As Australia finds its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons learned about our health systems must not be lost. The Australian Government must use next week’s Federal Budget to commit to measures that ensure our health systems are resilient and effective now and beyond COVID-19. “We know areas of our health system are failing Australians, and we cannot continue the business as usual approach to funding,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.
“There continues to be unmet need for health services in the community, and the ongoing need for further investment in our health care system to ensure services are accessible and affordable for patients is only going to increase.” The AMA has identified key areas that need immediate funding commitments in the upcoming Budget – permanent telehealth; public hospitals; aged care; general practice; private health insurance; and Indigenous health. Dr Khorshid continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how crucial our front line health workers and health services are, and how vital it is for them to be properly resourced and supported.”
Dr Simon Quilty has specialist skills in a range of fields so he can treat patients with complex conditions. Photo: Stephanie Zillman. Image source ABC News.
Your Health 2030 project
What would need to happen for all Australians to enjoy good health by 2030?
A team of public health experts across the country have put together a project answering this question, in collaboration with VicHealth, and they have published the results in a supplement in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Ray Lovett, Aboriginal epidemiologist at ANU and director of the Mayi Kuwayu Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing spoke with Hilary Harper on ABC Radio National Life Matters about how culture is key in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Australian Government Department of Health has released a COVID-19 vaccination – Fact sheet – Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). This easy-to-read fact sheet outlines the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines and what to do if you feel them.
Globally, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur every year. Despite the personal toll involved, many miscarriages are managed in relative isolation. Private grief and misconceptions can lead to women and their partners feeling at fault or managing alone.
Similarly, in the health-care system and broader society, the continuing conviction that miscarriages are unavoidable and the requirement, enshrined in many national guidelines, that women must have recurrent miscarriages before they are eligible for investigation or intervention has created a pervasive attitude of acceptance of miscarriage, urging women to “just try again”.
For too long miscarriage has been minimised and often dismissed. The lack of medical progress should be shocking. Instead, there is a pervasive acceptance. Not all miscarriages could be avoided, but the insidious implication that miscarriage, like other women’s reproductive health issues, including menstrual pain and menopause, should be managed with minimal medical intervention is ideological, not evidence based. Miscarriage should be a major focus for the medical research community, for service providers, and for policy makers. The era of telling women to “just try again” is over.
The early closure of the Voluntary Dental Graduate Year Program and the Oral Health Therapy Graduate Year Program by the Australian Government adversely impacted NSW Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs). This led to the co-design of a small-scale oral health therapy graduate year program for ACCHOs known as the Dalang Project. This project has enabled oral health therapists to engage with local Aboriginal communities and implement culturally competent, practical and evidence-based oral health promotion activities.
For an overview of the Dalang Project and its evaluation click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
New 715 Health Check resources
A range of community resources, including flyers, posters, animation, podcasts, social tiles, video stories, templates and more have been developed to support organisation promoting 715 Health Checks.
Amnesty International Australia and Balunu Healing Foundation have called on the NT government to give kids a chance at breaking the cycle of disadvantage and crime by diverting them into culturally appropriate programs that address the underlying intergenerational trauma which too often leads to crime, instead of condemning them to the quicksand of the youth justice system.
Amendments to the youth justice act due to be debated this week in Parliament will prevent kids from accessing Indigenous-led diversion programs which are highly effective in addressing recidivism. The NT’s own statistics show that more than 70% of children who complete a diversion program do not reoffend within 12 months of completion.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.
Children in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in Darwin. Photo: Helen Davidson. Image source: The Guardian.
World Hand Hygiene Day 2021
ThemSAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands global campaign was launched in 2009 and is celebrated annually on 5 May (World Hand Hygiene Day). The campaign aims to maintain global promotion, visibility and sustainability of hand hygiene in health care and to ‘bring people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement around the world.
For World Hand Hygiene Day 2021, WHO calls on health care workers and facilities to achieve effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. The point of care refers to the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and care or treatment involving contact with the patient or their surroundings.
New research released by The Healing Foundation shows that the strong and necessary public health restrictions introduced to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia since early 2020 retriggered trauma for some Stolen Generations survivors. The research data suggests an increased and heightened sense of vulnerability; significant disconnection from family, community, and country; and significant impacts on mental health and wellbeing among an already vulnerable cohort of people.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said the research results will assist governments and authorities in future pandemic planning to build on Australia’s world-leading public health efforts to ensure the most vulnerable in the community are protected. “The excellent work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 – as part of national efforts guided by the National Cabinet – ensured that infection rates were very low in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations,” Ms Cornforth said.
To view The Healing Foundation’s media release click here,
Image source: Creative Spirits.
ACCHO program reduces recidivism
Tyrone Walter says the Ngudjoong Billa program has put him on a better path. He’s recently completed the 20-week program and said it has helped him get his white card and feel a greater connection to his Aboriginal culture. And now his eyes are set on joining the Army. During its demonstration phase, the program has helped 73 young Aboriginal people reintegrate and transition out of the juvenile justice system. All of those who completed the 20 week program did not re-offend during that time.
Started in 2017, and delivered in partnership between the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) and the Department of Communities and Justice, the program provides a consistent support network for Aboriginal children exiting custody on the South Coast.
Jordan said Tyrone had gained a lot of confidence from the program which had helped him with his mental health. Jordan said Tyrone was lacking motivation at the start of the program because of his lifestyle choices with drugs and alcohol. But through a slow and intensive approach with a particular focus on strengthening Tyrone’s cultural identity and building his connections to family, community and country, Tyrone is now off drugs and has been for a while.
Tyrone Walter standing between his caseworker Jordan Farrell, and the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward. Image source: South Coast Register.
Facts about COVID-19
In a short video Dr Mark Wenitong, a GP in Indigenous health for 25 years, reminds us to get information about COVID-19 vaccines from trusted sources. You can access the video including a transcript here.
Suicide prevention roadmap
Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15–44 years – more common than deaths from motor vehicle accidents or skin cancer (Aleman & Denys 2014). Over 2,500 people die from suicide in Australia each year and more than 65,000 make an attempt.
The Final Advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, announced today, paves the way for a clear roadmap for reform. In particular, the recommendation to establish a National Suicide Prevention Office has the potential to create a significant enhancement of suicide prevention and in turn, save lives. Suicide Prevention Australia, the national peak body for suicide prevention, is urging Governments across Australia to use the findings of the report to drive down suicide rates. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, said, “the Final Report of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser has the potential to be a game changer for suicide prevention in Australia. Immediate uptake of the key recommendations is critical to enable real reform that will save lives.”
To view the Suicide Prevention Australia’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Australian Psychological Society website.
Child protection & adolescent self-harm
A history of child maltreatment is known to elevate the risk of self-harm in adolescence. However, until a recent studythis link had not been investigated for Aboriginal children who experience a greater burden of both. This study Patterns of child protection service involvement by Aboriginal children associated with a higher risk of self-harm in adolescence: A retrospective population cohort study using linked administrative data confirms a higher risk of self-harm in adolescence is associated with child maltreatment, especially in middle childhood and concludes that addressing the intergenerational trauma in Aboriginal families is crucial to preventing child maltreatment and informing reforms to child protection responses that can better identify and address the culturally-specific unmet needs of Aboriginal families.
Cultural training in health services survey ENDS SOON
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has developed a short survey to gain an understanding of the type and level of cultural safety training currently being undertaken by health service organisations. The Commission is committed to ongoing and evolving culturally safe practices, which are developed in consultation with, and determined by, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The NSQHS Standards define six actions that specifically meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. One of the six actions states: “The health service organisation has strategies to improve the cultural awareness and cultural competency of the workforce to meet the needs of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.” The Commission is calling on feedback to assist in the development of resources to strengthen cultural safety training and support services in implementing this action.
Click here to complete the survey for your organisation. The survey is open until Friday, 23 April 2021, and takes up to 10 minutes to complete.
The Stop it at the Start campaign encourages adults to positively influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people aged 10–17 by role modelling positive behaviour, calling out disrespect and starting conversations about respect. It aims to unite the community around positive actions everyone can take to break the cycle of disrespect, and ultimately, violence against women.
Community influencers and campaign supporters Kristy Masella, Andy Saunders, Renee Thomson, and Sean Choolburra share a common message—even the simplest, smallest actions can make a big difference for young people, and for our community.
To access a range of Stop it at the Start resources released earlier this week click here. Please note, in this document the link for the Sean Choolburra & his daughter Tyra – Tips on how to speak up when you see disrespect video does not work, this link does.
To view the Australian government’s Unmute yourself – speaking up to end violence against women media release in full click here. and to access an editorial from Darumbal woman Kristy Masella, campaign supporter for the Stop it at the Start campaign click here.
Sexual wellbeing – what we do well
A recent research project, Fostering the sexual wellbeing of Aboriginal young people by building on social, cultural and personal strengths and resources has looked at how urban Aboriginal young people foster sexual health and wellbeing for themselves and others. The project purposely sought to adopt a strengths-based approach by identifying the resources and capacities of Aboriginal young people to minimise harm and promote health.
More specifically, the project aimed to explore the community resources that Aboriginal young people access to help them make positive sexual choices, inform their understandings of sexual health and relationships, manage their sexual wellbeing, and engage with health promotion and health care services. The research will provide health services and policymakers with insightful new knowledge to better support young urban Aboriginal people and their communities.
For further information on the project click here.
Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.
Healing Foundation CEO – National Press Club
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth will be addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday 2 June 2021. Fiona will be releasing The Healing Foundation’s “Make Healing Happen: It’s time to act” report. The report sets out a plan with recommendations to achieve real and lasting healing for Stolen Generations Survivors and to promote intergenerational healing. The address will be televised live on ABC TV.
A new report published by Lowitja Institute provides a blueprint for placing culture at the core of policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, showing how the cultural determinants of health can be implemented into policy and practice.
Lowitja institute CEO Dr Janine Mohamed said the report Culture is key: towards cultural determinants-driven health policy outlines how culture is a protective factor for health and wellbeing and needs to be integrated and valued within health policy frameworks and programs, and also in broader government policies. “For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the cultural determinants are an essential part of our identity and are protective factors of health and wellbeing, anchored in ways of knowing, doing and being that have continued for tens of thousands of years,” she said. “However, this holistic concept of health is often neglected in government approaches to our health and wellbeing because it does not align with dominant culture or western perspectives and is not understood or fully appreciated by policymakers,” she said.
Dr Mohamed said the new Closing the Gap National Agreement and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan refresh offer a unique window of opportunity for the government to invest in cultural determinant-driven whole-of-government policy.
To view the Lowitja Institute’s media release in full click here.
Lowitja Institute is hosting a webinar on Thursday 29 April 2021 to support the release of the report. For more details or to register for the webinar, click here. For more information about the report or to arrange an interview with Dr Janine Mohamed, please contact Amy Hofman on 0405 114 930.
Allorah Saunders, whose health care is provided by the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service in western Sydney. Photo: Steven Siewert. Image source: Oxfam Australia.
Mental health & suicide prevention interim report
The House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (the Select Committee) has released its interim report. The Committee’s interim report includes an update on the Committee’s activities to date, and emerging themes identified through recent reports into Australia’s mental health system and engagement with the Productivity Commission, National Mental Health Commission and Department of Health.
Chair of the Committee, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The interim report provides a snapshot of the breadth of work underway on mental health and suicide prevention. It also identifies some areas that the Committee feels need further examination as the inquiry progresses. These areas include the divide between public and private mental healthcare, coordination and funding of mental health services, affordability, the growth of telehealth and digital services in response to COVID-19, and the role of professional bodies in advocating for, regulating and supporting the workforce.’
“We can all be superheroes, we can save the world, we’ve just got to care enough to do it,” says JK-47, the 23-year-old rising star of Australian rap on what he is trying to communicate through his music. He is one of the passionate change makers who answered the call the ABC put out for young people to tell them how they are coping with a world that is increasingly scary.
It is hard not to feel disempowered in the face of stories about climate change, racism, new wars, and now global pandemics — particularly when you are young. However, the teenagers and 20-somethings featured in the article have discovered a way to create the future they want to grow into.
JK-47’s debut album Made For This features lyrics about the daily injustices First Nation people face. Photo: Kiarney Mulyono. Image source: ABC News website.
Healthy sexual relationships campaign
WA’s new HealthySexual campaign is all about preventing, testing, treating and talking to minimise the personal and social impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With outbreaks of infectious syphilis occurring in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of the state and notifications rising over the past five years, it’s a timely reminder to be aware of and talk about sexual health.
In 2020, notifications of infectious syphilis in WA were 26% higher than the previous year. The Department of Health’s Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program Manager, Lisa Bastian said outbreaks of STIs over much of the state had placed populations at risk and prompted a more mainstream prevention campaign for the general community. She said an outbreak that started in the Kimberley region in June 2014 had spread to the Pilbara in February 2018 and the Goldfields in January 2019.
To view the Government of WA Department of Health’s media release click here.
Image source: Government of WA Department of Health.
Deaths in custody, every family has a story
A detective visited the parents of a young Aboriginal man; a warrant had been issued for their son’s arrect. ‘We’re going to get your son; he’s going to be locked up,’ the detective told them. ‘But if you get him to come around now, I can guarantee you that the arrest will be a non-eventful process. He won’t be harmed; we’ll put him into custody, he’ll serve his time and then he can get on with his life.’
The request went against their instincts, but the parents agreed. When their son arrived, however, the promise fell through. ‘They grabbed him, ruffed him up and smashed him into the fence, causing a head injury,’ Professor Peter O’Mara, a Wiradjuri man and Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. ‘That young man then went into the system. Approximately one week later, he died.’
On average, one Aboriginal life is lost in custody every three weeks. Image source: newsGP.
Stan Grant has written an in-depth analysis of the reasons for Aboriginal deaths in custody in his article Aboriginal deaths in custody reflect the poor health of Australia’s democracy. His article begins with some frightening statistics ‘3% of the population comprise nearly 30% of those behind bars. Look closely and it becomes even more alarming. In WA, 40% of prisoners are Indigenous. In the NT, it is more than 80%. Among youth it is even worse. Half of all children in detention nationally are Indigenous. In the NT, more than 90% of all juveniles detained are black.’
‘Despite the recommendations of the royal commission, we are going backwards. The number of Indigenous people imprisoned has increased 100% in the past three decades. Since 1991, more than 400 Indigenous people have died in custody. Thirty years after the royal commission, things are worse.’
Banners at the black deaths in custody Photo: Mitch Abram. Image source: ABC News website.
Young people staying away from jail
Corrie Bell didn’t think he’d make it to his 28th birthday. He’d been taken away from his parents at the age of 15 and didn’t have a lot of hope. “All my life I’ve been living in prison… mentally and emotionally, you know feeling caged in and trapped,” he said. Corie’s a Ngunnawal Kamilaroi man from Campbelltown in south-west Sydney. He told Triple J Hack he had a really rough childhood. “Drugs, alcohol, crime, domestic violence… was very frequent within my family home,” Corie said.
Corie says what he really needed as a kid to keep him out of trouble was stability and guidance from positive role models. Instead he had cops following him, dealers for mates and a bunch of trauma he was trying to drown out. By 18, Corie was sent to jail for robbery and reckless wounding. He says he was so drunk he didn’t even realise where he was.
To view the Triple J HACK article What do young people need to stay away from jail? in full click here.
Uncle Glenn (front) says ‘The Glen Centre’ adopts a holistic approach to rehabilitation, with a focus on integrating Indigenous culture and spirituality. Image source: ABC News website.
In a related story, Amnesty International Australia have expressed disappointment that the Committee charged with investigating the proposed youth justice amendments in Queensland has recommended the amendments pass, despite its own report being full of evidence that they will do nothing to address youth crime. The youth justice amendments seek to take a punitive approach to young children who often have complex needs the justice system is ill equipped to address, and which ultimately condemn these kids to life in the quagmire of the criminal justice system. Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn gave evidence at the committee hearings.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release click here.
Youth detained in a Darwin prison. Image source: ABC News website.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody(RCIADIC) and numerous stakeholder organisations have released statements condemning the continued failure of governments to implement all of the report’s recommendations.
The Partnership for Justice in Health (P4JH) said it stands in solidarity with the grieving families and communities of loved ones who have died in custody due to a failure of governments to effectively implement the clear and comprehensive recommendations outlined in the RCIADIC report. The P4JH said all levels of government must reflect on the loss and grief that could have been prevented had they acted on the recommendations as a matter of priority in 1991 and in the years since. “We are sending our strength to those families and friends whose grief and trauma is compounded by that continued failure of Australian governments to act with resolve and commitment,” said the P4JH co-chairs Dr Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP). To view P4JH’s media release click here.
Indigenous Allied Health Australia(IAHA) released a statement acknowledging the deep loss and grief of families and friends whose loved ones have passed away while in custody, both before and since the RCIADIC report. IAHA said ‘we are at our best when we go beyond empathy and act to reduce the causes of that grief and loss. We must do that now.’ IAHA called for the full implementation of the RCIADIC report’s recommendations. To view the IAHA’s media release click here.The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) said that ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur to this day – and the over-representation of our people in custody – is a national travesty. This is an abject failure of Australian governments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer unacceptably high levels of physical illness, mental illness and suicide. There is ample evidence that grief, stress and trauma make us sick and incidents such as ongoing deaths and over-representation – further add to the burden of health and disadvantage. Racism and unconscious bias – institutional, systemic and individual – is an unacceptable fact of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe services can support service providers to confront and understand cultural difference and deliver effective and safe services to our people.’ AIDA called on all governments to accept, and to address racism and unconscious biases that are embedded in police, prison, legal and health systems. To view AIDA’s media release click here.The National Native Title Council(NNTC) similarly said that three decades on from the RCIADIC report the rate of Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody continues to be one of our country’s greatest shames. The NNTC referred to research from The Guardian that found Indigenous peoples who died in custody were “more likely to not have been charged with any crime” and were “three times more likely to not receive all required medical care, when compared to non-Indigenous people”. The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, of which more than one hundred have not been implemented. To view the NNTC’s media release click here.
Change the Record says it is a national shame that in the three decades since the RCIADIC report, state, territory and Commonwealth governments have failed to implement the majority of the report’s recommendations – and as a result ‘our people are still dying at horrendous rates.’ To view the Change the Record’s media release click here.
Human Rights Watch agreed that the Australian government’s continued failure to address Indigenous deaths in custody tarnishes the country’s rights record and global standing. To view the Human Rights Watch article click here.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said: “Today is a historic and shameful day for our nation. Thirty years ago, the landmark report of the RCIADIC revealed the full extent of the danger that our justice system presents to First Peoples, and laid out the path we needed to take to make things right. Thirty years on, and things are much worse – with incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more than doubling in relative terms. Our leaders have been missing in action on this issue. They have failed to implement many of the report’s 334 recommendations, and they have failed to show care and compassion for First Peoples by changing an unfair and unjust system.” To view Oxfam Australia’s media release click here.
Thirty years ago Robert Tickner AO, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Hawke government, presented the RCIADIC report to the national Parliament. Now as the Chair of the Justice Reform Initiative he said “It is to our great shame that 30 years later, we have progressed so little. We cannot wait another 30 years for real change.” The report made 339 recommendations, including that imprisonment should only occur as a last resort. This recommendation was adopted by all Australian Governments including by every State and Territory Government from all political persuasions. This support was given on the back of incontestable evidence that jailing was failing Aboriginal people. To view the media release click here.
Cairns ACCHO gives students a strong start
Commencing on 22 April, six students in Year 11 from Bentley Park College and Trinity Bay State High School, will start a school-based traineeship at Wuchopperen Health Service (Wuchopperen) to kickstart their health career with 100% Indigenous owned and operated Group Training Organisation, Australian Training Works Group (ATW), leading the recruitment drive.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traineeship Program, ‘Strong Start’, will give Indigenous youth a head start, achieving a nationally recognised qualification and on the job training while completing year 11 and 12. “By allowing students to gain work skills while completing school, they’re able to work towards a goal, whether that be higher education or transition to work,” says Rachael Ham, Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen. To view the media release in full click here.
L–R: Tony Marten (owner & Managing Director at Australian Training Works), Wendy Burke (Director of Health Services at Wuchopperen), Rachael Ham (Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen).
Health sector’s role in deaths in custody
As Australia marks the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) the health sector has been urged to reflect on whether it is part of the problem or offering solutions. Associate Professor Megan Williams, Wiradjuri justice health researcher and educator, has identified multiple areas where the sector has failed to address the health needs of prisoners.
Professor Williams says ‘justice is essential for health, for all people in Australia. How we disregard the Royal Commission recommendations is as sick as how we treat First Peoples. $40 million, three years of testimony and evidence about 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the 1991 final report and 339 recommendations. But what about deaths since? More than 474. Barely a family have not been affected by Aboriginal deaths in custody, police brutality, poverty or racism. It’s time to make a list of all the government frameworks that overlook, minimise, forget, ignore, exclude, tokenistically mention or silence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, and all people in prison.’
End Black Deaths In Custody rally in Naarm Melbourne to mark 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Photo by Marie McInerney. Image source: Croakey.
Raising criminal responsibility age urged
National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO have urged all Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility as a matter of priority. A report commissioned by a meeting of Attorneys-General in July last year recommended that all jurisdictions raise the age and ensure younger teenagers are not held in detention. Recent reports have suggested that Australian Attorneys-General are considering raising the age from 10 to 12. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years-old as a minimum. As we mark 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, it’s important to acknowledge that Indigenous children account for 58% of young people being held on remand and 48% of young people in sentenced detention.
To view the Australian Human Rights Commission media release in full click here.
Image: Chris Devers, Flickr. Image source: newmatilda.com.
Mega prison raises fears for prisoner health
Governments often hail the economic benefits that new or expanded prisons bring to regional communities. But what are their health and social impacts? These issues are investigated as part of Croakey’s new Rural Health Justice series. In the feature article launching the series, journalist Linda Doherty explores how Australia’s newest mega jail, the Clarence Correctional Centre (CCC), near Grafton, NSW is affecting the health and wellbeing of prisoners, their families and the local community.
Around 60% of the 155 women prisoners in CCC have dependent children and one-third are Aboriginal women, according to SHINE for Kids which advocates for the human rights of children with a parent in prison, transports children to jail visits, runs evidence-based parenting, cultural and education courses in 27 jails in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, ACT and WA, and funds tutors for primary school children.
Like many of the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody that have been ignored by governments, recommendation 168 resonates for the parents in the new CCC facility. It says: “…where possible, an Aboriginal prisoner should be placed in an institution as close as possible to the place of residence of his or her family.”
One of the Storytime books created by parents in prison for their children. Image source: SHINE for Kids.
Increasing vaccine take-up in remote NT
In East Arnhem Land, the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation said only 129 of about 5,600 eligible people had received the AstraZeneca vaccine since the rollout began in the region at the start of April. Chief executive Eddie Mulholland told the ABC he expected that number to be higher, but people were now becoming even more reluctant because people are hearing reports of rare blood clotting among recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The NT’s peak Aboriginal health service is working on a plan to improve the take-up of COVID-19 vaccines after reports of growing reluctance in remote areas. A spokeswoman for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said details will be released early next week.
All adults in remote communities are eligible for vaccination under phase 1b of the rollout. Photo supplied by: Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News website.
COVID-19 radio ads in language
The Australian Government Department of Health has produced a collection of translations of the radio ad, ‘Living the new normal’, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. To access the collection click here.
Health system needs to learn from patient experience
The health system in Australia would benefit significantly by paying more attention to the lessons learned from patient experience, the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says. This is a key message from the latest edition of the Health Voices ejournal which covers the recent Shifting Gears Australasian summit conference of the CHF.
“The value of learning from experience was given fresh power at the inaugural Australasian summit last month,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “As the conference heard more than once, health consumers, particularly those with chronic conditions are more likely to have deeper knowledge of their overall care than any one health professional dealing with a single aspect of their care. There is much to learn, including from such community-centred programs as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation success in countering COVID-19.”
To view the Consumes Health Forum of Australia media release click here.
In 2020, ACCHOs played a key role in keeping Indigenous communities safe and informed about coronavirus. Now, more than 100 of these organisations are helping to vaccinate their communities. But the changed advice around the AstraZeneca vaccine is throwing up challenges and in the Torres Strait and Cape York in Queensland, the rollout has been paused.
NACCHO’s Deputy CEO and co-chair of the COVID-19 Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Dr Dawn Casey. Dr Lorraine Anderson, Medical Director of Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and Dr Tony Brown, Executive Director of Medical Services for the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service spoke on ABC Radio National Life Matters with Michael Mackenzie earlier this morning.
Alice Nugent. Pharmacist – Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service & NACCHO Medicine Policy & Program team.
New resources based on latest AstraZeneca advice
The Department of Health as put together a kit for ACCHOS based on the new recommendations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine, to support their work with patients.
The resources include:
a video featuring Dr Lucas de Toca summarising the new information and recommendations that have arisen regarding AstraZeneca and the change in the vaccination rollout
social media content including two new social tiles that ACCHOs can use in promoting the new information to their followers/patients, as well as some suggested captions to use alongside them
a poster that can be printed and displayed in your clinics
information for ACCHOs – document answering new questions that may arise from patients about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Image source: BBC News.
EveryBODY is Deadly
Over 1 million Australians are living with an eating disorder. Less than a quarter of those receive treatment or support. Butterfly Foundation is a national charity organisation for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them.
Anybody, from any mob, can have eating or body concerns. Eating or body image concerns can weaken your mind, body and spirit. It’s not about your body size – and it’s different for different people. But reaching out to talk it out with friends, family or the free Butterfly Foundation Helpline can help. The helpline is a confidential safe space with qualified counsellors who have ongoing cultural competence training.
Butterfly Foundation talked to two mob about their experience with eating and body image concerns. From their highs and lows, to the way they are rising above, they learned that yarning can help.
Garigarra Mundine is from Dubbo, NSW. She is Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi on her mother’s side, and Bundjulung and Yuin on her father’s. Garra’s passion is to advocate and promote Indigenous culture through art and advocacy. She works for the Australian government in Canberra and uses her weaving skills passed down by elders to create art pieces. To view Garra’s story click here.
Felicia Foxx is fabulous, fierce and flashy. Her mob is the Kamilaroi tribe from Walgett and Dhunghutti tribe from Kempsey. Felicia Foxx started her drag career at 16 years old to inspire youth to be their most charismatic selves and broaden the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community in Aboriginal communities. To view Felicia’s story click here.
To access the Butterfly Foundation’s website click here.
Lives need to be valued & culture known
Meena Singh, a Yorta Yorta and Indian woman, born and living on the land of the Kulin Nations, is the Legal Director of the Human Rights Law Centre and is currently undertaking her PhD at Melbourne Law School, looking at how the experiences of women of colour as lawyers can impact on legal practice and knowledge. Meena has written an article for IndigenousX examining what keeps us [Aboriginal people] safe, and what will stop more deaths in custody.
To view the IndigenousX article in full click here.
Meena Singh. Image source: ABC Radio Melbourne.
Youth calls to bridge gap in health system
The challenges facing young people in the health system and potential remedies are aired by Youth Health Forum leaders in a new video released today. The video features two young health leaders, Jasmine Elliott and Roxxanne MacDonald, explaining the challenges for young people in transitioning from child-centred to adult services.
They say a key challenge for young people is that “the current system is not designed for us”.
The video is based on the Youth Health Forum-commissioned report on Life Transitions and Youth Pathways to Health Services which revealed the significant barriers to services facing many young people, particularly those with chronic health conditions.
The report identified six key challenges for young people in health care including trusting health services, transitioning to adult care, delivering digital services and building more equitable services.
To read the Consumers Health Forum of Australia Youth Health Forum media release in full click here.
COVID-19 vaccine info in Yolŋu Matha and English languages
In these vaccine information videos produced by Menzies School of Health Research, you will see Elders and community members discuss about vaccines, answer some pertinent questions and direct you to seek advice from your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Watch the video featuring COVID-19 expert Dr Jane Davies, Melanie and Rosemary click here.
Measuring risky drinking according to the Australian alcohol guidelines
In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the revised Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC 2020).
These guidelines were created following a review of the health effects of consuming alcohol, and define drinking behaviours that Australians can follow to reduce their risk of alcohol-related disease or injury.
Australian alcohol consumption behaviours are routinely reported in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) which is undertaken every three years, the most recent collection occurring in 2019. The aim of this technical paper is to provide a methodology for measuring risky alcohol consumption according to the revised Australian alcohol guidelines.
To read the full report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021 click here.
The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering
The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering in Perth last week was looking at ways in which effective SEWB services could and are being delivered, how this could be measured, the interaction between SEWB and tertiary mental health. More info
Pat Dudgeon, Director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) and lead CI on a NHMRC Million Minds Mission Grant investigating Indigenous mental health posted on her social media page: This is the Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Model we have been working with. It explores welbeing from an Indigenous perspective. Different domains make up what is important and these are influenced by social determinants, historical, political and cultural determinants.
The ACCHO sector has been taking this forward. I will post the full report when it is completed.
More information: There is a national strategic MH&SEWB Framework and this diagram is part of it. The Framework was never implemented. The Gathering discussed this and Gayaa Dhuwi has been tasked with refreshing and ensuring it is implemented. Victoria and Western Australia has made funding commitments already but we want the commonwealth also to commit. We are about putting the power back into our communities. Indigenous self-determination is a essential part of SEWB.
This diagram comes from a long line of effort by our communities, it goes back to the Ways Forward Report 1995 and our first MH&SEWB Framework (again not implemented). A group fo Aboriginal psychologists: Graham Gee, Clinton Schultz, Amanda Hart, Kerrie Kelly and myself had promoted it at various community conferences and then we met in Brisbane, locked oursleves away for 2 days and developed the final diagram/model and wrote a chapter for the Working Together Book 2014.
Free online training for health professionals supporting new/expecting parents
Access to training and resources has always been challenging for health and other professionals working in rural, regional and remote Australia, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more online learning opportunities.
Recognising this need, St John of God Social Outreach now provides free online training and materials to support positive outcomes for families through its Connected Parenting resources.
The Connected Parenting resources and training materials have been created to support anyone working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, to promote secure parent child attachment and social and emotional development.
Improvements were noted in several areas. In 2018, 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers reported smoking during pregnancy which is a decrease from 52% in 2009. The proportion of expectant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers attending antenatal care in the first trimester has increased from 50% in 2012 to 66% in 2018. In September 2020, 97% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 5 year old children were fully immunised against the recommended vaccine-preventable diseases. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people drink less alcohol than non-Indigenous people, those who do are more likely to at harmful levels. Evidence suggests better health outcomes are seen when there are adequately resourced and culturally safe alcohol and other drug services provided by community controlled organisations.
HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew, said ‘The 2020 Overview was written in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and I want express our admiration for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led response to OVID-19 that has lessened the impact and protected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. This exemplifies what can be achieved with strong and authoritative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. With their ongoing support we continue to strive to develop our capacity to accurately and authentically represent the data and statistics to support the efforts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce’.
Partnership a sign of shared commitment to Aboriginal health
Yoorana Gunya Family Healing Centre is celebrating a partnership with Western NSW Aboriginal Health, and a shared commitment to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people in Forbes.
“Twenty years ago, when I first began Yoorana Gunya, it was in a small house with very limited services,” CEO Donna Bliss says.
“Over the years the needs of the Forbes Aboriginal community have changed and the focus of our organisation today is predominantly on providing primary health care and well-being services.
“This partnership will extend our services even further without losing our common goal, providing a range of health, education and family programs to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”
The service provides a full range of primary health care services. The team includes; general practitioners, registered nurses, Aboriginal health workers, counsellors, domestic violence specialists, suicide prevention workers, social and emotional well-being workers.
Brendan Cutmore from Western NSW LHD, CEO Yoorana Gunya Donna Bliss, Director of Yoorana Gunya Aunty Mavis Ohlsen, Forbes Shire Mayor Phyllis Miller and Scott McLachlan from Western NSW LHD. Photo courtesy of Council.
AMA states: Time to extend telehealth further
The AMA is again calling on the Government to extend temporary COVID-19 Medicare Telehealth items until the end of the year. The current outbreak in Queensland highlights that the June extension does not go far enough.
“The Queensland outbreak and the flow-on impact on other states is a timely reminder that the pandemic is far from over,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“With the emergence of new and more transmissible COVID-19 variants, it is unlikely that this will be the last lockdown before the end of the year.
“But we cannot become complacent. We must continue to plan for the worst.
“We know that every time there is an outbreak, thousands of people face requirements to self isolate and telehealth ensures these patients can continue to assess care.
“Telehealth remains fundamental to the national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, by protecting the health workforce, while reducing the need for unwell patients to move around the community.
“We need to maintain continuity of care for patients during any future lockdown.
“We need a telehealth framework that can operate in the context of a pandemic response, which is exactly what these temporary telehealth items are designed to do,” AMA President Dr Khorshid said.
South Australians are being asked to help shape a new three-year plan to reduce suicide across the state. The Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention and Wellbeing SA are inviting all South Australians to have their say on the development of a new SA Suicide Prevention Plan for 2022-2025.
Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said reducing the number of suicides in South Australia is a high priority of the Marshall Liberal Government. “Every life matters and, tragically, so many of us have been touched or impacted by suicide in some way,” Minister Wade said. “That’s why we need to hear from as many South Australians as possible about what could make a difference. We are working in partnership with the community and reaching out to people with lived experience of suicidal distress, and their loved ones, to help us make a meaningful change in suicide prevention.”
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it.
The Commission has released a concept paper detailing key components required for a national strategy to address racism and social cohesion, and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan. There has already been widespread support for the framework, including from the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke MP, and from FECCA, the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Image source: LibGuides at Ursula Frayne Catholic College.
Melbourne/Full-time – Aust Physio Association
Senior Policy Advisor | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.
In the latest episode of the Australian Healthcare and Hospital’s Association (AHHA) podcast, The Health Advocate, AHHA Strategic Programs Director, Dr Chris Bourke, speaks with St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, Emergency Department Director, Dr Paul Preisz and Aboriginal Health Manager, Scott Daley, to discuss how St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney has improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. While the hospital’s staff knew there was a problem in the Emergency Department with the delivery of care and the outcomes, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, NSW Health data highlighting the unacceptable treatment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients was the final straw. This promoted a mandate from executives to improve results.
‘St Vincent’s work in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is a great example of how organisations can transform the delivery of care and offers many lessons for other organisations wanting to follow a similar path,’ said Dr Bourke.
You can view the AHHA press release here and listen to the podcast here.
Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley with a patient in St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department. Image source: ABC News website.
Wirraka Maya leads way in better patient management
An Aboriginal community health service in WA has produced record results in the use of technology to ensure better connected care for local patients. Senior Medical Officer at Wirraka Maya Health Service in Port Hedland, WA, Dr Yolande Knight said: “We rely on My Health Record to keep us updated on patient pathology, imaging, medication, dispensing and history records. “We find it helpful because a lot of our patients are transient, moving from one region to another, so it can be difficult to get their comprehensive files. We can see what other doctors have requested and performed, overcoming the delays waiting for records requested from other practices and providers.” Australian Digital Health Agency Consumer Advocate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Champion and Co-Chair of the Agency’s Reconciliation Working Group and national Medicines Safety Program, Steve Renouf, congratulated Wirraka Maya for its commitment to digital health.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is seeking feedbackon proposals to help ensure ongoing, reliable supply of important medicines.
Medicine shortages have been of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic and the TGA have been reviewing ways in which they can better assist affected Australian patients and their healthcare providers. Specifically, the TGA is seeking feedback on possible reforms that would:
prioritise the evaluation and registration process for certain important generic prescription medicines, to reduce the risk of shortages
encourage registration of more generic versions of medicines known to be affected by shortages, to mitigate the impact of those shortages
support a more reliable supply of overseas-registered medicines imported into Australia as substitutes when the Australian medicine is in longstanding or repeated shortage.
The consultation will close on Monday 17 May 2021.
Image source: Newsbook website.
Resources for First Peoples with Disability
A range of new accessible, culturally appropriate resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been released by the peak body First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN).
“Our community urgently needs information about the vaccine, so we have created a poster with culturally relevant information and artwork to let people know about what is happening and why,” said Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN.
“During the pandemic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability found it hard to get the right information about what was happening, and it looks like those lessons haven’t been learnt when it comes to the vaccine roll out.”
Little is known about how older Aboriginal adults access and engage with aged care services. A project has been initiated by the Port Augusta Community to address gaps in Aboriginal aged care and research is being conducted for the broader Aboriginal Eyre Peninsula Communities in partnership with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School Aboriginal research unit.
The lead researcher Kym Thomas, from Port Augusta, is an Aboriginal person, providing and ensuring that spirit and integrity are at the forefront of all community and stakeholder engagement and activities. Communities involved in the research include Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla. Kym has been supported in his work by Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller and Emma Richards.
Disadvantaged neighbourhoods can shape adolescent brains
Growing up in a poor or disadvantaged neighbourhood can affect the way adolescents’ brains function, according to new research. It can alter the communication between brain regions involved in planning, goal-setting and self-reflection. These brain changes can have consequences for cognitive function and wellbeing. But the good news is that positive home and school environments can mitigate some of these negative effects.
A “disadvantaged neighbourhood” is one in which people generally have lower levels of income, employment, and education. Growing up in these conditions can cause stress for children, and is associated with cognitive problems and mental health issues in young people.
It is not yet known exactly how this link between neighbourhood disadvantage and poor mental outcomes works, but it is thought that social disadvantage alters the way young people’s brains develop.
The fifth national report on the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with updated data available for 15 measures. The level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving for Indigenous Australians. While the mortality rate from cardiac conditions is falling among the Indigenous population, it is still higher than among non-Indigenous Australians. The incidence of acute rheumatic fever among Indigenous Australians continues to be much higher than in non-Indigenous Australians.
The prevalence of mental health issues is higher in people with a disability than in the general population. This means that often, a person who has both a physical, intellectual or neurological disability is also dealing with mental health challenges. There can be complexities in distinguishing mental health issues from intellectual or neurological disability and this can lead to mental health challenges not being recognised or identified. Participants will explore concepts of recovery, trauma and strength- based approaches to working with people with complex needs. They will use a recovery and biopsychosocial approach to meet their client’s needs.
Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) are promoting a training course being delivered by the WA Association for Mental Health. For more details click here.
Image source: SBS News website.
Vaccinations being in regional SA AHS
Indigenous health workers in Mount Gambier have been among the first in SA to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Phase 1b of the national roll-out. 10 staff at Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation were selected to receive the vaccine on Monday this week.
Outreach worker Catherine Bulner was the first of the group to roll up her sleeve and get the jab. She said she felt privileged to be the first South East Indigenous community member to get vaccinated. “I’m pretty fortunate to have it done in an Aboriginal community-controlled health service. “I think it’s really good that we can instil confidence in our community to get it done to protect not only ourselves, but our family and our community.”
Ms Bulner encouraged others to do the same to allow life to return to normal. “It’s unknown, but there’s plenty of information out there that can tell you all about it, if you need to make an informed decision before,” she said. “It’s not mandatory, but arm yourself with the information I did and you will be really confident to get it.” Transport worker Peter Brennan was also vaccinated and said it would provide him with a lot more confidence when conducting his work duties.
Indigenous transport worker Peter Brenna. Image source: ABC News website.
Keeping the momentum on eye health equity
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector entered 2020 with high hopes. The equity gap was still evident in measures of access to services and outcomes, but there was a continued positive trajectory towards the gap for vision being closed, with a strong sector driving change through collaborations on regional and state levels. 2020 was a target year for the elimination of trachoma, as well as to achieve equity and close the gap for vision.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the work of the sector in a number of ways. Many communities closed or reduced non-urgent visiting services, suspensions to elective surgery and reductions in permitted surgical loads and lockdowns in different parts of Australia to stop outbreaks, while necessary, meant that the already-existing waitlists for eye care became longer. The stronger impact on public hospitals, for example through lower caps on elective surgeries compared with private, has a disproportionate impact on population groups with the stronger reliance on the public system.
The impact on the sector’s work also includes the interruption to the positive momentum of change. Across Australia, regional and state-level groups of stakeholders involved with the provision of eye care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been driving improvements in pathways and outcomes. The community-controlled sector has been key in leading this change.
Milpa the trachoma goanna supporting ‘Clean Faces, Strong Eyes’ health promotion messaging at an AFL game in Alice Springs NT. Image source: Partyline.
WA – Broome – University of WA
Research Fellow x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Broome
The University of WA are seeking a skilled health researcher to conduct statistical analysis of real world health services data from current and future projects. This position will be based in the Kimberley where Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) sites conduct collaborative research with health services into improving Aboriginal health and building research capacity. Under limited directions from Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Julia Marley and in close collaboration with the Kimberley Medical Services, you will provide impetus and capacity to research initiatives in the Kimberley region of WA.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers are encouraged to apply.
To view the job advertisement, including the Position Description click here position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close Monday 16 April 2021.
World Health Day 2021 – Building a fairer, healthier world
April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.
Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.
To celebrate World Health Day the Australian Global Health Alliance is hosting a special online event where a line-up or expert guest speakers will share their reflections on this year’s theme ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.
For more information about the event from12:00–1:00 PM AEST Wednesday 7 April 2021 and to register click here.
This week marks the second phase of the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout which is targeting over six million higher-risk Australians. NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner say last week on ABC The Drum that “While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney MP and Professor Tom Calma AO made time this morning to attend Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Minister Wyatt said “We have done a remarkable job so far in the fight against the COVID-19 virus, we cannot now become complacent. Vaccines are an important tool in our strategy and I urge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to come forward and get vaccinated when they are able to. It will help protect themselves, their family and their community.”
To view the Minister Ken Wyatt’s media release click here and to read a transcript of Linda Burney’s doorstop interview click here.
Ken Wyatt, Linda Burney and Tom Calma were among Indigenous leaders to receive their first vaccine dose in Canberra this morning at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.
ACCHO’s first vaccine day incredibly successful
The first words from the first Aboriginal elder in Campbelltown to get his COVID-19 vaccine on Monday this week were those of love and gratitude for his people and those who kept them safe during the pandemic. “I love you, I love the work you do, and the people you serve,” elder Uncle Ivan Wellington told Darryl Wright, the chief executive of the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and the staff of its Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) after he got the jab.
During the pandemic, the first priority at Tharawal was protecting elders. Tharawal health workers visited homes to deliver flu shots and do health checks, telephoned frequently and arranged for deliveries of food and vegetables. “If we lose our elders, we lose our entire library [of knowledge],” said Leonie Murdoch, 62, who was also vaccinated on Monday.
Dr Heather McKenzie, who is coordinating the vaccine roll-out at Tharawal, was excited about getting her injection because it would protect the community she serves. To prepare people before today’s injections Dr McKenzie had run a Q and A session about what to expect. Despite that, some were nervous, including Uncle Ivan who had heard about the rare blood clots experienced by some people. But Ms Murdoch reassured him, “They can treat that [blood clots], but they can’t treat COVID.”
When the medical service texted the community offering the first round of vaccinations on Monday, it was inundated. Every appointment was taken within 10 minutes, Mr Wright said. Dr Tim Senior, a doctor with Tharawal’s AMS, said nearly all the service’s 5,000 patients would qualify to be vaccinated during this phase because of problems with chronic disease and other health issues. “It would be a struggle to find people who aren’t eligible under 1B,” he said.
To view the full article in The Sydney Morning Heraldclick here.
Tharawal elder Uncle Ivan Wellington receives his first AstraZeneca vaccine from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation GP Heather MacKenzie. Photograph: Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: The Guardian.
The Guardian also reported on the second phase of Australia’s vaccine rollout. It said Aboriginal community health services across Australia have overcome major challenges including floods and wild weather to deliver their first Covid-19 vaccines to Aboriginal elders. “Our elders are our leaders and during the pandemic they continue to show us the way forward by proudly getting vaccinated first,” Dr Heather Mackenzie, from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the highest rate of immunisation among the Australian population, according to NACCHO medical advisor, Dr Jason Agostino, who said “The Aboriginal health sector is extremely equipped in delivering large-scale immunisation programs and has been working hard to support communities during the pandemic.”
To view The Guardian’s article Aboriginal health sector overcoming major challenges to deliver first Covid vaccine jabsclick here.
‘I didn’t even feel it,’ says Cecil Phillips, 62, receiving his AstraZeneca vaccination by registered nurse, Sam Parimalanathan, at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern. Photograph: Isabella Moore. Image source: The Guardian.
Community-based COVID-19 responses among best
The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has welcomed the start of the 1b phase of the COVID vaccination rollout to older people and other vulnerable groups, urging the importance of the need for community patience and two-way communication between health authorities and consumers. The success of Australia’s response so far in keeping the spread of COVID to relatively low levels should not make us complacent about the priority of prompt vaccination of all Australians in the interests of our health and of the economy.
It is vital that people get the facts about the vaccine and the rollout from authoritative and readily accessible sources, including government websites and their GPs who, from this week, will be scaling up vaccination availability. The CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said “A convincing example of just how effective community-based responses can be, has been the success in countering pandemic infections achieved by the member groups of NACCHO. The 107 NACCHO groups achieved among the best results in preventing COVID compared to similar entities anywhere in the world and that was because of the strong community engagement and leadership.”
To view the CHF’s media release in full click here.
Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.
COVID-19 information for Victoria’s mob
The Victorian Government has developed a very useful COVID-19 information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitieswebpage.
The site says there are a couple of reasons why, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is higher and it can cause more severe symptoms. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 years, or who have a pre-existing health condition, such as diabetes, asthma, heart and lung conditions, or immune problems, are at higher risk of developing a severe illness associated with COVID-19. Younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can also get COVID-19 and infect family, friends and elders. As a lot of mob often live under the same roof, it’s also harder to practise physical distancing and isolation, which increases the risk of spreading the disease within the community.
The webpage says that in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Victoria, we must all do our part. We know it’s tough, but together we can keep our families, mob and ourselves safe, strong and well. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community sector partners are working closely with government to coordinate response plans and ensure communities have the necessary information, resources and support they need.
Victorian Senator Lidia Thorpe. Image source: BBC News.
Updated health check templates survey
The Commonwealth Department of Health has endorsed recently updated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health check templates developed in a partnership between NACCHO and the RACGP.
The NACCHO-RACGP Partnership Project Team is keen to hear your feedback on the templates by:
expressing interest to be one of 10 primary healthcare teams testing the templates between 12 April and 11 June 2021 by contacting the Team at email@example.com
Your feedback will support the team to understand what it takes to get these health check templates into practice and what other innovations can support quality health checks and primary healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Image source: NT PHN & Rural Workforce Agency NT webpage.
Remote PHC Manuals update
The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals review process in underway. Monthly updates will be available to health services and other organisations to provide updates on the review process.
What’s new: new Acute Assessment Protocols are being developed to guide practitioners to assess emergencies and guide differential diagnoses.
Coming up next: Expert Advisory Groups have been working to update protocols.
This flyer provides further information about the RPHCM project, including what you need to do to become a reviewer or provide feedback on the new manuals.
Aboriginal-led ways to foster mental health
A report Balit Durn Durn – strong brain, mind, intellect and sense of self: report to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was developed by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VAACHO) to support the final report for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s (Vic) Mental Health System. The report outlines five Aboriginal-led ways to build strength, resilience, connectedness and identity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to create essential pathways for fostering positive mental health and wellbeing.
The report aims to provide an overview of Aboriginal communities’ experience with the current mental health system and offers innovative solutions that have the potential to dramatically transform the Victorian mental health system to better meet the needs of Aboriginal communities.
The Healing Foundation has been working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland to co-design and develop the state’s first healing strategy. The Dreaming big process identified community issues and themes by the number of times keywords were mentioned in surveys and yarning circles.
The report outlines what over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 80 different cultural groups in over 50 locations in Queensland, said when asked what healing means and what happy and strong feels like. The aim being to help transcend the divide between deficit-based solutions and strength-based outcomes.
To view the report Dreaming big – voices we heard: informing the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing strategyclick here.
Healthier smiles in Loddon Mallee
Minister for Health Martin Foley says the Andrews Labor Government is ensuring Aboriginal children in the Loddon Mallee region have strong and healthy teeth. “The $360,000 Loddon Mallee Fluoride Varnish program will help protect 600 Aboriginal children in schools, Aboriginal-specific early years services and Aboriginal childcare organisations at heightened risk of tooth decay. Fluoride varnish applications reduce tooth decay in young children by 37% by providing a protective covering. The varnish also prevents an existing tooth decay from progressing further. The preventive oral health program provides including twice-yearly fluoride varnish applications, oral health promotion and free tooth packs to Aboriginal children across the Loddon Mallee region. The expanded program builds on a successful pilot in 2018/20, which reached 200 Aboriginal children aged up to 18 across the region.”
To view the Victoria State Government media release click here and to view a related article Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperativeto deliver Fluoride Varnish programclick here.
Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.
Proposed NT youth justice changes flawed
Australia’s only national First Nations-led justice coalition has warned that the NT Gunner Government’s proposed youth justice reforms will see the number of Aboriginal children behind bars skyrocket. The reforms are highly punitive and will disproportionately drive Aboriginal kids into police and prison cells. Change the Record has highlighted that the proposed law changes fly in the face of the Royal Commission recommendations to invest in supporting children outside of the criminal justice system and move away from the ‘tough on crime’ policies that have been proven to fail. Change the Record, Co-Chair Cheryl Axleby said “If the NT Government goes ahead with these youth justice reforms it will take the Northern Territory back to the dark days before the Royal Commission when Don Dale was full of Aboriginal children being subjected to the most horrendous abuse.”
The NT Council of Social Service and Amnesty International Australia have also expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the NT’s youth justice system. “This is a callous, racist legislative crackdown in search of a problem,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Advocate, Rodney Dillon, said. “Chief Minister Gunner has picked up the Royal Commission report and thrown it in the bin. Let’s be clear: no one wants youth crime. But cracking down on Indigenous kids – because all the kids in the NT justice system are Indigenous – who have complex needs, by throwing them in jail fixes nothing. What it does is condemn young kids to the quicksand of the youth justice system, and it entrenches recidivism, which is what all the politicians say they want to address,” Dillon said.
You can view the Change the Record media release here, the NTCOSS media release here and the Amnesty International Australia media release here.
Image source: Change the Record website.
NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney
Research Assistant (Identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney
The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.
To view position description and to apply click here.Applications close midnight Monday 5 April 2021.
Image source: Kettering Health Network.
Purple Day (Friday 26 March 2021) is a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness. Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. Motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy, Cassidy started Purple Day to get people talking about the condition and to let those impacted by seizures know that they are not alone. She named the day, Purple Day after the internationally recognised colour for epilepsy, lavender.
Purple Day has grown into a well-known and supported national awareness day with thousands of people across Australia gathering within their community, education and corporate sectors to raise much needed awareness and funds for those affected by epilepsy. You can access epilepsy information for Indigenous communities here.
This morning NACCHO CEO Pat Turner joined a panel on ABC Radio National Breakfast to discuss how preparations are ramping up in earnest for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Many will get the jab as part of Phase 1B which begins on Monday 22 March 2021. At the coalface, health organisations are also busy tackling vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
Yesterday afternoon NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey also spoke on ABC radio about COVID-19. Along with human rights advocate and lawyer Teela Reid and public health expert Professor Fiona Stanley, Dr Casey spoke with Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney program Drive about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reference was made to how programs run by Indigenous people work, but programs imposed on communities don’t. Professor Fiona Stanley said there is lots of evidence to show better outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal people control programs, saying “when you give First Nations’ people this power it works every time”.
In terms of ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were kept safe from COVID-19, Professor Stanley said local services understand the context in which their people are living, they know who and where their Elders are and are immediately able to implement the best preventative strategies for them. Only 0.1 per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia have contracted COVID-19 compared to 1.1 per 1,000 for non-Indigenous Australians.
L-R: Dr Dawn Casey (NITV website), Teela Reid (National Indigenous Times), Professor Fiona Stanley (ABC News website).
Truth and justice commission announced
Victoria’s ‘truth-telling’ commission (launched earlier this week) has been owed for 233 years according to Victoria’s Deputy Premier, James Merlino who said “233 years of violence, dispossession and deprivation. 233 years of deliberate silence. We commit to telling the truth. We do so for the kids who never came home – and those who are still finding their way back. For those who were told they were not allowed to speak their own language, practice their own culture, know their own identity. For the families who lost loved ones in the massacres. For those who were made to feel like they didn’t belong to their own country. And for those who still feel this way. Today we commit to telling their truth.”
The Truth and Justice Commission is a shared commitment between the Victorian Government and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the state’s first and only democratically-elected body for Aboriginal people. Named after the Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba word for ‘truth’, the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will formally begin its work in the coming months. Held independently from Government, and afforded the full power of a Royal Commission, it will mark the beginning of a conversation long overdue, and a commitment to change. It will compel us to confront what’s come before. To acknowledge that the pain in our past lives on in our present.
To view the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and Victoria State Government joint statement click hereand to view a related article in The Ageclick here.
Ms Atkinson, Ms Williams and Mr Merlino in Coranderrk for the announcement of the commission. Image source: The Age.
Final Call: COVID-19 in aged care facilities survey
Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly have been commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a national review of COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs). RACF managers (or equivalent) are invited to complete a short online survey about the facility’s preparation for and, if an outbreak occurred, management of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The data will be collected and analysed by the University of Sydney. Survey responses will remain anonymous and no individual RACF will be identifiable. The feedback and analysis will be an invaluable contribution to the report and recommendations to the Department of Health.
The survey will be closing on 5:00 PMWednesday 17 March 2021.
If you haven’t completed the survey, please do take the time to share your thoughts and experiences with the review. It only takes 10-15 minutes. and can be accessed by clicking on this link.
Your input is critical to continuous improvement in the management of potential COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care.
Croakey journalist Melissa Sweet has written an overview of some of the key issues, including concerns that without proper funding and implementation commitments, the strategy will be “another worthy document which does not advance the health of Australians one iota”. Below is an excerpt from Melissa’s overview:
“OMG. The Federal Health Department has released a publication that finally utters the words so many have been waiting SO long to hear. The draft National Preventive Health Strategy cites a contributor saying that “climate change is likely to be the biggest challenge to health, wellbeing and economic prosperity”. The document goes on to note that human health is dependent on planetary health, and that environmental issues, such as extreme weather events and significant changes in climate systems, have had, and will continue to have, an impact on the health and wellbeing of all Australians.
“This is particularly true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have close cultural, spiritual and social connections to the land. In order to prepare for future challenges and address the health of the planet, the impacts of climate change on physical and mental health need to be understood, especially through a health equity lens,” it says. But don’t get too excited. These words don’t come until page 40 and although climate change is mentioned a number of times throughout the document, the draft strategy does not convey a strong sense of urgency about the climate crisis and how it will undermine all other efforts in health prevention without urgent action.
To view overview in full click here and for further information about the National Preventive Health Strategy and how to make a submission click here.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Indigenous kids are losing sleep
New analysis has found that Indigenous Australian children suffer from sleep problems at higher rates than non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal children reported insomnia, severe daytime sleepiness and breathing difficulties while sleeping, researchers say. “Poor sleep can lead to health problems and lower levels of academic achievement,” according to Senior Research Fellow, James Cook University Yaqoot Fatima. “Indigenous children suffer from at higher rates of obesity, diabetes and respiratory problems than non-Indigenous children.” School attendance rates among Indigenous children are 10 per cent lower than non-Indigenous children, she said. “Understanding sleep health is very important,” Dr Fatima said.
To view the article 7 News article in full click here and to view a related article in The Conversation click here.
Image source: CRAICCHS website.
Media invalidates Indigenous experience of racism
Gunditjamara Elder Charmaine Clark has commented on the response by national mainstream media to a report tabled last week by the Victorian anti-vilification protections inquiry. She said “the media completely missed the point and instead we saw sensational headlines of Nazi Swastika banned or Nazi flags banned.” In the course of the Inquiry, Charmaine gave her personal testimony, representing the Victorian Indigenous community. Supported by organisations such as the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Victorian Legal Aid Charmaine’s case mirrored other experiences of racial abuse and indifference that many Indigenous people experience throughout their lifetime.
Charmain said “One of the most persistent aspects of today’s discourse regarding racism in Australia, Charmaine said, is the very denial of its existence. Out of all the most sustained political campaigns operating in Australia, the political project of controlling and diminishing Indigenous human rights and dignity is by far the longest. It has cost us much, in lives and loss of access to country, high incarceration rates and alarming mental health and health statistics.”
“Our media choose to personify racists as those Nazi’s or Proud Boys, with the effect that all other forms of racial vilification are at best of lower importance and at worst – invalidated in the eyes of the public consuming this media. It highlights the systemic nature of how perceptions of racism are controlled, perceived and presented to the general public. This narrow definition of ‘racist’ paints a picture to the public and reduces the impact of our calls for action to address racism we uniquely experience.”
A new report from the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health has found institutional racism leads to a silencing of Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and cultural practices which are crucial to closing the gap in health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Published in Public Health Research and Practice, a peer-reviewed journal of the Sax Institute, the report was authored by several Indigenous leaders and noted the reluctance in health care structures to address systemic and institutional racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Lead author Dr Carmen Parter is a proud descendent of the Darumbal and Juru clans of the Birra Gubba Nation of Queensland. She also has South Sea Islander heritage and is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health. “Our paper gives voice to Indigenous communities who have consistently said that racism is a critical issue in the provision of health care, as is the incorporation of culture into the design of health care services,” said Dr Parter. “When an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person accesses a health care service, there is always a level of mistrust and fear. A lot of people forget that our health system was one of the many institutions involved in the Stolen Generations that took children from their families and communities — which still happens today. Those stories resonate through our communities.” Dr Parter highlights the importance for health care providers in discussing and addressing racism.
To view the Indigenous National Times article in full click here and to view the related SaxInstitute media release Indigenous leaders call for an end to racism in the health systemclick here.
Image source: Mayi Kuwayu The National Study of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing website.
Race conversations program developer recognised
Bundjalung and Kullilli woman Melissa Browning has been recognised at the national HESTA Impact Awards for her contribution to improving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The awards are a national celebration of health and community services professionals working to protect the future of the planet and its people.
Browning was a joint winner of the Individual Distinction Award for her work developing and implementing the Courageous Conversations About Race (CCAR) program at the Fold Coast Hospital and Health Service (GCHHS). Having a career in health spanning just short of two decades, Browning is one of the only Aboriginal women at GCHHS who sits in a senior role. She is the current Coordinator for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and has held that position for over a decade. Working in the health sector as long as she has, Browning has faced her fair share of adversity.
“I have often been called challenging. I like to reframe that and step away from the angry Blak woman trope,” she said. “I’m not angry, I’m passionate. I do get framed as the challenging Blak woman because I do want to make that change, make that difference for my people. Aboriginal women are constantly taking the brunt for our community, there are so many inspiring women that have gone before me that have inspired me to keep going in doing what I do. The reason I am doing this is for my people, for the future generations — that is what holds me.”
Browning’s CCAR program originates from the Us but she has worked to contextualise it to an Australian audience. The program aims to talk about racism in a safe space. “Talking about race and racism is always very hard, but I think … to move forward we can’t not have those conversations,” she said.
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.
Melissa Browning. Image source: National Indigenous Times.
Tooth decay rates fall
A trial of a children’s dental health program in a remote Queensland Indigenous community showed the value of simple health interventions in promoting overall health in Indigenous communities, researchers said. Dental health is a serious problem for some Indigenous communities, with Indigenous children in rural Australia recording up to three times the rate of tooth decay compared with other Australian children. Associate Professor Ratilal Lalloo from the University of Queensland School of Dentistry led the study to find out what effect a simple intervention could have.
“We wanted to test an intervention to reduce that burden – the idea was to take what we considered the main preventative strategies against tooth decay and see what effect that had on ongoing dental health,” he said. “Primary health care workers such as community nurses and Aboriginal health workers can be trained to do these treatments, making them even more cost-effective.” Dr Lalloo said researchers hoped the findings would lead to evidence-based policies and practices in preventing tooth decay in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.
To view the article in the Brisbane Timesclick here and to view a more detailed article about the research in UQ Newsclick here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Shifting Gears Summit
What would our health systems look like if consumers were in the driving seat – if consumer experiences and leadership were enabled to seamlessly transform health and social care to better serve their needs? In Australia we do have successful models that have arisen from genuine consumer co-design, such as the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
A summit hosted by the Consumer’s Health Forum of Australia next week (17–19 March) starts off by asking speakers and participants why such reform is needed, and goes on to showcase success, and provide inspiration for future efforts. This is a virtual event with an international cast of speakers and participants.
It’s not too late to register for the Summit (and/or one of the two pre-summit masterclasses).
Health Consumers Qld is hosting a panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, including Ms Haylene Grogan, Dr Mark Wenitong, Associate Professor James Ward and Associate Professor Margie Danchin to answer questions from the community about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health consumers from across Queensland are invited to attend another Q&A session.
The Q&A session will take place from 9:30–11:00 AM on Monday 29 March 2021 by Zoom videoconference and “watch parties”. We hope that groups of people may come together to join the on-line session so those without internet access and those who would prefer to be in a group, can come together for a “watch party” .
Almost 10 years ago, the Fathering Project was founded with the aim of delivering resources, programs and events to inspire and equip fathers and father-figures to engage with the children in their lives in a positive manner. Now through a collaboration between a number of researchers, the Fathering Project has asked Noongar men to explain what quop maaman (good men) looks like to them. The outcome was a workshop and video series that will introduce the program to boys and young men on Country with a focus on key Noongar concept and themes.
Professor Collard, a Whadjuk Nyungar Elder and the lead researcher behind the Aboriginal father’s program, said one of the key points in the discussion was that the fathering role model looked different to the Noongar men’s counterparts. He said while the western world may focus on the biological father being one of the primary caregivers, it wasn’t necessarily the same sentiment in the Noongar men’s discussions. The Fathering Project CEO Kati Gapaillard said “the research is profound, showing that increased father involvement in the lives of children creates many positive outcomes.”
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Timesclick here.
Image source: Mallee District Aboriginal Services website.
Vaccines welcome, still need COVID-safe practices
Expert health and medical science leaders welcome the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, but caution that the vaccines alone are not enough. The COVID-19 vaccination roll-out is a major development for Australia. It will enable people to take action that will help to protect themselves, their families and the wider community from a disease that has killed millions of people and impacted everyone, says the country’s expert body in the health and medical sciences. The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS) is an independent body comprising more than 400 senior researchers and health leaders. It has been active in monitoring and guiding the nation’s pandemic response.
Also, you can access a community engagement kit (developed by the Australian Government Department of Health in collaboration with NACCHO) with information on what the Government is doing to deliver COVID-19 vaccines by clicking here and resources about keeping our mob safe here.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health website.
Standalone family court system abolished
The passing of legislation earlier this week to merge the Family Court with the Federal Circuit Court will place survivors of domestic and family violence at greater risk according to more than 155 stakeholders in Australia’s family law system who have signed an open letter to the Attorney-General opposing the merge.
The Law Council of Australia, Women’s Legal Services Australia, Community Legal Centres Australia and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) are among the stakeholders who have consistently opposed the Government’s bill to abolish the specialist, stand-alone Family Court out of concern it will harm, not help, Australian families and children.
NATSILS Co-Chair Priscilla Atkins voiced her concerns for First Nations people, saying the merger means the loss of the standalone, specialist, superior Family Court and this will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
To view the National Indigenous Times article click here.
Image source: Crikey website.
ACTCOSS supports systemic racism investigation
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed the appointment of Ms Christine Nixon as chair of the new Oversight Committee to develop a blueprint for change for the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) however said that without an inquiry into systemic racism in Canberra’s prison the injustice experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees engaged with the justice system would not be resolved.
ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “We are pleased to see that this new Oversight Committee will soon start work to help improve culture and oversee the implementation of recommendations from inquiries and reports, “This oversight group will need to move promptly and comprehensively to rebuild trust. That must include close engagement with the community services sector, particularly Aboriginal community controlled organisations.”
To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.
Photo by Karleen Minney. Image source: The Canberra Times.
First Nations’ GP numbers keep growing
The past three years have seen a 55% increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students pursuing a career in medicine. In 2020, there were a total of 404 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – 121 of whom were first year students – enrolled across Australia’s medical schools. That represents 2.7% of all domestic students, and is a substantial increase from 265 in 2014, according to findings from the 2020 General Practice: Health of the Nation report.
Dr Olivia O’Donoghue, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Censor, believes it is the groundwork laid at a secondary education level to build awareness and encouragement that has helped lead to the increase, ‘There is a greater engagement of universities with high schools to recruit into health-related degrees and improvements in entry pathways to ensure university readiness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students – one of the barriers for [this population] undertaking any university degree.’
James Cook University General Practice Training. Image source: RACGP newsGP.
More pressure on Woolies over NT grog shop
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous community and health leaders have called on Reconciliation Australia to revoke its endorsement of Woolworths’ Reconciliation Action Plan, as it did with Rio Tinto’s in the wake of the mining giant’s destruction of Juukan Gorge.
The signatories include many leading Indigenous health experts, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner, Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) CEO Donna Murray, Lowitja Institute chair Pat Anderson, Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance of the NT (AMSANT) CEO John Paterson, Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen, and former 60 Minutes journalist Jeff McMullen.
They say Woolworths should, like Rio Tinto, be held accountable for its relentless fight to build what will be one of Australia’s largest alcohol stores near three dry Aboriginal communities in Darwin, despite strong opposition from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and health organisations, “and in the full knowledge that this store will increase alcohol harm”.
Signatories to the letter to Reconciliation Australia. Image source: Croakey.
Loneliness epidemic goes on unnoticed
A report on loneliness, an issue which clouds the lives of many Australians and exposes them to increased risk of depression and other illness, has called for a national plan of action to address the often unrecognised condition. 15% of Australians were considered to be experiencing high levels of loneliness, according to a 2019 survey, yet there remain significant gaps in knowledge and community awareness of the extent and impact, the report finds. That survey finding is reported in the Loneliness Thought Leadership Roundtable Report produced by an expert roundtable established by the Consumers Health Forum in partnership with the Medibank Better Health Foundation. This report builds on the Ending Loneliness Together in Australia White Paper published in late 2020 by the Ending Loneliness Together coalition.
To view the Consumers Health Forum of Australia’s media release in full click here.
Image source: myDr.com.au.
Youth representatives sought for HealthInfoNet Board
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet which undertakes knowledge exchange research activities to summarise, synthesise and analyse the available research and other information and make it available to the health sector workforce in ways that are timely, accessible and relevant, is seeking expressions of interest from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 18–25 years) to join its national Advisory Board. The Advisory Board provides strategic advice and guidance to the HealthInfoNet‘s Director to ensure that it continues to provide support to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce.
Youth representatives will provide important feedback from a young person’s perspective to guide the strategic and operational activities of the HealthInfoNet. The youth representatives will join the Advisory Board of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts and other health experts from throughout Australia.
For further information click here. BE QUICK as applications close Friday 26 February.
Settler colonials face family histories
There is a quiet movement among settler colonials in Australia to critically examine their family histories as a way of re-examining the impact of centuries of dispossession of Indigenous peoples and enabling a shift from celebratory tropes of benign settlement to deep considerations of legitimacy. The myth of great white men and women, bravely opening new worlds and taming the wilderness, including the “savage” Indigenes, is now being challenged by a search for the truth.
Working alongside Aboriginal people, documenting their stories of dispossession and survival, Australian writer and academic, David Denborough, was challenged by Jane Lester, a Yangkunytjatjara/Antikirinya woman, to find his ancestors. Now, 20 years later, he has written a book about how the relationships between his ancestors and Aboriginal people were marked by colonisation, racism and often inhumane treatment.
Denborough is determined to tell the truth as part of his healing journey and his close relationship with Aboriginal people. He has realised “there is no sense in moral superiority towards my ancestry because colonial violence in this country has not ended; no place for hopelessness because First Nations resistance has never wavered; and, no time for paralysing shame because invitations to partnerships are still being offered by Aboriginal people … and [there is] so much to be done.”
Tom and Jane Teniswood have returned half of their 220-acre property in Tasmania to the local Aboriginal community. Image source: The Conversation.
Doctor shortage in rural & regional areas
In a recent interview The Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government was asked about RACGP figures suggesting a decline in doctors electing for GP training and choosing specialties instead and whether more incentives need to be in place to fill more GP training roles. Minister Coulton said “what we’ve seen here in the bush is a symptom of a larger problem. And that is as we speak this year, there’s 30% vacancy in funded training places for GPs across Australia. We need to lift the value of general practice as a discipline.
We’re also training generalists, which is proving to be very popular with students coming through. So, doctors that have that broader range of skills, a GP with an emergency skill, obstetric skill, that would be of use when you’re working more remotely by yourself. And so, we’re looking at a whole range of issues going right back to the training through the students, working with the colleges, right through workforce issues and incentives, putting more students from country areas into training.”
To view the full transcript of the interview click here.
Image source: National Rural Health Alliance Partyline website.
Teal Ribbon Day – raising ovarian cancer awareness
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a different pattern of gynaecological cancer incidence and mortality compared to non-Indigenous women. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with, and 3.8 times more likely to die from cervical cancer, and are also 1.8 times more likely to be diagnosed with, and 2.2 times more likely to die from endometrial cancer. Cancer Australia have produced a handbook for Health Workers and Health Practitioners to help provide information and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with gynaecological cancers which can be accessed here.
Annually on the last Wednesday in February, Ovarian Cancer Australia hold Teal Ribbon Day. This is a day to support Australians affected by ovarian cancer, honour those lost and raise awareness of this deadly disease to change the story for future generations. To access the Ovarian Cancer Australia website click here.
Image source: Ovarian Cancer Australia website.
NSW – Batemans Bay, Bega & Narooma – Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health & Community Services
Practice Nurses x 1 PT – Batemans Bay
Casual Practice Nurses x 1 or more – Batemans Bay, Bega & Narooma
Katungul is a not for profit organisation providing culturally attuned, integrated health and community services on the Far South Coast of NSW. Katungul provides a broad range of services including: Primary Health Care; Child and Maternal Health; Oral Health; Mental Health; Emotional Health; Alcohol and Drug Services; NDIS and Integrated Team Care (ITC).
The Practice Nurse is responsible for ensuring that high quality health care services are provided to Katungul clients attending the clinic and associated outreach venues. This role includes oversight of all clinical operations based at the branch including risk management, planning, reporting, and management of a multidisciplinary team.
To view position description and to apply click here.Applications close 5:00 PM Tuesday 9 March 2021.