NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Portal to assist with impact of Voice debate

feature tile image of young ATSI girl with white body paint, with Aboriginal flag in background; text 'NACCHO’s new online portal to assist with negative impact of Voice debate'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Indigenous recognition is more than a Voice to Government – it’s a matter of political equality published in The Conversation on 26 February 2021. Photo: Darren England, AAP.

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.

Portal to assist with impact of Voice debate

As experiences of racism and violence both online and in person continue to increase for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the lead up to the referendum, NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, a Gudanji-Arrente woman and Senior Advisor on the Voice to Parliament, flagged concern about the adverse consequences of the debate within communities.

In an effort to address the concern, NACCHO together with the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet have joined forces to create an online portal of helpful health resources. “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,” Ms Turner said. “The resources we’ve developed are not the answer but are critical tools to help keep our Community safe and well”.

First Nations people, organisations and communities now have access to an extensive online portal, available here, complete with essential resources for supporting and reducing social and emotional harms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior and post the Voice referendum. “These resources have tools and tips on managing stress for self, family and community and managing increased misinformation,” Healing Foundation acting CEO Shannan Dobson said. All experts in the field of wellbeing and mental health are urging community members to reach out to ACCHOs for assistance.

To view the National Indigenous Times article NACCHO’s new online portal to assist with negative impact of Voice debate in full click here.

tile with text '6 ways to look after yourself and mob during The Voice referendum debate'

Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website.

Welfare checks urged as abuse skyrockets

The head of a First Nations crisis support service has urged Indigenous people to keep welfare tabs on each other after an influx of abuse was reported in the lead-up to the Voice to Parliament referendum. 13YARN national program manager, Aunty Marj Anderson, said the Voice debate was having widespread impact on Indigenous people’s mental health and appealed for a more respectful debate ahead of the October 14 referendum.

She has urged people to check on one another after the 13YARN crisis helpline reported a record number of calls from people experiencing racism and abuse online. “We all need to be taking care of each other in the community,” Ms Anderson said. “If you see someone being sad in the community, go up and say ‘you right or what? How can I help you?”

The crisis support service was established in March 2022 by the former Coalition government to provide 24/7 help to First Nations people in distress. Lifeline, the provider of 13YARN, said data from the service showed the increase in reported abuse or trauma coincided with the start of the Voice referendum proposal. 13YARN counsellors were expected to field about 40 to 60 cases per day, but the service recently reported a 108% increase in calls, with 7,573 taken from October to December last year.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Welfare checks urged as Indigenous abuse skyrockets during Voice debate in full click here.

13YARN National Program Manager Aunty Marj Anderson standing at edge of an oval

13YARN National Program Manager Aunty Marj Anderson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Being an effective ally for self-determination

Joanne Bolton, Director (Acting), Curriculum Lead, Collaborative Practice Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne has reflected on the word “Self-determination” which she said entered her vocabulary about 10 years ago, while she was learning more about what it means to be an Indigenous ally. Ms Bolton said that looking at the definition from the Australian Human Rights Commission – “in a practical sense, self-determination means that we have the freedom to live well, to determine what it means to live well according to our own values and beliefs” – it felt to her like something most people living in Australia would say is a good thing for a country to aspire to.

Ms Bolton said the phrase “Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands” is the perfect example of self-determination; supporting the freedom to live well – specifically to receive high-quality healthcare experiences – according to communities’ values and beliefs. She said since the first ACCHO in Redfern in 1971, ACCHOs have grown to meet the need for culturally responsive and self-determined healthcare across Australia, and have excellent health, social and cultural outcomes, that benefit everyone.

Ms Bolton cited lawyer and constitutional law researcher  Dr Shireen Morris, who said “The only risk in giving Indigenous people a voice, and allowing better debate and discussion in Indigenous affairs, is that Indigenous policy and outcomes might be improved. This would be good for Indigenous people, and good for the nation”.

To view the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit article Being an effective ally for self-determination in full click here.

tin wall with pealing posted of Aboriginal flag & word 'RESPECT'

Photo: Loren Elliott, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Accolade for outstanding leadership in mental health

Megan Krakouer is the winner of a 2023 Australian Mental Health Prize which recognises and celebrates outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level. Ms Krakouer is considered a First Nations rights beacon involved in reshaping laws and advocating for the marginalised. Megan Krakouer’s far-reaching impact is visible across Australia as she passionately advocates at events and in her written work.

Ms Krakouer said “I’ve seen too many life support machines turned off young ones before their time! We are not put on this earth to bury our children! We can’t ignore the underlying causes: the crushing weight of poverty, the poison of discrimination, and the barriers to education that push these young souls to such desperation. What’s needed is unshakable support systems and taking decisive action. Concrete steps and direct assistance is what’s needed. It’s on all of us to step up, shield these vulnerable lives, and nurture them with care and urgency.”

Especially poignant is her call to action on the devastating rates of First Nations youth suicide, with a staggering 80% of Australian child suicides occurring among First Nations children aged 12 and below. Megan’s urgent plea for change resonates as she addresses the root causes – poverty, discrimination, and limited access to education – and emphasises the dire need for robust support systems, psychosocial interventions, and affirmative measures to prevent further loss of life.

To listen the the NITV Radio podcast episode Megan Krakouer wins accolade celebrating outstanding leadership in mental health for First Nations people in full click here.

Megan Krakouer on bench with 3 young children

Megan Krakouer traverses the expanse of Australia to effect positive change. She speaks at events and writes articles advocating for better outcomes for First Nations Australians. In particular, she draws attention to the distressing rates of suicide among Indigenous youth, specifically those aged 12 and below. Image source: NITV Radio.

Health leader shares reasons for ‘Yes’ vote

Scott Willis is a proud Palawa man from Burnie, who has lived and worked in northern lutruwita/Tasmania for more than 30 years. He is the first Indigenous National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and a former Clinical Council Member of Primary Health Tasmania. On 14 October, Mr Willis said he “will drive to my local polling station in northern Tasmania and vote ‘Yes’ to a proposed law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. I will vote with confidence in the knowledge that self-determination and cultural safety are determinants of health, and that a Voice, Truth and Treaties, will move this nation toward closing the gap and reconciliation.”

“I know this as a health practitioner, I know it as Palawa, and I know it as someone who has dug deep and waded through many other people’s opinions and arguments to form my own, very personal view. Every day, in my clinic, I experience racism. I often hear that ‘Indigenous people get everything for free and just want more and more’, or ‘we don’t want to work, and our priorities are not worthy of any more funding or power, as they will inevitably be abused’.

“The barriers and prejudices that divide us, the inequities they lead to, will not stop on October 14. We will not wake up the next day and find that the one in three First Nations people who don’t access healthcare when they need to because of discrimination, suddenly trust the health system. Recognition, consultation and the building of respectful dialogue and trust is how we get to better health outcomes for First Nations people in Australia. It’s the right direction, and we know it. If we don’t, we haven’t been listening.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article After more than 30 years in clinical practice, this health leader shares his reasons for a ‘Yes’ vote in full click here.

Scott Willis, proud Palawa man, Burnie, TAS

Proud Palawa man, Scott Willis. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Health checks reaching women most in need

University of Queensland (UQ) research has found general practitioners are proactively providing preventative health checks to women in mid-life who need it most, possibly due to sufficient Medicare rebates. The research analysed data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to determine whether preventative health checks were being carried out on women in mid-life with the greatest need.

Clinical Research Fellow, Professor Jenny Doust from UQ’s School of Public Health said researchers also wanted to know if a patient’s economic position might be also a barrier to accessing preventative health care. “The types of preventative health checks generally available for women aged between 40-49 years are checks for those at risk of type 2 diabetes and chronic disease, as well as a heart health check,” Professor Doust said.

“The research found that women were more likely to have had health checks if they had risk factors for chronic disease, which was in contrast to previous research which found that fewer GP practitioner services are provided to people with unhealthy lifestyles.” The findings were mirrored in a recent study looking at the uptake of health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which found these went to those who had the greatest healthcare needs. “Our work shows that, in Australian primary care, people who need preventive care the most are more likely to receive it,” Professor Doust said. “We often hear about the inverse care law, that is the ability to access healthcare varies inversely with need. Our study shows that the inverse care law doesn’t seem to apply here.”

To read the SCIMEX article Preventative health checks reaching women most in need in full click here.
male GP taking blood pressure of elderly ATSI woman

Image source: Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service website.

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