NACCHO Aboriginal Health supports the @Lungfoundation first ever Australia-wide #Indigenous Lung Health Checklist



 ” Lung Foundation Australia in collaboration with the Queensland Government’s Indigenous Respiratory Outreach Care Program (IROC) have developed the Checklist specifically for the Indigenous community.

It only takes a few minutes to answer 8 questions that could save your or a loved one’s life.

It can be completed on a mobile phone, tablet or computer.


The Indigenous Lung Health Checklist is narrated by the Lung Foundation’s Ambassador and Olympic Legend Cathy Freeman.

Read or Download the PDF Brochure


Please go to the site as Indigenous peoples are almost twice as likely to die from a lung-related condition than non-Indigenous Australians.

# Indigenous Lung Health Checklist at

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Obesity #junkfood : 47 point plan to control weight problem that costs $56 billion per year


 ” JUNK food would be banned from schools and sports venues, and a sugar drink tax introduced, under a new blueprint to trim the nation’s waistline.

The 47-point blueprint also includes a crackdown on using junk food vouchers as rewards for sporting performance and for fundraising.

State governments would be compelled to improve the healthiness of foods in settings controlled by them like hospitals, workplaces and government events.

And they would have to change urban planning rules to restrict unhealthy food venues and make more space for healthy food outlets. “

Originally published as Move to ban junk food in schools

Updated Feb 21 with press release from Health Minister Greg Hunt See below

The Australian Government is taking action to tackle the challenge of obesity and encourage all Australians to live healthy lives

“In my view, we should be starting to tax sugary drinks as a first step. Nearly every week there’s a new study citing the benefits of a sugary drinks tax and and nearly every month another country adopts it as a policy. It’s quickly being seen as an appropriate thing to do to address the obesity epidemic.”

A health economist at the Grattan Institute, Stephen Duckett, said the researchers had put together a careful and strong study and set of tax and subsidy suggestions.see article 2 below  

One hundred nutrition experts from 53 organisations working with state and federal bureaucrats have drawn up the obesity action plan to control the nation’s weight problem that is costing the nation $56 billion a year.

The review of state and federal food labelling, advertising and health policies found huge variation across the country and experts want it corrected by a National Nutrition Policy.

The nation is in the grip of an obesity crisis with almost two out of three (63 per cent) Australian adults, and one in four (25 per cent) Australian children overweight or obese.

Obesity is also one of the lead causes of disease and death including cancer.

More than 1.4 million Australians have Type 2 diabetes and new cases are being diagnosed at the rate of 280 per day.

Stomach, bowel, kidney, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, oesophagus, endometrium, ovary, prostate cancer and breast cancer in postmenopausal women have all been linked to obesity.

Half of all Australians are exceeding World Health Organisation’s recommendations they consume less than 13 teaspoons or sugar a day with most of the white stuff hidden in drinks and processed food, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Survey shows.

Teenage boys are the worst offenders consuming 38 teaspoons of sugar a day which makes up a quarter of their entire calorie intake.

Dr Gary Sacks from Deakin University whose research underpins the obesity control plan says it’s time for politicians to put the interests of ordinary people and their health above the food industry lobbyists

“It’s a good start to have policies for restricting junk foods in school canteens, but if kids are then inundated with unhealthy foods at sports venues, and they see relentless junk food ads on prime-time TV, it doesn’t make it easy for them to eat well,” he said.

That’s why the experts want a co-ordinated national strategy that increases the price of unhealthy food using taxes and regulations to reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising.

The comprehensive examination of state and federal food policies found Australia is meeting best practice in some areas including the Health Star Rating food labelling scheme, no GST on basic foods and surveys of population body weight.

While all States and Territories have policies for healthy school food provision they are not all monitored and supported, the experts say.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition and a partner in the research, said a piecemeal approach would not work to turn the tide of obesity in Australia.

“When nearly two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese, we

know that it’s not just about individuals choosing too many of the wrong foods, there are strong environmental factors at play – such as the all pervasive marketing of junk food particularly to children,” she said.

The new policy comes as a leading obesity experts says a tax on sugary drinks in Australia would be just as logical as existing mandatory controls on alcohol and tobacco

Professor Stephen Colagiuri from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre claims a ‘sugar tax’ help individuals moderate their sugary beverage intake, in much the same way as current alcohol, tobacco, and road safety measures like seat belts and speed restrictions preventing harmful behaviours.

The UK will introduce a sugar tax next year and in Mexico a sugar tax introduced in 2014 has already reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 12 per cent and increased the consumption of water.

Australian politicians have repeatedly dismissed a sugar tax on the grounds it interferes with individual rights.

However, Professor Colagiuri says “individual rights can be equally violated if governments fail to take effective and proportionate measures to remove health threats from the environment in the cause of improving population health.”

Originally published as Move to ban junk food in schools

ARTICLE 2 Australia would save $3.4bn if junk food taxed and fresh food subsidised, says study 


O as published in the Guardian

Australian researchers say subsidising fresh fruit and vegetables would ensure the impact of food taxes on the household budget would be negligible. Photograph: Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images/Blend Images

Health experts have developed a package of food taxes and subsidies that would save Australia $3.4bn in healthcare costs without affecting household food budgets.

Linda Cobiac, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s school of public health, led the research published on Wednesday in the journal Plos Medicine.

Cobiac and her team used international data from countries that already have food and beverage taxes such as Denmark, but tweaked the rate of taxation and also included a subsidy for fresh fruit and vegetables so the total change to the household budget would be negligible.

They then modelled the potential impact on the Australian population of introducing taxes on saturated fat, salt, sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, and a subsidy on fruits and vegetables. Their simulations found the combination of the taxes and subsidy could result in 1.2 additional years of healthy life per 100 people alive in 2010, at a net cost-saving of $3.4bn to the health sector.

“Few other public health interventions could deliver such health gains on average across the whole population,” Cobiac said.

The sugar tax produced the biggest gains in health, followed by the salt tax, the saturated fat tax and the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.

The fruit and vegetable subsidy, while cost-effective when added to the package of taxes, did not lead to a net health benefit on its own, the researchers found.

The researchers suggest introducing a tax of $1.37 for every 100 grams of saturated fat in those foods with a saturated fat content of more than 2.3%, excluding milk; a salt tax of 30 cents for one gram of sodium above Australian maximum recommended levels; a sugar-sweetened beverage tax of 47 cents a litre; a fruit and vegetable subsidy of 14 cents for every 100 grams; and a sugar tax of 94 cents for every 100ml in ice-cream with more than 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams; and 85 cents for every 100 grams in all other products.

The taxes exclude fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and many dairy products.

“You need to include both carrots and sticks to change consumer behaviour and to encourage new taxes,” Blakely said. “That’s where this paper is cutting edge internationally.

“We have worked out the whole package of taxes with minimal impact on the budget of the household, so you can see an overall gain for the government. The government would be less interested in the package if it was purely punitive, but this provides subsidies and savings to health spending that could be reinvested back into communities and services.”

He said taxing junk foods also prompted food manufacturers to change their products and make them healthier to avoid the taxes.

“For those who might say this is an example of nanny state measures, let’s consider that we don’t mind asbestos being taken out of buildings to prevent respiratory disease, and we’re happy for lead to be taken from petrol. We need to change the food system if we are going to tackle obesity and prevent disease.”

A health economist at the Grattan Institute, Stephen Duckett, said the researchers had put together a careful and strong study and set of tax and subsidy suggestions. “This is a very good paper,” he said.

“In my view, we should be starting to tax sugary drinks as a first step. Nearly every week there’s a new study citing the benefits of a sugary drinks tax and and nearly every month another country adopts it as a policy. It’s quickly being seen as an appropriate thing to do to address the obesity epidemic.”

A Grattan Institute report published in November found introducing an excise tax of 40 cents for every 100 grams of sugar in beverages as part of the fight against obesity would trigger a 15% drop in the consumption of sugary drinks. Australians and New Zealanders consume an average of 76 litres of sugary drinks per person every year.

In a piece for the Medical Journal of Australia published on Monday, the chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges, Prof Nicholas Talley, wrote that “the current lack of a coordinated national approach is not acceptable”.

More than one in four Australian children are now overweight or obese, as are more than two-thirds of all adults.

Talley proposed a six-point action plan, which included recognising obesity as a chronic disease with multiple causes. He also called for stronger legislation to reduce unhealthy food marketing to children and to reduce the consumption of high-sugar beverages, saying a sugar-sweetened beverage tax should be introduced.

“There is evidence that the food industry has been a major contributor to obesity globally,” he wrote. “The health of future generations should not be abandoned for short-term and short-sighted commercial interests.”

Press Release 21 February Greg Hunt Health Minister

The Australian Government is taking action to tackle the challenge of obesity and encourage all Australians to live healthy lives.

PDF printable version of Turnbull Government committed to tackling obesity – PDF 269 KB

The Turnbull Government is taking action to tackle the challenge of obesity and encourage all Australians to live healthy lives.

But unlike the Labor Party, we don’t believe increasing the family grocery bill at the supermarket is the answer to this challenge.

We already have programmes in place to educate, support and encourage Australians to adopt and maintain a healthy diet and to lead an active life – and there’s more to be done.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister flagged that the Government will soon be announcing a new focus on preventive health that will give people the right tools and information to live active and healthy lives. This will build on the significant work already underway.

Yesterday, we launched the second phase of the $7 million Girls Make Your Move campaign to increase physical activity for girls and young women. This is now being rolled out across Australia.

Our $160 million Sporting Schools program is getting kids involved in physical activity. Already around 6,000 schools across the country have been involved – with many more to come. This is a great programme that Labor wants to axe.

Our Health Star Rating system helps people to make healthier choices when choosing packaged foods at the supermarket and encourages the food industry to reformulate their products to be healthier.

The Healthy Weight Guide website provides useful advice including tips and tools to encourage physical activity and healthy eating to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

The Healthy Food Partnership with the food industry and public health groups is increasing people’s health knowledge and is supporting them to make healthier food and drink choices in order to achieve better health outcomes.

We acknowledge today’s report, but it does not take into account a number of the Government programs now underway.

Obesity and poor diets are complex public health issue with multiple contributing factors, requiring a community-wide approach as well as behaviour change by individuals. We do not support a new tax on sugar to address this issue.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are already effectively discounted as they do not have a GST applied.

Whereas the GST is added to the cost of items such as chips, lollies, sugary drinks, confectionery, snacks, ice-cream and biscuits.

We’re committed to tackling obesity, but increasing the family’s weekly shop at the supermarket isn’t the answer

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #prisons #JustJustice : Terms of references released Over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in our prisons


 ” It is acknowledged that while laws and legal frameworks are an important factor contributing to over‑representation, there are many other social, economic, and historic factors that also contribute.

It is also acknowledged that while the rate of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their contact with the criminal justice system – both as offenders and as victims – significantly exceeds that of non‑Indigenous Australians, the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit criminal offences.”

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General of Australia,

Refering to the Australian Law Reform Commission, an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prisons:

Senator Siewert Greens Senator moved the following motion in the Senate

(a) notes that the adult incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples increased by 77.4 per cent from 2000 to 2015;

(b) acknowledges the growing incarceration rates of our First Peoples is shameful;

(c) notes the Redfern Statement, which was released in 2016 by over 55 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations and peak bodies, sets out a plan for addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage;

(d) notes that the Redfern Statement calls for justice targets to help focus the effort to reduce Aboriginal incarceration; and

(e) calls on the Government to listen to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and adopt justice targets as a matter of urgency.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will tomorrow deliver the ninth Closing the Gap address to Parliament.

The annual report card tracks progress against targets in a range of areas, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and life expectancy.

But it does not include any targets around incarceration rates — despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making up a quarter of Australia’s prison population

ALRC inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) welcomes the appointment by Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, of His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM as an ALRC Commissioner.

Judge Myers will lead the new ALRC Inquiry into the high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, announced by the Attorney-General in October 2016.

Judge Myers was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2012. He is a member of the Board of Family and Relationship Services Australia, the CatholicCare Advisory Council (Broken Bay Dioceses), Law Society of New South Wales Indigenous Issues Committee, Federal Circuit Court of Australia Indigenous Access to Justice Committee, Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Family Law Pathways Network, member of the Central Coast Family Law Pathways Network Steering Committee, member of the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, member of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council,  member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and member of the Honoured Friends of the Salvation Army.

Judge Myers said “I am honoured by this appointment and the opportunity to build on the valuable work of past Commissions, Inquiries and successful community initiatives. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children are significantly over represented in the Australian criminal justice system. This is something that cannot and should not be acceptable to any Australian. I look forward to undertaking a broad consultation across the country, working closely with stakeholders and the community to develop meaningful and practical solutions through law reform.”

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM said, “We are delighted by this appointment and welcome Judge Myers to lead this very important Inquiry. To echo the Attorney-General, the over representation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system is a national tragedy. This Inquiry, with the expertise and leadership of Judge Myers, is an important step in developing much needed law reform in this area.”

The Attorney-General’s Department released draft Terms of Reference for Inquiry into the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for community consultation, in December 2016.

The consultation included Indigenous communities and organisations and state and territory governments.

Scope of the reference

  1. In developing its law reform recommendations, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) should have regard to:
    1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in custody, specifically in relation to:
      1. the nature of offences resulting in incarceration,
      2. cautioning,
      3. protective custody,
      4. arrest,
      5. remand and bail,
      6. diversion,
      7. sentencing, including mandatory sentencing, and
      8. parole, parole conditions and community reintegration.
    2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering (1)(a)(i-viii), including:
      1. community safety,
      2. availability of alternatives to incarceration,
      3. the degree of discretion available to decision-makers,
      4. incarceration as a last resort, and
      5. incarceration as a deterrent and as a punishment.
    3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
    4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
    5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
    6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  2.  In conducting its Inquiry, the ALRC should have regard to existing data and research[1] in relation to:
    1. best practice laws, legal frameworks that reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration,
    2. pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the criminal justice system, including most frequent offences, relative rates of bail and diversion and progression from juvenile to adult offending,
    3. alternatives to custody in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and/or offending, including rehabilitation, therapeutic alternatives and culturally appropriate community led solutions,
    4. the impacts of incarceration on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including in relation to employment, housing, health, education and families, and
    5. the broader contextual factors contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration including:
      1. the characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population,
      2. the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration and inter‑generational trauma, loss of culture, poverty, discrimination, alcohol and drug use, experience of violence, including family violence, child abuse and neglect, contact with child protection and welfare systems, educational access and performance, cognitive and psychological factors, housing circumstances and employment, and
      3. the availability and effectiveness of culturally appropriate programs that intend to reduce Aboriginal; and Torres Strait Islander offending and incarceration.
    6. fullsizerender
  3. In undertaking this Inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consider other reports, inquiries and action plans including but not limited to:
    1. the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody,
    2. the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (due to report 1 August 2017),
    3. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services,
    4. Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric impairment in Australia,
    5. Senate Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs inquiry into Harmful Use of Alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities,
    6. reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    7. the ALRC’s inquiries into Family violence and Family violence and Commonwealth laws, and
    8. the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

  1. In conducting its inquiry the ALRC should also have regard to relevant international human rights standards and instruments.


  1. In undertaking this inquiry, the ALRC should identify and consult with relevant stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their organisations, state and territory governments, relevant policy and research organisations, law enforcement agencies, legal assistance service providers and the broader legal profession, community service providers and the Australian Human Rights Commission.


  1. The ALRC should provide its report to the Attorney-General by 22 December 2017.

[1] It is not the intention that the Australian Law Reform Commission will undertake independent research or evaluation of existing programs, noting that this falls outside its legislative responsibilities and expertise.


NACCHO Invites all health practitioners and staff to a webinar : Working collaboratively to support the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal youth in crisis


NACCHO invites all health practitioners and staff to the webinar: An all-Indigenous panel will explore youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The webinar is organised and produced by the Mental Health Professionals Network and will provide participants with the opportunity to identify:

  • Key principles in the early identification of youth experiencing psychological distress.
  • Appropriate referral pathways to prevent crises and provide early intervention.
  • Challenges, tips and strategies to implement a collaborative response to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in crisis.

Join hundreds of doctors, nurses and mental health professionals around the nation for an interdisciplinary panel discussion. The panellists with a range of professional experience are:

  • Dr Louis Peachey (Qld Rural Generalist)
  • Dr Marshall Watson (SA Psychiatrist)
  • Dr Jeff Nelson (Qld Psychologist)
  • Facilitator: Dr Mary Emeleus (Qld GP and Psychotherapist)

Read more about the panellists.

Working collaboratively to support the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in crisis.

Date:  Thursday 23rd February, 2017

Time: 7.15 – 8.30pm AEDT


No need to travel to benefit from this free PD opportunity. Simply register and log in anywhere you have a computer or tablet with high speed internet connection. CPD points awarded.

Learn more about the learning outcomes, other resources and register now.

For further information, contact MHPN on 1800 209 031 or email

The Mental Health Professionals’ Network is a government-funded initiative that improves interdisciplinary collaborative mental health care practice in the primary health sector.  MHPN promotes interdisciplinary practice through two national platforms, local interdisciplinary networks and online professional development webinars.







NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap Run and Walk : 3 ways you can support Indigenous Marathon Foundation


 ” IMP uses the marathon as a vehicle to promote healthy lifestyles to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Running is accessible to any age, ability and location and has the tremendous power to instil a sense of personal accomplishment when one has pushed beyond what they thought possible.

Robert De Castella Founder Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF)

You are invited by the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF) support the project in 3 ways

  1. To participate in their Closing the Gap Run-and-Walk, held on the eve of the release of the Prime Minister’s 2017 Closing the Gap Report.
  2. Donate or assist in fundraising The Indigenous Marathon Foundation Ltd is a registered health promotion charity Donations over $2 are tax deductable and support our programs and inspirational Graduates celebrate Indigenous achievement, resilience and promote health and physical activity PO Box 6127 Mawson ACT 2607 (02) 6162 4750
  3. The search for the 2017 squad of the Indigenous Marathon Project : Promote to your community see 2017 Remaining try-out tour dates and locations below  

The IMF are a not-for-profit organisation that uses running to drive social change, create young leaders and address Indigenous health and social issues by celebrating Indigenous resilience and achievement.

Their program has inspired communities across Australia to take up running not just for exercise, but also to connect and share stories in a supportive environment.

Healthy lifestyle programs like those run by the IMF are a vital part of the Australian Government’s initiative to close the substantial gap in health, education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and other Australians.

Please come to join runners from the IMF and staff from the Department’s IAG Health Branch for a 5 kilometre run-and-walk to support the successful impact sport and recreation programs have in Indigenous communities and kick start the launch of the 2017 Closing the Gap Report.

1.Event details 

Date: Monday 13 February 2017 Time: 6:45 am arrival for a 7:00 am start

Location: Reconciliation Place, Lake Burley Griffin 

Please bring a water bottle or something to drink on the way. A light breakfast will be available after the run and a coffee van will also be present at the site.

Please RSVP to Rachael at

3.The search for the 2017 squad of the Indigenous Marathon Project

The search for the 2017 squad of the Indigenous Marathon Project began in Canberra on February 1 when former world champion runner and IMP Founder Rob de Castella, and 2014 IMP Graduate and Head Coach Adrian Dodson-Shaw put applicants through their paces for a place on the life-changing project.

No running experience is required, as the project is not necessarily looking for athletes, but for young Indigenous men and women who show the potential to become community leaders.

The national tour will visit communities around Australia and select six men and six women in a trial that includes a 3km run for women and 5km run for men, in addition to an interview with Mr Dodson-Shaw. The group will also be expected to complete a Certificate III in Fitness, First Aid & CPR qualification and Level 1 Recreational Running coaching accreditation as part of the project’s compulsory education component.

There were a record number of applications in 2016, and high numbers are anticipated for the 2017 try-outs.

“There’ll be some pretty exciting times ahead as we begin the national IMP 2017 try-out tour, and what better place to start than the nation’s capital,’’ Mr Dodson-Shaw said.

“It’s going to be a busy two months on the recruitment drive but I’m looking forward to meeting the applicants and choosing the next squad to take on the New York City Marathon.”

Mr de Castella said the selection of a new squad is always an exciting time.

‘’The marathon is synonymous with struggle and achievement and it is one of the hardest things you can choose to do,’’ he said. ‘’Doing a full marathon from no running experience, on the other side of the world, in the biggest city in the world, in the biggest marathon in the world, is an incredible feat of hard work and determination.

‘’We are now recruiting a new squad to follow in the footsteps of the 65 IMP Graduates we have produced since 2010.

‘’I encourage every young Indigenous man and woman who wants to make change happen to come along and be part of this amazing life-changing and life-saving adventure!’’

Try-outs are open to all Indigenous men and women aged 18-30, and applications can be made on the day.

The IMP is a program of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, a not‐for‐profit Foundation established by Rob de Castella. Each year IMP selects a squad of 12 young Indigenous men and women, to train for the New York City Marathon in November, complete a compulsory education component – a Certificate III in Fitness, media training and coaching accreditation – and through their achievements celebrate Indigenous resilience and success.

The IMP relies on the generous support of the Australian Government Department of Health, Department of PM&C, Department of Regional Australia, local Government, Arts and Sport, Qantas, ASICS, Accor and the Australian public.

For more information please contact Media Manager Lucy Campbell on (02) 6162 4750 or 0419 483 303. More information about IMP can be found at or visit our Facebook page, The Marathon Project. ABN 39 162 317 455

2017 Remaining try-out tour dates and locations

  • Newcastle  February 8  8am

Empire Park, Bar Beach

  • Sydney  February 10  6pm

Redfern Oval

  • Perth  February 14  8am

Lake Monger, between Leederville and Wembley

  • Karratha  February 15  5pm

Bulgarra Oval

  • Broome  February 16  5pm

Peter Haynes Oval (Frederick Street)

  • Adelaide  February 21  8am

Barratt Reserve, West Beach

  • Brisbane  February 28  8am

QSAC Track Kessels Road, Nathan

  • Townsville  March 1  8am

Muldoon Oval

  • Cairns  March 2  5pm

Pirate Ship, The Esplanade

  • Thursday Island  March 3  5pm

Mr Turtle

  • Alice Springs  March 8  5pm

Head Street Oval

  • Port Macquarie  March 11  11am

Westport Park

  • Darwin  March 20  6pm

Outside Darwin Military Museum, Alec Fong Lim Drive

  • Timber Creek  March 21  6pm

Timber Creek Oval

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Smoking : Pack warning labels help Aboriginal smokers butt out


Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across 140 health settings are helping smokers in our communities to quit.

Pack warning labels are also an important element as smokers read, think about and discuss large, prominent and  graphic labels.

This comprehensive approach works to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking and the harm it causes in our communities,’

Matthew Cooke from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

Pack warning labels are motivating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers to quit smoking according to new research released by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) today.

The study has shown that graphic warning labels not only motivate quit attempts but increase Indigenous smokers’ awareness of the health issues caused by smoking.

Forming part of the national Talking About The Smokes study led by Menzies in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, the 642 study participants completed baseline surveys and follow-up surveys a year later.

The study found that 30% of Indigenous smokers at baseline said that pack warning labels had stopped them having a smoke when they were about to smoke.

Study leader, Menzies’ Professor David Thomas said, ‘This reaction rose significantly among smokers who were exposed to plain packaging for the first time during the period of research. The introduction of new and enlarged warning labels on plain packs had a positive impact upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers.’

Professor David Thomas, explained the significance of this finding, ‘Reacting to warning labels by forgoing a cigarette may not seem like much on its own. However, forgoing cigarettes due to warning labels was associated with becoming more concerned about the health consequences of smoking, developing an interest in quitting and attempting to quit. This is significant for our understanding of future tobacco control strategies.’

In addition, Indigenous smokers who said at baseline they often noticed warning labels on their packs were 80% more likely to identify the harms of smoking that have featured on warning labels.

Just under two in five (39%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over smoke daily. Smoking is responsible for 23% of the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

In 2012, pack warning labels in Australia were increased in size to 75% on the front of all packs and 90% of the back at the same time as tobacco plain packaging was introduced.

The study was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal and available at:

Summary of findings
  • The research is part of the Talking About the Smokes study
  • A total of 642 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers completed surveys at baseline (April 2012-October 2013) and follow-up (August 2013-August 2014)
  • At baseline, 66% of smokers reported they had often noticed warning labels in the past month, 30% said they had stopped smoking due to warning labels in the past month and 50% perceived that warning labels were somewhat or very effective to help them quit or stay quit
  • At follow-up, an increase in stopping smoking due to warning labels was found only those first surveyed before plain packaging was introduced (19% vs 34%, p=0.002), but not for those surveyed during the phase-in period (34% vs 37%, p=0.8) or after it was mandated (35% vs 36%, p=0.7). There were no other differences in reactions to warning labels according to time periods associated with plain packaging.
  • Smokers who reported they had stopped smoking due to warning labels in the month prior to baseline had 1.5 times the odds of quitting when compared with those who reported never doing so or never noticing labels (AOR: 1.45, 95% CI: 1.02-2.06, p=0.04), adjusting for other factors.
  • Smokers who reported they had often noticed warning labels on their packs at baseline had 1.8 times the odds of correctly responding to five questions about the health effects of smoking that had featured on packs (AOR: 1.84, 95% CI: 1.20-2.82, p=0.006), but not those that had not featured on packs (AOR: 1.03, 95%CI 0.73-1.45, p=0.9) when compared to smokers who did not often notice warning labels.

NACCHO Advertisement


NACCHO has announced the publishing date for the 9 th edition of Australia’s first national health Aboriginal newspaper, the NACCHO Health News .

Publish date 6 April 2017

Working with Aboriginal community controlled and award-winning national newspaper the Koori Mail, NACCHO aims to bring relevant advertising and information on health services, policy and programs to key industry staff, decision makers and stakeholders at the grassroots level.

And who writes for and reads the NACCHO Newspaper ?


While NACCHO’s websites ,social media and annual report have been valued sources of information for national and local Aboriginal health care issues for many years, the launch of NACCHO Health News creates a fresh, vitalised platform that will inevitably reach your targeted audiences beyond the boardrooms.

NACCHO will leverage the brand, coverage and award-winning production skills of the Koori Mail to produce a 24 page three times a year, to be distributed as a ‘lift-out’ in the 14,000 Koori Mail circulation, as well as an extra 1,500 copies to be sent directly to NACCHO member organisations across Australia.

Our audited readership (Audit Bureau of Circulations) is 100,000 readers

For more details rate card

Contact : Colin Cowell Editor

Mobile : 0401 331 251

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NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Chronic Disease #prevention



 ” The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance recommends that the Australian Government introduce a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages, as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing overweight and obesity, and with revenue supporting public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.

A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages should not be viewed as the single solution to the obesity epidemic in Australia.

Rather, it should be one component of a comprehensive approach, including restrictions on children’s exposure to marketing of these products, restrictions on their sale in schools, other children’s settings and public institutions, and effective public education campaigns[42].

Health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages

ACDPA Position Statement

Key messages

  •  The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) recommends that the Australian Government introduce a health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages (sugary drinks)i, as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing overweight and obesity.
  •  Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. Obesity is an established risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and certain cancers.
  •  Beverages are the largest source of free sugars in the Australian diet. One in two Australians usually exceed the World Health Organization recommendation to limit free sugars to 10% of daily intake (equivalent to 12 teaspoons of sugar).
  •  Young Australians are the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and socially disadvantaged groups.
  •  Young people, low-income consumers and those most at risk of obesity are most responsive to food and beverage price changes, and are likely to gain the largest health benefit from a levy on sugary drinks due to reduced consumption.
  •  A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia is estimated to reduce consumption and potentially prevent thousands of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke over 25 years. The levy could generate revenue of $400-$500 million each year, which could support public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent chronic disease and address childhood obesity.
  •  A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages should not be viewed as the single solution to the obesity epidemic in Australia. Rather, it should be one component of a comprehensive approach, including restrictions on children’s exposure to marketing of these products, restrictions on their sale in schools, other children’s settings and public institutions, and effective public education campaigns.

i ‘Sugar-sweetened beverages’ and sugary drinks are used interchangeably in this paper. This refers to all non-alcoholic water based beverages with added sugar, including sugar-sweetened soft drinks and flavoured mineral waters, fortified waters, energy and electrolyte drinks, fruit and vegetable drinks, and cordials. This term does not include milk-based products, 100% fruit juice or non-sugar sweetened beverages (i.e. artificial, non-nutritive or intensely sweetened). 2


The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) brings together five leading non-government health organisations with a commitment to reducing the growing incidence of chronic disease in Australia attributable to overweight and obesity, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. ACDPA members are: Cancer Council Australia; Diabetes Australia; Kidney Health Australia; National Heart Foundation of Australia; and the Stroke Foundation.

This position statement is one of a suite of ACDPA statements, which provide evidence-based information and recommendations to address modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. ACDPA position statements are designed to inform policy and are intended for government, non-government organisations, health professionals and the community.

Chronic disease

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in Australia, accounting for around 90% of all deaths in 2011[1]. One in two Australians (i.e. more than 11 million) had a chronic disease in 2014-15 and almost one quarter of the population had at least two conditions[2].

However, much chronic disease is actually preventable. Around one third of total disease burden could be prevented by reducing modifiable risk factors, including overweight and obesity, physical inactivity and poor diet[2].

Overweight and obesity

Overweight and obesity is the second greatest contributor to disease burden and increases risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and some cancers[2].

The rates of overweight and obesity are continuing to increase. Almost two-thirds of Australians are overweight or obese and one in four Australian children are already overweight or obese[2]. Children who are overweight are also more likely to grow up to become overweight or obese adults, with an increased risk of chronic disease and premature mortality[3].

The cost of obesity in Australia was estimated to be $8.6 billion in 2011-12, comprising $3.8 billion in direct costs and $4.8 billion in indirect costs[4]. If no further action is taken to slow obesity rates in Australia, the cost of obesity over the next 10 years to 2025 is estimated to total $87.7 billion[4].

Free sugars and weight gain

There is increasing evidence that high intake of free sugarsii is associated with weight gain due to excess energy intake and dental caries[5]. The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends reducing free sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake (equivalent to around 12 teaspoons of sugar), or to 5% for the greatest health benefits[5].

ii ‘Free sugars’ refer to sugars added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

In 2011-12, more than half of Australians usually exceeded the recommendation to limit free sugar intake to 10%[6]. There was wide variation in the amounts of free sugars consumed, with older children and teenagers most likely to exceed the recommendation and adults aged 51-70 least likely to exceed the recommendation[6]. On average, Australians consumed around 60 grams of free sugars each day (around 14 teaspoons)[6]. Children and young people were the highest consumers, with adolescent males and females consuming the equivalent of 22 and 17 teaspoons of sugar each day respectively [6].

Beverages contribute more than half of free sugar intake in the Australian diet[6]. In 2011-12, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks accounted for 19% of free sugar intake, fruit juices and fruit drinks contributed 13%, and cordial accounted for 4.9%[6]. 3

Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

In particular, sugar-sweetened beverages are mostly energy-dense but nutrient-poor. Sugary drinks appear to increase total energy intake due to reduced satiety, as people do not compensate for the additional energy consumed by reducing their intake of other foods or drinks[3, 7]. Sugar-sweetened beverages may also negatively affect taste preferences, especially amongst children, as less sweet foods may become less palatable[8].

Sugar-sweetened beverages are consumed by large numbers of Australian adults and children[9], and Australia ranks 15th in the world for sales of caloric beverages per person per day[10].

One third of Australians consumed sugar-sweetened beverages on the day before the Australian Health Survey interview in 2011-12[9]. Of those consuming sweetened beverages, the equivalent of a can of soft drink was consumed (375 mL)[9]. Children and adolescents were more likely to have consumed sugary drinks than adults (47% compared with 31%), and consumption peaked at 55% amongst adolescents[9]. Males were more likely than females to have consumed sugary drinks (39% compared with 29%)[9].

Australians living in areas with the highest levels of socioeconomic disadvantage were more likely to have consumed sugary drinks than those in areas of least disadvantage (38% compared with 31%)[9]. Half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumed sugary drinks compared to 34% of non-Indigenous people[9]. Amongst those consuming sweetened beverages, a greater amount was consumed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders than for non-Indigenous people (455 mL compared with 375 mL)[9]. 4

The health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

WHO and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommend restricting or avoiding intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, based on evidence that high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages may increase risk of weight gain and obesity[7, 11]. As outlined earlier, obesity is an established risk factor for a range of chronic diseases[2].

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, based on evidence of a probable association between sugary drink consumption and increased risk of weight gain in adults and children, and a suggestive association between soft drink consumption and an increased risk of reduced bone strength, and dental caries in children[3].

Type 2 diabetes

Sugar-sweetened drinks may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes[3]. Evidence indicates a significant relationship between the amount and frequency of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed and increased risk of type 2 diabetes[12, 13]. The risk of type 2 diabetes is estimated to be 26% greater amongst the highest consumers (1 to 2 servings/day) compared to lowest consumers (<1 serving/month)[13].

Cardiovascular disease and stroke

The consumption of added sugar by adolescents, especially sugar-sweetened soft drinks, has been associated with multiple factors that can increase risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of body size, and increased insulin resistance among overweight or obese adolescents[14].

A high sugar diet has been linked to increased risk of heart disease mortality[15, 16]. Consuming high levels of added sugar is associated with risk factors for heart disease such as weight gain and raised blood pressure[17]. Excessive dietary glucose and fructose have been shown to increase the production and accumulation of fatty cells in the liver and bloodstream, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, and kidney and liver disease[18]. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the major causes of chronic liver disease and is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease[18].

There is also emerging evidence that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may be independently associated with increased risk of stoke[19].

Chronic kidney disease

There is evidence of an independent association between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and the development of chronic kidney disease and kidney stone formation[20]. The risk of developing chronic kidney disease is 58% greater amongst people who regularly consume at least one sugar-sweetened soft drink per day, compared with non-consumers[21].


While sugar-sweetened beverages may contribute to cancer risk through their effect on overweight and obesity, there is no evidence to suggest that these drinks are an independent risk factor for cancer[7]. 5

A health levy on sugar-sweetened beverages

WHO recommends that governments consider taxes and subsidies to discourage consumption of less healthy foods and promote healthier options[22]. WHO concludes that there is “reasonable and increasing evidence that appropriately designed taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages would result in proportional reductions in consumption, especially if aimed at raising the retail price by 20% or more”[23].

Price influences consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages[24, 25]. Young people, low-income consumers and those most at risk of obesity are most responsive to food and beverage price changes, and are likely to gain the largest health benefit from a levy on sugary drinks due to reduced consumption[23]. While a health levy would result in lower income households paying a greater proportion of their income in additional tax, the financial burden across all households is small, with minimal differences between higher- and lower-income households (less than $5 USD per year)[26].

A 2016 study modelled the impact of a 20% ad valorem excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia over 25 years[27]. The levy could reduce sugary drink consumption by 12.6% and reduce obesity by 2.7% in men and 1.2% in women[27]. Over 25 years, there could be 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of ischaemic heart disease and 1,100 fewer strokes[27]. In total, 1,600 deaths could potentially be prevented[27].

The 20% levy was modelled to generate more than $400 million in revenue each year, even with a decline in consumption, and save $609 million in overall health care expenditure over 25 years[27]. The implementation cost was estimated to be $27.6 million[27].

A separate Australian report is supportive of an excise tax on the sugar content of sugar-sweetened beverages, to reduce consumption and encourage manufacturers to reformulate to reduce the sugar content in beverages[28]. An excise tax at a rate of 40 cents per 100 grams was modelled to reduce consumption by 15% and generate around $500 million annually in revenue[28]. While a sugary drinks levy is not the single solution to obesity, the introduction of a levy could promote healthier eating, reduce obesity and raise revenue to combat costs that obesity imposes on the broader community.

There is public support for a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages. Sixty nine percent of Australian grocery buyers supported a levy if the revenue was used to reduce the cost of healthy foods[29]. A separate survey of 1,200 people found that 85% supported levy revenue being used to fund programs reducing childhood obesity, and 84% supported funding for initiatives encouraging children’s sport[30].

An Australian levy on sugar-sweetened beverages is supported by many public health groups and professional organisations.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Expressions of interest invited from emerging consumer/carer leaders @CHFofAustralia , @NRHAlliance , @AUMentalHealth


 ” Our aim is to involve individuals who are emerging consumer/carer leaders.  By this we mean individuals who have started to be involved in health consumer/carer representation or advocacy work, perhaps at a local, regional or state/territory level, and who are enthusiastic and interested in doing more or different roles, particularly at the national level.

The Colloquium is occurring at a time when the value of people-centred approaches to policy is gaining currency.  The health and social care horizon is rapidly changing and we face many challenges as well as growing opportunity for reform and innovation.”

CHF, NRHA and MHA are working together to hold a Consumer and Carer Leadership Colloquium on 20-21 March 2017 in Canberra.  Colloquium participants are being selected from CHF, NRHA and MHA networks.

CHF therefore seeks expressions of interest from individuals who are interested in participating in the Colloquium, and who will benefit from its focus on emerging consumer/carer leaders.

Online applications here

Why a Colloquium?

The three host organisations all work with consumers/carers who are interested in advocating for a better Australian health system.

Our ways of working with these leaders may differ and we may use different terminology, but we have a shared interest in:

  • identifying and nurture emerging consumer/carer leaders with potential and interest to participate in and shape health reform at the national level;
  • supporting consumer/carer leaders to act with impact and influence;
  • providing opportunities for cross-fertilisation of ideas from consumer/carer leaders with different perspectives on the health system; and
  • growing and diversifying our pools of consumer/carer leaders.

What is a colloquium?

A colloquium is an interactive conference-style event. Our Colloquium is an opportunity to discuss issues of importance to emerging health consumer/carer leaders. It will have a learning, development and planning focus.

Who is the Colloquium aimed at?

Up to 80 consumers/carers will participate in the Colloquium.  The Colloquium is a learning and development forum.  We seek participants who want to achieve a more consumer-centred health system and enjoy sharing ideas with other like-minded people.

Our aim is to involve individuals who are emerging consumer/carer leaders.  By this we mean individuals who have started to be involved in health consumer/carer representation or advocacy work, perhaps at a local, regional or state/territory level, and who are enthusiastic and interested in doing more or different roles, particularly at the national level.

All expressions of interest will be assessed on their merits.

What is the time commitment?

You will need to be able to be in Canberra for:

  • the Colloquium networking dinner on the evening of 20 March 2017; and
  • the Colloquium itself on 21 March 2017.

You will also benefit from participating in two lead-in webinars on 8 and 15 March 2017.  The webinars will be for one hour.

The Colloquium program will include a mix of interactive and expert-led sessions, including peer experts.  The two lead-in webinars will provide background information about national health reform, allowing more informed discussion at the Colloquium itself.

What is the cost?

Your travel and accommodation costs will be met.  Meals will be provided, but not drinks at the networking dinner.  Sitting fees will not be paid.

What will participants get out of the Colloquium?

As an emerging consumer/carer leader, the Colloquium program will provide you with an opportunity to:

  • to discuss and better understand the health reform environment, implications and opportunities;
  • learn some new leadership skills and mentorship practices;
  • join an emerging leaders network as well as existing consumer/carer networks through CHF, MHA and NRHA;
  • discuss and identify development, mentorship and leadership needs of emerging consumer/carer leaders.

What outcomes will result from the Colloquium?

In addition to what you as an individual can expect to get out of your participation at the Colloquium, the Colloquium is designed to generate a plan of action for future co-operation to strengthen the role of the consumer/carer community in shaping health and related policy.  Such an action plan could include, for example, a future webinar program, online discussion forums, etc.

How do I express interest in participating in the Colloquium?

If you would like to be considered as a Colloquium participant, please complete the following form and submit it by 5 February 2017.  Following our selection process, we will advise you if your expression of interest has been successful by 24 February 2017.

 Online applications here

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cashless Welfare Card : NACCHO CEO Pat Turner questions lack of evidence


“The cashless welfare card is unfair, a form of control and reminds Aboriginal people every day that they are treated as second- and third-class citizens in their own land,”

One of the key issues in many of the areas where the card operates, such as in remote areas of South Australia, is the difficulty of accessing fresh produce at reasonable prices.

Where is the evidence that this card increases this access and enables Aboriginal people to get the healthy food they need?

A person’s dignity can also be lost when having to use such a card which can also have detrimental impacts on both their mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

Pat Turner, the chief executive of NACCHO  national peak body on Aboriginal health

From Melissa Davey The Guardian


The welfare card was “unfair” and “a form of control”, Turner said in response to a Guardian Australia report from the South Australian town of Ceduna which found welfare recipients on the card felt disempowered and dictated to.

But Turner, who before being appointed to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Naccho) was the longest-serving chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and spent 18 months as Monash Chair of Australian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, questioned the evidence from the government’s report

The trial of the card, known as the indue card, began in Ceduna in March and in the Western Australian towns of Kununurra and Wyndham in April. Welfare recipients in those towns now receive 80% of their welfare payments into the indue card, which cannot be used to withdraw cash or buy alcohol or gambling products. The remaining 20% can be withdrawn as cash.

The government, including the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the human services minister, Alan Tudge, say the card has so far been a success.

In a report released six months into the card’s trial, anecdotal evidence and early data found poker machine revenue in the Ceduna region between April and August last year was 15.1% lower than for the equivalent period in 2015.

There had also been a strong uptake of financial counselling, the report said, with 300 people seeking counselling since the trial began. Anecdotally, there had been a significant decline in people requesting basic supplies like milk and sugar from the Koonibba Community Shopfront in Ceduna, the report also said.

Most people on welfare in the trial towns are Aboriginal.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Department of Health and Human Services for comment.

The strength of data used in the government’s cashless welfare card progress report has been questioned by Aboriginal elders, health economists and the Greens senator, Rachel Siewert.

NACCHO Aboriginal Ear Health : Tackling Aboriginal ear disease will help close the gap


” We should be embarrassed that Aboriginal Australians have the world’s worst incidence of middle ear infection and the worst deafness rates because of those infections. More than 90 per cent of young Aboriginal children have hearing-aid-level deafness for much of the year and 35 per cent of central Australian Aboriginal children have perforated eardrums at any one time.

The situation is a disgrace.”

Chris Perry is president of the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery as published

Aboriginal children develop ear infections at a younger age and are affected more severely ­than any other racial group in the world by a factor of up to three. They have harmful bacteria colonising their nose and throat very early in life. The ear infections cause a build-up of infective fluid behind the eardrums that frequently burst and result in holes in these eardrums and a purulent discharge from the ears. These eardrum perforations often do not heal and the infection can dissolve the tiny middle ear bones called the ossicles, which conduct sound to the hearing nerves.

The partial deafness from infections is devastating to a child’s language development, ­especially where English is the second language. Children who are partially deaf never fully understand the spoken word. They find it difficult to follow conversations and to listen to what a teacher is saying. They become easily bored and disillusioned at school – that’s why we see the high rates of truancy and illiteracy among them.

Poor educational results lead to poverty and high unemployment levels. If you are illiterate it is hard to move away from an isolated community with high unemployment, violence and substance abuse issues.

Damien Howard, the distinguished academic psychologist from the Northern Territory, has documented the association of deafness in Aboriginal communities with violence, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide and the high rates of Aboriginal incarceration, especially in juvenile ­detention facilities.

Many ear, nose and throat surgeons, whom I represent, pediatricians, audiologists, education­alists and Aboriginal health workers have been involved in the research of this problem as well as the important provision of interventions that help mitigate the far-reaching, devastating consequences of this true pandemic.

Multiple health department jurisdictions, health regions, universities and medical centres across rural and outer suburban Australia are aware of the issue but still today these well-intentioned ­interventions are largely untested, not always evidence-based and are rarely benchmarked.

The terrible images from the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the high rates of Aboriginal incarceration have been brought to the attention of ordinary Australians who, through the years, have grown accustomed to tales of truancy, substance abuse, overcrowding and youth suicide.

The association of deafness as an important but remediable root cause has been unaccountably ­ignored, especially in Closing the Gap strategies, and unfortunately this reflects badly on us, the health practitioners and researchers who should be advocating for adequate treatment of this condition.

There is no shortage of surgeons, pediatricians, audiologists, speech therapists, educationalists and health workers wanting to help. States and territories need to come together to finance interventions that work.

Sound amplification systems in classrooms, hearing aids where appropriate, the training of teachers going to communities on how to teach a class of deaf kids, timely and appropriate GP and primary healthcare interventions, and timely surgery and vaccinations within the communities do work. Preventive action and early treatments are extremely cost ­effective when considered against the effects of hearing impairment.

It costs up to $60,000 to lock up a child for a year, and that is often followed by a life of welfare dependency. Australia would save a great deal of money and raise health and wellbeing among ­Aboriginal Australians by making ear health a priority.

A recognition of the consequences of inaction on Aboriginal deafness and the risk this poses to making any progress to closing the gap is essential. It should never be normal for people to have to suffer with ear disease and deafness. I am encouraged that this past year we have had a strong show of support from parliamentarians in Canberra and across several states and territories who have pledged their support to making Aboriginal ear disease a thing of the past.

To close the gap in health, we need a definitive ­national approach to address the Aboriginal ear disease crisis. The Ear Health for Life campaign that will be launched this year will draw together stakeholders from the health, social services, education and government sectors. It will raise awareness of this terrible problem, encourage preventive and early intervention action, and advocate for a co-ordinated national approach.

A nationally co-ordinated, evidence-based, benchmarked and multi-level response to the devastating rates of Aboriginal ear disease will boost Australia’s ability to close the gap. Join us in making this the year of ear health for all.

Chris Perry is president of the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.