NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Voice has a vision, it has hope and it has promise

portrait image of Senator Pat Dodson; text ' “there’s nothing to fear with this referendum, it’s all about taking us forward, it has a vision, it has hope and it has promise” Senator Pat Dodson'

The image in the feature tile is of Labor Senator Pat Dodson from an article Yes supporter Senator Pat Dodson addresses National Press Club, says nation ‘bogged down in division’ published by ABC News on Wednesday 11 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.

Voice has a vision, it has hope and it has promise

Prominent Indigenous leader and politician Pat Dodson, Senator for WA and Special Envoy Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, says a No result in the Voice to Parliament referendum would send the country backwards. The WA Labor Senator has been absent from the Yes campaign and from political life after being diagnosed with cancer.

Addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday this week (11 October 2023) via video link from Broome, Senator Dodson said the day after the referendum Australians will “have a look in the mirror” and ask themselves of the result: “How is this going to impact your kids and yourself going forward? Are we going to go backwards? Cop more of the same? Are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people going to be at the table or picking up the crumbs? As we have been for the last 200 years?”

Three days out from the referendum’s final call, Senator Dodson said the country needed change. “We need to have an effective Voice to the Parliament, we need to have recognition as the first peoples,” he said. Of the proposed amendment to the constitution that would see First Nations people recognised in the document, the senator said: “You can’t live in your own country and not be recognised.” When asked about the published polls within the media that have suggested a No win in the lead-up to the referendum, Senator Dodson said the only poll he was concerned with was the one that “comes out of the ballot box”.

You can view the ABC News article Yes supporter Senator Pat Dodson addresses National Press Club, says nation ‘bogged down in division’ in full here.

Health, education, law organisations all support the Voice

The yes campaign for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice has attracted the support of hundreds of organisations across Australian society, from health to education, legal affairs, housing, employment and, of course, Indigenous groups. Earlier this week (Tuesday 10 October 2023) The Guardian published an article: Why we’re backing yes: organisations from law to health to education on their support for the voice, available here, including statements from:

  • Health organisations: NACCHO; Australian Medical Association; Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; Public Health Association of Australia; Medical Journal of Australia; Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; Australian Society for Infectious Diseases; Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry; NSW Mental Health Commission; Beyond Blue; Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association; and Headspace
  • Legal groups: The Law Council of Australia; NSW Aboriginal Legal Service; Human Rights Law Centre; Community Legal Centres Australia; Legal Aid NSW; and NSW Bar Association
  • Housing organisations: Community Housing Industry Association NSW; Tenants’ Union of NSW; Housing for the Aged Action Group
  • Educators: Universities Australia; Australian Education Union; Historians from universities, libraries and museums; Australian public law teachers; University of Newcastle; Charles Darwin University; and University of Sydney Business School
  • Business groups: Business Council of Australia; Tech Council of Australia; More than 450 company directors
  • Charities and welfare organisations: Community sector organisations including Acoss, Mission Australia, Cota and the St Vincent de Paul Society; Amnesty International; Australia’s major church providers
  • Other Indigenous groups: Indigenous Desert Alliance; Central Land Council; and Lowitja Institute

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM said “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 … 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.”

Referendum’s mental health toll won’t end tomorrow

Racism, trauma and an expectation First Nations peoples should educate others on the Voice referendum have led to increased psychological stress, and no matter what happens on Saturday, the referendum campaign is likely to continue taking a mental and emotional toll on First Nations peoples,  Black Dog Institute First Nations strategy and partnerships director Clinton Schultz said.

“As professionals in the field, what we’re witnessing anecdotally are reports of increased psychological distress from community members,” he said. “People making contact with us are associating that with all the stresses of the referendum, the discourse and the constant discussion and focus. It’s been really overwhelming for a lot of people.”

National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing (NCATSIW) research professor Raymond Lovett said NCATSIW have been analysing survey data to track levels of mental health and wellbeing during the referendum period. During the referendum campaign Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced increased racism, including “unfair and harmful interactions in day-to-day life, overhearing racist comments, and negative messages in the media. Another source of stress has been the pressure to “educate and inform non-Indigenous people about the referendum. This can cause a heavy mental load. Repeatedly walking people through history can also be triggering or re-traumatising.

To view the Crikey article Referendum mental health toll on First Nations communities won’t ‘miraculously’ ease on Saturday in full click here.

Vote Yes & Vote No signs at an early voting centre for the VTP

Vote Yes and Vote No signs at an early voting centre for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum. Photo: Joel Carrett, AAP. Image source: Crikey.

Connection to community crucial to research success

Professor Elizabeth Elliott has been partnering with the Aboriginal community in Fitzroy Crossing in regional WA since 2009 to support children affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). From their initial contact with the community, Professor Elliot Professor Jane Latimer and PhD students James Fitzpatrick, Barbara Lucas and Emily Fitzpatrick confirmed that there were high rates of FASD in the communities and that many of the children had major behavioural problems. They used this insight to advocate for services. “I’m really pleased that we were able prove the value of the research by showing both immediate and long-term benefits such as providing healthcare, training, referrals to specialists, or programs to help families and teachers – such as a positive parenting program to help support kids at home and school,” said Professor Elliot.

Connection to the community was also crucial to the success of the work undertaken by Professor Jennifer Alison and PhD candidate David Meharg. David’s thesis centres on partnering with four ACCHOs in regional NSW to implement pulmonary rehabilitation and contribute to lung health service provision. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or chronic lung disease, is so prevalent in Aboriginal communities that it’s seen as an inevitable illness. Raising awareness of COPD was a challenge for Jennifer and David, as many people aren’t aware that there are treatments available to manage the condition. Equally challenging are the barriers to attending hospitals due to feelings of fear, distrust and alienation from past experiences of racism.

Professor Alison and David worked to bring the treatment to the local communities in an effective and culturally safe manner, by upskilling local health professionals to help them educate their patients on how to manage COPD. We were very privileged to have the support of an Aboriginal Elder, Associate Professor Boe Rambaldini, who was Director of The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University,” said Professor Alison, recalling how they started. “Having a personal introduction from a trusted Elder helped us form connections with the chief executives of the ACCHOs with whom we partnered”

To view The University of Sydney article Supporting better health for First Nations communities in full click here.

Professor Jennifer Alison (far right) and David Meharg (second from left) at a COPD Awareness Day at Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service, Inverell

Professor Jennifer Alison (far right) and David Meharg (second from left) at a COPD Awareness Day at Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service, Inverell. . Image source: The University of Sydney website.

Listening should have happened decades ago

In recent weeks both Noel Pearson and Health Minister Mark Butler have highlighted a condition known as rheumatic heart disease (RHD) as the exemplar of why we need an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. RHD is a major cause of suffering and early death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet for non-Indigenous Australians, it is essentially a disease of yesteryear. RHD researcher Professor Jonathon Carapetis says that because RHD is almost exclusively a health problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, has its roots in social and economic disadvantage, and we fail to tackle it despite having the ability to do so, it is emblematic of Australia’s failure to “close the gap” in health outcomes.

Professor Carapetis said the story of his RHD research over the past 30 years in many ways mirrors the story of closing the gap — lots of passion, dedication and good ideas, but with almost no progress being made. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are developing, and dying from, RHD today at higher rates than ever, despite all the hard work as scientists, health care providers, and policymakers.

But a few years ago, something changed, Professor Carapetis said, he and his colleagues finally listened to what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders had been telling them all along — that we could come up with all the great treatments, diagnostic tests and preventive therapies in the world, but no progress would be made until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves were empowered to lead and implement change, often using those tools we developed. In other words, we researchers and health care providers needed to cede control to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities and become trusted partners and allies rather than be just another in a long line of well-intentioned, top-down programs destined to fail.

To view The West Australian article Jonathan Carapetis: Heart disease agenda shows what’s possible when we listen in full click here.

Professor Jonathon Carapetis, Telethon Kids Institute

Professor Jonathon Carapetis. Photo: Daniel Wilkins, The West Australian.

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.

Key Date –  Saturday 14 October 2023

Allied Health Professions Day

Allied Health Professions Day was first held in England in 2018 and is now an international event held annually on 14 October, celebrating and bringing together the allied health professional community. This year the main theme ‘Stronger together’, highlights the benefits of multidisciplinary team-based care. While it is well known that allied health professionals play a key role in the health and wellbeing of all Australians, health system reform is finally recognising the value, both economic and clinical, of multidisciplinary care.

It is vital that allied health professionals are recognised alongside their nursing and medical colleagues for their role in designing and implementing a comprehensive healthcare system, that truly wraps around the consumer. Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) has developed a Digital Kit including logos, posters, social media graphics, and other assets to share in celebration of Allied Health Professions Day.

You can find more information about Allied Health Professions Day and access the AHPA Digital Kit on the AHPA website here.

Allied Health Professions Day logo & child therapist from Wellington AMS

An Aboriginal Community and Therapy Support Worker from the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS). Image source: WACHS website.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) is an annual unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. WHPCD has been marked every year for the last 19 years. The WHPCD theme for 2023 is Compassionate Communities: Together for Palliative Care.

Compassionate communities care for people, assist people to live in the place they call home, connect people to services, and raise awareness about end-of-life issues. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) says it will engage governments and key stakeholders in a health promotion approach to palliative care, aiming to support solidarity among community members throughout their life course up to and at the end of life. In recent years, hundreds of compassionate communities have been developed all around the world. WHPCA believes that palliative care working alongside compassionate communities multiplies the ability to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.

You can find more information on WHPCD 2023 on the WHPCA website here.

banner for 2023 World Hospice & Palliative Care Day 14 Oct 2023

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