NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: It’s a wrap – 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference

Feature tile: image of Walter McGuire giving Welcome to Country; text 'NACCHO Members' Conference 2023 lives up to theme: Working Together, we are Stronger'

The image in the feature tile is of Walter McGuire giving the Welcome to Country on Day 1 of the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference. Walter McGuire is a descendent of several tribal groups in the SW of WA and a Traditional Owner of Noongar Boodjar which includes the Whadjuk lands on which Perth City stands.

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.

It’s a wrap – 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference

A record-breaking year, the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference saw more than 800 delegates come together on Noongar Boodjar (Perth). Surrounding the theme Working Together, we are Stronger, the conference did just that – with feedback from delegates reporting the collaborative nature of the conference was invaluable. Members and affiliates attended numerous sessions on topics spanning from cancer screening to syphilis outbreak response in ACCHOs, prison health care, and many more. The sessions saw the sector celebrate successes, provide advice and guidance, and advocate for community-developed health solutions that contribute to the quality of life and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In her address to the conference, NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills touched on the referendum result and the role of the sector moving forward, “If anyone can lead us out of a crisis, a crisis of division, it is this sector. In the context of our disappointment in the wake of the 14 October result, we now, more than ever, need to build a stronger NACCHO and get a stronger commitment from the nine governments to the Coalition of Peaks National Agreement on Closing the Gap,” she said.

Breaking out in song and even a booty boogie, Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler performed his rendition of Burning Love, available here, by Elvis Presley on karaoke night. However, when addressing the conference the minister opted for a more serious tone, praising the leadership that NACCHO and ACCHOs around the country played in rallying the health sector behind the Yes vote.

“The theme of this conference is timely: ‘Working Together, we are Stronger,’” he said. “Working together, we are stronger. Because if ever there was a time to come together, to work together, to be stronger together, it is right now.”

The NACCHO Youth Conference saw more than 80 young people from across the country yarn about youth leadership, their place in the community-controlled health sector, and their unique position of being able to learn from Elders and determine what the future looks like. AHCWA Youth Committee member, Soleil White said her main takeaway from the Youth Conference was “just the whole room, you’re bringing youth from all around the country together and that’s really powerful, and it just empowers me to go home and to keep fighting the battles and to keep moving ahead so that we can have a voice for our youth and that we can have better outcomes for our First Nations people.”

A sincere thank you from NACCHO to all who attended and contributed to making it a deadly week.

NACCHO 2023 Members' Conference Smoking Ceremony

2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference Day 1.

Helping mob live healthy and prevent cancer

The Cancer Institute NSW has released a new Helping Mob Live Healthy and Prevent Cancer toolkit – a free online resource that provides culturally tailored, strengths-based information on cancer screening and prevention for the Aboriginal health workforce.

The toolkit features:

  • cancer screening information – breast, cervical and bowel cancer screening + tips on testing for other cancers
  • cancer prevention tips about healthy living and being smoke- and vape-free
  • social and emotional wellbeing information and links to trusted resources and support services
  • downloadable resources which can be used to support yarns with your clients about the benefits of taking part in cancer screening and healthy living. They include tailored checklists for men’s and women’s business and templates to support local promotion of screening and prevention programs
  • a resource directory featuring links to a range of tailored cancer screening and healthy living resources from trusted Australian health and cancer organisations.

All resources have been developed in consultation with Aboriginal health organisations, workers and community members.

Please explore the toolkit here and help spread the word by sharing it with your networks.

For more information, please contact the Cancer Institute NSW using this email link.

You can also view the NSW Government Cancer Institute webpage NSW Promote this toolkit with your networks here.

NSW Government Cancer Institute NSW tile text 'New online toolkit for the Aboriginal health workforce' with image of relevant webpage to toolkit resources

Image source: social media tile from NSW Government Cancer Institute NSW webpage: Promote this toolkit with your networks.

“Our work continues as it has always done”

Less than 14 days after the resounding rejection of the Voice, Indigenous leaders and thinkers are already in talks with each other and with the government in order to find a new path for better outcomes and social justice. In response to the referendum result, and after a week of silence, a 12-point open letter, drafted by up to 85 Indigenous leaders from various fields, was sent to the PM and every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. In stark contrast to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the letter was no humble offering on a united way forward.

The letter offered no pragmatic resolution or new beginning. Instead, it gave an early, detailed synopsis of what had just happened and why. It acknowledged the shock and grief at the result and the rejection both of First Nations people and their good-faith attempts at reconciliation. “The truth is that the majority of Australians have committed a shameful act whether knowingly or not,” the letter reads, “and there is nothing positive to be interpreted from it. We needed truth to be told to the Australian people.”

The letter continued, “We want to talk with our people and our supporters about establishing – independent of the Constitution or legislation – an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to take up the cause of justice for our people. Rejection of constitutional recognition will not deter us from speaking up to governments, parliaments and to the Australian people. We have an agenda for justice in pursuit of our First Nations rights that sorely need a Voice – we will continue to follow our law and our ways, as our Elders and Ancestors have done. We will regather in due course and develop a plan for our future direction. While this moment will be etched into Australia’s history forever, today we think of our children, and our children’s children. Our work continues as it has always done. We will continue to fight to seek justice for our peoples.”

To view The Saturday Paper article The ‘Yes’ case responds: ‘It’s a white flag from Labor’ by Yorta Yorta man and award-winning writer and broadcaster Daniel James in full click here.

stacks of Indigenous VTP ballot papers

Australia has voted against enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, with the results being called early. Photo: Con Chronis, AAP. Image source: NITV.

Dedication, empathy and leadership

In a ceremony that took place on Gadigal Land last week, inspirational GPs received awards from Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Faculty, and RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins.

Duel winners of the Standing Strong Together Award were:

  • Dr Kali Hayward – Dr Nicholls paid tribute to Warnman woman Dr Hayward, describing her as ‘an outstanding mentor’, and a ‘shining example of dedication, empathy and leadership, both regionally and nationally’ whose ‘unwavering commitment’ to quality healthcare and raising awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture has led to ‘more respectful, inclusive healthcare services’ as well as improved patient satisfaction and outcomes.
  • Dr Mark Daley – Dr Nicholls described Dr Daley, a GP at the First People’s Health and Wellbeing clinic in NSW, as “passionate and committed to providing the highest quality of culturally safe, trauma-informed care to his patients, many of whom have some of the toughest and most complex health, social and emotional wellbeing issues as a result of colonisation, and the impacts of intergenerational trauma, dispossession and discrimination.”

The Growing Strong Award, which goes to a GP in training, went to Dr Patrick McNamara, who is one of only two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in the Australian Defence Force. “He continuously strives to provide the highest care for Defence Force personnel, and goes above and beyond to ensure that healthcare received by Indigenous soldiers is safe and culturally appropriate,” Dr Nicholls said.

This year’s Medical Student Bursary went to Loyala Wills, a Torres Strait Islander woman and final year Flinders University medical student who runs an online platform called Med School Made Colourful, which offers medical education support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

To view the RACGP newsGP article ‘A shining example of dedication, empathy and leadership’ in full click here.

RACGP ATSI Health awards 2023 4 images clockwise from top left: Dr Karen Nicholls; Dr Nicole Higgins with Dr Kali Hayward; Associate Professor Brad Murphy; Dr Mark Daley

Clockwise from top left: Dr Karen Nicholls; Dr Nicole Higgins with Dr Kali Hayward; Associate Professor Brad Murphy; Dr Mark Daley. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Vaping resources for young mob

Together with the Tackling Indigenous Smoking team, Na Joomelah and National Best Practice Unit (NBPU), Lung Foundation Australia has developed new vaping resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. The resources include three short animations and an accompanying fact sheet covering key topics in vaping and helping empower young people to choose to be vape free.

You can watch the animations, including the one below, and download the factsheet by visiting the Lung Foundation Australia First Nations e-cigarettes and vaping webpage here.

If you have any questions please contact Paige Preston from Lung Foundation Australia using this email link.

Concerns on handling of public drunkenness

Melbourne’s new sobering up centre will have capacity for 140 people a week when public drunkenness is decriminalised next month, but the state’s new system for handling intoxicated Victorians could quickly be tested. The centre’s capacity could be strained if the changes lead to major diversions of low-risk patients away from hospitals. The state government has used 2019 crime statistics for the public intoxication offence to predict that the new sobering-up centre would handle at least 3,700 people a year. But the documents warn that estimate may drastically understate the total demand.

From November 7, the offence of public drunkenness will be abolished and health services will take charge of many cases typically handed by police or paramedics. The reform was legislated in 2021 following the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who suffered a fall while in custody. Intoxicated people who commit crimes, are dangerous or need serious medical support will still be handled by emergency services, but people who are merely drunk in public and need help will be treated by support workers from different providers cross the state. Call-outs for Aboriginal Victorians in Melbourne will be handled separately and have been estimated to be in the range of 330 per year.

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO Jill Gallagher said repealing public drunkenness was vital to improving safety for First Peoples. “For the same behaviour, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria have faced inordinately higher rates of incarceration for public drunkenness than non-Aboriginal Victorians face,” she said. “Alcohol misuse is a public health issue, not a crime, and therefore should be treated as such.”

The above has been extracted from an article Sobering concerns on new handling of public drunkenness published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 29 October 2023. A related article Melbourne sobering centre facing delays ahead of Victorian public drunkenness overhaul published by ABC News yesterday can be view in full here.

location of Melbourne's sobering-up centre in Collingwood

The location of the Victorian Government’s first sobering-up centre in Collingwood. Photo: Joe Armao. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

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.

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: It’s a wrap – 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference

  1. It may be a wrap, but it was disappointing that our Elders had to sit on the floor to eat their lunch. Younger attendees didn’t offer up their chairs to our Elders, so the theme of NAIDOC “For Our Elders” was a bit of a farce. Also, knowing that the Executive and a selected few were given a room with a table and chairs to sit at to eat, whilst the rest of had to stand to eat or sit on the floor was disappointing.

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