NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: What the impact of the Voice could be

feature tile: Dr Louis Peachey standing with forest background; text: 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor explains what the impact of the Voice could be'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Louis Peachey from the Personal Stories webpage of the National Rural Health Alliance website.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torre

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.s Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

What the impact of the Voice could be

When Dr Louis Peachey, who belongs to the Girrimay and Djirribal people of the Djirribaligan language group of Far North Qld, graduated from the University of Newcastle he was one of only four Indigenous doctors in Australia. When asked “Oh, Louis, what was your secret?” Dr Peachey says he was just lucky, he just managed to not get blown up by the warfare of racism. He said the truth is, there’s nothing special that he did. While he has a bunch of cousins who he says “have made a good fist of their lives” with trades and university degrees, there’s a massive bunch of them who are still stuck in that world of poverty.

There are people like me out there who can give you an opinion as to what would be an appropriate way to do things, but even we don’t get listened to. We are the people who some in the No campaign refer to as “elites”. If you do survive the horror that happens to you at school, and manage to find yourself at a university and get a good education, you can now be de-legitimised by being referred to as an “elite”. The difference, of course, between Indigenous elites and non-Indigenous elites is that 99% of the Indigenous elites are one relationship away from poverty.

Dr Peachey if governments could just come and have a chat with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, “we might be able to direct you. That’s what we’re asking for with the Voice. We know we’ve got problems in our community and we’ve got some ideas.” Dr Peachey said “the Voice is a modest change. It’s something very simple that we’re asking, you know. Former chief justices of the High Court have all told us this is a simple thing.” According to Dr Peachey, most Australians, if they were just able to understand what was actually being asked, would see that it’s a tiny risk for a potential big gain.

To view the ABC News article Louis Peachey was one of Australia’s first Indigenous doctors. He doesn’t know how he survived the horror of racism at school in full click here.

RAAF supports ACCHO to provide dental services

Air Force personnel will support the Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS) during October 2023 to provide dental services in a part of WA where access to timely dental treatment can be challenging. The exercise, known as Exercise Kummundoo, will give Air Force personnel the opportunity to engage directly with Indigenous Australians on their ancestral lands, while honing their dentistry skills under different conditions to operating in a base environment.

Officer in charge of the exercise, Flight Lieutenant Maryam Ferooz, said she felt honoured to lead the exercise. “My team are driven by a sense of purpose, and delivering dental care, as well as oral health training and advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia is a real privilege,” Flight Lieutenant Ferooz said.

“This collaborative endeavour is a testament to the strong ties between Defence and Indigenous communities, demonstrating the importance of working together to address critical health needs. The team will also run community sessions to help highlight the importance of good oral health and healthy lifestyle choices, and provide defence career information.” Exercise Kummundoo is being held throughout October in collaboration with NACCHO, and Derby Aboriginal Health Service.

You can read the RAAF media release Airforce supports dental services in Derby in full here.

You can also read a related article A Dentistry graduate in the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) published on the Griffith University website, about RAAF Dental Officer Flight Lieutenant Max Moody’s work on Exercise Kummundoo leading a diverse team of RAAF personnel in working closely with Indigenous communities around Broome, in full here.

RAAF Dental Officer with young ATSI boy

RAAF Dental Officer Flight Lieutenant Max Moody. Image source: Griffith University website.

Aunty Pat Anderson addresses Qld ACCHO sector

Alyawarre woman, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, a co-architect of the Uluru Dialogues, has emphasised that a ‘yes’ vote in the Voice referendum has the potential to significantly improve the future health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Yesterday, Thursday 5 October 2023, she addressed the ACCHO sector in Brisbane. “It’s been a long journey to equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and today, Australia stands on the precipice of momentous change,” she said.

ACCHO is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community.”We can become a fairer and more just society; a society where there is health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Aunty Pat said. “A society where Aboriginal children can get a healthy start in life and achieve their full health potential. Health could be a big winner if Australia votes ‘yes’. It means we will be able to get down and deal with the big health issues, like Australia having some of the world’s highest recorded rates of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.”

Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) Chairman Matthew Cooke said the Voice aligns with their philosophy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in healthcare. As the leading body representing ACCHOs in Queensland, they acknowledged the ongoing efforts needed to fulfill the government’s promise of Closing the Gap. “We believe a Voice is critical if there is going to be long-term sustainable gains in health outcomes for our peoples,” he said. “Accessible and equitable comprehensive primary health care is a basic human right for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

The above has been extracted from an article  Uluru Dialogue’s architect meets with health sector in Meanjin published in the National Indigenous Times yesterday, Thursday 5 October 2023.

Cleveland Fagan, Adrian Carson, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, Matthew Cooke, Kava Watson, Joshua Hollingsworth with QIAHC signage in background

Cleveland Fagan, Adrian Carson, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, Matthew Cooke, Kava Watson, Joshua Hollingsworth. Photo: Joseph Guenzler. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Suicide rates increase after extreme drought

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

The impact on mental health of weather extremes such as drought is a growing concern due to climate change. Rural communities feel the impact of drought much more than urban residents. New research from the University of Adelaide has looked at the link between drought and suicide rates in one of Australia’s biggest farming areas, the Murray-Darling Basin. The research findings were alarming, for instance, one more month of extreme drought in the previous 12 months was strongly associated with a 32% increase in monthly suicide rates.

Climate change is predicted to bring more heat and longer, more extreme droughts. More effective approaches will be needed to prevent suicides in affected regions. Droughts induce post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Hotter temperatures can also reduce levels of the brain chemical serotonin. This has negative effects on the  central nervous system and moods. In Australia, suicide is a leading cause of death – especially for people aged 18-44. And the suicide rate in remote areas is almost double that of major cities.

Some of the key findings of the research were:

  • in males and younger age groups, suicide rates are more strongly associated with extreme drought and higher temperatures
  • a higher proportion of First Nations people in a local area was also associated with higher suicide rates
  • an increase in average annual household income moderated the relationship between higher temperature and suicide
  • the association between moderate drought and suicide rates is significant but the effect was small. As the drought becomes extreme, suicide rates increase significantly.

To read The Conversation article Suicide rates increased after extreme drought in the Murray-Darling Basin – we have to do better as climate change intensifies in full click here.

IDarling River downstream of Menindee ran dry for years after the July 2016 drought

The Darling River downstream of Menindee ran dry for years after the July 2016 drought. Photo: Isabel Dayman, ABC News.If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76,

Lifeline – 13 11 14,

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636,

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

When you listen you get better results – it’s that simple

In an Opinion Piece published in The Daily Advertiser yesterday, the Hon Emma McBride MP, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health said: “When you listen, you get better results. It’s that simple. It is what health professionals do every day, in the pharmacy dispensary, in the clinic treatment room, at the bedside. It’s what I did as a hospital pharmacist in a regional hospital for nearly a decade. If we don’t ask, and we don’t properly listen, how can we possibly understand the situation?”

“Here in the Riverina an innovative program is boosting the rates of breastfeeding among Indigenous women. The project is led by Aboriginal people and improving infant health. Breastfeeding for the first few months of a child’s life is recommended to give infants the best start in life: it supports early child development, reduces the risk of illness and death in the early years and reduces the risk of unhealthy weight in childhood and later life.”

“Breastfeeding among First Nations women is consistently lower than the rest of the Australian population. The project is developing lactation training designed by First Nations women for First Nations women. It is fostering an environment where mothers feel safe and understood. The project is a small-scale but meaningful example of the kind of progress that listening can make towards closing the gap. It is the same kind of listening that can come from a Voice to Parliament. Imagine what we could achieve on a national scale if we had the advice of a Voice to get better value for money, improve health care and save lives.”

To view the opinion piece When you listen, you get better results – it’s that simple in full click here.

You can also read a related article Government will keep doing ‘really bad job’ at Indigenous disadvantage without Voice: Leeser published earlier today by Crikey here.

RivMed acting mental health team leader Marnie Lenehan and senior drug and alcohol worker Kenneth Neale with Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride

RivMed acting mental health team leader Marnie Lenehan and senior drug and alcohol worker Kenneth Neale with Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride on Wednesday this week. Photo: Les Smith. Image source: The Daily Advertiser.

More needed to protect women and children

A leading Indigenous human rights and anti-violence expert has called for more effort from the WA government and police to protect Aboriginal women and children. At the Senate Inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children hearings held in Perth this week Dr Hannah McGalde told Senator Paul Scarr and Dorinda Cox: “We know that many children, Aboriginal children, are being removed because of violence to women, their mothers.”

“The punitive approach that’s been adopted particularly in WA, has resulted in large numbers of Aboriginal children being removed and experiencing often lack of cultural safety in their placements,” she said. Dr McGlade said many Indigenous women are reluctant to reach out to police out of fear they will be discriminated against or not taken seriously when reporting charges made against them.

Dr McGlade noted the apology  made by WA police several years ago, and said there was a ceremony during NAIDOC Week but alleged no actions were followed through. “Actions can be window dressing if not followed through with appropriate commitment or if the committee is established,” she said. “Then they should really be having a firm commitment to human rights training, addressing racism in all aspects. Including how it impacts Indigenous women and girls, who are often treated as offenders rather than victims, that’s a form of racial profiling.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article WA government and police are failing Indigenous women and children, Senate inquiry hears in full click here.

Dr Hannah McGlade portrait shot

Dr Hannah McGlade is an Associate Professor at the Curtin University. Photo: IndigenousX website. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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