NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Those who’ve gone before never gave up

feature tile: portrait image of Sen McCarthy; text 'Senator McCarthy urges mob to get back to “business” after the disappointment of the Voice to Parliament referendum'

The image in the feature tile is of Senator Malarndirri McCarthy from an ABC RN Breakfast broadcast Malarndirri McCarthy on the Voice: ‘I think we could have been better’ published by ABC Listen on 17 October 2023.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a 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.

Those who’ve gone before never gave up

Speaking at the 11th annual Aboriginal Economic Development Forum in Darwin on Friday 10 November 2023, NT Labor Senator McCarthy said the deep hurt and devastation felt by so many who supported the Yes vote was evident, straight after the October 14 referendum. “We are such a resilient people, as First Nations people,” she said. “…resilience really is the key to moving forward. After the referendum, it’s also now about accepting and respecting that decision, which is a really difficult thing for people to do.”

The proud Yanyuwa Garrawa woman from Borroloola, in the NT, said whatever the outcome of the referendum, First Nations people continued to be incarcerated at rates way too high and experience poor rates of domestic violence and unemployment. The Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Health said the First Nations economic sector had a critical role to play in making changes to the broader Australian community.

In concluding her speech, Senator McCarthy said the most important issue post the referendum was improving the lives of First Nations people in Australia. “I do look at the example of those who’ve gone before us and the struggles and I where I come from,” she said. “When in 1976, we were the first to go for land of this area with we didn’t succeed. But it was difficult to give evidence in a former courthouse where their families had been jailed. I remember watching the Elders sitting there, speaking largely in language, but not really understanding what that Westminster System of law was all about. But we never gave up. And there’s always hope for a better future for all of us, for First Nations people.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Malarndirri McCarthy tells AEDF now is the time for Indigenous people to show respect and resilience in full click here.

Senator Malarndirr McCarthy who spoke at the Aboriginal Economic Development Forum in Darwin on 10.11.23 with a a group of 4 ATSI women & young child

Speaking at the Aboriginal Economic Development Forum in Darwin on Friday, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy (back, centre) urged First Nations people to get back to “business” following the referendum’s defeat. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

What to say and do after suicide

April Burgoyne is not a counsellor but knows she has a key role to play in helping tackle Ballarat’s suicide rate, one of the highest in Australia. Ms Burgoyne, who is the Cultural Care Connect network coordinator for Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BDAC) was among more than 30 representatives from different health and welfare organisations who recently attended a forum, led by StandBy Support After Suicide and Wellways. Data shows that those bereaved by suicide are at a higher risk of suicide amid ongoing ripple effects. Forum participants shared learnings and advice on what to do and say in the wake of lives lost to suicide.

“It’s good to connect and share cultural understandings to help up-skill other service organisations and to help up-skill our community in return,” Ms Burgoyne said. The BADAC program stems from a NACCHO move in post and prevention crisis support for Indigenous communities. Ms Burgoyne said this was focused on Aboriginal circle elements for social and emotional well-being support, including connections to ancestor spirit, culture, community and Country and kinship.

At the same time, it is also vital to work closely with other community organisations. StandBy Support After Suicide’s western Victoria program Coordinator Kristy Steenhuis, said one of the biggest barriers in her work has been awareness, “A lot of people have never heard of our service, that if someone’s bereaved, we’re someone to call.”  For Ms Burgoyne, there is still much work to do in developing what BADAC can offer. She said a long-term goal was after-hours crisis support. While BADAC has crisis support in business hours, Ms Burgoyne said a lot of clients reported needing to go to the hospital emergency department and have the traumatic experience of having to re-tell their stories without a warm hand-over. She also hoped to develop healing workshops with other health organisations to promote cultural awareness.

The above is an extract from an article What to say and do after suicide: welfare leaders face the question published in The Courier on 12 November 2023. You can access the StandBy – Support After Suicide website here.

StandBy Support After Suicide's western Victoria program coordinator Kristy Steenhuis giving a presentation at BADAC

StandBy Support After Suicide’s western Victoria program coordinator Kristy Steenhuis says there were “rich conversations” in a postvention awareness forum for community health leaders at Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative. Photo: Kate Healy. Image source: The Courier.

Cancer plans focus on those with worst outcomes

Although cancer care has improved dramatically in Australia over the past few decades, two new cancer plans, announced in the past fortnight, one launched by the Australian Government and the other developed by the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, NACCHO, aim to improve the cancer experiences of population groups who have the worst cancer outcomes. The plans hope to prevent Australians most at risk from “falling through the cracks”.

The Australian Cancer Plan, available here, was developed by the Australian Government’s cancer control agency Cancer Australia. Cancer Australia CEO, Professor Dorothy Keefe, said the plan sets out improvements and actions that can be made to improve Australia’s cancer control system, “This isn’t a plan to replace the state and territory plans. This is a plan to embrace them all, so that we can actually do the things together that are better done together and enable the jurisdictions to continue doing the great work that they do. The plan focuses on improving experiences and outcomes for priority population groups and improving outcomes for people with low survival rates.

Separately, a new cancer plan, available here, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been developed by NACCHO. The plan, which was codesigned with the Aboriginal health sector, aims to change cancer experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “Consultations highlighted the need to focus on structural reform including sustainable funding, increasing accessibility of services and ensuring mainstream cancer centres are culturally safe and responsive,” NACCHO said. The plan acknowledges the goals of the broader Australian Cancer Plan in improving Aboriginal health outcomes. “By working together, these two plans will achieve better outcomes for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their families and Communities at a faster pace,” said Dr Dawn Casey, NACCHO Deputy CEO.

To view the InSight+ article New cancer plans focus on Aboriginal health and priority populations in full click here.

Cover of ATSI Cancer Plan document

Image source: NACCHO website.

Djäkamirr – caretaker of pregnancy and birth

Labor MLA Lisa O’Malley is backing the screening of a documentary which she hopes will lead to more culturally-appropriate birthing experiences for Indigenous women  Filmed over two years on the ancestral home grounds of Yolnu First Nations people in NE Arnhem Land, Djäkamirr: Caretaker of Pregnancy and Birth follows sisters Lawurrpa and Sarah as they journey through ancestral time, country and culture, working with the community to pilot the training of Djäkamirr (maternity caretakers).

The screening is being organised by maternity consumer representative Kylie Ekin, WA Country Health Service regional Aboriginal health consultant Janinne Gliddon, WA Country Health Service midwife Maddison Bell and Birth Tribe Midwifery founder Melissa Lynch. Ms Ekin said the documentary was a rare insight into Indigenous birthing culture and the importance of incorporating ancestral wisdom in contemporary maternity care.

“We must now implement Birthing on Country in WA and ensure continuity of midwifery-led care models are accessible for all Aboriginal women,” Ms Ekin said. Ms O’Malley said the documentary opened up an important conversation. 

To view the Fremantle Herald Interactive article Rebirthing in full click here.

poster for the film Djakamirr - caretaker of pregnancy & birth; image of Yolngu sisters Lawurrpa and Sarah

Yongu sisters Lawurrpa and Sarah on the film poster. Image source: Fremantle Herald Interactive.

Camp Jungai hosts historic ‘Gathering of Mob’

Taungurung Country hosted an historic ‘gathering of Mob’ over the weekend, which saw more than 300 people from across Victoria come together to share stories, yarn and heal. Held at Camp Jungai in central Victoria, a place of cultural significance for Indigenous Victorians that comes from the Wurundjeri language meaning “place of many possums”, 60,000 years of Aboriginal culture was brought together in a gathering of Elders, youth, and leaders from clans across the state.

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) helped organise the weekend, with VACCHO CEO, Gunditjmara woman Aunty Jill Gallagher, saying the gatherings and events were vitally important for all Indigenous communities. “It’s crucial. Not only because of the disappointment that we’re dealing with because of the referendum, but it’s crucial that we stay strong together,” Aunty Jill said. “The Gunditjmara mobs can come down and hear Taungurung stories, and we can all dance our different culture dances. We’re just all together. That is how we keep our culture both strong, and alive.”

All the attendees helped deliver the message that First Nations communities were as strong as ever and would not falter. Gunditjmara, Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri man Jessie Williams said the importance of a gathering of Mob was the facilitation and continual connection for various communities throughout the state. “Making sure that our relationships are strong within our own community and being able to return to that on Country, while practising culture, it’s invaluable,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Camp Jungai hosts a historic ‘Gathering of Mob’ in full click here.

Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance group and their back-up dancers

The Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance group and their invaluable back-up dancers Photo: Dechlan Brennan. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Teens get a head start in careers in health

More than 30 Riverina high school students are set to embark on their healthcare careers through a school-based traineeship with Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD). As a part of the program, the Year 10 students will go on to complete a qualification in nursing, allied health or health administration. The program can be included as one subject for their High School Certificate and contribute to an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.

MLHD education and trainee support officer Laura Strano said the program offered students a supported pathway from school to work and further study options, “Our school-based traineeship program aims to help grow the rural health workforce, with a ‘grow your own’ model at the heart of its inception. The program focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student engagement and employment in health careers, with a holistic and supportive approach to completing the program and beyond. The program provides students with income while they are studying. Over the two-year traineeship, they complete a minimum of 100 days of paid, on-the-job training in their chosen area, one day a week during school term and the rest during the school holidays.”

Wagga Wagga High School student Darnee Doherty says she knows plenty of nurses around her and has always heard “good things” about the profession. “I was a late submission, but I’m glad I decided to get the application in on time,” Darnee said. “I’ve been given a great opportunity. Not many of my friends are doing anything else like this, but they all support me and have my back. I’m hoping for a healthcare career. I’m excited for it. I want to jump right in and get started and working already.” Darnee is set to start her midwifery training and hopes to stay in the region for her work. “I wouldn’t want to go too far away. If I can stay, that will be good,” Darnee said.

To view the Region Riverina article Local teens get a head start in their careers in health in full click here.

school students learning about CPR at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital

Students learn about CPR at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen. Image source: Region Riverina.

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