NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding grant applications OPEN!

NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding grant applications OPEN!

Attention NACCHO members! NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant applications are NOW OPEN!

IBSF offers funding to eligible Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) to help address:

  • basic establishment costs, and/or
  • business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS

Grants of $20,000 are available for up to 100 member ACCHOS.

ACCHOs have been contacted via email with information about the grants and how to apply.

Applications close on the 14 May 2021. Please contact the NDIS Ready team at if you have any questions.

Australia made a plan to protect Indigenous elders from COVID-19. It worked

Washington Post story is all praise for us on how effectively we have managed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities!

From Alaska to the Amazon, Indigenous people are more likely to get sick with or die of covid-19, as the pandemic magnifies deep-rooted health and socioeconomic inequities.
Not only have Indigenous Australians recorded far fewer infections per capita than their global counterparts, they are six times less likely than the wider Australian population to contract the coronavirus, government data shows.
There have been no cases in remote communities, and not a single Aboriginal elder has died. Of the 149 cases involving Indigenous people since the start of the pandemic nationwide, few were serious enough to require hospitalization. By contrast, covid-19 is killing Native Americans at a faster rate than any other group in the United States.
Dawn Casey, who co-chairs a government task force established to develop a virus plan for Indigenous communities, said Aboriginal doctors expressed alarm during weekly meetings at the number of flights arriving from countries where the virus had taken hold. “We could see what was happening overseas,” she said. “If it got into remote communities, it would wipe them out.”
Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization, wrote to state and federal leaders in March 2020, asking them to use their powers to order the closure of remote communities to stop visitors from entering. Accordingly, the communities were sealed off.
“I think increasingly the Australian government is looking at the Aboriginal-controlled model and seeing they can be really effective,” said Jason Agostino, an epidemiologist and medical adviser on Aboriginal health.
To read the full story in the Washington Post click here.

Join Dementia Australia in calling on Governments to commit to action

Dementia Australia is calling on the Australian Federal Government to act with urgency in response to the Final Report, Care, Dignity and Respect of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

An estimated 472,000 Australians live with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million in 2058. I want dementia to be core business for government #dementia #auspol

Dementia is one of the largest health and social challenges facing Australia and the world. As well as being the chronic condition of the 21st century it is a debilitating, progressive and ultimately terminal disease and the second leading cause of death of Australians annually and the leading cause of death of women. Many Australians living with dementia require care, whether this is in their own home, or in an aged care setting – 68 per cent of people living in care have dementia. This of course includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians.

Since September 2018 people living with dementia, their families and carers have entrusted the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety with their views, personal experiences and often traumatic stories. The Royal Commission’s Final Report captures the essence of those issues and demonstrates that the Commissioners have listened.

Dementia Australia’s Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care has been shared with all sides of government in the lead up to the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report and the 2021-22 Federal Budget.

The Roadmap is the product of extensive consultations with people living with dementia and reflects all of the recommendations in relation to dementia made in the Royal Commission’s final report.

We encourage you all to join this plea to the Federal Government to implement this much required Roadmap.

For any of your stakeholders that may need guidance on how to call on the Government to implement the Roadmap, please refer them to Dementia Australia’s webpage, Engaging your local Member of Parliament, Senator or political candidate.

The page features draft social media posts and tiles, letter and email templates, scripts and guides for calls and meetings and many more resources.

Thank you in advance for any support you can provide and should you have any questions please contact Alex Shaw – 03 9816 5731 or 

Joint Council on Closing the Gap will discuss progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap

The Joint Council on Closing the Gap will meet Friday 16 April to discuss the progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that came into effect in July 2020.

The Joint Council will discuss:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the success of the partnership approach between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and governments in responding to the pandemic.
  • the release of the Joint Council’s response to the first annual Partnership Health Check report of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap assessing the successes and challenges faced by the Partnership since it came into effect in 2019. The Health Check reflects the commitment of all parties to put in place actions and formal checks over the life of the 10-year Partnership Agreement to make sure that the shared decision-making arrangements strengthen over time, including revisions to the Joint Council Terms of Reference and development of a risk register.
  • the release of its Joint Communications Strategy to ensure engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to build their awareness and ownership of the National Agreement and to assist them to talk to governments about how to apply the commitments to communities and organisations across the country.
  • the next stages of the Strategic Plan for Funding the Development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Sector (Strategic Plan) to guide investment from the joint funding pool committed by governments to support Priority Reform Two of the National Agreement, investment priorities for the Health and Disability Sectors.
  • revised Family Violence target and a new Access to Information target which reflect a commitment in the National Agreement to develop these two targets within three months of the Agreement coming into effect.
  • allowing more time for the development of Sector Strengthening Plans and Place-Based Partnerships to facilitate community and organisation engagement.

Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Australasian Society for HIV Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (2020) Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Sydney: This national consensus testing guideline for sexually transmitted infections, is for use by primary care clinicians working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read more click here.

Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service Newsletter for March 2021

To read the BRAMS March newsletter click here.

Delivering more Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the NT

The Australian Government is investing $8.75 million over four years to provide additional health services in the Northern Territory as part of its commitment to strengthen Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Delivered through the Northern Territory Pathways to Community Control program (NT P2CC), the funding will provide First Nations people with access to effective, high quality, comprehensive and culturally appropriate primary health care services.

This investment builds on the $4 million already committed for transition activities occurring in West Arnhem, demonstrating the strong partnerships that exist between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government and other key members of the NT Aboriginal Health Forum, including the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT). Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said community driven approache  s to delivering health services were delivering major benefits for First Nations people.

Read the full media release here.

Have Your Say – Participate in Survey to Contribute to National Evaluation

Indigenous Eye Health at The University of Melbourne is asking people who work in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector to participate in an anonymous survey as part of a national evaluation.

The survey asks questions about your experience working in the sector, what kinds of activities you’ve seen or been involved with at a regional level, what changes have happened over time, what has supported this work and what more is needed to improve eye care and eye health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It takes around 20 minutes to complete the survey.

Those who complete the survey can go into the draw for a ‘Check Today, See Tomorrow’ Diabetes Eye Care T-Shirt or a pair of Deadly Eyewear Sunglasses (there are 20 of each to be won!).

The survey is being run by independent evaluators from ARTD Consultants. If you would prefer to complete the survey over the telephone you can do this by contacting Rachel Aston from ARTD at

To complete the survey click here.

Deaths in custody: Canberra Aboriginal health leader calls for justice system overhaul on royal commission anniversary

A new royal commission is needed into Canberra’s jail, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, to reset the entire system, says Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs.

“I’m always concerned there’s going to be another death in custody.”

Read the full story released in the Canberra Times here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah chief executive Julie Tongs is fearful another Indigenous life will be lost in custody. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

AMA Media statement: Time for Calm and Clear Information on Vaccine Rollout

Australians should trust the advice of the experts when deciding on their COVID-19 vaccination, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.

“The AMA has supported the decisions made by independent scientific experts – the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) – to keep Australians safe throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Khorshid said.

“The Federal Government has also accepted this advice. While the changed advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine may seem confusing, and further delays to the rollout are frustrating, Australia is in the very fortunate position of being able to watch and learn from the experiences overseas.

“Communicating in this rapidly changing environment has been a challenge for the Government but it is critical for Australia’s future that public confidence in the vaccine program is maintained.

“The patient-GP relationship is one of the most trusted and important relationships in every person’s life.

“Your GP will give you the best advice about any medicine or vaccine. They will offer you what they believe to be of medical benefit to you and explain any risks and benefits of having or not having the treatment.

“They will ask you if you need any clarification and answer your questions. You can then decide whether you want the treatment.

“This is the same as for any treatment whether it is an antibiotic, surgery or a vaccine.

“GPs are guided by Government advice about AstraZeneca, and the risks for the under-50 cohort – most of whom would not be eligible for the vaccine until later this year anyway.
“The advice around the incredibly rare but serious thrombotic events associated with AZ vaccination has made decision making more difficult for those under 50 who are currently eligible for the vaccine. The AZ vaccine remains very safe and effective, and access to the alternative, preferred Pfizer vaccine is likely to be delayed.

“Our advice for Australians with questions is to make an appointment with their GP for a full discussion about the possible risks and benefits of having the vaccine, or of not having it, taking into account of their own specific circumstances.

“There has been some talk about doctors being concerned about potential litigation from side-effects of any vaccines. Please be assured that all registered doctors are fully covered – your GP is more concerned with your health.”

Do you think the state of epilepsy care in Australia could be improved?

Do you believe there is enough support, resources and information available?

Epilepsy Smart Australia invites you to participate in an online survey to better understand your needs and the gaps that exist in epilepsy services and supports in Australia.  The survey is open from April 1st to May 31st and should only take you 20 minutes.

This research is being conducted as part of the Epilepsy Smart Australia Program Pilot and will be managed in conjunction with independent consultant KPMG. Your responses will remain anonymous.

Tap this link to access the survey and have your say today!

If you would like more information about how to get involved on a deeper level, please contact Mohana Ryan on 0436 404 895 or

Alternatively, you can email

Elephant in the Room! – Kununurra

A training program designed for professionals working in community services, health and education who provide services to children, youth, adults and families who have experienced trauma by Complex Trauma Training WA.

The ‘8 principles of trauma-informed practice’ will be discussed and practical strategies to implement these in various contexts will be explored.

Learning outcomes for this course:

  • Define complex trauma.
  • Discuss the immediate and long term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).
  • Identify the impact of trauma on: brain development, attachment and memory.
  • Define Trauma-Informed care.
  • Discuss 8 Principles of trauma-informed care.
  • Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to create safe environments and build strong relationships with children, youth, adults and families you work with.
  • Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to support workers, including self-care strategies to manage secondary traumatic stress (vicarious trauma).
  • Identify resources & further professional development to implement trauma-informed practices in your workplace.

To know more about the training and to register click here.

feature tile text 'strong family relationships prove to be perinatal mental health protective factor' & photo of Aboriginal woman's hands above & below pregnant belly

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Perinatal mental health protective factors

feature tile text 'strong family relationships prove to be perinatal mental health protective factor' & photo of Aboriginal woman's hands above & below pregnant belly

Perinatal mental health protective factors

A recent Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) and Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) paper that retrospectively analysed 91 perinatal mental health assessments from the Kimberley region found that almost all of the women had protective factors and these appeared to contribute to them not having anxiety or depression even if they had significant risk factors. The most prominent protective factor was positive relationships with family members.

The study found that for Aboriginal women, it is important that the health professional explores a woman’s whole context; that is, the way she experiences stress and risk and how her protective factors support her. This will help the woman and her health professional best understand and support her mental health and wellbeing. Assessing Aboriginal women’s perinatal mental health by only looking at risk is not enough.

Plain language reports and a link to the paper are available on the KAMS research website which can be accessed by clicking here.

black and white image of adult Aboriginal hand holding sleeping Aboriginal baby's hand

Image source: Centre of Perinatal Excellence website.

AHCWA launches Mappa platform

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), in conjunction with its 23 member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) and associated communities have initiated the development and launch of the Mappa platform live to all Western Australians.

Mappa is a free-to-use online mapping platform developed to address the lack of clarity at all levels in regards to healthcare services being delivered across rural, remote and metropolitan regions throughout WA. Mappa provided comprehensive, culturally appropriate and reliable information for health services, health professionals, patients, clients and their communities.

Mappa brings three worlds together: the patient/client journey world; the healthcare world; and the technology world. In doing this, the mapping platform seeks to help those who are not technology savvy and/or have English as a second or third language, busy healthcare providers, clinicians, GPs, allied healthcare providers and those who want an easy way to find a place, a community or a healthcare service and to know how long it will take to get there.

Mappa is about ‘getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time‘, while being with family, at home and on country.

To view the article about the Mappa platform in The West Australian – New Directions in Telehealth liftout (page 3) click here.

To access the Live Mappa Link click here.Mappa Mapping Health Services Closer to Home banner with vector of tree and tree roots in a teardrop pointing to a place on a map

NACCHO supports HIV Awareness Week

NACCHO supports the World Aids Day 2020 theme ‘now, more than ever’ saying it is time to close the gap on rates of HIV notifications amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities in Australia. NACCHO believes as per the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that there is a real opportunity to take Aboriginal-led approaches and partnerships to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey said, “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face unique issues and social determinants that affect health outcomes, including overcrowded housing. We have demonstrated that a partnership and commitment from the Australian Government’s Departments of Health with NACCHO and direct funding for ACCHOs to address the syphilis outbreak has produced some positive outcomes.”

To read NACCHO’s media release click here.banner text U and Me Can STOP HIV with red, aboriginal flag & Torres Strait Islander flag coloured HIV awareness ribbons

8,000 Katherine patients without GP

Katherine’s only general practice closed its doors last month, leaving the 8,000 patients on its books with no other option but to travel three hours to Darwin for a GP consultation. The decision to close was not an easy one for GP and practice owner Dr Peter Spafford – who has been a resident of the NT town for 19 years and owner of Gorge Health for 10 – but he felt he had no other option.
A 2018 workforce assessment conducted by the NT Primary Health Network (PHN) recommended the town, with a population of almost 10,000, needed nine GPs to provide a service equal to elsewhere in Australia. The reality on the ground, however, has been just two GPs, four at best. Constant waitlists have meant there’s always been a difficulty in providing full GP services to the community.

The solution, according to RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements, is multifaceted and requires a whole-of-system approach that considers everything from housing security and spousal employment to children’s education and the training environment.

To view the full article click here.

road sign Kathering 90 Alice Springs 1263

Image source: newsGP website.

Making the invisible visible

After more than 12 months of hard work, consultation and collaboration, the RACGP has launched a reconciliation action plan (RAP) as part of its vision of a healthcare system free of racism.
Designed to help establish a culturally safe organisation that supports continuous education and learning for staff and members, the RAP has been praised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within and outside of the college. The plan involves a commitment to improving the knowledge, skills and abilities required to deliver culturally responsive health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which relies on a culturally inclusive and safe environment with strong relationships based on mutual respect.

To view The RACGP Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan October 2020 – September 2022 click here.

To view the related article published in newsGP click here.

Aboriginal woman with Aboriginal face paint looking sideways against a background of blue and white Aboriginal dot and line painting

Image source: newsGP.

World Scabies Program launched

The recently launched World Scabies Program (WSP), headed by Professor Andrew Steer, based on key research by Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute (MCRI), conducted in partnership with the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the Kirby Institute of UNSW Sydney, has shown that scabies prevalence can be reduced by more than 90% with a single community wide treatment.

Scabies is a parasitic infestation of the skin with the parasitic ‘itch mite’ Sarcoptes scabiei. The tiny mite burrows into the upper layers of the skin causing intensely itchy lesions which commonly become infected with bacteria and can lead to more serious conditions such and kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease. In humans, scabies is a particularly significant disease in children, but occurs in both sexes, at all ages, in all ethnic groups, and at all socioeconomic levels. Transmission of the mites from one person to the next is by direct skin to skin contact. Scabies is a significant disease worldwide in humans, wildlife, livestock and domestic animals and is a particularly serious problem in many remote Australia Indigenous communities, where overcrowded living conditions are a major factor contributing to high rates of transmission.

Fiji will be one of the first countries in the world to roll out a nationwide scabies elimination program and will be a model for other countries. Approximately one in every five Fijians is at risk of having scabies at any given time, with children at a higher risk. WSP will scale up this approach to the whole population of Fiji, with an aim to essentially eliminate scabies as a public health problem.

To learn more about the World Scabies Program click here.

scabies mite under a microscope

The scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. Image source: SBS NITV website.

2021 Eye Health Conference abstracts open

Abstract submissions are now open for the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC): The Gap and Beyond. The conference will bring elements from the postponed Close the Gap for Vision National Conference 2020 and, in 2021, will be delivered fully online.

The conference will be held virtually from 20–22 April 2021 with abstracts welcome from all working in, or interested in, improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. Topics should be relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and efforts to close the gap for vision and ultimately eliminate avoidable vision loss and blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. This could include eye care in primary care; eye care stakeholder collaborations; community-led and cultural engagement approaches and initiatives; workforce development; challenges in coordination and case management; improving outcomes and access to services; health system changes and reform.

For more information about abstract submissions click here. The closing date for abstract submissions is Monday 18 January 2021.banner 2021 National ATSI Eye Health Conference The Gap & Beyond 20-22 April 2021

First signs of ear disease at 8 weeks

Telethon Kids Institute researchers have found close to 40% of Aboriginal babies begin to develop middle ear infections between 2–4 months of age in a first of its kind study in metropolitan Perth. By 6–8 months this increased to over 50% of kids according to results published in Deafness and Educational International, clearly demonstrating the urgent need to prioritise early testing and treatment for Aboriginal children suffering debilitating ear infections, also known as otitis media (OM).

Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann AO, Honorary Emeritus Fellow at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, said 650,000 Australian children are affected by OM each year and Aboriginal children have some of the highest rates in the world. “While our previous research has already shown Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by chronic ear disease, most studies have focused on kids in regional and remote areas and information about the true burden of OM in urban areas was very limited,” Professor Lehmann said.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal woman with Telethon Kids Institute logo on shift with Aboriginal man holding Aboriginal baby standing outside of a building

Image source: Telethon Kids Institute.

NACCHO CEO makes Australians who mattered list

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner has made the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend’s second annual 40 Australians Who Mattered list for her contribution to social justice. Pat’s citation says ‘For decades Pat Turner has being a passionate voice for Aboriginal equality and self-determination, inside and outside governments, particularly in the field of Indigenous health. Her strong leadership was highlighted this year in her role as the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together more than 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In July, Turner stood beside Prime Minister Scott Morrison to launch a new national agreement on Closing the Gap, which is supposed to make Indigenous-run organisations central to programs to reduce disadvantage in communities.

“She’s one of the most experienced public servants in Australia,” says federal Labor frontbencher and Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney. “She’s had an incredibly distinguished career spanning both community and government. She shows a willingness to speak truth to power, she understands how governments work and is absolutely committed to driving a proper partnership with Aboriginal people in relation to Closing the Gap.”

To view the full article click here.

portrait shot of Pat Turner sitting in a chair looking directly at the camera, hand to her cheek

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Activism against gender-based violence video  

Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-op has contributed to a video telling the story of what a gender equitable future looks like and the need to call out disrespect, sexism and discrimination. The video, produced with funding from Respect Victoria and the City of Ballarat, is part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence global campaign to end gender-based violence. The campaign is book-ended by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November and International Human Rights Day on 10 December. These days were chosen in order to emphasise that violence against women is a human rights violation. 

To view the article about the video’s launch click here, and to view the video click here.banner with text '16 Days of Activism Respect Women: Call It Out' with vector images of people holding up letters that make up words 'Respect is....'

Dialysis trial focusing on culture

Bluey Roberts had been undergoing dialysis treatment in Adelaide’s major hospitals for the past three years. This year, however, he said things have changed for the better. “It’s more like home here,” Mr Roberts said while overlooking a smoking fireplace at Kanggawodli, a short-term accommodation facility in Adelaide’s north-west for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Australia.

Until recently, the site didn’t provide dialysis treatment options — but a trial of on-site facilities has seen immediate results, boosting attendance for vital services. For Bluey, a Ngarrindjeri elder and revered artist whose work features at institutions including the Art Gallery of SA, home is several hours’ drive away. But health difficulties linked to his dialysis needs left him in a challenging spot. “I wasn’t too good when I first came but I’m not too bad now, sort of settled down and got a lot better with my dialysis,” he says.

The six-month SA Health pilot of stationing dialysis machines at Kanggawodli makes it the only treatment location outside of a hospital in a metropolitan setting. Kanggawodli Manager Wade Allan said traditional owners often find hospitals overwhelming and alienating, which results in patients not committing to ongoing treatment.

To view the full article click here.

#swab4mob campaign launch

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) has partnered with The National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) and other Aboriginal organisations to launch #swab4mob; a campaign aimed at urging Aboriginal communities to protect their families by getting COVID-19 testing if they feel unwell. While there is currently no available COVID-19 vaccine or cure, it is essential that continued testing rates are maintained to help with community control of the virus and assist with contact tracing.

AH&MRC CEO Robert Skeen stated: “The collective voice of Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal health organisations play an important role to help people maintain COVID-19-safe behaviours and high testing rates while there is no cure or vaccine available for COVID-19. Wash your hands, wear a mask in crowded areas, and if you are feeling unwell, even just a slightly, play your part to protect your Community and get a COVID-19 test.”

To view AH&MRC’s press release about the #swab4mob launch click here and to view the #swab4mob video click here.image from swab4mob video David Follent Chairman NAATSHIHWP

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : #BlackLivesMatter is not just a hashtag or a movement. It is an opportunity for real change.  Says Jill Gallagher AO, CEO of VACCHO

Unless we as a Nation, are prepared to address racism head on then we will never see improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Long after COVID-19 vanishes.

This point in history is the point in which choices need to be made. We must move beyond mere words of support and into full action.

Being ‘in this together’ is a slogan made popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is more than a slogan. It is time that we understood what that would look like if we accepted that challenge.

To those who are not from our communities, being in this together means this.

  • Keep marching alongside us. We make up three percent of Australia’s population only. To the other 97 percent, this is your fight for a better future, too.
  • Keep amplifying our voice.
  • Keep demanding justice. Support treaty and truth telling commissions as outlined in the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
  • Keep calling on the governments to stamp out racism.

We cannot walk this road alone, anymore. It has been 231 years. It goes without saying that this is a defining moment in history. And one that will be reflected upon by future generations.

A legacy will be made forever in the way we choose to respond. ”

Ms Jill Gallagher AO, a Gunditjmara woman from western Victoria, is CEO of VACCHO

This article was first published in VACCHO News

We know our families and communities are hurting. This is a failure of the system.

There is a shocking and disproportionate level of suicide between Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to the broader Australian population.”

Jill Gallagher, chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health ­Organisation, said answers were needed urgently : Interview with Australian see Part 2 Below

Part 1: Let’s change history together

In the same week Australia was set to celebrate its Aboriginal reconciliation achievements, the world was devastated that George Floyd was racially targeted and killed by Minnesota police.

This violent act had reverberations at home; it spoke to our own colonial injustice. A story we know too well.

As much as this has become a global story and sparked global unrest among the broader community, for those of us with lived experience of racial abuse, it’s a deeply personal story.

We saw our sons, our uncles, our brothers, our cousins in George’s eyes.

I witnessed my own mother being asked to leave a shop when I was a very little girl in rural Victoria.  My son is reluctant to display the Aboriginal flag on his car for fear of being pulled over by police.

Only two weeks ago, during a local supermarket trip the morning of the Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, I was wearing my Aboriginal t-shirt and carrying an Aboriginal bag.

Once I had finished my shopping, I went through the self-checkout when the person who monitors that section stopped me and asked if she could search my bags. I said no assertively and asked her why she had targeted me, and not the other people just walking through. She advised “because it’s policy”.’

Unless you have experienced this kind of blatant racism daily, it can be hard to appreciate the cumulative impact of this behaviour on an individual’s emotional, mental, and ultimately physical wellbeing.

But the BLM response is a wake-up call that we can no longer ignore – a stark reminder of the violence and racism that plagues our own society. It is time for Australians to truly understand that racism exists here on all levels, and it is killing our people.

This is much deeper than a social movement. It is our current, lived reality. For this generation, and – if we do not step forward to change – it will be the reality for our next generation.

Our reality needs to change

In June 2020, our people are more likely to go to prison, than go to University; and not for serious crimes either, for unpaid fines or petty crimes like shoplifting.

Our people are more likely to be locked up and die in custody. We are more likely to die or be seriously injured in family violence incidents. We are also more likely to die from chronic disease.

We are more likely to live in places that have poor air and food quality too. Appallingly, 95 percent of us have experienced some form of racism, which carries the same health impact equivalent to smoking.  And we are more likely to experience high levels of psychological distress rooted in intergenerational grief, loss, and trauma.

The pandemic has taught VACCHO and our member organisations many things. But in most cases it has reaffirmed the inequality around the globe when it comes to health care access.

In the US, the latest data shows African Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people. In the UK, black men and women are four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people.

During the pandemic, we heard abhorrent stories of remote Aboriginal communities being sent body bags, instead of adequate supplies and support. We’ve heard of Aboriginal organisations in Victoria, almost shutting down or being forced to make their own personal protective equipment, as they were not seen as an ‘essential service’.

Federally, we continue to see an abundance of investment being prioritised to non-Aboriginal health organisations that do not always deliver outcomes for our communities.

Of the $2.4 billion dollars invested in a COVID-19 health plan, only $123 million was provided to Aboriginal Communities and $57.8 million went to remote Aboriginal Communities.

In Victoria, the flow-down of that funding was minimal.

Courage and resilience

While the challenges we have faced and continue to face as First Nations peoples speak of injustice and heartache. That is not the whole story.

Ours is also a story of courage, resilience, and achievement. This history is also a powerful reality. A story that is seldom told. Starting from today and working backwards.

COVID-19 was predicted to have devastating impacts on our communities. To date, the Victorian Aboriginal community has had a total of six cases. Nationally, that total is 60. We have forged a path in working together for health and wellbeing.

This way of working has stopped the outbreak and saved lives.

That said, even with the low incidence of COVID-19 cases in our communities. This pandemic has placed us in a situation that might take years to recover from.

But alas, Aboriginal people and communities and organisations, right across the country, have shown tremendous strength, fortitude, and adaptability. In some ways, this should not be a surprise. Resilience is in our DNA.

Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for over 80,000 years, though we believe this to be longer. In this time, we survived the end of the last Ice Age, watching as glaciers retreated, isolating us from the rest of the world. We faced massive changes to the land, to animals, to flora and food sources. And even still our populations flourished.

It is believed by the time Captain Cook crashed into the Great Barrier Reef in 1770; our population was in the middle of a three-century growth spurt.

We developed knowledge and relationships with the land and each other. These complex relationships enabled us to thrive, to adapt and excel, in some of the harshest environments known to man. Yet what was to come was one of the biggest threats; colonisation.

When that occurred, we fought to survive massacres and genocide. We fought to survive attempts at assimilation.

Being forced off our traditional lands and herded on missions like cattle. And having our families and customs ripped apart. That happened to my family, it happened to me.

We fought to survive newly introduced diseases like smallpox. We fought and survived them, nonetheless. We have not been recognised as First Nations of this Country, or for those injustices. And we certainly have not been celebrated for our resilience, and our achievements.

And in 2020, I ask Australians this. Should we be expected to keep fighting for justice and equality?

Fighting to be valued in a world that chooses not to see black or brown people is a heavy burden to bear.

And I would argue it is, in fact, not our burden at all. Isn’t it time now for our fellow Australians to finally stand up to alleviate some of this weight?

If not now, when?

Part 2 : More than half of the indigenous people who committed suicide in Victoria since 2009 had contact with police in the 12 months ­before they died and a third had contact with the court system, a groundbreaking report has found.

Advocacy groups claim the ­extensive data breakdown in the report by the Coroners Court provides proof of the extent of indigenous vulnerabilities and suicides.

Since the beginning of the year, 11 indigenous people have committed suicide in

The report shows marked differences between indigenous and non-indigenous people who committed suicide during the recording period of January 2009 to April 30 this year.

Forty per cent of indigenous females who committed suicide were aged under 25, compared with 13.4 per cent of all females who took their lives.

Indigenous people who committed suicide had greater contact in the previous year with police (52.2 per cent to 39.6 per cent) and were also more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness (62.3 per cent to 55.7 per cent).

Alcohol was detected in 40.2 per cent of post-mortem toxicology results of indigenous people compared to 29.4 of all Victorians, and the detection of ­illegal drugs was also higher (42 per cent to 15 per cent).

Coroner John Cain said the ­report was important because it provided a significant data base going forward. He said people had previously speculated on the suicide figures but the report and more detailed future studies would provide reliable background data for policy decisions.

Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, chief executive of Thirrili, an indigenous organisation working to stem suicide, said there needed to be a focus on prevention of indigenous suicides as well as “postvention” to help families and friends cope with bereavement and trauma.

“We want early notification reporting from people so we can reach out to the family,” she said.

“(Reports on) self-harm and attempted suicide, the protocols can get better at providing support to those at risk.

“I do commend Victoria on doing the report. The way we get change is to identify why it is happening.”

Ms McGowan-Jones said there needed to be a stronger focus on support services.

“It’s heartbreaking that with all the opportunity for prevention, we still can’t reach everybody who needs help and support,” she said.


Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 84 : June 26 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : ” Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are taking a leading role in COVID‐19 health communication”

ACCHOs, as comprehensive healthcare services whose core business is population‐level health, have the skills, expertise and knowledge to create and execute appropriate COVID‐19 prevention messages.

Part of their success has been the trust that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people place in them primarily because they deliver culturally appropriate service. In a time of crisis, they are best placed to deliver health promotion and crisis communication to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs and their peak bodies, therefore, need to be resourced appropriately to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the best possible information to reduce the risk to themselves, their families and their communities. ” 

Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : Originally published HERE

For research references or Download

ACCHO COVID19 communications

Noting all images and videos below added by NACCHO

Health communication during a health crisis, such as the COVID‐19 pandemic, is vital to reduce the impact on populations. To ensure the communication is effective, audience segmentation is required with specific resources that have been developed for each segment.

In addition, the messages need to be clear, mutual trust between the communicator and the audience needs to be developed and maintained, and resources should focus on cultural values.

The evidence around effective crisis communication indicates that it needs to be timely, clear, concise and appropriate to the target audience. Communication is particularly important for those at higher risk during the crisis, such as people who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk from COVID‐19 due to a range of factors associated with higher rates of non‐communicable diseases and a lack of access to health services in remote communities.

Additionally, there are socio‐cultural factors that put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk, such as high mobility for family or cultural reasons.

Despite the increased risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from COVID‐19, there has been little specific communication tailored for them from governments since the pandemic commenced.

This is despite the overwhelming evidence that health promotion messages need to be tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To fill the gap, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have demonstrated their capacity to deliver scientifically valid, evidence‐based and culturally translated COVID‐19 prevention messages.

The ACCHO sectors’ understanding of population health has led to a strong history of culturally centred health promotion and social marketing materials.

Even before the World Health Assembly declared COVID‐19 a global pandemic (11 March ACCHOs and their peak bodies had developed messages for their communities.

The ACCHO sectors’ communications on COVID‐19 have been produced in addition to their usual service delivery and using existing funding.

NACCHO first communique January 28 : Since then 84 COVID-19 Alerts 

Read over 84 NACCHO COVID-19 News Alert January to June 2020

Effective social marketing campaigns segment a target audience and develop resources that are culturally appropriate. Culturally appropriate resources include target specific language choices, imagery and an understanding of culturally specific behaviour change motivations.

Four examples of ACCHOs that have delivered tailored resources include the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC), Apunipima Cape York Health Council (Apunipima), Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

See NACCHO COVID-19 updates and infomation

Each of the examples provided resources that were tailored specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by including Aboriginal vernacular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and some included Indigenous languages.

Additionally, the material reflected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s kinship structures by promoting self‐isolation and good hygiene as a way of taking care of family and community.

AHMRC Website 

The AH&MRC, the NSW ACCHO peak body, has disseminated existing and new resources promoting COVID‐19 prevention online via their website, Facebook Twitter YouTube and Instagram

Additionally, they created the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service Pandemic Response Tool Kit. The materials were either resources developed by their member services (ACCHOs) or mainstream materials that have been repurposed and contextualised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Apunipima ACCHO Website

Apunipima, a Cape York ACCHO in Queensland has also been communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about how to protect themselves from COVID‐19 via Facebook and TikTok, and by distributing printed resources.

The first Facebook post (6 March 2020) used simple, evidenced‐based prevention messages about handwashing. Subsequently, they produced infographics and short localised video updates.


AHCWA Website

AHCWA, the Western Australian ACCHO peak body, has also developed infographics promoting prevention measures such as hand washing and COVID‐19 symptoms.

AHCWA resources and updates have been published on their website.


NACCHO, the national ACCHO peak body has been amplifying communications from ACCHOs and the jurisdictional affiliates, such as the AH&MRC and AHCWA.

They have shared these resources via their website, the NACCHO communique, their Facebook page and Twitter.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 82 : June 22 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : John Paterson CEO AMSANT Because we are still seeing major breakouts in places like Victoria and New South Wales, we had hoped the border controls would remain in place

1.Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in remote communities

2.Remote Framework

3.Physical distancing

4.Good hygiene

5.Stay home if you are unwell and get tested

6.Download the COVIDSafe App

7.COVIDSafe Australia

1.Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in remote communities

Coronavirus has spread across the world and made many people sick. The good news is Australia has been very successful in both ‘flattening the curve’ and keeping the virus out of our remote communities.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Australia each day is very low except for Victoria ( see below )

Some areas are now beginning to take careful steps to ease some of the restrictions that have helped stop the spread of the virus.

In other areas we need to keep these measures going a little longer to protect our mob, our Elders and our culture from this virus.

NACCHO Update 22 June 

The peak body for Aboriginal-controlled health services in the Northern Territory says the NT Government’s decision to reopen borders is a “major risk” and it is now “very likely” infected people will be arriving in the NT.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT) said it was disappointed it had not been consulted about the Government’s decision to end mandatory quarantine for new arrivals in the NT on July 17.

“Because we are still seeing major breakouts in places like Victoria and New South Wales, we had hoped the border controls would remain in place until there was no more coronavirus in Australia or there was a vaccine,” AMSANT chief executive John Paterson said.

Above front page of the Australian June 22

“The borders opening is a major risk, and we are disappointed we weren’t consulted about the decision to open the borders.

“We are concerned that we are very likely to again have infected people coming into the NT.”

Read full story HERE

Watch SkyNews Coverage 

2.Remote Framework : Updated 19 June 

Governments and community leaders were worried about what would happen if there was a coronavirus outbreak in a remote community

Restrictions were put in place on travelling to some remote communities. This meant people couldn’t enter these designated areas without first self-isolating.

This was done to stop people including tourists from bringing the virus into communities, and so far this has worked.

If coronavirus gets into our remote communities, it will be hard to get rid of. It will hurt our people and could make our people very sick.

The government with leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health have designed a framework to help governments and communities make decisions about when to lift restrictions in remote areas. The focus is keeping everyone safe.

You can find the remote framework on the website under ‘Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote communities’.

The restrictions will stay in place until 18 September, unless communities and governments agree to lift them earlier. Some communities are working with governments to lift the restrictions while keeping communities safe.

Get the latest updates 

3.Physical distancing

One of the best ways to protect ourselves from coronavirus is to stay at least two big steps away from people whenever and wherever we can. If there are too many people at places like the shops, it makes it very difficult to keep your distance. Come back when it is not as busy or see if you can order the items online.

4.Good hygiene

Good hygiene helps stop the spread of many illness, including the coronavirus. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet and before preparing food. Make sure to wash for 20 seconds at least. Don’t touch your face as this is where the virus enters your body, and remember to cough and sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand.

5.Stay home if you are unwell and get tested

It is important you stay home if you have cold or flu like symptoms. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath, make sure you get tested for coronavirus.

The COVID-19 Point of Care Testing (POCT) program is being put into place in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

This allows people including health care workers, to remain in community while in isolation and waiting for test results. The goal of the program is that health care services are no more than 2-3 hours drive away from a testing location.

6.Download the COVIDSafe App

Make sure you download the COVIDSafe app. The app allows public health workers to know when a person who has the virus has been around other people, and who those people are.

Public health workers can then contact people to let them know they have been close to a person with the virus, and what they need to do next.

The app does not trace your location or movement, or tell police or other officials where you have been or what you are doing.

7.COVIDSafe Australia

Our success depends on us making new behaviours such as physical distancing, extra hand washing and coughing into our elbow, part of our daily lives. Whenever you leave home, think about how you’re going to keep yourself, family and friends safe from coronavirus. Make good choices about what you do and when you do it.

Make sure you stay up to date with the latest information at which also has links to state and territory websites.

Visit for further information about which remote community biosecurity restrictions are place.

You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 61 : May 13 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : AMSANT Peak Health and NT land councils back proposal to lift coronavirus Bio-security travel restrictions for remote communities as early as June 5

“We would need to ensure that strong border controls are maintained and that fully resourced and detailed national, jurisdictional and local outbreak plans are in place that ensure integration and coordination between the NT and Commonwealth governments”.

CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), John Paterson, expressed support for the relaxation of the Biosecurity measures but noted that to do so safely would require a number of safeguards in place. Quote added by NACCHO / AMSANT

Our mob living in remote communities want to come into major centres to get food, other essential items and medical treatment they cannot get out bush. We want to move about with our kids and family members without having to quarantine for 14 days,

Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour said the act “adversely affected” the movement of Aboriginal people living on homelands and outstations in comparison to non-Aboriginal people. See further quotes below

We all went into this together, and we’ll get out of this together.

We don’t want to see double standards emerging — where people could get a laksa at Parap Markets and a have bet at the pub from June 5, but the community mob are still locked in.

Central Land Council CEO Joe Martin-Jard said he wanted the Biosecurity Act to be lifted on June 5, a date that coincided with stage 3 of COVID-19 restrictions easing in the NT.

“It is important that we remain cautious in our approach, we don’t want to see COVID-19 entering one of our communities.

Both Indigenous communities and the Government see this as critical. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more complex health needs than other Australians and my primary concern is continuing to keep this virus out of our communities as much as possible.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Mr Gunner was able to request changes to the NT’s Biosecurity Act at any time, and discussions between the Federal and NT governments were ongoing.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner says travel to the NT’s 76 remote Indigenous communities may be permitted as early as June 5, following discussions with NT land councils and peak Aboriginal health bodies this week.

Originally published here

Key points:

  • The Biosecurity Act, barring essential travel to remote NT communities, is scheduled to stay in place until June 18
  • Mr Gunner said land councils asked him yesterday to lift restrictions on June 5
  • But the Chief Minister confirmed easing border restrictions would be the last move by the Government

“The NT is the safest place in Australia,” Mr Gunner said.

“Because we are safe, and because we have strict border controls for the NT, we can look at bringing forward the date for the Biosecurity Act restrictions.”

Under the Biosecurity Act, all non-essential travel to remote Territory communities is currently banned and a 14-day isolation period applies for community residents wanting to return home from regional centres.

The restrictions are scheduled to stay in place until June 18 and align with a 90-day public health emergency declaration.

Mr Gunner said Land Councils asked him yesterday to lift restrictions on June 5 and he would now speak to the Commonwealth about the possibility.

Land councils back proposal

Central Land Council CEO Joe Martin-Jard said he wanted the Biosecurity Act to be lifted on June 5, a date that coincided with stage 3 of COVID-19 restrictions easing in the NT.

“We all went into this together, and we’ll get out of this together,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

“We don’t want to see double standards emerging — where people could get a laksa at Parap Markets and a have bet at the pub from June 5, but the community mob are still locked in.”

At the moment, Mr Martin-Jard said people were locked in their own communities with only one shop to visit, and as the weather cooled in Central Australia, it was important residents could leave to buy warmer clothes and other items they needed — without being forced to quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour agreed.

“Our mob living in remote communities want to come into major centres to get food, other essential items and medical treatment they cannot get out bush. We want to move about with our kids and family members without having to quarantine for 14 days,” she said.

Ms Scrymgour said the act “adversely affected” the movement of Aboriginal people living on homelands and outstations in comparison to non-Aboriginal people.

“Despite the fact that the intent of the biosecurity measures was to protect Aboriginal people — and this was made clear by both the Prime Minister and the NT Chief Minister from the start — there were elements of the process that were unfair to some Aboriginal people, particularly those living on Community Living Areas — those small areas of land excised for the benefit of Aboriginal people from very large pastoral stations,” she said.

‘We should keep the borders to the NT closed’

Ms Scrymgour and Mr Martin-Jard both said they only supported lifting the Biosecurity Act on June 5 if the NT’s strict border restrictions remained in place.

“We want to see some easing of restrictions in the NT, but only if it’s safe and only if they keep the strong Territory border restrictions,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

Ms Scrymgour also reminded Territorians that — apart from two Australian Defence Force personnel who arrived in Darwin May 1 after testing positive to COVID-19 overseas — there had been no new cases of the virus in the NT for more than a month.

“That’s a really positive indication it’s pretty safe for our mob to travel in and out of remote communities without needing to quarantine upon return. But I agree with the Chief Minister that we should keep the borders to the NT closed for a while longer,” she said.

Mr Gunner yesterday confirmed easing the NT’s tough border restrictions would be the last move by the Government.

He also said it was unlikely the Territory would open borders with WA and SA before the eastern states.

Feds to rule on the Biosecurity Act

The decision about when to lift the Biosecurity Act is one for the Commonwealth, and Mr Gunner will need to write to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt asking him to sign off on the proposal.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Mr Gunner was able to request changes to the NT’s Biosecurity Act at any time, and discussions between the Federal and NT governments were ongoing.

“It is important that we remain cautious in our approach, we don’t want to see COVID-19 entering one of our communities,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Both Indigenous communities and the Government see this as critical. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more complex health needs than other Australians and my primary concern is continuing to keep this virus out of our communities as much as possible.”

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 53 : May 4 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob John Paterson CEO AMSANT and Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba ACCHO call on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments need to provide the appropriate financial investment into housing, food security, environmental health issues, water, power and primary health — there is gaping holes in our workforce .

This needs to be given priority. We can’t wait for another virus to come along, we’re running on a bloody oily rag.

Aboriginal people have a high risk of chronic disease and make up a high proportion of patients in the health system in the Northern Territory.

It is not unreasonable to assume these patients are significantly represented in statistical evidence in most disease outbreaks.

We are calling on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post-pandemic.

Keep listening, we’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge ”

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT chief executive officer John Paterson 

Originally Published HERE

In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal people are often over-represented in the health system — but it’s a different story for COVID-19, with official data indicating there have been no Aboriginal coronavirus patients in the NT to date.

Key points:

  • There have been just 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NT and no community transmission
  • AMSANT’s John Paterson was “surprised” no Aboriginal people in the NT had tested positive
  • He said the pandemic showed how well governments could collaborate with the health sector

And as the Territory slowly starts to ease coronavirus restrictions, Aboriginal health leaders say now is the time to address some of the fundamental gaps in Aboriginal health care exposed during the pandemic.

Health groups have warned those rates of disease make COVID-19 a higher risk for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who make up 30 per cent of the NT’s population.

Last week, the NT Health Department said of the 28 cases then recorded in the NT, there had been no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patients.

Since then, two Australian Defence Force personnel who returned to Darwin from the Middle East tested positive to COVID-19 but, for privacy reasons, Defence has provided little information about these cases.

Mr Paterson was “surprised” there had been no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 patients in the NT, but said early measures — such as closing the NT’s borders — helped keep vulnerable Territorians safe from harm.

Dr Heggie explained strict border controls, restriction of non-essential movement into remote communities, mandatory quarantine and physical-distancing requirements had been “highly effective” so far in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory.

But, “most significantly”, Dr Heggie said there had been no cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in the NT.

Lessons from COVID-19

Mr Paterson was heartened by how quickly and collaboratively the health sector and different tiers of government had worked together during the pandemic.

“One of the other positives I see coming out of this national pandemic, is it shows how quickly things can happen,” he said.

Mr Paterson is calling on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post-pandemic.

“Keep listening, we’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge,” he said.

Danila Dilba Health Service chief executive officer Olga Havnen agreed.

Ms Havnen said while “decisive action” by the NT Government — such as closing borders and restricting travel — helped protect Territorians, the Aboriginal health sector had been communicating information about COVID-19 and how to stay safe to Indigenous communities and their client groups well ahead of the Australian and NT governments, their agencies and other sectors.

Mr Paterson said one of the reasons COVID-19 health messages had been adopted so well in remote communities was because the posters and advertisements targeting Aboriginal people had been written by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations.

“This deadly messaging, when our mob see it, they take notice of it,” Mr Paterson said.

We can’t wait for another virus’

The pandemic exposed some of the poor living conditions of people in remote Aboriginal communities, Mr Paterson said, including unreliable power, food insecurity, environmental health issues and shortages in primary health workers.

Ms Havnen said there was a need to address the fundamental problem of poor housing and overcrowded living conditions, which exacerbated the risk and likely potential spread of a pandemic in urban and remote Aboriginal communities.

More broadly, she said COVID-19 exposed major gaps, especially at the national level, in preparing for pandemics.

The Aboriginal primary healthcare sector relies heavily on Medicare billing to fund clinics, equipment and medications and employ staff.

“In the circumstance of a pandemic — where client and staff exposure must be limited, income immediately drops dramatically, just when it is most needed,” she said.

Large communities with about 2,500 or 3,000 people relied on clinics which were poorly staffed, Ms Havnen said, and smaller communities were reliant on fly in-fly out doctors who had been unable to visit due to pandemic conditions.

Although she welcomed the Commonwealth’s investment in telehealth, Ms Havnen pointed out that it wasn’t easy to move services online due to technological challenges, poor connectivity, cost and a lack of equipment.

What about borders and permits?

As restrictions start to ease in the NT, Mr Paterson wants people living in remote communities to to be able to leave without going into isolation upon their return.

“I would like to see free travel throughout the Northern Territory,” he said.

All non-essential travel to the Northern Territory’s 76 remote communities is currently banned and a 14-day isolation period applies for community residents wanting to return home from regional centres.

Ms Havnen said while the staged easing of internal restrictions would be a welcome relief to many, it would need to be done slowly and carefully, balancing the benefits against the risks to very vulnerable populations, especially those in remote communities.

“Widespread testing for COVID-19 is needed if internal border restrictions are to be loosened,” she said.

Mr Paterson said one of the “unanticipated consequences” of the Biosecurity Act was people living in remote areas had struggled to access food and other essential services.

He said the process of getting permits was “causing angst” in remote areas, because people needed to get one permit from the Land Council and one for the Government.

If the permit system couldn’t be removed altogether it should at least be streamlined, Mr Paterson added.

Both Mr Paterson and Ms Havnen agreed the NT’s strict border controls — barring interstate and overseas travellers — should stay in place for the foreseeable future.

“While there are signs of improvement in other states and territories, the NT will need to ensure that strict border controls are maintained until spread of COVID-19 is fully contained nationally,” Ms Haven said.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said on multiple occasions the last thing the Government will do is ease border restrictions.

“Opening the borders will happen dead last, I do not want the second wave to come,” he said.

Mr Gunner said these restrictions around remote communities would stay in place until at least June 18, and then it would be up to the Commonwealth, land councils, and communities to lift the restrictions.

“It looks like coronavirus is no match for the oldest living culture in the world,” he said.

What’s next for the NT?

Dr Heggie said NT Health had extensive pandemic plans in place for each region of the NT, including remote health plans, but warned the risk was not over.

“It is still likely there will be new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the Territory,” he said.

Ms Haven said the Territory’s challenge now was to avoid becoming complacent and to remain ready for any future COVID-19 cases.

“We consider that the Northern Territory and our community are extremely lucky to have avoided widespread community transmission and are enormously relieved and grateful,” she said.

“The great concern at this point is whether there is a likelihood of a second wave of infection and whether this is a matter of ‘when, not if’. That is a major fear.”


Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 42 : April 20 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : No more time to waste”: 13 Aboriginal organisations including @AMSANTaus @CAACongress demand a guarantee of affordable goods for remote communities now

We urge the national cabinet to take action, before it is too late, because time is all remote Aboriginal communities have on their side in their fight against the virus. We are all affected by this crisis, some more than others when it comes to accessing affordable food.

We want preventative action. This is all about making sure remote Aboriginal people can depend 100% on their one community store as they are not in a position to shop around. We have no more time to waste.”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee 

Photo above Outback Stores

A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations of the Northern Territory* want the national cabinet to immediately guarantee the supply of affordable food and other basics in locked-down remote communities.

Two weeks ago, the commonwealth and NT governments met with major supermarkets, suppliers and three major remote retailers, yet remote community owned stores are still waiting to hear about any government interventions that might flow from that meeting that will take the pressure off.

“We are getting daily reports of remote stores struggling to supply basic goods,” said John Paterson, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT.

“Some stores are running out of fresh food three days after their weekly delivery. Under COVID-19 travel restrictions small, community owned stores must suddenly meet 100% of people’s needs across a much greater range of products. Some stores have had to triple their usual orders.

“In recent weeks, the big supermarkets have responded to panic buying down south by sweeping up the bulk of goods from manufacturers and producers. Independent suppliers are struggling to get what they need for remote stores,” said John Paterson.

“We want an agreed proportion of these essential goods set aside for the independent suppliers. This can’t be solved through donated goods. It needs a systemic response from government. “

“Prices in remote community owned stores are also a big issue. This is borne out in every market basket survey. High freight costs and limited purchasing power mean prices can average 60% higher than at major supermarkets.

The coalition of health services, land councils and other Aboriginal organisations is calling for a 20 per cent point-of-sale subsidy of essential food, cleaning and hygiene products, as well as winter bedding and clothing in remote community stores.

“A direct consumer subsidy of selected items is the best way to guarantee that residents who are no longer able to shop around can afford the basics,” said Mr Paterson.

Community stores say invoicing the federal government for 20 per cent of their sales once a fortnight would place the least administrative burden on them.

“Already, remote community residents are taking backroads into regional centres to access essential and affordable supplies they can’t get at home. Towns are where they are most likely to contract coronavirus.”

“We understand fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are not in short supply in the southern states and distributers are actively planning to address current shortages in remote stores in central Australia. It is critically important that we understand how this will work, the CEO of the Central Land Council, Joe Martin-Jard, said.

“However, we believe subsidies on essential goods at point of sale coupled with a supply guarantee will make a huge difference.”

*The coalition includes the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT, Central Land Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, NPY Women’s Council, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, Waltja Aboriginal Corporation, Yeperenye Pty Ltd, Gap Youth Centre, Yipirinya School Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit and Tangentyere Council.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alert No 11 of 11 March 18 : Contributions @AMAPresident Communique @AMSANTaus Community resources @normanswan Todays Update Plus #MentalHealth care for Health Care Workers

In this special Corona Virus edition 11

1.AMA Communique

1.1 Communication:

1.2 Prevention of spread:

1.3 Vulnerable Communities

1.4 Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

1.5 Protection of access to health care:

2. AMSANT Resources








3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 18

4.Mental Health care for Health Care Workers

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 11 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1.AMA Communique 

Recognising that Australian Governments, advised by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), have been working to respond to the escalation of COVID-19 in Australia, and that many announced measures, particularly expanded use of medical telehealth services, are yet to be fully optimised, the AMA believes the next stage of responding to COVID-19 requires strong medical leadership.


  1. Consistent, succinct and contemporaneous communication across all media from a single trusted source must be provided. The public has been receiving conflicting and inaccurate information about when they need to be tested, and how they should approach testing, and what comprises effective prevention and mitigation strategies. The messaging has been improving, but this confusion is causing undue community distress and system inefficiency.
  2. Involvement of the medical profession at all levels in planning and disseminating the public health message is essential.

Prevention of spread:

  1. The national response should focus on a greater effort to slow the pace of COVID-19’s spread in Australia as a means to ‘flatten the curve’ of the outbreak.
  2. Australia must act to prevent community transmission by: effectively implementing the announced ban on mass public gatherings; encouraging social distancing; and, minimising social contact where alternatives are readily available (such as working from home, virtual meetings). Public education on effective and sensitive public distancing measures should focus on individual as well as institutional responsibilities.
  3. Planning should be undertaken for potential advanced education centre closures, workplace restrictions, and the possibility of school closures.
  4. Measures to ensure essential services and health service providers are adequately stocked and properly trained in the appropriate use of PPE must be an urgent priority. Access for healthcare personnel to sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is still inadequate.

Vulnerable Communities:

  1. Communities identified as being vulnerable, and in which morbidity and mortality is expected to be higher, include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; people with complex and chronic disease, the elderly, persons in residential aged care; and, rural and remote populations.
  2. We call for the limiting of non-essential travel to Indigenous rural and remote communities and ask that healthcare delivery be culturally safe. We also ask that rural health needs be considered with emerging COVID-19 related policy and care delivery decisions.
  3. Preparation for potential virus spread in aged care must include published action plans for response to concentrated virus outbreak in residential aged care centres or densely populated areas of older Australians to guide preventive and responsive actions for older Australians, aged care workers, the medical and wider health profession, and those with family members in aged care.

Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

  1. The health, safety, and wellbeing of all healthcare workers must be prioritised to maintain healthcare delivery capacity during the response to COVID-19.
  2. Clear and consistent guidance on COVID-19 testing for health care workers is imperative and testing should be prioritised by pathology services to minimise periods off work due to isolation when not infected with COVID-19.
  3. Preparation for a large proportion of the healthcare workforce needing to self-isolate or cease work due to exposure or illness, and resultant consequences for patient access to care, must be urgently addressed.
  4. In order to minimise community spread of COVID-19 and maintain non-pandemic related health service provision, all doctors in private practice should have immediate access to telehealth for treatment of all patients, not just for screening and treatment of potential COVID-19 infection.
  5. Doctors in private practice, both GPs and other specialists, must be involved in planning and implementation of the COVID-19 response, and clear, accessible and authoritative communication lines must be established.
  6. Extraordinary workforce measures such as recruiting retired or semi-retired doctors and other health workers; reassigning healthcare workers including doctors out of their usual clinical fields; and, utilising medical students as physician extenders or clinical aides must be undertaken only with due consideration of clinical outcomes, personal and community safety outcomes, and without coercion.
  7. Consideration of means to maintain the adequate education, assessment, and continuous professional development of all doctors, including those in training and medical students, is essential as is considering the impact of pandemic related workforce and training disruption on the continuing visa status of internationally trained doctors.
  8. There must be planning for follow-up personal support for all health workers to ensure ongoing psychological wellbeing after this crisis has passed.

Protection of access to health care:

  1. A clear plan for the usual care of patients is needed for patients without COVID-19. It is essential that patients with other pressing clinical needs can access timely care.
  2. The role of the Private Health system in relieving health system pressure due to COVID-19 needs to be included in planning efforts. Releasing the public hospital system from dealing with less acute health problems will help sustain access but will require whole of health sector coordination. For example, it is possible that public elective surgery may need to pause to enable capacity of the public hospital system to receive patients with COVID-19.

The AMA in 2016 called for establishment of a national Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The challenges currently being faced by the Australian community underscores the need for strengthened national coordination of pandemic response capability. Establishment of a CDC is essential at the conclusion of this current emergency.

This AMSANT webpage is a collation of resources to support member services, health professionals and community members relating to COVID-19.  AMSANT will continue to update resources as information becomes available.

Please do not hesitate to contact if you require additional information.

3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 16

4.Mental health care for healthcare workers

For health workers, feeling under pressure is a likely experience for you and many of your health worker colleagues. It is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak. Managing your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical

Take care of yourself at this time. Try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.

This is a unique and unprecedent scenario for many workers, particularly if they have not been involved in similar responses. Even so, using strategies that have worked for you in the past to manage times of stress can benefit you now. You are most likely to know how to de-stress and you should not be hesitant in keeping yourself psychologically This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Some healthcare workers may unfortunately experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma or fear. This can make an already challenging situation far more difficult. If possible, staying connected with your loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact. Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support- your colleagues may be having similar experiences to

Use understandable ways to share messages with people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities. Forms of communication that do not rely solely on written information should be utilized If you are a team leader or manager in a health

Know how to provide support to, for people who are affected with COVID-19 and know how to link them with available resources. This is especially important for those who require mental health and psychosocial support. The stigma associated with mental health problems may cause reluctance to seek support for both COVID-19 and mental health conditions.

The mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide includes clinical guidance for addressing priority mental health conditions and is designed for use by general health workers.



NACCHO Aboriginal Remote Communities Health and #CoronaVirus News Alerts :  #APYLands  @Nganampa_Health @NLC_74 #CAAHSN @AMSANTaus @RACGP All ensuring remote communities are resourced , protected and provided with appropriate information #COVID19


“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work “

CAAHSN would continue to be informed by COVID19  messaging from AMSANT Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance and the Department of Health.

AMSANT has already been supplying advice to member services, with a focus on updating vaccinations and a focus on day-to-day preventive measure such as had washing.

Read full press release Central Australia Academic Health Science Network Part 2 Below

Graphic above QAIHC

Read all NACCHO Corona Virus Articles HERE

” As GPs try to navigate national guidelines for coronavirus (COVID-19), a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders have stepped in to manage their own infection control.

For example, in the Northern Territory quite a few communities are putting in place their own procedures around how they’re going to manage it. ’ 

‘[They’re] isolating themselves from [the] outside and I gather even saying, “Actually, we don’t want health professionals coming in at the moment to keep ourselves safe”.’

Dr Tim Senior, Medical Advisor for RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. See report part 4 below

“We need to be vigilant and follow these guidelines in order to protect Anangu from this virus,

There have been no known COVID-19 cases among APY Lands residents to date, but the Prime Minister has expressed concern about the vulnerability of those in remote Indigenous communities, including the APY Lands.

During the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths. Indigenous people are 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised during a virus outbreak.”

APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors. The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Mr King said communities on the APY Lands were particularly vulnerable because of well-documented poor health and living conditions. See full press release part 3

Part 1 NLC

“ The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,”

NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Part 1 :The Northern Land Council’s Executive Council met today with officials from the Northern Territory Department of Health and the Danila Dilba Health Service’s CEO Ms Olga Havnen to examine strategies and information focused on protecting Aboriginal communities in the NLC’s region from the risk of coronavirus.

The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,” said NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Ms Scrymgour will meet with NT Tourism tomorrow (March 13) to discuss how tourism operators can minimise their potential impact on remote communities.

NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the NLC is working closely with the NT Government and health service providers to  working

“We want people to really think about their need to visit remote communities. Especially if they have returned from an at risk country they must not travel to Aboriginal communities and must take every precaution.”

NT Government website COVID19 Information for Aboriginal communities

  • There are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in any Territory communities.
  • Residents should stay alert but carry on with normal activities.
  • There is no risk to eating traditional animals and plants.
  • The virus is not spread by mosquito bites.
  • The virus is not spread on the wind.
  • The most important thing for everyone to remember is to maintain hygiene by:
    • Washing your hands
    • Avoid shaking hands with people who may be unwel
    • Stay at a distance of 1.5 m away from someone who is unwell
    • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow
    • Don’t go to crowded places if you’re unwell.
  • If you get sick, go to your health clinic.

Recordings in language

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Remote Communities Plan has been developed and distributed to all remote Territory communities. This plan provides high level guidance and each community will tailor their individual plans to suit their specific circumstances and community requirements.

Part 2

At a Council meeting of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Network [CA AHSN] today, a call was made for decisive and urgent action on the prevention of COVID-19 spreading to remote Australian communities, Executive Director Chips Mackinolty said today.

“We are in this together, and we have a collective responsibility at all levels of government and health service delivery to keep people safe,” said Mr Mackinolty.

“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

“A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

“Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

“We believe it is critical that rapid and extensive testing be rolled out as soon as possible, so that such work is timely and localised. As a first step this should be located in Alice Springs, rapidly followed by other regional centres.

“Of paramount concern is that our health services—already severely under resourced—not be further burdened. Just as happened in the recent bush fire crises, we would see it as essential that Commonwealth-funded remote area health medical workers being brought in to help.

“Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work.

“Meanwhile, our research activities will limit fieldwork, and researchers recently overseas will not be allowed to travel remotely. This follows the initiatives already of some of our partner organisations

In any case, we will also seek to follow the recommendations of local Aboriginal community organisations in our work.

“A major priority, from the Commonwealth and NT governments should be a major effort in proving accurate and concise information to Aboriginal people—with a stron

Part 3 MEDIA STATEMENT: APY enacts border protection to reduce coronavirus risk

APY has introduced strict new rules for entry into its remote lands in response to the Federal Government’s concerns about the potential for coronavirus to spread in vulnerable Indigenous communities.

The Executive Board that governs the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, in South
Australia’s far northwest, addressed the threat of a coronavirus outbreak at its latest meeting.

The Board has resolved not to routinely issue entry permits for the next three months to anyone who has:

  • Been in mainland China from 1 February 2020.
  • Been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • Travelled to China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Mongolia.

If a person who wishes to enter the APY Lands has travelled to any of the affected countries, experienced coronavirus symptoms in the previous 14 days, been seen by a doctor and recorded a negative test, they must submit a copy of the test results along with a Statutory Declaration to be considered for an entry permit.

APY has the legal authority to exclude persons from entering the APY Lands pursuant to section 19 of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act. APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors.

The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Part 4 RACGP 

Media report RACGP Dr Tim Senior : Chronic diseases and a lack of access to culturally appropriate care makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vulnerable to coronavirus.