NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Creating supportive communities for alcohol-free pregnancies

The image in the feature tile is from the FASD Awareness Month and Red Shoes Rock Campaign launch at Parliament House.

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.

Creating supportive communities for alcohol-free pregnancies

On Tuesday 7 September NACCHO, Fare Australia, NOFASD, FASD Hub, and lived experience advocates were joined by Health Minister Mark Butler, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney, and other parliamentarians and their staff for the launch of FASD Awareness Month at Parliament House. The event provided an opportunity for attendees to learn more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the importance of creating supportive communities for alcohol-free pregnancies. Attendees wore red in support of the Red Shoes Rock Campaign which encourages Australians to wear red shoes or socks throughout September, to spark conversations and create an understanding about this largely invisible and preventable disability.

NACCHO Executive Director, Monica Barolits-McCabe spoke at the event, highlighting the significant impact of the Strong Born Campaign, which includes strength-based communications resources, culturally appropriate health information for women and families, and educational materials for the ACCHO workforce.

“The campaign also supports opportunities to bring communities together to create safe places to yarn about the impacts of alcohol and pregnancy… led by the ACCHO sector.”

“As challenging as some of these conversations are, unless we’re having them in an intelligent and culturally safe way, we are never going to make a dent in this issue,” Ms Barolits-McCabe said.

Also speaking at the launch, Minister Butler said, “We know this is important work and we know, given this is a wholly preventable disability, that this is something we can tick off.”

As part of Red Shoes Rock, more than 50 landmarks across Australia will be lit up red and community events will be held throughout the month.

NACCHO Executive Director, Monica Barolits-McCabe at the FASD Awareness Month launch.

Protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledges

Pakana woman and Vice-President, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander of the Public Health Association of Australia, Dr Alana Gall says amid a global focus on the importance of traditional medicines, stronger protections are needed for Indigenous knowledges in Australia. While the use of natural products as a basis for pharmaceuticals is somewhat well known, a lesser-known fact is around the exploitation of First Nations traditional medicine knowledge in Australia. For example, the commercial production of a drug made from Duboisia myoporides (commonly known as corkwood), a hybrid of Australian native shrubs used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a sedative and painkiller, is now the backbone of a lucrative multi-million-dollar industry in Australia.

Are First Nations knowledges acknowledged as the basis for this? Do First Nations peoples gain any benefit from sharing their knowledge?

Speaking at a virtual dialogue with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and a group of WHO senior officials about Indigenous traditional medicines from a global perspective, Dr Gall highlighted:

  • The urgent need for the protection of Indigenous knowledges through appropriate legislation.
  • The importance of including respectful approaches to the integration of Indigenous traditional medicines into each country’s health policies.
  • The need for the WHO to hold a regular forum that brings Indigenous voices together globally on these issues.

Read the full Croakey Health Media article here.

Dr Alana Gall, pictured at first World Health Organization Traditional Medicine Global Summit held in India. Dr Michael Kyeremateng (L) and Professor Professor Jon Wardle (R). Image source: Croakey Health Media.

I Pledge to Champion a Respectful Referendum

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health advocates have launched the Respectful Referendum Pledge, a set of principles to encourage respectful conversations in the lead-up to the referendum. Developed by the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA), Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, and the Black Dog Institute the principles aim to reduce social and emotional harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior and post-referendum.

Advocates have warned the government the referendum would have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health. Early evidence has shown the racial tone of the debate has had a negative impact on the mental health of First Nations people. Gamilaroi/Gomeroi man and Director of First Nations Partnership and Strategy at the Black Dog Institute, Dr Clinton Schultz said the impacts are already showing.

“We know the tonality of the debate has a significant effect on mental health impacts. The more divisive the debate, the greater the impact; the more respectful and inclusive, the lesser the impact,” he said.

The Respectful Referendum Pledge asks politicians to:

  • Listen to First Nations people
  • Elevate First Nations voices
  • Provide a safe space for First Nations advocates
  • Build common ground through shared goals
  • Set the standard for respectful debate
  • Use culturally appropriate language
  • Build trust through action

Read the full NITV article here. You can also view Referendum Resilience resources here.

Respectful Referendum Pledge.

Blood cancer booklets

For Blood Cancer Awareness Month (September) a descendant of the Muruwari people, Matthew Doyle will unite with the Leukemia Foundation as a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Matthew lost both of his twin sons, Shawn and Jeremy to blood cancer at the ages of one and two years old. On losing his boys, Matthew says, “There’s not a day that goes past that I don’t think about my children. I think it’s important that people tell their stories.”

Matthew hopes that by joining forces with the Leukemia Foundation as the national ambassador for First Nations people, that he can raise much-needed awareness of blood cancer and the support available to this impacted by the disease. Matthew has designed information booklets written specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander blood cancer patients and harness a rich storytelling culture to help them better understand their diagnosis and what to expect from blood cancer treatment.

“I want to encourage fellow Indigenous Australians experiencing the devastation of blood cancer, to reach out to the Leukemia Foundation to access their support and services,” Mr Doyle said.

“I want people to know that they are not alone. The Leukemia Foundation has a range of resources to help them and their loved ones through this dark time.”

Read more here and find the First Nations blood cancer booklets here.

Page from the Leukemia Foundation First Nations blood cancer booklet.

Let’s Yarn about Sleep

The Let’s Yarn About Sleep (LYAS) program, led by the University of Queensland, combined Western science with Indigenous cultural teachings to improve sleep health in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The aim of the program is to give kids the tools and knowledge about the spiritual, mental, and physical importance of sleep and encourage them to put it into practice. First to graduate from the LYAS, John aged 14 said it had a life-changing impact.

“I chuck my phone on the desk on the other side of the room.

“I’ve started passing my grades at school and getting Bs and As and it’s pretty good,” he said.

Waanyi Garawa Gangalidda woman Karen Chong, who is Australia’s first qualified Indigenous sleep coach, has been educating program participants in Mount Isa. She said empowering young people with tools such as an actigraphy device worn on the wrist to track sleeping and waking routines and easy tips and tricks on how to get a good night’s sleep had resulted in high engagement in the program.

“Sleep is important for Aboriginal people because it is a time when we connect with our Dreaming, with our ancestors, and when we draw inspiration and creativity for the expression of our culture,” Ms Chong said.

Read the full ABC article here.

Sleep coach Waanyi Garawa Gangalidda woman Karen Chong. Image Source: ABC News.

COVID-19 vax competition offering HUGE prizes

6 ACCHOs and 15 creative people can win return flights, accommodation, and tickets for up to 3 ACCHO staff members to attend the NACCHO’s Members’ Conference in Perth this October.

Enter the COVID-19 Vaccination promotion competition by submitting a deadly video advertisement/promotion that represents the theme: Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is looking after yourself, for your chance to win! Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the theme: Getting a COIVD-19vaccination is looking after yourself
  • Composition
  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Appropriateness for the target age group: Category 1 – kids 5–12 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 2 – teens and adults 13–49 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 3 – older adults 50+ (in the ACCHO community).

There are 3 amazing prizes up for grabs:

Category 1

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prizeincludes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 2

  • First Prizeincludes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prizeincludes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 3

  • First Prizeincludes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

This is an opportunity for you to really show who and what your community is like, and the best ways to communicate with them.

We encourage teams to be creative with the theme. Is the best way to get your mob interested, through humour? Being strong and serious? Telling a story? Addressing negative stereotypes?

Be open to the possibilities of what ‘self-care’ looks like. Self-care could be 30-year-olds discussing the importance of getting the vaccination; or 70-year-olds spinning around the basketball courts because they’re fit and healthy and vaccinated; or tie your promotion to building community strength and vitality.

The more original and community-oriented, the better.

You can access a competition Entry Form here.

The Terms and Conditions for the competition are available here.

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 – Women’s Health Week

The theme for this year’s Women’s Health Week (4-8 September) is ‘Grow your knowledge.’ It is all about supporting women to make informed decisions about their health with information that is easy to understand.

Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation held a Women’s Health Expo to celebrate, with stalls to encourage discussions and education around Women’s health.

On Facebook, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane said, “This week, encourage your sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, and friends to priorities their health and well-being by booking in for a health check.

“Through regular health checks you can identify and prevent chronic health issues early.”

Learn more about Women’s Health Week here.

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