NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Feature tile: Aboriginal art on side of tin shed & sign Yes for Hope; text 'Purple House provides model of what 'YES' could achieve'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve published in the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader on 7 October 2023.

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.

Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Within two decades, central Australia has gone from having the worst survival rates on dialysis to the best. In large part the turnaround is due to Purple House, an AACCHO based in Alice Springs. CEO Sarah Brown says Purple House is an example of how Aboriginal people and communities can come up with creative and innovative solutions to issues. Ms Brown believes it shows how an Indigenous voice to parliament could work if voters support the referendum on October 14.

In the late 1990s, Pintupi people from the Western Desert of central Australia were forced to leave their country and families to seek treatment for end-stage renal failure in hospital in Alice Springs or Darwin. 1,000 kms from home and family, they suffered great loneliness and hardship, and weren’t around to pass on cultural knowledge in their communities. In 2000, Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrkurra collaborated on four stunning paintings which were auctioned along with other works at the Art Gallery of NSW, raising over $1m, which was used to start the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation. Now called Purple House, it practises a model of care based around family, country and compassion.

Indigenous people have higher rates of diabetes as well as a higher rate of hospitalisation and death from diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians. Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases were the fifth-leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians in 2015–2019. In that period, 7.3% of Indigenous Australian deaths were due to diabetes, with the rates in remote Australia more than three times higher than non-remote areas. “It’s a little bit complex but the simple answer is that it’s about dispossession, powerlessness, and poverty,” Ms Brown said. “It’s about access to healthy food and clean water. “It’s about access to education, with housing. “It’s about being able to access culturally appropriate services in the place that keeps you strong, with your family around you, so a lot of things that other Australians absolutely take for granted but that Aboriginal people in remote communities still don’t have access to.”

To view the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve in full click here.

The Purple Truck, a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels, in Central Australia

The Purple Truck is a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels which gives patients with end-stage renal failure the chance to return to home for family, cultural or sorry business. Image source: Purple House website.

Why mob have a lower life expectancy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a significantly lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians. The gap in life expectancy is on average 7.8 years for females and 8.6 years for males, though it wasn’t so long ago that it was 20+ years. ‘Why’ is a big question. Dr Zac Turner, who presents a weekly column Ask Doctor Zac says the answer to this question lies within conversations about health, science, economics and government.

Dr Turner believes to work out what can be done requires us to ask the right questions. Having grown up in literally out ‘the Back-o-Bourke’ and several other small rural towns, Dr Turner say it was shocking to him that his Indigenous Australian friends would live on average 20 years less at that time. He said the life expectancy gap is a staggeringly high disparity between populations in one country, especially a developed and prosperous nation. Dr Turner explained that while resources have been given to Indigenous Australians, the non-Indigenous understanding of what needs to happen to create change has been left without proper consultation. In addition, many of the funding routes and opportunities that have been allocated by one government have then been swiftly changed by the next.

Life expectancy is measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and covers not only health, but also social factors such as education, employment, housing and income. These social factors (the social determinants of health) are responsible for at least a third of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. From the outset, Indigenous Australians have higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory illnesses. Indigenous Australians also often experience socio-economic disadvantage, which is closely linked to health outcomes as it limits access to healthcare, nutritious food, and safe housing. Dr Turner believes the continuous feedback from a body such as the Voice may just be the assistance needed to closing this gap.

To view the article ‘Why do Indigenous people have a shorter life expectancy?’ in full click here.

road sign with 179kms to Pindar, 512 Murchison Settlement etc beside dirt road Australian outback

Photo: Tamati Smith, Getty Images. Image source:

On-line Self-Care Yarning Circles

Two senior Aboriginal psychologists from the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association will be hosting a Self-Care Yarning Circle tomorrow Tuesday 10 October 2023.

It is an opportunity for ACCHO and NACCHO Managers to discuss their challenges and get insights into ways to look after their own personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of their team.

Spaces are capped at 25 so sign up now!

  • TOMORROW Tuesday 10 October – to register click here
  • Wednesday 18 October – to register click here

There will also be two Self-Care Yarning Circles available for anyone working at an ACCHO or NACCHO on:

  • Thursday 12 October 2023 – details available here
  • Monday 23 October 2023 – details available here

NACCHO tile 'on-line self-care Yarning Circles for Managers'

Limb loss through amputation a ‘hidden’ disability

The oldest known example of a successful surgical amputation dates back to 31,000 years ago. But in day-to-day life, amputation is not an experience that receives a lot of attention. National Amputee Awareness Week (4–11 October) aims to spotlight the experiences of people who’ve lost a limb. Darrel Sparke is President of Amputees NSW,says the reality for many people who undergo an amputation is a confronting experience, “it’s a hidden community, because amputation makes you want to retreat from society, because now you’re a spectacle. Nobody really gets prepared, there’s nothing else you do in life that gets you prepared for losing a part of your body, in such a visible and highly impacted way.”

There are number of reasons people undergo an amputation, including trauma like a car accident or workplace injury, or cancer and other diseases.  One of the leading causes is diabetes – and it’s a condition that’s on the rise. Australia has the second highest rate of diabetes-related amputations in the OECD. In any given year, about 5,100 Australians with diabetes will undergo an amputation as a result of complications from the condition. However it’s an issue that continues to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. According to Diabetes Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost three times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes.

The serious consequences of this disparity were recently spotlighted by Tanya Hosch, Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the Australian Football League. In August Ms Hosch, who is of Torres Strait Islander descent, stood to speak at the launch of the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, where she shared a deeply personal and real story, “a little over two weeks ago, I had my lower right leg amputated. I have type 2 diabetes and I contracted a related disease, that I have battled for 3 years and across six surgeries, trying to avoid the loss of my limb. I’m not without privilege, and access to services, but still the service design let me down.” In her speech, Ms Hosch advocated for Indigenous-controlled healthcare to improve outcomes.

You can listen to, or read a transcript of, the SBS News Headlines on Health podcast episode Australia’s ‘hidden’ disability – and one of the world’s oldest medical practices in full here.
banner of SBS News podcast 'hidden' disability & ATSI amputee Tanya Hosch

SBS News podcast banner. Australian for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Tanya Hosch, who lost a leg to diabetes. Image source: The Australian.

Never too late for a career change

These days Jennie Waters, 66, runs the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland – but the tale started long before that. A proud Kamilaroi woman, Ms Waters grew up in St George, one of six children born into a bicultural family, “smack bang in the middle of the assimilation period.” She says, that nevertheless, she had a wonderful childhood, loving parents and a wonderful education. She married young and had two children in quick succession. Ms Waters knew she wanted to continue to study, but suddenly that was not an option.

As the kids were growing up Ms Waters was finally in a position in her life to contemplate further study. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) at the University of Southern Queensland as a mature age student she was 35 and graduated in 1996. While studying, Ms Waters worked at the local TAFE college as an Indigenous support officer. After graduating, I was offered a role as the southwest Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-ordinator for Queensland Health.

It was Ms Waters’ daughter who recognised the need for a specialised disability service in our region and eventually Ms Waters decided to start her own business. Indigicare Connect has been running for eight years now and it’s the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland. Indigicare Connect is 100% Indigenous owned and 70% of staff are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The above is an extract from the article Never too late to follow your dreams’: Jennie Waters on her late career change published in the Cairns Post on 7 October 2023.

66 year old Jennie Water St George Managing Director Indigicare Connect, in work uniform standing by river

Jennie Waters. Image source: Cairns Post.

Rural placements offer full scope of practice

Rural health care placements offer a range of students a broader scope of practice in their first years after graduation, according to a recent narrative review published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The review, undertaken by members of seven Australian universities with departments of rural health, explored the efficacy of their programs, as well as the overall benefits of rural placements for students and communities. Ms Sandra Walsh, a Research Assistant with the University of SA Department of Rural Health, was the lead author, “The biggest challenge for rural health right now, and into the future, is growing and sustaining a rural health workforce. Rural placements are one part of that puzzle. We know we can change the way people perceive rural health through rural placement.”

The review found that successful rural placements changed perceptions about rural practice, leading to more students deciding to work rurally. The main reason for the success of rural placements was the ability for students to work at the top of their scope of practice, Ms Walsh said. “The feedback from students is that they get to do and see so much more on a rural placement,” she said. The review found several other factors leading to students who completed rural placements staying in rural work, including a more collaborative working environment. “In country areas where you don’t have a huge team of specialists, people often work in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary way,” Ms Walsh said.

Rural placements also offer students a unique opportunity to work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care. “Students valued the opportunity to learn about First Nations culture and gained a better understanding of their health needs,” she said. “Working in partnership with local Aboriginal health organisations to provide a placement was good for the organisations, good for the people and good for the students.” The review also identified that one of the consistent elements of a successful student placement was quality supervision. “If a supervisor loves rural practice, they give the student the passion for rural health,” Ms Walsh said.

To view the AMPCo. InSight+ article Full scope of practice offered through rural placements in full click here.

Dr Marian Dover, stethoscope around neck, Australian bush in background

Dr Marian Dover is a rural GP in training who ‘feels passionately’ about supporting the health of regional communities. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sector Jobs

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