NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Constitutional Reform important for the improvement of health outcomes for Indigenous Australians

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.

Constitutional Reform important for the improvement of health outcomes for Indigenous Australians

Australian Constitutional Reform important for the improvement of health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Pat Turner CEO of NACCHO states, “A Voice and recognition of Indigenous Australians is critical if there is going to be long term sustainable improvements to health outcomes for our peoples. Currently programs and policies are at the whim of whoever the Minister is and the senior executives of Government Departments.”

“During COVID we were fortunate that our voices were listened to by the then Minister and Dr Brendan Murphy, Secretary of the Department of Health. There were no deaths of our peoples from COVID in the first 18 months and vaccinations and antivirals were allocated taking into account the level of burden of disease is 2.3 times that of other Australians.

“More recently, Minister Butler has supported our submission to address cancer in our communities.  While the mortality rates have been declining for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for at least two decades, there has been an uptrend in cancer mortality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The situation is far worse in regional, remote and very remote areas. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to be diagnosed with localised disease and are less likely to receive treatment than other Australians. The discrepancy in five-year survival rate between major cities and remote areas is particularly stark for certain cancers, including lung cancer (12 per cent compared with 6 per cent) and head and neck cancer (47 per cent compared with 31 per cent).

Pat Turner goes on to say, “The state of Indigenous health in this country is appalling and is the main reason governments have not listened to our advice and have not taken action on the statistics before them and certainly have not provided the funds required. Our study shows there is a conservative $4.4 billion gap in health funding between what is spent on non-Indigenous Australians. That’s $5,000 for each Aboriginal person per year.”

“Having worked in Government as a senior executive for decades I strongly believe having a Voice written into the Australian Constitution together with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is the best way to improve living conditions and health outcomes for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Donnella Mills, Chair of NACCHO, “The NACCHO board agrees with the Voice and Recognition being written into the Australian Constitution and I am proud to have been part of developing the Uluru Statement.  There is no doubt Australia is a divided country.  In Cairns where I live and other places nationally there are hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease, and we are 55 times more likely to die of the disease as youth than other Australians. We have had two deaths from tuberculosis in the last year, babies dying from congenital syphilis and trachoma.  These are diseases of poverty and diseases seen in Third World countries and haven’t existed in non-Indigenous Australian population in decades. They are diseases that result from overcrowded and poor housing, lack of clean water and limited health care funding.”

“Most of our people were rounded up and placed in artificial environments and mixing the different language groups with their movements restricted with Acts of Parliament. Look at Palm Island as an example or Mapoon. It is now time to make us equal through Recognition and a Voice to Parliament and the Executive in the Australian Constitution.

Find the media release here

Supporting our community: online Social and Emotional Wellbeing Resources during the Voice referendum 

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet have launched a portal that brings together a collection of resources aimed at supporting and reducing social and emotional harms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior and post the Voice referendum

The wellbeing resources have been made freely available on the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and Community, including new Pause, Breathe, Connect wellbeing resources developed by The Healing Foundation. Building Connection, Strength, Resilience is at the heart of these resources, which comprise, factsheets, support websites, apps, posters, videos and other critical tools.

The launch comes as the negative impacts of the debate increasingly affect the social, emotional and mental health wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Pat Turner said, “We are witnessing first-hand the adverse consequences of this debate within our communities, manifesting as heightened psychological distress, an increased demand for assistance, and a rise in the utilisation of social and emotional wellbeing and mental health services. The resources we’ve developed are not the answer but are critical tools to help keep our Community safe and well”.

The Healing Foundation Acting Chief Executive Officer Shannan Dobson said, “These resources have tools and tips on managing stress for self, family and community and managing increased misinformation. As well as managing challenging conversations and ways to stay safe. While these resources are for the current heightened racism, they are useful tools for our mob for general wellbeing.”

HealthInfoNet Director Professor Neil Drew said, “We are proud to partner with NACCHO to provide support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during this nation defining referendum.  National debates of this kind can involve difficult and challenging conversations and it is important that we care for ourselves and others during and after the referendum campaign”.

For support, please contact an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation (ACCHO) near you. To find an ACCHO in your area click here. If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well or have increased anxiety and depression you can seek help from:

Read the media release here

First Nations residential rehabilitation facility on Ngunnawal Country

Canberra’s first dedicated residential rehabilitation facility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a step closer to reality with the development application for a revamped $49 million health precinct now open for community feedback. Winnunga Nimmityjah will run the new 24-bed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential rehab facility.

CEO Julie Tongs described the service as a “real game changer” for the region.

“We need to keep people out of prisons. We need to stop sending our mob interstate for residential rehab because they do really, really well when they go away, but then it’s not very long once they come back that they fall into the same old patterns,” she said.

“With our own residential rehab here, we can then integrate people back into their families and back into the community so that they have the strategies and can fall back on us if they need support.”

Read the full article here.

Concept render of the new Watson health precinct. Image source: ACT Government.

60-day prescriptions webinar

As of 1 September 2023, nearly 100 common medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will have the option of a 60-day prescription. This means many patients living with an ongoing health condition can now receive twice the medication for the cost of a single prescription. On Tuesday 26 September, pharmacists are invited to a webinar to discuss the 60-day prescriptions of selected PBS medicines.

The webinar will take place between 2.30pm and 3.30pm AEST. Find more details here.

Preventative dental training grants

The Victorian Government has announced a second round of training grants for Aboriginal health practitioners to take part in preventative dental training. The grants are now open for practitioners wanting to become accredited in the application of fluoride varnish, a preventative dental treatment that helps reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Participating ACCHOs can apply for grants of up to $45,000 – with a total of $650,000 allocated. Acting Minister for Health, as well as Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Gabrielle Williams, announced the new grants on Friday.

“We know that poor oral health can contribute to longer term health issues making the upskilling of our Aboriginal health practitioners to deliver preventative dental care so important,” she said.

The latest funding follows an initial round of the initiative earlier in the year, which saw eight Aboriginal health practitioners become accredited. These included the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative, Mallee District Aboriginal Services; with locations in Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang, and Njernda Aboriginal Corporation in Echuca.

Expressions of Interest for the second round of the program are now open until Wednesday 27 September.

Read the full National Indigenous Times articles here.

Image source: Unsplash.

Picture books celebrate maternal and child health milestones.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services has partnered with Mildura Rural City Council to source culturally relevant and age-appropriate books for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The Maternal and Child Health service nurses will distribute the books when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families bring their babies and children to a key age and stage milestone visits. Free MCH visits are recommended at ten important milestones from birth until a child starts school.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services CEO, Darlene Thomas said the organisation was proud to donate children’s books that celebrate Aboriginal culture.

“We know that reading aloud to children and sharing stories is critical in developing literacy skills and strengthening family relationships. Engaging our children with culturally relevant stories is a powerful way that we can promote reading, connection, and curiosity from an early age,” Ms Thomas said.

Read more here.

Image source: The Sector.

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.

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