NACCHO Aboriginal Health : The #NTIntervention 10 years on – history and evaluations

 ” And when the government announced the Intervention and commenced it, they sent in what they called ‘government business managers’ who were, in effect, the old, you know, ‘protectors’ of Aboriginals, the, you know, the old superintendents, the mission managers.

I mean, this is 10 years ago, this is not a hundred years ago, and Aboriginal people were being treated like this. It was almost a violation of every possible human right you could think of.”

Pat Turner AM CEO NACCHO speaking to Nick Grimm ABC (see full Interview Below


 Picture above : Powerhouse panel at UTS Sydney last night talking about the 10th anniversary of the #NTIntervention: @KylieSambo @Bunbajee Pat Turner & @LarissaBehrendt #IndigenousX

  ” In August 2007 the Howard Liberal Government enacted the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, or, “the Intervention”. Liberal politicians marketed it as a solution to problems within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

These problems include health, housing, employment and justice.  When Labor was in power it continued the Intervention’s major initiatives.

See 10 Years history of the NT Intervention Below Part 2 after the Interview

 Major General David Chalmers, of the Inter-Agency Northern Territory Emergency Response Task Force, and Mal Brough, indigenous affairs minister, are greeted by David Wongway, a member of the Imanpa Local Community Council

 ” In 2008, following the change of government after the 2007 Federal Election, the Rudd Labor Government re-framed the intervention through a new national policy focus on “Closing the Gap”. Rudds’ intention to re-work the Intervention to focus more closely on reforming the welfare system linked closely with the already existing targets of the Close the Gap Campaign.

The aims of the campaign are set out in the 2012 National Indigenous Reform Agreement ”

 The Intervention and the Closing the Gap Campaign see part 3

 ” Evaluating the Intervention is not an easy task. Impartial data is difficult to find and there is a mass of complex and conflicting information. However, by looking at the Closing the Gap targets that were set by the Government and considering human rights concerns, we have provided our assessment. Below we give major features of the Intervention a score out of 10.  We also score it for compliance with human rights.”

Issues with Evaluating the Interventionhow did we work out our grades? Part 4

NT Intervention – nothing has changed for the better: Pat Turner

Hear Interview HERE

NICK GRIMM: Ten years ago this week, one of the defining moments in Australian national life began unfolding in remote communities in the outback.

The Northern Territory intervention was launched by the then Howard government in response to reports of social dysfunction and allegations of endemic abuse of women and children in remote communities.

Since then, the policy has continued under governments of both persuasions.

But 10 years on critics of the Intervention say it’s fixed nothing.

Pat Turner is currently CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

She was previously a CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, ATSIC, and had a long career as a senior Commonwealth public servant.

I spoke to Pat Turner a little earlier.

Pat Turner, can I start by asking you this: Ten years on, what’s the best thing you have to say about the Northern Territory Intervention?

PAT TURNER: (Laughs) Nothing, really, I’m afraid.

It was a complete violation of the human rights of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

It came out of the blue, following the Commonwealth Government’s reading and response to The Little Children Are Sacred report.

NICK GRIMM: So how would you describe the legacy of the process that began 10 years ago?

PAT TURNER: Well, I think it’s still a shambles.

You know, both sides of politics were responsible.

While it was introduced by the Liberal government, the Coalition under John Howard and Mal Brough, it was carried on also by Jenny Macklin and Kevin Rudd and Gillard and so on.

So the legacy is that Aboriginal people were completely disempowered.

They had the Army going into communities in their uniforms. They had no idea why the Army was there.

You know, to send the Army in at a time like that was just totally confusing. People were terrified that they’d come to take the kids away. There would be no explanation as to why they were going in.

And it wasn’t their fault; it was the way the Government handled it.

The government also, at the time, insisted that every child under 16 have a full medical check. Now, actually what they were looking for, I think, was whether a child had been sexually abused.

And we said, at the time, those of us who were opposed to the way the Government was handling this, “You cannot do that without parental permission. You must have parental permission. You would not do a medical check on any other child in Australia and you should not do that with our children without their parents’ say-so”.

And what’s more, fine, go ahead, do a full medical check, but what are you going to do when you find the otitis media, when you find the trachoma, when you find the upper respiratory diseases, when you find rheumatic heart disease? Where…

NICK GRIMM: All those common medical conditions in those areas.

PAT TURNER: Absolutely, absolutely. And what are you going to do to treat these people?

Because you don’t have the health services that Aboriginal people should have. You don’t have those in place.

And they were paying doctors a phenomenal salary.

They also, of course, introduced the infamous cashless welfare card, called it ‘income management’, where 60 per cent of the income was quarantined for food and clothes and so on.

People weren’t allowed to get access to video, so that was a… and that was fine for X-rated videos and adult videos, but certainly not for entertainment, which a lot of families relied on in outlying communities.

And it had ramifications. I mean, there was a young Aboriginal businesswoman in Tennant Creek whose business went bust because she couldn’t hire out videos.

NICK GRIMM: Well, in your view, can we say that anything has changed for the better in those remote communities?


Look, the other thing that happened at the time, Nick, was there was a reform in local government.

So, from the hundreds of Aboriginal community councils that were in place, they all became part of these super shires, nine super shires, so all the decision making at the local community level had evaporated.

And when the government announced the Intervention and commenced it, they sent in what they called ‘government business managers’ who were, in effect, the old, you know, ‘protectors’ of Aboriginals, the, you know, the old superintendents, the mission managers.

I mean, this is 10 years ago, this is not a hundred years ago, and Aboriginal people were being treated like this. It was almost a violation of every possible human right you could think of.

And what’s more, I called it at the time the Trojan Horse to get the land that our people have under freehold inalienable title in the Northern Territory.

And I thought it was a land grab, and I still believe that, you know, the Commonwealth certainly wanted to have a greater say over Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory – as did the Northern Territory Government, by the way.

NICK GRIMM: Yeah, well we’ve talked about the situation on the ground there in the Northern Territory.

What then would you say have been the national implications of the Intervention?

PAT TURNER: Well, I think without the evidence they’ve adopted – you know, Alan Tudge is very keen on the cashless welfare card, as is Twiggy Forrest, who promoted it.

While I see that, you know, there may be, you know, some opportunity for women to buy more food, it’s fine if you have access to fresh produce at a reasonable price that you could expect to pay in a major regional centre like Alice Springs.

You go out to the communities, the prices are at least double if not tripled, and they’re stale, rotten, old vegetables and meats and so on.

So, you know, that’s where government services need to step up through their outback stores and make sure that people are getting really fresh produce all the time, and healthy produce.

NICK GRIMM: Alright, Pat Turner, thanks very much for talking to us.

PAT TURNER: You’re most welcome. Thank you.

NICK GRIMM: Pat Turner is CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Part 2

” In August 2007 the Howard Liberal Government enacted the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, or, “the Intervention”. Liberal politicians marketed it as a solution to problems within Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

These problems include health, housing, employment and justice.  When Labor was in power it continued the Intervention’s major initiatives. “

See 10 Years history of the NT Intervention

Intervention was directed at addressing the disproportionate levels of violence in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, as well as the endemic disadvantage suffered in terms of health, housing, employment and justice.

It was also a direct response to the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle Report (‘Little Children are Sacred Report’) into sexual abuse of Indigenous children. This report was commissioned by the then Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin following an interview on the ABC’s Lateline program, in which Alice Springs Senior Crown Prosecutor Dr Nanette Rogers SC commented that the violence and sexual abuse of children that was entrenched in Indigenous society was ‘beyond most people’s comprehension and range of human experience’. The then Commonwealth Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough, indicated in his second reading speech introducing the NTNERA that “[t]his bill… and the other bills introduced in the same package are all about the safety and wellbeing of children.”

The Little Children are Sacred Report was the result of in-depth research, investigation and community consultation over a period of over eight months by members of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry. The focus of their inquiry was instances of sexual abuse, especially of children, in Northern Territory Indigenous communities. The findings were presented to Chief Minister Martin in April 2007 and released to the public in June. The striking facts, graphic imagery and ardent plea for action contained in this report saw this issue gain widespread attention both in the media and in the political agenda, inciting divisive debate and discussion.

The NTNERA was enacted by the Howard Government just two months after the report was released to the public, allowing little time for consultation with Indigenous communities. It was framed as a ‘national emergency’ with army troops being deployed to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. This took place in the lead up to the 2007 Federal Election, in which the Labor Party under Kevin Rudd defeated the Howard Government after four terms of Liberal government.

The Intervention in 2007

The Intervention was a $587 million package of legislation that made a number of changes affecting specified Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. It included restrictions on alcohol, changes to welfare payments, acquisition of parcels of land, education, employment and health initiatives, restrictions on pornography and other measures.

The package of legislation introduced included:

  • NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response Act 2007.
  • Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform) Bill 2007.
  • Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment. (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007.
  • Appropriation (NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008.
  • Appropriation (NorthernTerritory National Emergency Response) Bill (No. 2) 2007-2008.

In order to enact this package of legislation, several existing laws were affected or partially suspended, including:

  •  Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
  •  Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.
  • Native Title Act 1993(Cth).
  • Northern Territory Self-Government Act and related legislation.
  • Social Security Act 1991.
  • IncomeTax Assessment Act 1993.

A raft of reforms and regulations were introduced by this package of legislation, including:

  • Restricting the sale, consumption and purchase of alcohol in prescribed areas. This included the prohibition of alcohol in certain areas prescribed by the legislation, making collection of information compulsory for purchases over a certain amount and the introduction of new penalty provisions.
  • ‘Quarantining’ 50% of welfare payments from individuals living in designated communities and from beneficiaries who were judged to have neglected their children.
  • Compulsorily acquiring townships held under title provisions of the Native Title Act 1993 with the introduction of five year leases in order to give the government unconditional access. Sixty-five Aboriginal communities were compulsorily acquired.
  • Linking income support payments to school attendance for all people living on Aboriginal land, and providing mandatory meals for children at school at parents’ cost.
  • Introducing compulsory health checks for all Aboriginal children.
  • Introducing pornography filters on publicly funded computers, and bans on pornography in designated areas.
  • Abolishing the permit system under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 for common areas, road corridors and airstrips for prescribed communities,.
  • Increasing policing levels in prescribed communities. Secondments were requested from other jurisdictions to supplement NT resources.
  • Marshalling local workforces through the work-for-the-dole program to clean-up and repair communities.
  • Reforming living arrangements in prescribed communities through introducing market based rents and normal tenancy arrangements.
  • Commonwealth funding for the provision of community services.
  • Removing customary law and cultural practice considerations from bail applications and sentencing in criminal trials.
  • Abolishing the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP).

Changes under successive governments

After an initial focus on preventing child sexual abuse, successive federal governments re-designed and re-framed the Intervention. This involved linking the Intervention with the broader ‘Closing the Gap’ campaign, introducing new measures such as the BasicsCard and tougher penalties for the possession of alcohol and pornography. Changes were also made to the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act (see section on Human Rights). The current package of legislation retains the support of the Liberal Government and is due to expire in 2022.

2008 Changes

The Intervention was introduced in 2007 by the Howard Government, but a change of government in September of that year saw the Labor Government under Kevin Rudd gain power. After some consultation and minor changes, the NTNERA and associated legislation were initially maintained.

In 2008 Rudd apologised to the members of the Stolen Generations on behalf of the nation. In 2009, Rudd also declared support for the most substantive framework for the rights of Indigenous peoples, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The previous Howard government had voted against the ratification of this treaty. Article 3 of the Declaration states that:

‘Indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.

The failure to recognise this right to self-determination would become one of the major points of criticism for the Intervention.

In 2009 Rudd implemented the BasicsCard.  The card is used to manage income in certain areas of the Northern Territory. It cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, tobacco-products, pornography, gambling products or services, home-brew kits or home-brew concentrate.

During the period 2009-2010 the Rudd Government committed itself to a re-design of the Intervention, with a focus on reinstating the suspended provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Act 2010 (Cth) repealed the ‘special measures’ that had been created under the original Intervention to suspend the operation of the RDA. However, this new legislation still did not comply with the RDA as it continued to discriminate against Indigenous Australians through land acquisition and compulsory income management.These measures overwhelmingly  affect Indigenous people.

The focus of the government then shifted slightly, concentrating more closely on the need to ‘tackle the destructive, intergenerational cycle of passive welfare’ (see then Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin’s second reading speech). The Rudd government explicitly linked the Intervention to the ‘Closing the Gap’ targets, changing the focus of the Intervention from the protection of children from sexual abuse to the reform of the welfare system.

2012 changes

The legislative basis for the Intervention was due to expire in 2012.  Decisions regarding its future had to be made. Under the Gillard Government, the StrongerFuturesin the Northern Territory Act 2012 (Stronger Futures) replaced the NTNERA and extended the Intervention for a further ten years to 2022.  The StrongerFutureslegislation comprises three principal Acts (the Stronger Futures package), plus associated delegated legislation. The three Acts are:

  • Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012;
  • Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2012; and
  • Social Security Legislation Amendment Act 2012.

In 2013, the  Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights examined Stronger Futures and the related legislation in their 11th Report. They noted that although the StrongerFutureslegislative package repealed the Northern Territory Emergency Response (‘NTER’) legislation, it retained three key policy elements:

  • The tackling alcohol abuse measure: the purpose of this measure was ‘to enable special measures to be taken to reduce alcohol-related harm to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
  • The land reform measure: the land reform measure enabled the Commonwealth to amend Northern Territory legislation relating to community living areas and town
  • camps to enable opportunities for private home ownership in town camps and more flexible long-term leases.
  • The food security measure: the purpose of this measure was ‘to enable special measures to be taken for the purpose of promoting food security for Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory’; modifying the legislation involves a 10 year timeframe with most provisions other than the alcohol measures being reviewed after 7 years.

The key changes imposed under the 2012 Stronger Futures legislation package consist of:

  • Expansion of income management through the BasicsCard and the increase of ‘quarantined’ payments to 70%.
  • Increased penalties related to alcohol and pornography, with as much as 6-months jail time for a single can of beer.
  • Expansion of policy that links school attendance with continued welfare payments.
  • Introduction of licences for ‘community stores’ to ensure the provisions of healthy, quality food.
  • Commonwealth given power to make regulations regarding the use of town camps.

{Sources: SBS Factbox, Stronger Futures in the NT, Listening but not Hearing Report}

Although consultation with Indigenous communities did take place, there was much criticism of the nature of the consultative process and the extent to which it was acted upon. The ‘Listening butnot Hearing’ report by the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning concluded that “the Government’s consultation process has fallen short of Australia’s obligation to consult with Indigenous peoples in relation to initiatives that affect them”.

The Australian Council of Human Rights Agencies has also stated that it was ‘invasive and limiting of individual freedoms and human rights, and require[s] rigorous monitoring’. Amnesty International commented that the new package of legislation was the same as the original ‘Intervention, but with the pretence of being non-discriminatory.’

2014 changes

The current Intervention legislation is not due to expire until 2022. During his time as Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott supported extending the intervention into the future.

In a speech in February of 2014, then Prime Minister Abbott identified the importance of closing the gap through investment in indigenous programs, with a specific focus on school attendance. However, this speech was followed by massive budget cuts to Aboriginal legal and health services, early childhood education and childcare, and the consolidation of 150 Indigenous programs into 5 core programs. While the 2015 Budget reinstated funding to Family Violence legal services, these ongoing cuts are expected to detrimentally affect attempts to Close the Gap of Indigenous disadvantage.

The 2015 Budget modified the  Stronger Futures NPA, redirecting $988.2 million in funds to the new National Partnership Agreement on Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment  (NPA) over eight years. This new NPA prioritises schooling, community safety and employment. This funding also aims to help the Northern Territory Government take full responsibility for the delivery of services in remote Indigenous communities. Additional funding will also be made available to extend the income management scheme until 2017. However, the new NPA has halved the spending allocated to health measures, and means that the Federal Government will have less control over target outcomes.

Government administered funding of $1.4 billion, previously available under Stronger Futures, will not be transferred to the new NPA, but will be delivered by the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Social Services, outside the NPA framework. The new NPA will be complemented by a Remote Indigenous Housing Strategy that will receive $1.1 billion nationally.

Part 3 The Intervention and the Closing the Gap Campaign

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) had identified six areas of Indigenous disadvantage to target as the basis for the Closing the Gap Campaign. These were:

  1. Early childhood;
  2. Schooling;
  3. Health;
  4. Economic Participation;
  5. Safe Communities; and
  6. Governance and Leadership (see Right to Self Determination below).

The Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory National Partnership Agreement (2009) ceased on the 30 June 2012. The Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package which started on 1 July 2012 continued to support the Closing the Gap reforms.

The 6th Annual Progress Report on Closing the Gap was tabled in Parliament by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott on 12 February 2014. It outlined the commitments made by the Coalition government, including:

  • Consolidating the administration of Indigenous programs from eight government departments into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  • Establishing the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
  • Increasing indigenous school  attendance  through  providing  $28.4 million funding for a remote school attendance program.
  • Improving indigenous  access to employment by commissioning a review and funding employment initiatives.
  • Supporting a referendum for the recognition of the First Australians in the Australian Constitution.

However, in the seventh annual progress report of 11 February 2015, then PM Tony Abbott labelled progress as ‘profoundly disappointing‘. The report concluded that 4 out of 7 targets were not on track to be met by their deadlines, with little progress in literacy and numeracy standards and a decline in employment outcomes since 2008.

Link to 2012 National Indigenous Reform agreement here.

Part 4 Issues with Evaluating the Intervention – how did we work out our grades? Part 4

Quantity of Evaluation:

The controversial nature of the Intervention and the need for expenditure to be accounted for has meant that there have been a large number of evaluations undertaken regarding various aspects of the Intervention. Within five years of the establishment of the Intervention, by December 2012, 98 reports, seven parliamentary inquiries and hundreds of submissions had been completed. However, the sheer quantity of these reports actually hinders the evaluation process, as it obstructs proper evaluation of effectiveness.

Impartiality of Evaluation:

The majority of evaluations of the Intervention have been undertaken by government departments and paid consultants. Australian National University researchers Jon Altman and Susie Russell suggest that the evaluation of the Intervention, instead of being an independent objective process, has been merged into the policy process and, in many cases, is performed by the policy-makers themselves. This means there is a real risk of evidence being ignored or hidden to suit an agenda.

Independent reports and government commissioned reports have often contradicted each other, with the government seeking to discredit independent reports rather than gathering additional data. This includes independent reports by researchers at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney, Concerned Australians and the Equality Rights Alliance, all of which have often come to different conclusions than government reports.

Quality and Consistency of Evaluation:

The ‘final evaluation’ of the Intervention under the NTNER occurred in November 2011 with the publication of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Evaluation ReportHowever, the Stronger Futures legislation did not come into effect until August 2012. This left eight months unaccounted for.

Closingthe Gap in the Northern Territory Monitoring Reports are conducted every six months. A significant criticism is that they focus on bureaucratic ‘outputs’ rather than outcomes. Income management studies, for example, have reported on ‘outputs’ such as the number of recipients of the Basics Card or the total amount of income quarantined, rather than focusing on the card’s effectiveness for health and child protection outcomes.

Much of the data collected has also relied on self-assessment in the form of surveys, such as asking individuals to rate their own health rather than collecting and analysing data on disease. Another issue is the ad hoc nature of some reports. For example, the review of the Alcohol Management Plan in Tennant Creek was only conducted once. This makes it difficult to make comparisons over the life of the policy and evaluate the effectiveness of particular measures.

Independent statistical data can be hard to find, since information compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is national in scope and cannot be translated directly into the context of the individual Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Indigenous Australians also have a lower median age than other Australians, meaning data on employment rates or incarceration rates can be statistically skewed.

Benchmarks for Evaluation:

ANU researchers Jon Altman and Susie Russell have noted that the “absence of an overarching evaluation strategy has resulted in a fragmented and confused approach”. They found that the 2007 Intervention did not have any documentation articulating the basis of the policy, nor how it should be evaluated. The first document to address this was the unpublished Program Logic Options Report which was developed in 2010; three years after the Intervention began. This means that there are no original benchmarks for evaluation, and that the decision to extend the program in 2012 was made without clear evidence as to its effectiveness. Furthermore, there is a limited connection between the benchmarks proposed in the 2010 Report and those used in later evaluations.

NACCHO #Aboriginal Health and #Immunisation @AIHW reports Aboriginal children aged 5 national immunisation rate of 94.6%

 ” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer a disproportionate burden from communicable diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from person to person), with rates of hospitalisation and illness due to these conditions many times higher than other Australians.1

Part 2  below presents results for children who were identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander on the AIR. “

 In 2015–16, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 had an even higher national immunisation rate of 94.6%. However, there was wider variation across PHN areas, ranging from 98.8% in the Gold Coast (Qld) to 89.4% in Western Victoria.”

Download Healthy Communities:


See Previous NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #WorldImmunisationWeek : @healthgovau Vaccination for our Mob

Part 1 Overview MORE INFO HERE

Immunisation is a safe and effective way to protect children from harmful infectious diseases and at the population level, prevent the spread of these diseases amongst the community.

Australia has generally high immunisation rates which have increased steadily over time, but rates continue to lag in some local areas.

This report focuses on local area immunisation rates for children aged 5 and shows changes in immunisation rates over time. It also presents 2015–16 immunisation rates for all children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1, 2 and 5.

Results are presented for the 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) areas. Where possible they are broken down into smaller geographic areas, including for more than 300 smaller areas and across Australian postcodes.

Further detailed rates are available in the downloadable Excel sheet and a new interactive web tool allows users to compare results over time by geography and age group.

This local-level information assists professionals to use their knowledge and context for their area, to target areas in need and develop effective local strategies for improvement.

The report finds:

  • Since 2011–12, childhood immunisation rates have improved nationally and across smaller areas, for all children and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Variation in rates still exists across local areas, however the gap between those areas with the highest and lowest rates is diminishing
  • Nationally 92.9% of all children aged 5 were immunised in 2015–16. All PHN areas achieved an immunisation rate of 90% or more, ranging from 96.1% in Western NSW to 90.3% in North Coast (NSW).


In 2015–16, childhood immunisation rates continued to improve nationally and in most local areas. Although rates vary across local areas, the gap in rates between the highest and lowest areas is diminishing.

This report focuses on immunisation rates for 5 year olds and presents results since 2011–12. It also provides the latest information for 1, 2 and 5 year olds for Australia’s 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) areas and smaller local areas.

From 2011–12 to 2015–16, there were notable improvements in rates for fully immunised 5 year olds. National rates increased from 90.0% to 92.9%. Rates increased for PHN areas too, as all areas reached rates above 90% in 2015–16.

Rates in smaller local areas (Statistical Areas Level 3, or SA3s) have also improved. In 2015–16, 282 of the 325 local areas had rates of fully immunised 5 year olds greater than or equal to 90%. This is up from 2011–12 when only 174 areas had rates in this range. Further, the difference in rates between the highest and lowest areas has decreased over time (Figure 1).

In 2015–16, the rate of fully immunised children varied across PHN areas for the three age groups:

  • 1 year olds – 95.0% to 89.8% (national rate 93.0%)
  • 2 year olds – 93.2% to 87.2% (national rate 90.7%)
  • 5 year olds – 96.1% to 90.3% (national rate 92.9%).

Part 2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer a disproportionate burden from communicable diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from person to person), with rates of hospitalisation and illness due to these conditions many times higher than other Australians.1

This section presents results for children who were identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander on the AIR. These data are based on Medicare enrolment records.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, national immunisation rates in 2015–16 for 1 and 2 year olds were lower than the rates for all children (89.8% compared with 93.0% for 1 year olds, and 87.7% compared with 90.7% for 2 year olds).

In contrast, the national immunisation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years was higher than the rate for all children (94.6% compared with 92.9%).

Primary Health Network areas

In 2015–16, the percentages of fully immunised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children varied across PHN areas for all three age groups as shown in Figure 6. The range in immunisation rates across PHN areas for the three age groups is outlined below.

  • 1 year olds – 94.2% in Tasmania to 76.1% in Perth North (WA)
  • 2 year olds – 93.4% in South Western Sydney (NSW) to 76.0% in Perth South (WA)
  • 5 year olds – 98.8% in Gold Coast (Qld) to 89.4% in Western Victoria.

Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s)

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s) were used instead of SA3s as the smallest geographic areas. There are larger populations in SA4s and this allows more reliable reporting for smaller population groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Across more than 80 SA4s, the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fully immunised in 2015–16 varied considerably:

  • 1 year olds – ranged from 95.9% in Central Coast (NSW) to 72.4% in Perth–North West (WA)
  • 2 year olds – ranged from 96.0% in Coffs Harbour–Grafton (NSW) to 71.2% in Perth–South East (WA)
  • 5 year olds – ranged from 100% in Murray (NSW) to 87.6% in Perth–South East (WA).

Figure 6: Percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fully immunised and numbers not fully immunised, by Primary Health Network area, 2015–16

# Interpret with caution: This area’s eligible population is between 26 and 100 registered children.


  • Components may not add to totals due to rounding.
  • Data are reported to one decimal place, however for graphical display and ordering they are plotted unrounded.
  • These data reflect results for children recorded as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on the AIR. Levels of recording may vary between local areas.

Source Australian Institute of Health and Welfare analysis of Department of Human Services, Australian Immunisation Register statistics, for the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, assessed as at 30 June 2016. Data supplied 2 March 2017.

ADDED June14

Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy

Vaccination remains the best protection pregnant women and their newborn babies have against influenza.

Despite influenza vaccination being available free to pregnant women on the National Immunisation Program, vaccination rates remain low with only 1 in 3 pregnant women receiving the influenza vaccine.

Influenza infection during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery and even death in newborns and very young babies. Pregnant women can have the vaccine at any time during pregnancy and they benefit from it all through the year.

Health professional:

Pregnant women:


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #CarersGateway : Free online resources to support #Aboriginal #carers

It’s rewarding work, but without help Dolly finds herself emotionally and physically drained. Dolly reached out and found that she could get services to help her.

Like Dolly, millions of people in Australia care for others who need help with their everyday lives.

A carer may be someone who looks after their husband or wife, partner, grandparent, uncle, aunty, cousin, child, grandchild or any other family member, a neighbour, a friend or someone in their community who needs help.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some carers look after someone who is an older person or who is unwell or has difficulties getting around. Some carers may look after someone who has a disability, a mental illness or dementia, a chronic condition or a long-term illness or drug and alcohol problems.

Many people looking after someone else don’t think of themselves as carers. They just see caring as what they do to help their families or friends or people in their communities.

Carers need help too – someone they can talk to and find out about services that can help. Carer Gateway is a free, Australian Government funded service that provides information for carers and helps people get in touch with their local services. People can ring up and have a private chat or go online and find out about support in their area, free financial and legal help and what to do in emergencies.  They can also get tips on how to look after themselves so they don’t get burnt out while caring for someone else.

Carer Gateway has short videos about real-life carers in the community – showing how they cope and deal with problems – and how they make the most of the time they spend caring for someone in need.

The videos include Dolly’s story. Dolly is a mother and full-time carer for her two adult daughters, who both need support with their everyday needs.

“It’s pretty much 24/7 around the clock. Four years ago, I realised I was doing a care role and I was also a working mum so quite busy. I thought you know what, it’s time for me to step back and start looking after my own,” she said.

There are free online resources to support Aboriginal carers, including a guided relaxation audio recording and information brochures and posters for use by health and community groups  which can also be ordered from the Carer Gateway ordering form and a Carer Gateway Facebook page to keep up to date on services and supports for carers.

To find out more, Carer Gateway can be contacted on 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm,

or by visiting

You can join the Carer Gateway Facebook community by visiting




NACCHO Aboriginal Health #WorldNoTobaccoDay : Cape York mob are saying “Don’t Make Smokes Your Story.”

“Wasting a lot of money to buy cigarettes and it was making me sick, coughing a lot, and getting up late, and it smells on your clothes a lot. So I said to myself I would have to cut down smoking.”

“You don’t have to buy cigarettes, you don’t have to afford cigarettes for other people, you don’t have to get cigarettes. Just be strong and stand up for yourself and say no!”

Selena Possum, who has lived in Pormpuraaw for the last 20 years, is now a non-smoker. She says smoking affected her a lot

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #smoking #ACCHO events 31 May World #NoTobacco Day #QLD #VIC #WA #NT #NSW

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day and people from Cape York are saying “Don’t Make Smokes Your Story.”

Apunipima Cape York Health Council Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) staff have been engaging with Cape York communities to develop an anti-smoking campaign.

The locally appropriate ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the harms of smoking and passive smoking, the benefits of a smoke-free environment, and available quit support.

The Cape York ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ Campaign enables community members to share on film their stories about quitting, trying to quit and the impact of smoking on families and communities. It is hoped that by sharing their stories, others will be encouraged to share their stories too.

Coen local Amos James Hobson has never smoked in his life. He sees many young people start smoking “Just to be cool, to pick up a chick.” He says to all the young people out there, “Our people didn’t smoke, don’t smoke, it’s not good. It’s not our culture and it’s not our way.”


Thala Wallace from Napranum has tried to quit three times and says “Every time it gets easier.” Her strategy is to “Try to find ways to occupy myself, snack-out on fruit or go to the gym, getting out and hanging out more with people who don’t smoke.”

Watch Thala story video here

The stories, as well as posters, social media posts and radio advertisements will be released from May 31st as Apunipima launches the Cape York ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ campaign.

The videos, including those featuring Amos, and Thala, will be distributed on the ‘What’s Your Story, Cape York?’ Facebook page and will be available on the Apunipima YouTube Channel here.

Apunipima received a Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) Regional Tobacco Control Grant as part of the National Tackling Indigenous Smoking program.

To effectively reduce smoking rates in Cape York, Apunipima TIS staff have been engaging with communities to develop and implement a locally appropriate social marketing campaign to influence smoking behaviours and community readiness to address smoke-free environments. The Cape York campaign will align with a national ‘Don’t Make Smokes Your Story’ campaign.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Sorryday #BTH20 @IndigenousX White Australia stole Indigenous children. And then stole their victimhood too

 ” As we commemorate Sorry Day on 26 May, it is vital to also recognise that 20 years has passed since the release of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Bringing Them Home report.

The report documented the culmination of a national enquiry into the history of the forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from family and community.

Although those who provided testimony to the enquiry are sometimes referred to as the “stolen generation”, they are, tragically, members of many generations of Indigenous children who experienced lives denied the experience of family and culture.

 Twenty years on from the release of the Bringing Them Home report it is long overdue that the burden of memory and the scales of justice shift to represent and speak on behalf of the victims of a national crime.”

Professor Tony Birch is a senior research fellow in the Moondani Balluk Academic Centre at Victoria University in Melbourne.

First published @IndigenousX / The Guardian

Download the report here

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BTH20 Report released :

Bringing Them Home 20 Years on : An action plan for healing

The first thefts of Indigenous children occurred in the late 18th century, and continue to this day, with both the removal and incarceration of our children occurring at alarming levels and subject to extreme levels of violence.

Little has been achieved to ease the suffering of the stolen generations in the last two decades, with the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report largely ignored by governments, at both a commonwealth and state level.

In recent days, claims for a just compensation fund to be established has again been raised. The same call was made 20 years ago. At the time it was a gross act of hypocrisy to witness the tears of politicians reading from the Bringing Them Home report in the parliament while at the same time ignoring its recommendations, including that of monetary compensation being forwarded as a means of alleviating the levels of harm experienced by children and teenagers. In fact, raising the issue of monetary compensation was ridiculed by some politicians who regarded it as not only unnecessary and irresponsible, but potentially dangerous. Such a view was as unjust as it was paternalistic.

A legacy of the inquiry and the release of the report is the issue of suffering and the incapacity of the wider Australian community to express level of emotional maturity to take responsibility for this history. The wider community has also failed to act with genuine dignity towards the victims of the removal policies.

In the years following the inquiry, a critique of victimhood has grown in both popularity and scholarship. Too often Indigenous people are told not to suffer “a culture of victimhood”. Or that “playing the victim” is a poor strategy in calling for social and economic change. Those who ascribe to this critique are also thieves. They have stolen a word, victim, and tarnished it as a strategy for refusing responsibility or recognition – another word currently under the threat of theft.

Those with a fetish for labelling Indigenous people as suffering victimhood should read the report in detail. The women and men who spend their childhood and teenage years removed from community and country suffered gross psychological and physical abuse. They continued to suffer in the years after their release from institutions, church homes and foster care.

And they suffer today. They are victims; the victims of crimes committed nominally in the name of assimilation, which were in fact policies of extermination. Not only did generations of children suffer. The families left behind, the mothers who fought the state for many years to have their children returned, also suffered. It was the mothers and grandmothers, the fathers, and brothers and sisters of stolen children who spent the remainder of their own lives struck by a depth of grief that would never leave them. It was the communities who searched for the traces of children’s lives that also suffered; the memories found in a faded black and white photograph, a child’s toy or item of clothing, each a memory of love.

As we contemplate the word sorry and question to what extent it has become little more than a symbolic gesture – at best – we must also pause and give due thought to the word responsibility.

The history of stealing Indigenous children by white Australia is the responsibility of the nation. Full recognition of this history is also the responsibility of the nation. The brave women and men who told their stories to the inquiry were forced to relive harrowing and life-scarring experiences.

Members of the stolen generations have occasionally commented that they would sometimes like to forget their suffering, that they would prefer not to have to yet again recount experiences that exacerbate the trauma they carry. But they also know that they cannot forget, not while white Australia enjoys the privilege of feigned amnesia and a totally inadequate sense of true and lasting justice.

Twenty years on from the release of the Bringing Them Home report it is long overdue that the burden of memory and the scales of justice shift to represent and speak on behalf of the victims of a national crime.

Professor Tony Birch is a senior research fellow in the Moondani Balluk Academic Centre at Victoria University in Melbourne.

NACCHO Aboriginal Youth Health : Youth programs deliver a social return of more than $4.50 to every dollar of investment


” The report found the programs resulted in improved health outcomes and self-esteem, greater engagement with education and training, and increased school attendance and literacy.

They also saw a decrease in anti-social and criminal behaviour, reduced drug and alcohol abuse, and fewer children sentenced to youth detention. Relationships between children and their families, the community and authorities also improved.

Well-funded and consistent youth programs deliver a social return of more than $4.50 to every dollar of investment, a report on Northern Territory services has found.”

Nous Group consulting firm, examined three youth programs in Utopia, Hermannsburg, and Yuendumu, which each had “different levels of program size, resourcing and sophistication of activities

Report by Helen Davidson The Guardian

Photo above : Children play in Utopia, where the youth programs were forecast to return $3.48 for every dollar spent. Photograph: Getty Images

Download the report HERE

The study, on the impact of youth programs in remote central Australia, found that, with enough support and effort, youth programs provided significant support to children, their families and communities, as well as the broader health, education and justice systems.

They also actively reduced rates of crime and drug and alcohol abuse among young people.

The report, presented in Canberra on Tuesday, comes amid ongoing issues with youth crime and substance abuse in the Northern Territory, and skyrocketing rates of incarceration – particularly among Indigenous youth – across the country.

The royal commission into the protection and detention of children in the NT has spent recent weeks hearing of the importance of early intervention in stopping the cycle of criminal behaviour and incarceration.

It found all three were forecast to create a positive return over the next three years, ranging from $3.48 in Utopia to $4.56 in Yuendumu.

The study said a successful youth program was “reliant on stable and skilled youth workers, regular and consistent activities and community involvement in the design and delivery of the program”.

“Creating conditions that can deliver these prerequisites in the remote environment takes resourcing, time and skilled support,” it said. “However, if time, resourcing and support is insufficient, there is a high risk that youth programs will be unable to produce the value identified in this study.”

The Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (Wydac) – formerly known as the Mt Theo program – was found to have the biggest return.

Based on Nous’s social return on investment formula, it had a projected a social return worth $14.14m for a two-year investment of $3.01m in 2017/18 and 2019/20.

Wydac, in the community of Yuendumu, 300km north-west of Alice Springs, employs seven staff and has up to 120 young Indigenous trainees, a number of whom go on to become youth workers themselves, Wydac said.

The Hermannsburg youth program, which has run since the mid-1990s but saw increased funding from 2007/08, also saw positive outcomes and a projected return of $8.05m of social value on a funding investment of $1.95m.

In Utopia, a region home to fewer than 300 people about 250km north-east of Alice Springs, a youth program, which centred on a drop-in centre and with emphasis on sport and recreational activities, has operated consistently since

The anticipated investment of $1.02m in the Utopia program was forecast to generate about $3.56m of social value.

The findings were guided and verified by a stakeholder group that included the youth programs, regional shire councils and territory and federal government departments.

The report was commissioned by the Central Australian Youth Link Up Service (Caylus), which was set up by the federal government in 2002 to address an epidemic of petrol sniffing in remote central Australian communities. It now coordinates and supports youth programs and responds to sniffing and other substance abuse outbreaks across the region.

The organisation has consistently maintained that substance abuse issues must addressed on both the supply and demand sides, and youth programs effectively addressed demand.

“Stakeholders in remote communities across our region consistently state that youth programs are essential to give kids good things to do, keeping them busy and away from trouble,” it said in the report.

Blair McFarland, co-manager of operations at Caylus, said it had been difficult to get successive federal and governments on board with the idea that consistency in delivery is key. “No one seems to have understood the value of those youth programs – partly because [people in cities] don’t understand the context of where they’re happening,” he said.

“Communities of 300 people with no coffee shops, movie theatres, and local parks which are dusty things which you could fry eggs on in summer.”

In these places, where extreme poverty, high unemployment, and low engagement with Centrelink support are also factors, there is “literally nothing else” for young people to occupy themselves with without a youth program.

“In that context the youth programs were a little island of hope, it demonstrated to the little kids that somebody cared about them,” he said.

McFarland said there had been vast improvements over the past 15 years but there were still big gaps in resourcing – and the situation was far better in central Australia than in the Top End.

“We’re hoping governments think about that and focus on every kid having the opportunity to attend a youth program.”

The Nous Group principal, Robert Griew, said his company partnered with Caylus as part of its work supporting community organisations.

“The big takeout message [from the report] is the longer those programs are sustained and supported you get an increasing return,” he said. “This is just really fabulous news and an opportunity for the community and government to invest in working on the ground and largely employing Indigenous staff.”

.@KenWyattMP Aboriginal Mother and Child Health #Familymatters #IHMayDay17 $40 million #BetterStarttoLife #DanilaDilba #NunkuwarrinYunti @IUIH_

” The ANFPP not only focuses on the mother and child but also assists their partners to develop a vision for their family’s future and encouragement to fulfil that vision.

The Australian Government has committed $40 million under the Better Start to Life approach to progressively expand the ANFPP from three sites to 13, by 30 June 2018.

These expansion sites were identified through a review of the child and maternal health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by geographic area, population health data including birth rates and existing services in the area.

The program will be implemented by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (Brisbane South, Queensland), Danila Dilba Health Service, (Darwin, Northern Territory) and Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc. (Adelaide, South Australia). ”

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, announced today three new sites for the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program (ANFPP) that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are pregnant, or women pregnant with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

Download the Ministers press Release Ken Wyatt Press Release

“The ANFPP is a nurse-led home visiting program, that supports women from around 16 weeks gestation to two years of age,” Minister Wyatt said.

“I am very pleased to announce the growth of the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program to three new sites in Brisbane South, Darwin and Adelaide.

“The Australian Government has committed $40 million under the Better Start to Life approach to progressively expand the ANFPP from three sites to 13, by 30 June 2018.

“Based on the findings, consultations occurred with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums in each jurisdiction to seek further advice on the proposed locations and identify organisations with the capacity to implement and sustain the high fidelity of the program.”

Minister Wyatt said there is strong evidence that long-term gains in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will come from investing in the early years of life and in supporting children and their families at this point in the life cycle.

“The program has demonstrated positive outcomes for women, children and families by providing comprehensive support for antenatal and postnatal care and child health and development. As at 31 March 2017, 1,269 mothers have been enrolled in the program, with 18,579 visits having taken place since the commencement of the program in 2009.

“The ANFPP not only focuses on the mother and child but also assists their partners to develop a vision for their family’s future and encouragement to fulfil that vision.”

The program will be implemented by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (Brisbane South, Queensland), Danila Dilba Health Service, (Darwin, Northern Territory) and Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc. (Adelaide, South Australia).

The ANFPP is currently delivered in five sites: Wellington, New South Wales; Cairns and North Brisbane, Queensland; and Alice Springs and a hub and spoke model operating out of Darwin to support the Top End communities of – Wadeye, Maningrida, Gunbalunya and Wurrumiyanga, Northern Territory.

“The Australian Government is committed to reducing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality, and I am very pleased to support this important initiative,” Minister Wyatt said.

Aboriginal Women’s Health : Download Report : Over imprisonment of Aboriginal women is a growing national crisis

“For too long our women have been ignored by policymakers. It is time for governments at all levels to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experiences and voices front and centre, and listen to what we have to say about the solutions.

The report highlights the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women having access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe services and supports that address the underlying causes of imprisonment,

Experiences of family violence contribute directly and indirectly to women’s offending, If we are to see women’s offending rates drop, governments must invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that work with our women to stop violence.”

Antoinette Braybrook, Co Chair of the Change the Record Coalition and Convener of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.

New report launched to address skyrocketing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s imprisonment rates

Download the report here : Aboriginal Woman OverRepresented_online

The over imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a growing national crisis that is being overlooked by all levels of government in Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record said in a new report launched today.

The imprisonment rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has skyrocketed nearly 250 per cent since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make up around 34 per cent of the female prison population but only 2 per cent of the adult female population.

The report, Overrepresented and overlooked: the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s growing over imprisonment, calls for system wide change and outlines 18 recommendations to redress racialised and gendered justice system outcomes.

Adrianne Walters, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre said,

“The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu is a devastating example of what happens when the justice system fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Ms Dhu was locked up under draconian laws that see Aboriginal women in WA disproportionately locked up for fines they cannot pay. She was treated inhumanely by police and died in their care. At a time when she most needed help, the justice system punished her.”

Annette Vickery, Deputy CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, said, “The vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in custody are mothers. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are often in custody for short periods, even a short time can cause devastating and long term upheaval – children taken into child protection, stable housing lost, employment denied.

“Governments should be doing everything they can to help women avoid prison to prevent the devastating rippling effects of women’s imprisonment on children and families,” added Ms Vickery.

The report calls for governments to move away from ‘tough on crime’ approaches in reality and rhetoric, and to focus on evidence based solutions that tackle drivers of offending and prevent women coming into contact with the justice system in the first place.

Ms Walters said, “Overzealous policing and excessive police powers, driven by tough on crime politics, see too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men fined and locked up for minor offending. Only last month, the WA Coroner recommended the removal of police arrest and detention powers for public drinking after another Aboriginal woman died in police custody.”

“Governments can act now to remove laws that disproportionately and unfairly criminalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, like fine default imprisonment laws in WA and paperless arrest laws in the NT,” added Ms Walters

Ms Walters said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are also being denied bail and options to transition away from courts and prisons to more rehabilitative alternatives. Too often this is because of a lack of housing and programs designed for their social and cultural needs, particularly in regional and remote locations.’

“Rather than enacting harsher laws and barriers to women accessing rehabilitative alternatives, governments must invest in programs that are designed for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and that tackle the root causes of offending,” said Ms Walters.

Response from contributor to the report, Vickie Roach Vickie Roach, a former prisoner turned writer and advocate said “punitive approaches don’t work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. They punish our women, their families and communities, for actions that are often the consequence of forced child removal and assimilation policies.”

“Governments should be getting rid of laws that unfairly criminalise our women. They should be trying to close prisons and focusing on alternatives that are healing. You need to respect women’s dignity, but in my experience, so often the criminal justice system just takes it away,” added Ms Roach.


NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health #Midwives @CATSINaM : Indigenous #midwives walk #Redfern 5 May to #closethegap


” Indigenous midwives will gather and march in Redfern to highlight the need to close the gap in healthcare in Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Midwifery facts:

  • There are only 230 Indigenous midwives nationally; a further 618 are needed
  • Indigenous mothers are three times as likely to die as their non-Indigenous counterparts
  • Indigenous babies up until the age of one are twice as likely to die as non-indigenous children

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwives led by Leona McGrath, Indigenous Health advisor, NSW Government and Dr Donna Hartz from the National Centre for Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney will walk through Redfern on 5 May to celebrate International Day for the Midwife and highlight a number of key issues in the sector.

Email Contact Dr Hartz

 ” Aboriginal women in Australia have significantly worse pregnancies than non-indigenous women.

In fact, they fare worse on just about every health measure.

And yet all the evidence tells us there will be no significant improvement in the shocking rates of poor indigenous health until we significantly improve the health of indigenous women.

This article serves as a clarion call from the President of RANZCOG, Professor Stephen Robson. We can only hope policy makers heed this call, as the health of the nation’s indigenous communities depend on it. See full article below

 ” Picture above 2016 Midwives across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD)  banded together with the Australian College of Midwives to raise funds for the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund, which will sponsor Indigenous student midwives and their midwifery studies.

WSLHD midwives, supported by WSLHD Aboriginal Liaison Officer Narelle Holden and Professor of Midwifery at Western Sydney University Hannah Dahlen, representing the Australian College of Midwives, proudly presented a cheque to Leona McGrath, the co-chair of the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund “

Dr Hartz says there is a greater need for Indigenous midwives due to the significantly higher mortality rate for Indigenous mothers and babies.

“We have really embarrassingly poor outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies here in Australia in 2017,” says Dr Hartz.

“We have women dying at three times the rate of non-Indigenous women. We have Indigenous babies dying at twice the rate and we have babies being born prematurely or at a low birth weight at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous babies.

“The current rates of preterm and low birth weight babies means that many babies are predisposed to chronic diseases later in life. When we have Indigenous women caring for Indigenous women in childbirth, the outcomes improve for both mother and baby.”

Currently 50 per cent of Indigenous women live where there are no local birth services. Dr Hartz says the training of Aboriginal midwives is crucial to providing culturally sensitive care to Indigenous mothers.

“We’ve had closing of maternity services from rural, regional and remote areas which has meant that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have to travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to receive care.

“In terms of spirituality, tradition and culture, the women are Birthing off Country – Birth on Country is of great spiritual significance to have connection to Country. What we’re hoping through programs of training midwives is to bolster maternity services back in the communities so women can have care and give birth closer to their homes,” she says.

Only one per cent of Australian midwives are of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background whereas six per cent of all Australian births are Indigenous. A further 618 Indigenous midwives are required for parity.

“On International Day of the Midwife for the first time in Australia we’re going to have the biggest gathering of Aboriginal midwives in one event. I think it will speak loudly to how we feel about healing our communities and training more midwives.”

Organisers of the march invite interested parties to “Walk with Midwives” in aid of an Australian College of Midwives campaign that aims to raise funds for the Rhodanthe Lipsete Trust. The Trust aims to increase the number of Indigenous midwives.

The University of Sydney campaign is supported by the National Centre for Cultural Competence, the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses & Midwives and the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.

Indigenous women and the hidden health-gap

 ‘ At an international scientific meeting in Brisbane, just over two years ago, I attended a session devoted to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The statistics presented and the picture painted for the assembled group was disheartening. The gap between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians seemed too great to bridge.”

President, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Discouraged, I asked one of the senior presenters where we could even start to help, to put things right. “That’s easy,” he replied, “You start by making women healthy. The rest will follow.” At the time, I was Vice-President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). This advice was something I could work with. Two years later, I am President of RANZCOG. Improving the health of Indigenous women is the biggest challenge that I, and my College, face.

“That’s easy,” he replied, “You start by making women healthy.

Women, and mothers in particular, hold a special place in Indigenous communities. Women manage not only their own health, but the health of their children; the health of their partners; and often the health of other relatives. Women who are healthy and health-literate are the single most important influence on the health of their communities.

Health begins in the womb. A healthy environment for a baby during pregnancy is perhaps the strongest influence on life-long health for all of us. This is especially true for Indigenous Australians. Babies of Aboriginal women tend to be smaller, and this reflects many influences: socioeconomic disadvantage; the mother’s nutrition; illnesses during pregnancy. Importantly, it can reflect alcohol consumption and use of tobacco.

Indigenous women have less opportunity to become healthy and prepare for pregnancy. When pregnant, they see their midwives and doctors later in pregnancy, and less often than non-indigenous women. They have lesser access to the standards of antenatal care that other women take for granted during pregnancy. They suffer racism, marginalisation, and exposure to violence.

The babies of Aboriginal women are more likely to be born prematurely, and more likely to die in pregnancy or soon after birth. As infants, their mortality rates exceed those of non-Indigenous infants. They are more likely to suffer childhood diseases.

The babies of Aboriginal women are more likely to be born prematurely, and more likely to die in pregnancy or soon after birth.

As adults, Indigenous Australians are more likely to be hospitalised. The reasons for this include injuries, infections, and kidney disease in particular. Cancers – lung cancer and cancer of the cervix – are much more likely to strike Aboriginal women. Women are more likely to die from cancer, and cervical cancer in particular has a death rate more than four times higher. Indigenous women are less likely to participate in screening programs that can prevent cervical cancer.

So many of these problems are completely preventable, and arise from what we call ‘social determinants of health.’ Social conditions and economic opportunity influence health at all levels, from the individual up to the entire community. Education, income and employment, adequate housing, access to health and other services, social supports – all of these play a role in shaping health.

Many Australian doctors struggle to understand how Indigenous people view medical treatment. For many Aboriginal people, health is viewed as the social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. It is subsumed into a connection to the land, the community, social relationships, and the environment.

Trust is a major factor influencing the way Indigenous people access, and interact with, the health system. Many will have had bad experiences with our hospitals and health-care workers, however well-meaning many doctors and nurses are. It is common to have Aboriginal people discharge themselves from hospital against the advice of their carers.

Pregnancy is a time when it is possible to turn this around. It is a time when it should be possible to build good, trusting relationships with women and their families. By making the effort to tailor maternity care to the needs of Indigenous women, it should be possible to engage in a positive way. To promote health screening, and help build enduring relationships with carers.

Pregnancy is a time when it is possible to turn this around. It is a time when it should be possible to build good, trusting relationships with women and their families.

Recently, the Presidents of a number of medical Colleges met with the Indigenous Health Minister, the Honourable Ken Wyatt. Over the course of the morning, it became clear that there is a new determination to put things right. To identify and work hard to remove the roadblocks to health for Indigenous Australians.

As the saying goes, every great journey begins with a single step. Making sure that Indigenous women prepare for pregnancy, have healthy pregnancies and births, and that their children are healthy, are all key to long-term improvements in community health. I am hoping that we can all take these steps together.

Learn more about Indigenous women’s health at:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #flutracker : ‎@Flutrack You can help protect our mob from the #flu


” How much flu we see each year depends on which types of the flu virus are circulating and how susceptible the population is. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher risk of getting the flu than non-Indigenous Australians.

This may be due to the high proportion of Indigenous Australians with chronic illness, or those living in remote communities may not have seen previous types of the flu that may have offered some protection.

Free vaccine is available for Indigenous Australians who are less than five years of age or over 15 years of age.

In 2016, only 300 Indigenous Australians participated in Flutracking. This meant that it was not possible to see how much flu there was and how well the flu vaccine was working in protecting Indigenous Australians.

From Flu Tracking Via Indigenous X

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Alert : Flu vaccines and other immunisation programs : What you need to know

What the Video Here

Influenza, or the “flu” is a big problem around the world. In Australia, most disease occurs during late winter, but in the tropics, it can occur at any time.

The flu is spread from person to person through the air when a sick person coughs or sneezes and it can cause symptoms such as fever, coughing, soreness in the body or sometimes very serious disease that can lead to death. You are more likely to have serious disease if you are less than five-years of age, elderly or have a chronic illness such as diabetes, renal failure, heart or lung disease or if you are pregnant or smoke.

Aboriginal girls playing on a swing

FluTracking needs your help to protect our mob from the flu.


The best way to protect yourself from the flu is by vaccination. Free vaccine is available for Indigenous Australians who are less than five years of age or over 15 years of age.

It is also recommended but not yet funded for Indigenous Australians aged 5 to 15 years of age. You need to be vaccinated every year to be protected as the types of the flu virus that is included in the vaccine changes each year and protection provided by the vaccine does not last a long time.

One way to check how much flu there is in the community and to see how well the vaccine is working is to conduct surveillance of flu symptoms. Flutracking is a community based surveillance system, based out of Newcastle.

It asks people to participate by signing up, and responding to a weekly email by answering two simple questions; whether or not they had symptoms of the flu in the previous week, and whether they had received the flu vaccine. If participants have had flu symptoms, then a few additional questions will follow about whether they have seen their doctor and if they were tested for the flu.

Currently, over 30,000 Australians participate in Flutracking, making it the biggest community surveillance system in the world. However, not all communities within Australia are well represented, which makes it difficult to assess how much flu there is in certain populations and how well the flu vaccine is protecting people.

In 2016, only 300 Indigenous Australians participated in Flutracking. This meant that it was not possible to see how much flu there was and how well the flu vaccine was working in protecting Indigenous Australians.

If more Indigenous Australians join, we will be able to understand how serious the flu is each year and how quickly it will spread.

We will need many Indigenous Australians to join in order to know how well the flu vaccine is working.

We invite all Australians and particularly Indigenous Australians to join Flutracking.

Why should I join and what’s in it for me? You can contribute to one of the largest community-based surveillance systems in the world, and you can help protect our mob from the flu and contribute to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal communities.

Some Flutracking participants enjoy being part of the community of Flutrackers and being involved only takes 10 seconds each week.

With links available to a map of flu activity, you can see how much flu there is in your area, and have the option to hear messages about protecting yourself and your family and community against the flu

. You can change your mind and stop participating at any time. For more information about how we use data, please click here.

This article was sponsored by HNE Health