- “There will be relief one way or another, but… you can never un-ring a bell” – The mental health impact of the Voice to Parliament
- Inquiry into Diabetes
- The rights of First Nations people with disability are tied to physical, cultural and spiritual health and wellbeing, Royal Commission finds
- Rates of preventable blindness have halved but to beat trachoma we need better housing
- Water treatment upgrades for Mowanjum
- Sector Jobs
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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.
“There will be relief one way or another, but… you can never un-ring a bell” – The mental health impact of the Voice to Parliament
Cultural load can be described as the invisible workload placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to provide knowledge, education, and support to those around them on First Nations issues. NACCHO has distributed $7.8 million of government funding toward mental health programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the lead-up to the referendum. NACCHO executive director, Monica Barolits McCabe said an increase in racism and discrimination towards First Nations people had seen a spike in suicide rates and calls for support amongst communities across the nation.
“It’s uglier than ever than I’ve experienced, and I think many of us have,” she said.
“People are coming up, they’re challenging us. It’s like, OK, this is an Aboriginal issue, so it’s free rein.
“Social media, walking down the street, in your own front yards, various other things.”
For Ms Barolits McCabe, juggling the enormous load, both in the workplace and her personal life, has been only part of the challenge.
“I can’t go a day without being asked by random people, ‘How am I voting? What do I think? Convince me to vote one way or another,” she said.
“It’s absolutely exhausting to be honest.”
13YARN reported a 108% increase in callers reporting abuse, racism, and trauma between March and June. Ms Barolits McCabe also has concerns about the continued impact the referendum debate could have on communities long after October 14.
“There will be relief one way or another, but… you can never un-ring a bell,” she said.
“The exposure to the high levels of ugliness and racism that we’ve experienced in discrimination… across all areas, where we wouldn’t normally want to see it or experience it, it is not going to just be fixed overnight.
“All the trauma is not going to go away. It’s still going to be there for quite some time.”
Access NACCHO’s Voice Referendum: Social and Emotional Wellbeing Resources and Information here.
If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well, or have increased anxiety and depression you can seek immediate help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from:
Read the full ABC News article Voice to Parliament referendum impacting mental health of Indigenous Australians as charities report increase in racism here.
Inquiry into Diabetes
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are grossly over-represented in the diabetes burden of disease compared to other Australians. The prevalence of diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is three times the national rate for non-Indigenous people, and youth onset type 2 diabetes is rising rapidly. There is an urgent need for earlier diagnosis and a focus on prevention. Last month, NACCHO submitted an Inquiry into Diabetes to the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport. The inquiry makes 17 recommendations, including that Government adopts a ‘health in all policies’ approach, recognising that health outcomes are influenced by a wide range of social, commercial, political, environmental, and cultural determinants.
The Inquiry into Diabetes also recommends Government work in partnership with the sector and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop better health programs to support young people with diabetes. It comes as NACCHO members report a worrying trend in which young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consider a diabetes diagnosis to be inevitable. ACCHOs report a sense of doom in young people and a limited sense of agency that could support them to make healthier choices.
Another recommendation is for diabetes funding to be allocated based on burden of disease, not population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disease burden at 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to receive the same level of services as the general population, additional recurrent expenditure is needed to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access culturally safe comprehensive primary healthcare, which is key to reducing the burden of disease.
Read the full submission, with all recommendations here.
The rights of First Nations people with disability are tied to physical, cultural and spiritual health and wellbeing, Royal Commission finds
The Australian Government has been urged to establish a Disability Rights Act to recognise, protect and advance the human rights of people with disability in the final report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability published on Friday 29 September. The report calls for culturally safe support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. It also calls for a raise to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, cessation of certain restrictive practices in health and mental health settings, and equitable access to healthcare for people with disability.
Findings from the report state that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability should receive healthcare that is culturally safe and recognises the importance of their connection to community and Country.
“The rights of First Nations people with disability are tied to physical, cultural and spiritual health and wellbeing,” the Commission said in an additional brochure that was published to describe what was heard from First Nations people with disability and some of the changes needed to create a country where First Nations people with disability are included.
The Commission heard that the experiences of First Nations people with disability “cannot be separated from the ongoing impacts of colonisation, intergenerational trauma and racism”.
Some recommendations include to:
- Strengthen the voices of First Nations people with disability through a First Nations Disability Forum
- Revise the Disability Sector Strengthening Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap
- Develop disability-inclusive cultural safety standards for disability service provision
- Boost the First Nations disability workforces in remote communities.
Rates of preventable blindness have halved but to beat trachoma we need better housing
Between 2011 and 2021 rates of trachoma dropped from 7% to 3.3% of children aged 5-9 screened in remote communities. The number of hotspots has also fallen, from 21 to three, and the disease is on its way to being eradicated. AMSANT chief executive, John Paterson says working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has been the key to dropping trachoma rates.
“The sooner you involve Aboriginal communities in these processes, you’re much better off getting a better outcome,” he said.
Overall, rates of preventable blindness have been halved. However, health advocates say there is still more to do, and the complete eradication of trachoma is reliant on housing. Mr Paterson says housing should be the “number one priority” given good hygiene is essential to eradicating the disease.
“We need to avoid the current overcrowding where we have 25 to 30 people residing in a house [with] three bedrooms, one both, one toilet,” he said.
Read the full ABC News article here.
Water treatment upgrades for Mowanjum
Mowanjum, near Derby, Western Australia, is the first community to receive improved water infrastructure under the Western Australia Government’s commitment to raise the standard of water services in Aboriginal communities across the state. The community-led project was delivered by an Aboriginal-owned contractor, Kimberley Civil and Drainage, and involved construction of two new wastewater treatment ponds and relining the existing treatment ponds. The upgrades will enhance the operational and environmental performance of the plant and support future population growth in the community.
Western Australia Water Minister, Simone McGurk, said, “Everyone has the right to safe and reliable water services, which is why the Cook Government is committed to ensuring that Aboriginal communities across Western Australia receive water services that meet or exceed the relevant standard under Closing the Gap.
“The upgrades in Mowanjum are the first, important step for this long-term program, which will progressively upgrade water infrastructure in Aboriginal communities over the next ten years.
“By working together with the communities, Water Corporation will not only be improving water services but also helping affect long-term change that improves the health and wellbeing of residents.”
Read more here.
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.