen children and adolescents at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Grant worth $1.49m. Professor Dianne Shanley from Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology and Menzies Health Institute QLD is one of the Chief Investigators on the Tracking Cube which her team co-designed. “The Tracking Cube originated when community members from remote QLD voiced their concern around long waitlists for children,” Professor Shanley said.

“They wanted to ensure their children were supported close to home and placed on local treatment pathways as quickly as possible. The Tracking Cube is a culturally responsive, tiered neurodevelopmental screening approach that can be integrated with child well-health checks. Ultimately, it’s about screening at risk children and young people in primary healthcare so we can start them on early pathways of support and catch those who might otherwise fall through service gaps.”

A pilot implementation was conducted at an Indigenous remote primary health service which found neurodevelopmental concerns were four times more likely to be identified using the Tracking Cube compared to usual care. The pilot was also able to place the 11% of children identified as at-risk of FASD on local pathways of support. Professor Shanley said the project will follow a Type 1 hybrid design using a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial to measure the effectiveness of the Tracking Cube at eight diverse Indigenous primary healthcare partner sites. “The Tracking Cube will increase identification of neurodevelopmental concerns which will enable early support for children at-risk of FASD in primary healthcare,” she said. “It will also increase the appropriateness of specialist referrals without further overburdening waitlists.”

To view the Griffith University article Griffith research into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder wins $1.49m grant in full click here.

FASD screening tool - Tracking Cube - cube with ATSI art on each side

Tracking Cube. Image source: Griffith News, Griffith University website.

Youth in detention dying prematurely

Young people in contact with the criminal justice system – be it under community-based orders or in youth detention – are among the most marginalised in our society. And the health and health-care disadvantage faced by these young people may be evident for years. Dr Lucas Calais Ferreira, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne says the research he’d been involved in found high levels of largely-preventable diseases and avoidable premature deaths for these young people in Australia, indicating inadequate health care both in youth detention and in the community.

Almost 50% of young people under youth justice supervision are Indigenous, and they are 24 times more likely than non-Indigenous young people to go into youth detention. Young people in detention commonly have very poor health. This includes high rates of one or more physical and mental health problems, cognitive and neurodevelopmental disabilities, and substance dependence. Dr Calais Ferreira said that in the nearly 25 years of data covered by the research it was found that young people with a history of contact with the youth justice system died at a rate more than four times higher than those of the same age and sex in the general Australian population. Those most at risk of dying prematurely are Indigenous children, males, and those whose first contact with the youth justice system was before they were 14 years old.

The research findings highlight the need for young people involved with the justice system to access high-quality and holistic health care that’s age- and culturally appropriate. This is essential to identify and manage their complex health conditions, both during periods of supervision and – critically – after return to the community. Dr Calais Ferreira said ACCHOs are well placed to provide this and to support continuity of care as these children transition in and out of detention. But the NT is the only jurisdiction where they are funded to provide health care in youth detention. ACCHOs are unable to access Commonwealth funding to support health care in detention elsewhere. Discriminatory exclusion from access to Medicare, which typically prevents access to ACCHOs in detention, is an example of the “inverse care law”. This is when those most in need of high-quality health care are least likely to receive it.

You can read The Conversation article Too many young people who’ve been in detention die prematurely. They deserve better in full here and also listen to a related story, the first episode of an ABC Listen three-part ABC podcast series The outland or the cage about the ineffectiveness of youth detention for children with disabilities such as FASD here.

5 unidentified ATSI inmates at a youth detention centre

Unidentified inmates at a youth detention centre. Photo: Eleni Roussos, ABC News.

Rural maternity services need to be on agenda

When a rural town’s maternity unit shuts down, it has a domino effect and other healthcare services quickly follow. Almost 100 maternity experts met recently in Canberra, calling for the federal government to step in and end the steady decline of services for regional mothers. Their list of demands included a national minimum standard for access to rural maternity care and funding for a maternity workforce plan. Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) president Megan Belot said none of the solutions were new or radical, but they needed political willpower and funding. “We know the solutions, we just want them to be implemented… it’s not something that we can wait another five or 10 years for,” Dr Belot said. “We need the PM to understand our issues and look at our solutions that we came up with.”

The issue had become so desperate, states have begun poaching health professionals from each other by offering incentives to those who relocated to their regional area. “This is why it needs to be on the National Cabinet agenda, we need the states working together,” Dr Belot said. Maternity services are often the lynch pin that holds together other medical services in rural areas. “When you lose a maternity service, there’s no need to keep a theatre running anymore,” Dr Belot said.

Australian College of Midwives chief midwife Alison Weatherstone said of the 300,000 women giving birth in Australia each year, 30 per cent (roughly 90,000) live in rural areas. “Women in rural and regional areas deserve access to models of maternity care equivalent to those women in families in the cities… our targets at the moment are well below what’s acceptable for women,” Dr Weatherstone said. National Rural Health Commissioner Ruth Stewart said the government had give Indigenous women the option to give birth on country. “First Nations’ women have to have access to culturally-safe care – we know that if care is not culturally-safe, they are reluctant to seek it,” she said.

To read the Farmonline National article Rural maternity services urged to be National Cabinet issue in full here.

ATSI baby Judy on lap of mum Leah Ngalirrwuy, Galiwin'ku East Arnhem Land, NT

Judy Mununggrruitj’s mother Leah Ngalirrwuy had to leave her home in Galiwin’ku to have her baby in Darwin 500kms away. Photo: Emma Vincent, ABC News.

Ungooroo August 2023 Newsletter

Yesterday Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation released the August 2023 edition of their newsletter.

Topics included in the August newsletter edition include:

  • Ungooroo Health and Wellbeing Expo a Huge Success
  • Book your 715 Health Check
  • GP Management Plan
  • Welcome to GP Dr Nicole Payne
  • Welcome to new Practice Manager, Stephen McBride
  • Multiplex training and employment program graduation ceremony
  • New look Websites
  • Speaking in Colour
  • Wattaka Cafe Click & Collect
  • Catering with Flavour

The newsletter is available on Ungooroo’s website here and their social media platforms.

part of the front page of the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation August 2023 newsletter


Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

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