NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: ‘Indigenous paradigm’ to tackle RHD

feature tile image of Dr Jessica O'Brien & text 'Applying an 'Indigenous Paradigm' to tackle RHD'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Jessica O’Brien from an article Q&A with Dr Jessica O’Brien published on the Heart Foundation website.

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.

‘Indigenous Paradigm’ to tackle RHD

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) tells us that the median age at death for Indigenous Australians with RHD is 43, with half of those who died aged under 45. Three years ago, cardiologist and Monash PhD student Jessica O’Brien began an important heart research project looking at ways to understand a potentially fatal but preventable disease affecting mainly young Indigenous Australians – rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

Then, two-thirds of the way into it, everything changed. After all her clinical and research training in a biomedical system, O’Brien underwent a kind of academic and cultural awakening in terms of Indigenous health and the problems with what the researchers describe as an overwhelmingly “colonial” health system.

Dr O’Brien said she began talking with Professor Karen Adams, Director of Gukwonderuk, the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences’ Indigenous engagement unit at Monash University, about the paradigmatic clash between biomedicine and Indigenous health. “What I needed to learn is, how do we make our very colonial hospital and medical systems appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I’m Aboriginal myself, but I’m new to Indigenous research. I’m only now learning and trying to apply new ideas in an Indigenous research paradigm.”

To read the Monash University Lens article Applying an ‘Indigenous paradigm’ to tackle rheumatic heart disease in full click here.

young Aboriginal boy having RHD heart check

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Nyikina woman wins Human Rights Award

Today, Janine Dureau was announced as the 2023 Bill Armstrong AO Human Rights Award winner at an online event livestreamed from Vancouver, Canada. Hosted by Community First Development, an Aboriginal community development and research organisation, the Award provides an opportunity to identify and honour those who are doing outstanding work with First Nations’ people and communities, exemplifying self-determination in practice.

This year, the fourth year of this Award, Community First Development received many strong and worthy nominations, including for several inspiring First Nations’ leaders. “The Bill Armstrong AO Award has gone global. As well as our presenting team coming from different continents this year, this extended reach was also reflected in the range of nominations of people working in support of the human rights of First Nations Peoples across different countries and continents… including for several inspiring First Nations’ leaders.”

Following the Panel’s deliberations, Janine Dureau, a Derby born Nyikina woman, was announced as the 2023 Award winner in recognition of her passion and dedication to empowering and strengthening the capacity of Aboriginal people, families and communities to improve their quality of life. Over a 30-year period, Janine has led several campaigns and initiatives focused on culture and leadership for and on behalf of the Aboriginal community. She is currently the Chair of the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council which she established with the support of 100 Aboriginal women.

To view the Community First Development media release Tireless efforts of two inspiring First Nations women recognised at Human Rights Award click here.

L-R: Janine Dureau, Chairperson at the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council; Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, Commissioner for Children and Young People; June Oscar, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mary O’Reeri, Former Local Hero Award Winner

L-R: Janine Dureau, Chairperson at the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council; Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, Commissioner for Children and Young People; June Oscar, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mary O’Reeri, Former Local Hero Award Winner. Photo: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. Image source: Community First Development.

FASD Awareness Month

To mark Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day, Saturday 9 September 2023, the Australian Government National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) produced a video explaining FASD. In the video Katerina Giorgi, CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), says that during September – International FASD Awareness Month, we need to draw attention to this often invisible disability by:

  • asking what FASD it means
  • asking what the guidelines say around alcohol and pregnancy
  • hearing the stories of people who are impacted by FASD

NACCHO Executive Director Monica Barolits-McCabe, also featured in the video, said FASD is a fully preventable disability, and “if we have more awareness out there, we take the stigma out of FASD and alcohol consumption.” More conversations about FASD, she said, will result in prevention, earlier screening, early detection and more support.

The third speaker in the video, NOFASD Chief Operating Officer Sophie Harrington, said FASD is often a diagnosis that is misdiagnosed. It can often be seen as other disabilities, and other disorders like autism or ADHD or can masquerade as developmental trauma. Ms Harrington said FASD is preventable only if we understand from the very first time someone decides they want to start trying for a baby, they actually stop drinking.

You view the video below or by clicking on this link.

Dr Demmery: 2023 ACT Woman of Spirit

Dr Karen Demmery, Wiradjuri from Dubbo and Barkindji from Bourke, was kicked out of school in year nine, “My parents had divorced, I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was doing, so then I got into trouble with the police, drugs and alcohol, and my life began spiralling out of control.”

Many years later Dr Demmery is celebrating her win as the 2023 ACT Woman of Spirit. “It’s the first award I’ve ever won,” she says. “I’m so passionate about what I do now, because I know the impact that it can have and obviously there are more people who are needing help.

“Winning, for me, was the coolest thing, next to so many other brilliant women. We don’t do what we do for recognition, but it’s great when we get it. When they read out my name I started laughing, I was not expecting it and I had no speech written.”

When Karen first started her business, it was called the Trauma, Leadership, Mental Health and Coaching Institute. “I know that when you’re in the midst of it, you don’t realise how bad it is,” she says. “These options for help now, what I am doing, is for my grandkids that aren’t even here yet.”

To view the CBR City News article Dr Karen knows trouble, setbacks and success in full click here.

Woman of Spirit Dr Karen Demmery - 4 different poses collage

Woman of Spirit Dr Karen Demmery… “What I do now is really about helping people to figure out why they do what they do, because once you know, then you can change it.” Photos: Andrew Campbell. Image source: CBR City News.

VIC Aboriginal Aged Care Summit

A 2-day Victorian Aboriginal Aged Care Summit to be held in Melbourne from 3–4 October 2023 will commemorate and celebrate the vital role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders play as the heart and soul of their Communities. The summit will be co-convened by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Victorian Committee Aboriginal for Aged Care & Disability (VCAACD).

Abe Ropitini VACCHO’s Executive Director of Population health said at the summit “We’ll be hearing from them (the Elders) about the changes that they have witnessed over their lives and their aspirations for the future of their communities and the quality of life that we need to ensure we maintain for all of our Elders, both Elders that we have now and our emerging Elders as well.”

You can listen to the NITV Radio interview here and find more information about the summit on VACCHO’s website here.

NITV Radio logo banner text ' Victorian Aboriginal Aged Care Summit to discuss what it's like to be an Aboriginal Elder today' & portrait image of Abe Ropitini VACCHO's Executive Director of Population Health

VACCHO’s Executive Director of Population Health, Abe Ropitini. Image source: NITV Radio.

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.

Anniversary of UNDRIP

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday 13 September 2007. The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to Indigenous peoples.

The Declaration is particularly significant because Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, were involved in its drafting.

You can access more information on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website here.

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