NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

Earlier this morning NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills addressed The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2022: Advancing Multicultural Australia conference. The event is Australia’s premier conference on multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion, and migration and hosts multicultural communities, policy makers, service providers, academics and many more over two days of presentations, speakers and topics.

Ms Mills said, “It is important that when we are talking about today’s systemic racism in the health system, we understand two fundamental points. The first is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are foremost and always Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have our own distinct identities, languages and beliefs about what contributes to health and wellness and what causes sickness. Australia’s health system, however, is built around the identities and beliefs of the white settler and their western model of health and wellness and causes of sickness. This immediately puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the back foot in accessing health care in Australia. For us to access mainstream health services, we are required to suspend our own beliefs and cultures and adopt or accept the western model of health.”

You can access Ms Mills’ speech in full here. For more information about the FECCA2022 conference click here.

ACCHO CEO awarded honorary doctorate

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has issued a media release saying it is proud to acknowledge the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Arts to its Chair and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Congress (CAAC) CEO, Donna Ah Chee, by Charles Darwin University yesterday. The award took place at a ceremony in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) where she has lived and worked for the past 30 years.

AMSANT CEO, Dr John Paterson congratulated Ms Ah Chee on her well-deserved honour in recognition of her significant contribution to the health of First Nations peoples. “Donna has distinguished herself through the outstanding leadership she has provided to the Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHS) sector, including many years as CEO of CAAC and as Chair and Director of AMSANT”, Dr Paterson said.

“Her leadership has also been recognised through many high-level appointments to boards and advisory bodies in Aboriginal health and related areas, including the NACCHO, the NT Aboriginal Health Forum and the NT Children and Families Tripartite Forum. “Donna has been a driving force in the development and expansion of the model of Aboriginal comprehensive primary health care delivered by our ACCHSs and broader reforms of the health system that together are required to achieve better health outcomes for our people. Her passion and significant contribution in the areas of early childhood development, education, health research and reducing alcohol harm have been widely recognised.”

To view AMSANT’s media release AMSANT Chair, Donna Ah Chee, awarded Honorary Doctorate in full click here.

Donna Ah Chee. Image source: Health Voices Journal of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

Remote houses are dangerous hot boxes

In remote Indigenous communities that are already very hot and socioeconomically disadvantaged, climate change is driving inequities even further. New research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows how higher temperatures in remote Indigenous communities in the NT will drive inequities in housing, energy and health.

Existing housing in remote areas is old and poorly constructed. In many remote Indigenous communities in the NT, you don’t need a building permit or even a qualified builder to build a house. Houses have missing doors, boarded-up windows, no air conditioners, are often un-insulated, have failed plumbing and have been poorly maintained over decades. These houses become dangerously hot as climate change bears down.

The researchers conclude the solution is Indigenous communities need a say; buildings need to be climate resilient; energy needs to be safeguarded and houses need to be maintained.

To view The Conversation article How climate change is turning remote Indigenous houses into dangerous hot boxes in full click here.

Shoddy NT remote homes lethal

Indigenous Australians living in remote, shabby housing with unstable electricity connections in the NT’s extreme heat are enduring life-threatening conditions. A research paper published this month in the Medical Journal of Australia found that Indigenous Australians with chronic diseases who depend on cool storage and electrical equipment are vulnerable to dying earlier.

The study was conducted by the ANU in partnership with the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation in the NT, where extreme heat stress has become a reality in the past few years. ANU researcher Simon Quilty says excessive heat, poor housing, energy insecurity and chronic disease have reached critical levels and a multi-sector response is needed to avert catastrophe. He says a constant electricity supply is often a luxury, rather than a right.

“Most houses in remote communities are old, poorly constructed and poorly maintained,” Dr Quilty said. He said tenants pay rent for houses with no doors, no windows and no insulation in the ceiling, falling well below national building codes. “All of the houses in these communities rely on pre-paid power cards and as a result there are extreme rates of electricity disconnection, making those with chronic disease particularly vulnerable,” Dr Quilty said.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Shoddy homes lethal to Indigenous patients in full click here.

Unserviced shacks in Tennant Creek shelter some people on the public housing waiting list. Photo: Samantha Jonscher. ABC News.

Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia

The latest health research has shown type two diabetes in remote Aboriginal communities has reached epidemic proportions, with children as young as four diagnosed. The rates of type 2 diabetes in remote communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse, according to new research released by the Menzies School of Health Research.

Menzies researchers examined seven years of health data from 21,000 Aboriginal people across 51 remote communities in the NT. It found a staggering 40% of adults in Central Australia now have the condition, which can cause kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections. 29% of the Aboriginal adult population in the rest of the Territory are also living with the condition. In 2020 it became the leading cause of death in communities, and those diagnosed with it are getting younger.

Shiree Mack and her family have lived with type two diabetes for years and many of her extended family are also battling the condition. With younger generations increasingly affected, she says the time for change is now. “The effects are huge and our little people are getting diagnosed at five and six,” she said. Ms Mack said any proposed solutions need to come from the community. “Let’s listen to the community let them tell us what will work. They know.”

To view the SBS NITV article Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia in full click here.

The Mack and Ross families from Alice Springs are all living with type two diabetes as the number of cases in the Centre skyrocket. Image source: NITV.

Integrating kidney health into patient care

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects one in 10 Australian adults. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the prevalence is even higher, affecting nearly one in five adults. CKD contributes to 11% of all deaths and is associated with 37% of all cardiovascular deaths in Australia. However, the asymptomatic nature of CKD means it can be difficult to diagnose unless there is targeted screening for it. Timely management can slow or even prevent the deterioration in kidney function, and improve cardiovascular outcomes. GPs are in a prime position to detect and diagnose CKD early. This involves targeted screening and performing investigations that are mostly already part of regular clinical practice.

Dr Tim Senior, GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney Medical School and CKD expert in general practice says that “Rather than seeing the kidneys as a single, separate, complex and difficult organ, it is straightforward to integrate them into the overall care of your patients along with other organ systems. You’ll find, for instance, that what’s needed to diagnose CKD is largely already what you’re doing for other conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So when you assess your patients for risk factors and test for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you should also think of their kidneys.”

To view the NPS MedicineWise article CKD – Integrating kidney health into patient care in full click here.

Dr TIm Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Indigenous assistant minister sworn in

Indigenous Australians assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy has vowed health outcomes for First Nations people will be placed at the forefront of the Albanese government’s bid to close the gap. The NT senator was sworn into the ministry by Governor-General David Hurley at Government House on yesterday.

Senator McCarthy said commitments taken to the election campaign focused on health policies, but also included improving access to education and job opportunities for people in regional and remote communities. A key focus would be closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with better health outcomes being essential to improving the lives of First Nations people.

Senator McCarthy said she will be working closely with Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney – who was appointed to cabinet – on progressing a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament in the government’s first term.

To read Yass Tribune article Indigenous assistant minister sworn in in full click here.

Malarndirri McCarthy with her partner Richard and their children following her swearing-in at Parliament House. Photo: AAP, Image source: SBS News.

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

Health leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who recently attended a national eye health conference, called on non-Indigenous Australians to support efforts to establish an Indigenous led approach to closing the gap in eye health. The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC22), co-hosted by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) at the University of Melbourne and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), took place on Larrakia country in Darwin from 24–26 May 2022.

The conference theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, was reflected in a consistent call for “greater leadership and ownership of eye health by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, along with the shift in power that is necessary to produce the outcomes that we are all working towards”.

One of the conference co-chairs, Anne-Marie Banfield, who is the National Manager of Engagement and Awareness at Hearing Australia said that while First Nations peoples must play a key role in leading eye health initiatives that improve outcomes in their communities they cannot do this on their own – non-Indigenous people are needed as allies to “amplify the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Making Change: Indigenous Eye Health Conference in full click here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Diabetes burden still impacting mob

Image in feature tile by Tom Joyner, ABC Goldfields showing patient hooked up to dialysis machine.

Diabetes burden still impacting mob

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease condition globally. Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, with the greatest burden falling on socially disadvantaged groups and Indigenous peoples. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s latest Review of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people focuses primarily on type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The high levels of type 2 diabetes in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities reflect a broad range of historical, social and cultural determinants, and the contribution of lifestyle and other health risk factors. It provides general information on the social and cultural context of diabetes, and the behavioural and biomedical factors that contribute to diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is growing concern regarding the emergence of type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents.

The review includes information about incidence and prevalence data; hospitalisations; mortality and burden of disease; the prevention and management of diabetes; relevant programs, services, policies and strategies that address the health issue of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view a summary of the review in plain language, a one-page factsheet and a short animated video below of the key points from the review you click here.

AH&MRC wins governance award

Last night Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, and the BHP Foundation proudly announced the winners of the 2022 Indigenous Governance Awards. The Awards share and promote success from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations around Australia.

CEO of Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine said that following a rigorous judging process, the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) Human Research Ethics Committee based in Sydney was named the winner of Category 1 – Outstanding examples of Governance in Indigenous led non-incorporated initiatives. The AH&MRC is the peak body for Aboriginal controlled health services in NSW and the Ethics Committee helps ensure that Aboriginal people are at the centre of Aboriginal health research. “The Ethics Committee helps ensure that Aboriginal people are at the centre of Aboriginal health research, and provides an Aboriginal lens to make sure that research is conducted ethically and in a culturally safe way,” Committee Co-chair, Dr Summer May Finlay said.

To view the Reconciliation Australia article in full click here and watch a video about the AH&MRC Human Research Ethics Committee below.

Missing piece of chronic pain puzzle

The patient experience isn’t what we thought it was, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is showing us better ways to treat it. An important factor has been missing in the assessment of pain, according to Dr Manasi Murthy Mittinty who practices at the Pain Management Research Institute at the Royal North Shore Hospital.

“More and more research shows us that we need to take a biopsychosocial approach to managing pain,” she says. “It is very much a person-centered approach. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t work for pain.” Dr Mittinty’s pain research has taken her around the world including studies with patients from India, First Nations people from Appalachia in the United States and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from SA. She says culture and spirituality are missing aspects in the conventional assessment and treatment of pain.

Dr Mittinty has some helpful tips for GPs, including a new understanding of conventional pain assessment scales. “Most of the pain measurement we use clinically and research has never been adapted for Indigenous communities. The questions we pose to the patient do not always relate to, or reflect, their lived experiences,” she says.

You can listen to the Medical Republic podcast A missing piece of the chronic pain puzzle here.

Image source: Medical Republic website.

Greg Inglis on mental health

He’s one of the greatest rugby league players of all time, but when football injuries put him on the bench Greg Inglis’ mental health started to slip. Former NRL player and Dhungutti man, Greg Inglis has been running the Goanna Academy the first accredited and Indigenous-owned mental health organisation in Australia. The Goanna Academy was designed to help end the stigma surrounding mental health and improve social capacity to identify, talk about, and manage mental health for all Australians – in particular at risk groups such as Regional Males, Youth, and First Nations communities.

The Goanna Academy (est. 2020) is representative of Greg’s life after football – showing his commitment to giving back to the community and improving the mental health outcomes of Australians. The Academy gives Greg the opportunity to share his personal journey and own battles with mental illness with the ambition to inspire and influence others – especially within his own culture, the Indigenous community.

You can listen to the Greg Inglis’ interview with Fi Poole on ABC Coffs Coast radio here. You can also access the Goanna Academy website here.

Poor food choices – a colonisation legacy

The ongoing impacts of colonisation complicates healthy diets and relationships to food for First Nations people in semi-regional areas, a new study has found. The Sax Institute study tapped into local Aboriginal medical services in Western Sydney and Wagga Wagga, where it found food security concerns were not just an issue in remote Aboriginal communities. “Often people when they think of food insecurity, maybe they think of the more extreme food insecurity where people are starving,” said Wotjobaluk woman and lead author of the  study Simone Sherriff.

Ms Sherriff said fast food was often favoured over healthy options, which caused a direct link between financial disadvantage and weight gain, obesity and chronic disease. “A family spoke about how they’ve got so much going on in their lives and stress and things sometimes you just need to make sure the kids are fed,” she said. “That’s going down to the corner shop and getting $5 of hot chips.”

Ms Sherriff heard stories of taxis avoiding certain areas and difficulties with public transport limiting options when there was no family car. She said those accessing food relief services at times felt targeted for taking too much when trying to provide for extended family. Some were also deterred by the lasting impact of the Stolen Generations. “People are really afraid to go and tell a white organisation I’ve run out of food, I can’t afford to feed my family, can you help me,” Ms Sherriff said. “(They are) just so fearful to tell people because they’re worried their kids will be taken.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article How colonisation has left a legacy of poor food choices for First Nations people in full click here.

Nominate those making a difference 

The Purple House story began with paintings by Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrikurra. Auctioned in 2000, these paintings raised more than $1 million to kick start a new model of care based on family, country and compassion. Since then, the Purple House has been making families well. An entirely Indigenous owned and operated service, Purple House offers remote dialysis, social support, aged care services and the NDIA and it runs a bush medicine social enterprise called Bush Balm.

Purple House has transformed Central Australia from having the worst to the best dialysis survival rates. For service to community health, remote area nursing and to the Indigenous community, CEO Sarah Brown has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

People from all parts of Australia and all backgrounds are honoured and celebrated through the Order of Australia, but they all have one important thing in common – someone nominated them. All nominations are made by members of the Australian community. If you know someone who is making a positive difference in your community, your nomination could help celebrate them. Visit the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia Australian Honours and Wards webpage here and complete a nomination form today.

To view the Australian Government Department of Health’s Award-winning healthcare for Western Desert communities webpage click here.

Sarah Brown AM, CEO Purple House. Image source: ABC News.

Stayin’ On Track resource for young dads

Stayin’ On Track is a collaborative community-based project, working with funding from Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, the University of Newcastle NSW, and Microsoft. The website was created by a group of Aboriginal dads who got together and shared their experiences about fatherhood. They wanted to pass on useful information and tips to other young dads for support. The stories shared centre on themes about pride in being a father, tough times, culture, the emotions on finding out they would be a dad, feeling down, and who their role models are. Stayin’ On Track showcases some of these stories and aims to acknowledge dads who are doing great work and sharing their insights with other young dads.

You can visit the Stayin’ On Track website here and hear what other young dads have to say about the real stuff of fathering at a young age.

COVID-19 conference early bird registration due

The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) is hosting the 2nd Australasian COVID-19 Conference. This two-day face-to-face conference will be held at the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park from Thursday 21 to Friday 22 July 2022. The conference theme is “Taking stock of our COVID toolkit”: researchers from an array of disciplines, specialist clinicians, epidemiologists and community members have developed new and harnessed existing tools to comprehensively address prevention, treatment and management of COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 and evolving challenges presented.

Professor Sharon Lewin, AO, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute; Professor Allen Cheng, ID physician, epidemiologist/statistician, President ASIDANZ and Program Chair Associate Professor Edwina Wright, AM, of the Alfred Hospital and Monash University will convene the conference. The recently released program for the conference can be found here.

The early bird DEADLINE for registration is Sunday 12 June 2022. The early bird registration is a savings of $100 so it is worth getting in early. The registration fee also includes dinner on the first night of the conference as well as morning/afternoon tea and lunch each day.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO congratulates ALP on election win

Image in the feature tile is of Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese as he walks off the stage during a reception after winning the 2022 general election in Sydney. Image source: SBS NITV.

NACCHO congratulates ALP on election win

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) congratulates the Australian Labor Party for its win in the 2022 Federal election and looks forward to working with the incoming government in continuing to fight for improved outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In particular, NACCHO welcomes the emphasis that Senator Penny Wong and Prime Minister elect, Anthony Albanese, gave to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in their victory speeches on election night. The Uluru Statement from the Heart sets out the way forward for all Australians in a process of genuine reconciliation. There must be no further delay in implementing a Voice to Parliament for First Nations peoples enshrined in the constitution.

The CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner, speaking in Canberra, said, ‘NACCHO congratulates Linda Burney for her strong win in Barton. We are looking forward to seeing the first Aboriginal woman serve as Minister for Indigenous Australians and, presumably, in the new Albanese Cabinet.’

NACCHO also congratulates all the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the new Parliament and thanks Ken Wyatt, the outgoing Minister for Indigenous Australians, for his contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs over the past three years.

NACCHO commits to working with the incoming government and the likely new Health Minister, Mark Butler, on the $111m package announced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

The Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills, said at Cairns on Sunday, ‘The ALP’s package was a welcome pre-election announcement. It includes the 500 trainees for our ACCHOs and badly needed dialysis clinics. It also includes action in combatting rheumatic heart disease, a preventable disease that is killing so many of our children, needlessly. Our youths are 55 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease than other Australian youths. This must stop. The ALP’s funding commitment is a critical step.’

The ACCHO sector serves over 410,000 clients per year, delivering over 3.1 million episodes of care, of which 1 million are delivered in remote communities. Our clinics are favoured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are directly controlled by the communities they serve.

You can view the NACCHO congratulates the ALP media statement on NACCHO’s website here.

Image source: The Guardian.

It comes down to working together, differently

When the landmark National Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed in 2020, Pat Turner AM, lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO called for celebration – and hard work. “Today we celebrate this historic Agreement and those who fought hard to make it a reality,” said Turner, at the time. “But tomorrow, the true work begins when we start to implement its commitments within our communities.”

Tomorrow has well and truly arrived. And so, while we continue to applaud the intent of the agreement between federal, state/territory and local governments, and the Coalition of Peaks; it’s time to get down to work. There’s a shared understanding that working together should look different in 2022. Australian governments have committed to working in new ways with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so they can achieve self-determination. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, meanwhile, have expressed a desire to work alongside governments to design and implement outcomes that are identified by – and with – Indigenous communities.

This new approach is not about changing Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. In fact, it’s about embracing them. This change is about governments and Indigenous communities finding ways to work in the ‘middle space’ together. It’s about collective decision-making and shared accountability. And it’s about common outcomes and positive change. The key, however, will be working differently.

To view the PwC’s Indigenous Consulting article Meeting in the middle: How governments and Indigenous communities can work together, differently published in The Mandarin in full click here.

Image source: The Mandarin.

What now for mob under Labor?

The National Indigenous Times editor, Tom Zaunmayr, has looked at what is in store for Indigenous Australians following Labor’s win in the 2022 Federal election. Zaunmayr says it is good news for First Nations people, as there will be a referendum on a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution by 2025. By putting a nation-changing Indigenous policy front-and-centre of its campaign, Labor showed how serious it is about First Nations issues. The talk has been promising, now it is time for action. Suring up the Voice – how it will look, who will be involved and when the vote will happen is priority number one. Truth and treaty, the other two key elements of the Uluru Statement are as important to get to work on.

Bringing the Federal Government back to the table in funding remote housing is critical, and Labor now needs to follow through. Labor’s campaign policies on justice and deaths in custody were lacklustre and remain a point of concern. The money pledged for remote justice initiatives is chicken feed and is insufficient for one region, let alone the entire nation. The promise to bring a stronger Indigenous voice to deaths in custody cases lacks detail.

Climate action in the Torres Strait Islands remains a sticking point too. We heard plenty about long-term plans for a net-zero economy, but nothing about what will be done for communities being swallowed by the sea right now. Without short-term infrastructure fixes, the first climate refugees to mainland Australia may very well be our own Indigenous island nation inhabitants.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Labor has won the election and the Greens may have power. What now for Indigenous Australians? in full click here. You can view a related article ‘This will change Australia’: Linda Burney says Labor committed to Indigenous Voice published today in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Incoming Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney says Australia is ready for a referendum on a Voice to parliament. Photo: Brook Mitchell. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

First Nations eating disorders research

Sydney’s first eating disorders research and translation centre offers nationwide grant opportunity to progress prevention, treatments and support in partnership with research, lived experience, clinical and community experts. The Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, led by InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, focuses on risk and protective factors, very early intervention and individualised medicine as part of the top 10 research priorities identified in the National Eating Disorders Research and Translation Strategy 2021–31.

The Centre has launched the IgnitED Fund to unearth new ideas that have the potential to solve the problem of eating disorders. IgnitED offers grants of up to $25,000 to develop and test innovative ideas that have potential to improve outcomes for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. It is the Centre’s first funding initiative following the $13 million grant awarded in January to establish the new national centre.

According to the Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-Lead, Leilani Darwin, First Nations Australians are believed to experience high rates of eating disorders, disordered eating and food insecurity issues. “The IgnitED Fund facilitates Indigenous innovation,” said Darwin. “For the first time, we are uniquely positioned to elevate the need to better understand the issue of eating disorders and to build the evidence and best practice for our communities.”

For further information and to apply for an IgnitED Fund grant ,visit The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health webpage National eating disorders centre ignites research fund for new solutions here.

WA bowel cancer screening campaign relaunch

Due to its great success, the Cancer Council WA recently relaunched its 2021 bowel cancer campaign on social media platforms to raise awareness of bowel cancer amongst the Aboriginal WA community. The campaign encourages eligible people to do the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) home test. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer affecting the Aboriginal Australian community but is one of the most treatable cancers if found early. Less than half of all eligible West Australians participate when they receive the home test kit which is designed to detect bowel cancer in its very early stages. When detected early, more than 90% of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.

The campaign shares social media tiles featuring local people who are keen to share the message about bowel screening with their communities and encourage more people to do the NBCSP test when they receive it in the mail. Cancer Council WA has teamed up with Mary G, an Aboriginal personality, educator, and radio presenter to raise awareness of bowel cancer amongst the Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal communities.  The campaign was developed in consultation with Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia and Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, with Aboriginal Medical Services, Elders, and Aboriginal staff from local clinics and organisations in the regions, including WA Country Health Service being consulted in the process.

You can access further information to the Cancer Council WA website here.

Irrkerlantye forgotton for 40 years

Nestled in the hills east of Alice Springs lies Irrkerlantye, a community in limbo. Irrkerlantye has none of the basic services the rest of Australia takes for granted: water is trucked in and a meagre power supply is provided by a few solar panels. There is no sewerage. The residents live in tin sheds and a few decaying demountables that offer little protection from Central Australia’s extreme desert temperatures.

Felicity Hayes has lived at Irrkerlantye most of her life. The stoic Elder is at her wit’s end, saying “We’ve been asking the government for housing and essential services this whole time, however nothing has been done to provide the most basic services that all people are entitled to. We just want people to come here and have a look and not sit in their offices all day and make decisions about us. They need to come here and talk to us because we’re the ones that are suffering.”

The only water supply to the community was cut in 2014 under a Country Liberal government and was never restored. At the time it was seen as an attempt to force the closure of Irrkerlantye. Felicity Hayes and her family could be facing another forty years forgotten on the fringes of one of the world’s most developed countries. “We’ve been fighting for forty years and we’ve got children, the next generation, and they’re still going to be living here” Ms Hayes said.

To view the SBS NITV article How governments have forgotten this NT community for 40 years click here.

Locals say Irrkerlantye has been ignored by all levels of government for decades. Image source: SBS NITV.

‘Through the rood’ food prices in remote NT

John Paterson regularly has people from remote communities text him grocery receipts to show how prices have spiked over the past few months. Travelling across the NT in his role as CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) Paterson says he notices prices increase sharply the more remote the location. “It has almost become unaffordable now,” he says.

In the NT, food in supermarkets is 56% more expensive in remote communities than regional supermarkets due to long supply chains and poor quality roads, according to a 2021 report by AMSANT. Inflation – predicted to reach 6% by year’s end – has increased pressure. The Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA), supports 27 remote community stores by securing grocery items and covering the store’s freight budgets to reduce the cost of food. Normally, its annual freight budget is $250,000. But in the past 18 months, the fuel levy to deliver food to just five of its remote communities – that require delivery by sea – has risen from $37,000 to $279,000. Rob Totten, store manager of a supermarket in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, says the price of some food products has “gone through the roof”.

Paterson is advocating to extend the footprint of an Aboriginal controlled organisation like ALPA to increase the buying power of remote community stores. “People want fresher food, they want cheaper food, and the way to do that is bulk purchasing by community stores that are run and led by Aboriginal people,” he says. “If we want to close the gap, plus the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, then food security is a major issue that needs serious attention.”

To view The Guardian article ‘Through the roof’ food prices in remote NT are forcing Aboriginal families to make impossible choices in full click here.

Docker River Community Store. Image source: B4BA. Docker River Community Store NT $9.20 receipt for 2L of milk. Image source: The Guardian.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

National Palliative Care Week

National Palliative Care Week  (NPCW), held from Sunday 22 to Saturday 28 May 2022, is Australia’s largest annual awareness-raising initiative held to increase understanding of the many benefits of palliative care. The theme for National Palliative Care Week 2022 is It’s your right. The theme seeks to raise awareness about the rights of all Australians to access high-quality palliative care when and where they need it. One of the great myths about palliative care is that it is only a synonym for end-of-life care. It is so much more than that.  Anyone with a life-limiting illness has the right to live as well as possible, for as long as possible.  

Virtual and face-to-face events will be held across the country during National Palliative Care Week 2022 to acknowledge and celebrate the commitment and dedication of all those working and volunteering in the palliative care sector across Australia.   Now in its 27th year, and traditionally held in the last full week of May, NPCW is organised by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and supported by the Australian Government Department of Health.

To find out more about National Palliative Care Week 2022 you can access the PCA website here. You can also view a range of palliative care resources PCA have developed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Support for mob to engage with NDIS

Support for mob to engage with NDIS

To increase support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIA) has engaged NACCHO to deliver the Aboriginal Disability Liaison Officer (ADLO) program until 30 November 2022. The program will provide dedicated support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in urban and rural areas to access the NDIS and use their plans.

Employed locally by ACCHOs, ADLOs work will work at a local level to build understanding of NDIS. ADLOs are generally members of the communities they work in, understand the culture and often speak the local languages. Working in partnership with the NDIA and Partners in the Community, ADLOs are a further cultural link between the Indigenous community and the system of disability related supports offered through the NDIS. The insights of ADLOs will also contribute to NDIA led co-design initiatives to improve the way NDIS works with First Nations Australians and communities.

Further information about the ADLO program, including a list of the 37 ACCHOs (NSW-13; NT-1; QLD-10; SA-5: VIC-6; and WA-2) delivering the program is available on the NDIS website here.

NACCHO CEO at Social Impact Strategy launch

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks), Pat Turner AM delivered a speech at the King & Wood Mallesons’ Social Impact Strategy launch earlier today. Ms Turner said “A whole of nation effort is required if we are to close the gap in life outcomes between our peoples and other Australians and I am really pleased to see King & Wood Mallesons stepping up to the task and making its contribution.” Themes in Ms Turner’s speech included the struggle of Closing the Gap; the Coalition of Peaks; the National Agreement on Closing the Gap; and the four priority reforms set out in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

You can read Ms Turner’s speech in full here.

Pat Turner AM

NACCHO CEO, Pat Tuner AM. Image source: The Guardian.

AMSANT CEO awarded honorary doctorate

AMSANT is very proud to recognise the significant achievement of their CEO, John (Patto) Paterson, in being awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Arts by Charles Darwin University (CDU). John, received the honour in recognition of his leadership, commitment, and exemplary work over many decades, particularly in the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector and advocating for Aboriginal Territorians during COVID-19. John’s achievement is especially significant for the ‘AMSANT Family’ that John has led for the past 16 years as their CEO, supporting the personal and professional development of so many staff and strongly advocating for our Aboriginal community controlled health service members.

John is a proud born and bred Territorian with family ties to the Ngalakan people in Ngukurr and has worked in Aboriginal affairs in the public and community sectors since 1979 at a local, Territory and Federal level, focusing on First Nations health, housing and education. Donna Ah Chee, Chair of AMSANT said, “John’s commitment and leadership in Aboriginal Affairs has essentially been life long, and is now being rightly highlighted and formally acknowledged by CDU.”

To view AMSANT’s media release in full click here.

AMSANT CEO John Paterson in red yellow academic gown & black PhD bonnet

AMSANT CEO Dr John Paterson. Image source: AMSANT.

Beyond the Scars – RHD impacts

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) causes permanent damage to heart valves and is a leading cause of death in young Indigenous people in Australia. Currently there is no cure. Young Indigenous people with RHD experience countless encounters with health care providers and multiple hospital admissions. This is traumatic for the young people, their families and communities. Young Indigenous people already carry the scars of intergenerational trauma, a legacy of colonization. The added trauma of RHD and its social and emotional impact can further worsen health outcomes.

A Menzies School of Health Research have received a grant to explore the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (15–25 years) with RHD. The grant will support and build the capacity of an Aboriginal PhD student and community researcher, and build capacity of Aboriginal individuals and communities to advocate for their own needs – beyond the biomedical – that must be addressed to improve health outcomes. For further information about the research project visit the Heart Foundation’s webpage Beyond the Scars: Impacts of RHD in young Indigenous peoples here.

In a related story, RHD Australia has developed a range of RHD resources available on their website here, including the video Michael’s Story below:

Grant for syphilis outbreak guide

Among the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Research Excellence Award recipients for grants awarded in 2021 is Dr Simon Graham from the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne, who received the 2021 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership). Dr Graham is an epidemiologist and, through his Investigator Grant, he will be developing a community-led coordination and response guide for a syphilis outbreak in Aboriginal communities.

Dr Graham will work in the Global Outbreak Response Network at the World Health Organization in Geneva to examine how the organisation successfully coordinates and deploys specialist teams to investigate and stop an outbreak in different countries. He will also work with a cohort of Aboriginal people to develop an outbreak response and coordination guide to empower Aboriginal communities to stop outbreaks of syphilis infections.

For more information visit the NHMRC website here. You can also view a short video from the Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign below.

Men’s heart health program trial

Research shows that a 12-week program run in UK soccer clubs (Football Fans in Training) is effective in supporting men to get to a healthier weight and sustain changes 3.5 years later. Associate Professor Quested and team created an Australianised version, Aussie-FIT, and their pilot in WA found it attracts men living with obesity and supports them to make changes to their physical activity, eating behaviour, weight, and well-being. They have also shown Aussie-FIT to appeal to men with cardiovascular disease, for whom it can play an important role in secondary prevention.

Professor Quested has received funding to substantiate the program’s longer term impact on cardiovascular health by undertaking research with a larger sample and longer follow up. The team will also determine how Aussie-FIT deliveries can be sustained in WA; implemented across other States and Territories (Queensland, Northern Territory); scaled to appeal to a wider audience (e.g., via deliveries in rugby); and identify potential adaptations with marginalised populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

For more information visit the Heart Foundation’s webpage Kicking Goals for Men’s Heart Health: A Multi-state Trial of the Aussie-FIT Program here.

EOI: Policy Partnerships under NACTG

The Expression of Interest (EOI) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representatives to the next two policy partnerships under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap are now open until COB (AEST) Friday 29 April 2022. Expressions of interest are being sought from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with relevant expertise who wish to join the next two policy partnerships on:

  • Early childhood care and development (including out of home care), and
  • Social and emotional wellbeing (mental health).

These partnerships will be established in August 2022 and represent an historic opportunity to shift the dial in these important policy areas for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For more information on the policy partnerships, including how to apply, please visit the ‘Get Involved’ section on the Coalition of Peaks website here.

If you have any questions or require support please reach out to the Coalition of Peaks using this email link.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

Image in feature tile: Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO, Lead Convenor of The Coalition of Peaks. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

The Close the Gap report released today has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NACCHO strongly supports the messages, the actions taken and the recommendations that need to be addressed to drive health transformation.

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner states, “We already know that policy and programs that are led by our people work better for our people and that comprehensive structural reform is needed to ensure equitable outcomes for our people. These are things we’ve been telling the government for decades, and it’s about time they took note of the evidence that this report demonstrates – that Aboriginal-led initiatives and locally-led solutions work.

“Key data show that the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health is profound. It is hardly surprising that we live 8-9 years less than other Australians.

“The big questions for all governments and all jurisdictions are in closing the funding gap in health and in fixing the deplorable state of Aboriginal housing.”

“Fully implementing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap will be critical to ensuring structural reform that embeds Aboriginal self-determination and leadership. That means increased investment in models and approaches that are self-determined and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led. It also means ensuring the health system more broadly is equipped to provide flexible, culturally safe and place-based care across the whole life course.”

“We are already seeing some movement from governments to implement the four Priority Reforms, which is encouraging. But there is still a significant way to go before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have decision-making power over the policies and programs that affect us.

The 2022 Close the Gap campaign report will be available for the public to read and is accessible here.

To view the NACCHO media release in full click here.

banner with image of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner & quotes re CTG report

Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

ACCHO health service for prisoners

The Winnunga Alexander Maconochie Centre Health and Wellbeing Service (AMCHWS) is the first prison health service operated by an ACCHO in Australia. A pilot study has developed and implemented a patient experience survey to evaluate the novel model of healthcare delivered by the Winnunga AMCHWS to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

Patients accessing the Winnunga AMCHWS between February and May 2020 were invited to participate in the study. Descriptive data were analysed and compiled for demographics, patient satisfaction, patient perception of care quality, cultural safety, and patient thoughts on the Winnunga AMCHWS.

Sixteen of 26 eligible patients participated in the survey (62% response rate). At least 75% of patients were satisfied with the waiting time to see staff at the Winnunga AMCHWS most or all of the time. All 16 patients reported that Winnunga AMCHWS staff always treated them with dignity and respect. Of 14 patients who identified as Aboriginal, nine felt that they were treated better by staff because of their Aboriginal identity while the other five felt their Aboriginal identity made no difference to their treatment by the staff.

This patient experience survey of the Winnunga AMCHWS found that it has provided highly satisfactory, timely, respectful, and culturally safe care to patients. Due to the limitations of this study, continual evaluation of the Winnunga AMCHWS and future studies to evaluate the continuity of care, health, and re-offending rates of released patients are needed to fully evaluate the Winnunga AMCHWS model.

You can view the Evaluating Patient Experience at a Novel Health Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoners: A Pilot Study article that appeared in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet here.

view of front of AMC

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Kathleen Dyett. Image source: ABC News.

National Close the Gap Day

Australia’s peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations are working together to achieve equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.

In February 2018 the Close the Gap: 10 Year Review was released. The review examines why Australian governments have not succeeded in closing the health gap, and why they will not succeed by 2030 if the current course continues. The aim is to close the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health gap by implementing a human rights based approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets to track and assess developments in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These targets include achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation and halving the mortality rate gap for children under five years old within a decade. In March 2008, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the Opposition Leader at that time, Brendan Nelson, signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent at the Close the Gap Campaign’s National Indigenous Health Equality Summit.

The Close the Gap Statement of Intent is the touchstone of the Close the Gap campaign. When the Australian Government signed the Statement of Intent it committed to a sound, evidence-based path to achieving health equality, a path supported by the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

To access the Australian Human Rights Commission website click here.

screenshot of Close the Gap new website home page

Community-led health solutions need funding

The Close the Gap campaign has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country. The 2022 Close the Gap Report: Transforming Power – Voices for Generational Change has 12 recommendations for large scale transformation and systemic reform to avoid further preventable deaths and protect Indigenous health, wellbeing, culture, and Country.

These include the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap plans, investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data development at the local level and the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led research agenda for health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the impacts of systemic racism in health systems.

To read the Close The Gap media release in full click here.

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW.

Impact of jailing children unfathomable

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says the age of criminal responsibility must be raised to 14 years to end the jailing of mostly Indigenous primary-aged children, warning incarceration is harming their mental health. The college is part of a Close the Gap campaign and supports their report released today calling for urgent investment in community-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

Professor Ngiare Brown, a Yuin nation woman and National Mental Health Commissioner, said about 600 children under the age of 14 were jailed every year despite “substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long-term effects” on physical and mental health. “The fact that Indigenous children account for 65% of youth incarcerations is a harrowing statistic,” Professor Brown, who chairs the RACP’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee, said. “The human impact of this is unfathomable.”

RACP President Professor John Wilson called on governments to follow the recommendations of the 2021 Close the Gap report to take a preventative and rehabilitative approach. “We are calling for all Australian states and territories to address the incarceration of Indigenous children and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years in line with the best health evidence,” Professor Wilson said.

To view the Brisbane Times article in full click here.

Aboriginal hands gripping mesh wire

Image source: The Conversation.

$140m to improve health services for mob

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt released a joint media statement today saying:  National Close the Gap Day, is a day to reflect on the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. All of us can contribute to closing the gap by working together to recognise and address the factors behind the health gap.

To continue to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities, a $140 million major capital works program is being opened tomorrow for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to build, buy or renovate health clinics and staff housing. The Major Capital Program grant opportunity complements the recent Service Maintenance Program grant opportunity which was for repairs, maintenance and minor upgrades. Minister Wyatt said “For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people will become genuine partners in efforts to support their mental and physical health. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap, reached in July 2020 between the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, and the Australian Local Government Association, was an historic step forward. “Through the agreement, in health and other areas of government service, we are working with Indigenous experts to design and deliver policies and programs for indigenous people.”

“We are also adopting more effective, better targeted approaches to other major health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” Both grant programs were co-designed in partnership with the sector through the national peak body – NACCHO. Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and NACCHO Ms Pat Turner, said, “NACCHO has advocated for a long time for increased funding for infrastructure for the health sector and this funding supports and recognises the critical role that ACCHS play in the Australian primary health care architecture.”

To view Minister Hunt and Minister Wyatt’s joint media release in full click here.

staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service standing in front of OAMS building

Staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness website.

Calls to lower bowel screening age

New research led by the Daffodil Centre, a partnership between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, shows screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for bowel cancer from the age of 45 instead of 50 could reduce bowel cancer death and incidence rates by up to 44% and be cost-effective. The research, published internationally in the Journal of Cancer Policy and conducted by a team from the Daffodil Centre and Wellbeing SA, is the first Australian study to establish the benefits of extending the age range and boosting participation of Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Lead author Dr Jie-Bin Lew, from the Daffodil Centre’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Policy and Evaluation stream, said the study modelled and compared maintaining the current program age range of 50-74 to lowering the starting age to either 40 or 45. “The benefits in lives saved and cancers prevented were higher if the starting age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was lowered to 45 and could also be cost-effective,” Dr Lew said.

“In our analysis, screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from age 45 would reduce bowel cancer mortality rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by 28%, compared to no screening if the current participation rate of 23% is maintained. If participation increased to 42%, bowel cancer mortality could drop by 44% compared to no screening.

To view The National Tribune article in full click here.

Photo: Andreas Smetana.

PHMSS Mental Health Studies mentors needed

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) would like to extend the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor.

The mentoring program pairs PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners with the aim of increasing entrance and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals into practice. It will do this by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition successfully into practice.

The benefits for participants in a mentoring program include: improved confidence, self-awareness, clearer career direction, better communication skills, listening skills, feedback skills, more assertive communication, and enhanced management skills.

During the program, you will receive frequent communications from the scholarships team, giving you helpful tips and information about mentoring and access to other relevant materials available for supporting mentees. For first-time mentors and those who would like a refresher, there is an online training program and relevant materials available to help prepare you for a mentoring relationship.

During the seven month program, mentors and mentees will be expected to be in contact at least monthly.

You can apply now by clicking here. ACN will be holding an online information session Monday 4 April 2022, full details will be uploaded here soon.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the ACN scholarships team by email here or call 1800 688 628.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

World Oral Health Day

The World Dental Federation began World Oral Health Day in 2007 with the aim to bring together the world of Dentistry to achieve good oral health for everyone. World Oral Health Day aims to empower people with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to secure good oral health. On the 20 March each year the world is asked to come together to help reduce oral diseases which affect individuals, healthcare providers and economies everywhere.

Oral diseases are a major health concern for many countries and negatively impact people throughout their lives. Oral diseases lead to pain and discomfort, social isolation and loss of self-confidence, and they can often be linked to other serious health issues. There is no reason to suffer as most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages, this is the message being spread across the world.

For more information about World Oral Health Day click here.

Image source: Quality Compliance Systems website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Medical Advisor on WA COVID-19

feature tile text 'NACCHO Medical Advisor Dr Jason Agostino concerned for remote communities as WA drops hard border' & portrait photo of Jason against Aboriginal dot art

Image in feature tile: NACCHO Medical Advisor Dr Jason Agostino. Image source: ANU Medical School.

NACCHO Medical Advisor on WA COVID-19

As WA drops its hard border at midnight tonight, many are concerned about the toll the virus might take in remote communities. On ABC RN Breakfast this morning Gerard Coffey, CEO of Ngaanyatjarra Health Service Aboriginal Corporation, WA and Dr Jason Agostino, NACCHO Medical Advisor spoke to reporter Jade Clarke about their concerns, including overcrowded housing and insecure power supply in areas where temperatures are as high as 50 degrees.

You can listen to the RN Breakfast with Patricia Karvevlas segment in full here.

6 Aboriginal people sitting outside house in disrepair

Photo: Getty Images/AFP/G. Wood. Image source: DW Made for Minds. website.

Good News Story Winners

NACCHO is pleased to announce the winners of our inaugural Good News Story competition:

  • Peter McCullagh, Marketing & Communications Officer, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC), Yarrabah, Queensland who submitted two stories, the first about how the Yarrabah community reached the important 90% first vaccination level and the second about how GYHSAC CEO Suzanne Andrews spoke out to counter anti-vax misinformation.
  • Kim Moffitt from Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service for her entry about her nine-week placement in Tennant Creek working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner / Nurse Immuniser as part of the government’s “Vaccination Acceleration Campaign” targeting remote communities.

Both winners will receive $200 to put towards a meal to share with their colleagues.

Jilara Murgha, Dr Matt Durden and Heather Robertson from Gurriny Yealamucka HSAC and Kim Moffitt from Albury Wodonga AHS

Jilara Murgha, Dr Matt Durden and Heather Robertson from Gurriny Yealamucka HSAC and Kim Moffitt from Albury Wodonga AHS.

COVID-19 decimates women’s health

The CEOs of Victoria’s 12 women’s health services has issued an urgent plea for immediate government investment to curtail the unfolding crisis of women’s declining health in the state. It comes with the release of data that shows the impact of COVID-19 on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of women in Victoria, and how current funding levels are inadequate for improving outcomes.

The group is calling for women’s health services funding to be increased from $2.05 per women per year, to $5.75 per woman. At an online event branded with the hashtag #sickofsmallchange, Women’s Health Services Council Chair Tricia Currie pointed out that the funding being asked for to improve women’s health in the state equates to less than cost of two cups of coffee, per woman. The group is calling for investments to improve health outcomes for women with disabilities, Indigenous women, LGBTQI+ women, trans and gender diverse people, as well as migrant and refugee women, and those living in rural and regional areas in Victoria.

“Before the pandemic, women’s health was under significant strain,” Currie said at the event. “It is now much worse. Spare change funding is making women sicker.” Kit McMahon, CEO of Women’s Health in the South East, said the data clearly indicates that women are being let down by a lack of funding. “The data is clear and the evidence is there. From a local perspective, the pandemic has not only revealed inequity in health, it has exacerbated it and we’ve seen an increase in inequity,” McMahon said.

To view the Women’s Agenda article in full click here.

VAHS site director Susan Hedges uses a cultural shawl at a screening with BreastScreen Victoria radiographer Monique Warrillow

VAHS site director Susan Hedges uses a cultural shawl at a screening with BreastScreen Victoria radiographer Monique Warrillow. Image source: BreastScreen Victoria.

First COVID-19 antiviral on PBS

Thousands of vulnerable Australians, who are at risk of developing severe COVID-19, are now eligible to access an oral antiviral treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Listed as of  Tuesday 1 March, GPs can now prescribe molnupiravir (sold as Lagevrio).

Associate Professor Paul Griffin, an infectious disease physician and microbiologist at Mater Health in Brisbane, said the listing of the oral antiviral is ‘great news’, and likely to play an ‘important role’ in treating at-risk patients who contract the virus. ‘Access to an oral treatment through the PBS will allow many at-risk people to be treated at home, which is a win-win-win for these patients, the community and our hospital system,’ he said.

According to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), molnupiravir is recommended for the treatment of patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of developing severe disease requiring hospitalisation, not requiring supplemental oxygen for their COVID-19 and where treatment is commenced within 5 days of the onset of symptoms and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or older with two additional high-risk factors for developing severe disease
  • People 65 years or older with two additional high-risk factors for developing severe disease,
  • People 75 years or older with one additional high-risk factor for developing severe disease,
  • Moderately to severely immunocompromised people irrespective of vaccination status

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

hand holding box of oral use Lagevrio COVID-19 antiviral tablets

Clinical trial data found participants treated with molnupiravir had a reduced risk of hospitalisation, down from 14.1% to 7.3%. Photo: AAP. Image source: newsGP website.

VIC Aboriginal health experts meet

Representatives from VACCHO met last week on Wadawurrung Country to share learnings and experiences of the past two years and lay the foundations for the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait community in Victoria for 2022. The Members’ Meeting meeting was also an opportunity to recognise the leadership, dedication, and hard work of VACCHO’s 32 member organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said “This important gathering provides us with an opportunity to connect and pay tribute to our members. This pandemic has had so many twists and turns. Every day it seems like something changes. But despite all the challenges – all the ups and downs – the ability of each of the members to quickly adjust and adapt to look after Community has been incredible.” She said the Members’ Meeting was an important chance to reflect on the past year’s achievements and challenges, and to think about where the organisation wanted to be in the next 25 years.

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service CEO Michael Graham said ACCHOs were unique “in that we are one big family. As a workforce, we should all be proud of our collective efforts in providing personalised, culturally-safe care for our communities across Victoria.”

To view the Geelong Times article in full click here.

Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley speaks at the VACCHO meeting at RACV Torquay Resort

Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley speaks at the VACCHO meeting at RACV Torquay Resort. Photo: Dr Cath Chamberlain, Twitter. Image source: Geelong Times.

Kinchela Boys Home to be truth-telling site

Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) site in Kempsey has been announced at the 2022 World Monuments Watch as one of 25 heritage sites of worldwide significance whose preservation is urgent and vital to the communities surrounding them. Among Australia’s most notorious Stolen Generations institutions, KBH saw an estimated 400 to 600 Aboriginal children exposed to routine acts of cultural genocide between 1924 to 1970.

Survivors from KBH are among thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly taken from their families and communities as part of official government and church programs to assimilate First Nations children into non-Indigenous society. The announcement by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) acknowledges the pain and suffering of KBH survivors and their families, while highlighting the need for greater action to support heritage places and the people who care for them.

The children who passed through the gates of KBH were stripped of their names, given numbers, and subjected to ‘reprogramming’ and strict regimes of manual labor. Physical hardship, punishment, alienation, and abuse were part of everyday life until the campus was shut down in 1970.

To view the media release in full click here.

Aboriginal Elders with part of the gate from the Kinchela Boys Home

In 2012, Aboriginal Elders with part of the gate from the Kinchela Boys Home that was sent to the National Museum. Image source: The Macleay Argus.

Schools alone can’t break disadvantage cycle

Poverty and disadvantage put young Australians on the road to a less fulfilling life and schools could play a critical role in breaking the cycle, a new study led by Flinders University says. “The risk factors for social exclusion at school are worse for young adolescents who live in low income households or who experience poverty,” says Flinders University sociologist Professor Gerry Redmond.  “Adolescents who live with a disability, care for a family member, speak a language other than English at home, or identify as Indigenous are all more likely than other adolescents to be living in poverty.  “Feedback from marginalised young people in the study shows how the experience of disadvantage and exclusion affects their life satisfaction, which is a predictive indicator of wellbeing and mental health in adulthood,” he says.

With prospects for Australian children living in low income households relatively unchanged this century, the study aims to ignite the post-pandemic debate calling for sweeping reform and stronger economic, social, cultural and political policymaking to focus on a better future for all young people.

Children living in rural and remote communities, have difficulty with learning or live in out-of-home care also face similar prospects for marginalisation at school. Diana Harris, acting CEO of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), says the study highlights the “systemic forces in play” which continue to lead to the marginalisation of low income, children managing disabilities or chronic disease, and those from an Aboriginal or culturally diverse background.

To view the Flinders University media release in full click here.

2 young girls being helped with puzzles by two female teachers

Image source: Indigenous Inequality blog.

Primary Care COVID-19 update time change

There is a change in the time for the latest in the series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for Primary Care, providing the latest information on the vaccine rollout. It will now be held from 12:30–1:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 3 March 2022, an hour later than previously advised.

The panel this week will be Australian Government Department of health staff, Professor Michael Kidd AM (Chair), Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, who will discuss updates on vaccines and the new COVID-19 oral anti-viral medications.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

tile: Primary Care COVID-19 update' blue background, vector of virus cell

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Kidney Health Professional Webinar

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a health professional webinar on Wednesday 9 March 2022 to celebrate 2022 Kidney Health Week.

The webinar will include an engaging panel discussion with our Clinical Advisory Committee facilitated by Nephrologist, Professor Karen Dwyer

This is a RACGP accredited activity for 2 CPD points. Activity # 325983 (pending approval).

If you have a Zoom account you can register here. If you do not have a Zoom account you can sign up for one here and then register for the webinar via this link.

Upon successful registration you will receive a confirmation email.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Medical Advisor on COVID-19 spread

feature tile text ' NACCHO Medical Advisor Dr Jason Agostino speaks about the spread of COVID-19 & screenshot of Dr Agostino from interview

NACCHO Medical Advisor on COVID-19 spread

NACCHO Medical Advisor, Dr Jason Agostino was a guest on the ABC The Drum panel hosted by Stan Grant on Friday 4 February 2022. Asked what is particular to Indigenous communities that enhances the risk and spread of COVID-19 Dr Agostino said “the central problem, particularly in the NT, is poor quality housing, with people living in crowded homes with multiple generations in there, so in those circumstances COVID-19 spreads really rapidly and on top of that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease at earlier ages, so young people are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 because of those conditions.”

Dr Agostino said that NACCHO has been very vocal in their advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and has been pushing as hard as possible, over a long period of time to have the underlying social determinants of health addressed. Dr Agostino said that while there have been some things that have moved forward with regard to health services during the pandemic, there is still so much to do, “It is about the community-controlled sector being at the table, that is what the priority reforms of the National Agreement are about, they are about switching that relationship in bringing community-controlled organisations, whether they are health or in the social sector to the table to have a greater role in decision-making.”

To view Dr Agostino being interviewed on The Drum (from 17:42 to 30:36 minutes) click here.

Stan Grant host The Drum, panellist Dr Jason Agostino screen shot

ACCHO CEO slams vax misinformation 

Gurriny Yealamuck Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) CEO Sue Andrews has spoken out strongly against COVID-19 vaccination misinformation. Ms Andrew’s Facebook post (on 25 January 2022) below, which was also featured on the Queensland Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Craig Crawford’s Facebook page, struck back against those spreading the misinformation is GYHSAC’s Facebook post below.

We have all received the email from a member of the Nigerian royal family offering us untold wealth if we help them out with our bank details. We accept this is a scam, in the same way we accept that calls from NBN Technical Support are scams. The latest ‘scam’ circulating on social media relate to the supposed death of Lachlan Leary from a COVID related heart attack.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services chief executive Suzanne Andrews spoke out today regarding the impact fake social media posts are having on the health care of her community. “We all know the Nigerian prince emails and NBN Technical Support phone calls are a hoax. They are designed to steal our money. But what’s worse is the fake social media posts like the Lachlan Leary post, posts of this nature are appalling, they are designed to take our most precious, our children,” Ms Andrews stated.

“We commenced our children vaccination rollout earlier this month. In the first week we vaccinated more than 20% of our kids. Unfortunately, the Facebook fake post circulated through our community’s social media pages over the following weekend and we saw our number drop in the second week. The post is fake, totally discredited by Westmead Hospital in Sydney, but the damage has been done. In our community there are some members who have concerns regarding vaccination. These people are targeted by anti-vaxxers pushing their distorted truth with lies. “If you have concerns regarding vaccination, speak to your GP or come and talk to our GPs.”

screenshot of false FB post about child dying from covid-19 vax

Screenshot of Facebook post referred to by GYHSAC Facebook page 25 January 2022.

BDAC reaches vax milestone

Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative (BDAC) recently celebrated a new milestone after successfully vaccinating 89% of the active Indigenous population in the Greater Bendigo region, something Victoria’s COVID commander Jeroen Weimar dropped by to praise their efforts on last week. BDAC CEO Raylene Harradine said the visit from the COVID commander was also to encourage people to get their third booster shot. “Mr Weimar toured our Prouses Road site to see first-hand the work our Aboriginal Health Practitioners have been doing in protect Community against COVID,” she said.

“BDAC was quick to respond to the need to protect community against the virus and we established a vaccination clinic onsite.” Mr Weimar congratulated the team at BDAC on its great results as well as the expansion work that is underway.

To view the Bendigo Advertiser news article in full click here.

BDAC staff Dallas Widdicombe & Jaydene Burzacott in clinic room

Dallas Widdicombe and Jaydene Burzacott preparing for COVID-19 vaccinations at Bendigo and District Aboriginal Cooperative. Photo: Darren Howe. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

VACCHO and cohealth partner to roll out vax

Not-for-profit community health service, cohealth, and the Victorian Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), have partnered to roll out a vaccination road show across regional Victoria. cohealth will this week be offering vaccinations in Orbost, Halls Gap, Stawell, and Ararat for the local community. In the last two weeks cohealth has taken the mobile vaccination clinic to Aboriginal health centres in Swan Hill, Mildura, Kerang and Morwell. Acting CEO, Chris Turner, said that the success of the activity relies on the partnership with VACCHO, and utilising spaces that are familiar and welcoming for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher is very pleased to be working with cohealth to get the vans back on the road and believes they will be an excellent addition to the great work achieved by ACCHOs across Victoria. “I’ve been so proud of the way the vans have been welcomed with open arms – it has been incredible. We have seen some great outcomes achieved by the ACCO vaccine van. This reflects what trust looks like in the community,” said Ms Gallagher.

To read the media release in full click here.

tile text 'Protect MOB - ACCO COVID VACCINE VAN coming to Orbost! - avail 1st & 2nd does bosters child vax 5-11 years' & logos VACCHO & cohealth

Image source: VACCHO Facebook page.

Healing centre breaking FV cycle

Devon Cuimara left an abusive home and started abusing his own partner until he found a way to break the cycle of family violence. It’s this lived experience that allows him to help others do the same. “I wasn’t born violent. I grew up with violence, and if you grow up with violence it becomes the norm and I believed it to be the norm because everywhere I looked, it was.”

As Devon says, the problem is widespread. A 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found Indigenous women are one of the most at-risk groups for family violence, being 32 times more likely to be hospitalised than non-Indigenous women. And two in five Indigenous homicide victims (41%) were killed by a current or former partner.

Devon now spends his time working as the founder and chief executive of the Aboriginal Males Healing Centre (AMHC), a not-for-profit organisation working to break the cycle of domestic violence in WA’s Pilbara region. The centre is based in Newman, a small mining town almost 1200km northeast of Perth, with a large Indigenous population that has become vulnerable to poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence. The AMHC was born after Devon’s own attempts to use mainstream rehabilitation services fell flat because he says they failed to address decades of intergenerational trauma which dates back to colonisation.

To view the 7 News article in full click here.

Devon Cuimara standing in front of gumtree

Devon Cuimara, founder and chief executive of the Aboriginal Males Healing Centre (AMHC). Image source: 7 News.

Decision should lead to better public housing

The NT court of appeal has upheld a ruling that state-owned housing must be reasonably comfortable to be considered habitable, in a decision that advocates say should result in better housing outcomes for remote communities across the territory. The decision follows a six-year legal battle brought by residents of the Ltyentye Apurte or Santa Teresa community 85km south-east of Alice Springs. The community said inadequate and inhumane housing was due to repeated failures by public housing authorities to conduct necessary repairs.

Seventy residents took the territory government to the NT civil and appeals tribunal over the state of housing in the Eastern Arrernte community in 2016. One of the claimants lived with a blocked toilet and a leaking shower for 269 days and many homes had missing doors, faulty stoves and leaking air conditioners. One resident, Enid Young, went without an air conditioner for 540 days.

To view The Guardian article in full click here.

street scene of Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) NT

Residents of the Ltyentye Apurte or Santa Teresa community argued inadequate and inhumane housing was due to failures by public housing authorities to conduct repairs. Photo: Grenville Turner, AAP. Image source: The Guardina

First Indigenous orthopaedic surgeon

Australia’s first Indigenous orthopaedic surgeon is a trailblazer, forging a path for young First Nations athletes to overcome injury. A proud Dharug man, Dr Anthony Murray has extensive experience in trauma, joint replacement and general orthopaedic surgery and is passionate about providing the best possible medical attention to his patients.

Dr Murray is a driving force in the First Nations realm through his role in the Australian Orthopaedic Association, as the chair for the Cultural Inclusion Working Group, “Orthopaedics is one of those areas where you get to work with people with an immobility and be able to help them regain movement and their life. That’s what I love about it,” he said.

Growing up in Central Queensland, orthopaedics was not Dr Murray’s first career choice. He was hoping to pave a career as an AFL player, but a knee injury set his course on a different trajectory, “I was playing some regional football and working my way towards that goal and ended up having a pretty bad knee injury.”

To view the Sunshine Coast News article in full click here.

Dr Anthony Murray

An injury changed Dr Anthony Murray’s life and allowed him to help others. Image source: Sunshine Coast News.

New Lifeline service for hard-to-reach

Since 2019, Lifeline has provided Australia’s only Crisis Text helpline, providing support to people in psychological distress. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Australian Government, Lifeline Australia has now been able to fast-track the expansion of text and chat services to 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to meet demand and increase accessibility for hard-to-reach groups.

Lifeline CEO Colin Seery said that rather than diverting phone calls from the 13 11 14 service, the always-on digital platform has in fact increased the range and total number of people contacting the organisation. This is a landmark in suicide prevention in Australia and is all about bringing help to people who are in situations and environments where accessing support through digital communication is the only safe or viable option, said Mr Seery.

To view Lifeline’s media release in full click here.banner line drawing woman texting text 'what to talk about it? in speech bubble, Lifeline counsellor with headset, Lifeline logo

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is held every February to educate Australians on ovarian cancer, and raise awareness by sharing the stories of real women affected by the disease. One Australian woman dies from ovarian cancer every eight hours.

Cancer Council WA (CCWA) is reminding women in the Pilbara to remain ever vigilant about the changes in their body. CCWA Pilbara regional education officer Anne Johnston said women should pay attention to any unusual, new, persistent or troublesome symptoms. “If you have any of the symptoms and they happen on most days for three weeks or more, particularly if you’re over 50 or have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, go to your doctor or Aboriginal Health Professional and get a check-up,” she said. “You won’t be wasting the doctor’s time and in most cases it won’t be anything to worry about but if it is cancer, your chances of successfully treating it are much greater.”

“More research is required to better understand the causes of ovarian cancer but as with many cancers, there are steps we can take to reduce our overall individual cancer risk, including quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, getting enough exercise, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and reducing alcohol intake.” Women are advised to look out for any pain in the lower and side abdomen, irregular periods or bleeding after menopause, back pain, loss of appetite, indigestion or nausea.

For more information about Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month click here and to view the full article in the Albany Advertiser about CCWA’s ovarian cancer awareness raising activities click here.

tile text 'Feb is ovarian cancer awareness month' & image of gloved surgical hands holding paper cut-off female reproductive organs

Image source: Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Letter to Chief Minister about COVID spread

feature tile text 'Aboriginal orgs write open letter to NT Chief Min re escalating covid-19 outbreak' & image of health professional in PPE administering vax to Aboriginal man

Note: image in feature tile from The Guardian – photo: Katherine Morrow.

Letter to Chief Minister about COVID spread

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), AMSANT, the Central Land Council and the CEO of Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation have written an open letter to the NT Chief Minister saying “as Aboriginal organisations representing our communities across the NT, we are writing to you about the rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Central Australia. We have been advocating continuously for firm action to slow the outbreak since it began in the early days of 2022.”

“However, our requests have been ignored, or action taken too late or on too small a scale to make a real difference. There has been a significant failure by government agencies in Central Australia to put into practice the plans agreed with your government before the outbreak. This has directly led to COVID spreading out of control in the Aboriginal communities of Central Australia and beyond.”

To read the media statement in full click here.

Aboriginal people with masks sitting along long bench

Image source: 7 News website.

9 out of 10 NT COVID patients Aboriginal

Nine out of 10 of the patients with COVID-19 in NT hospitals are Aboriginal people, a rate which health experts say is “concerning” but, unfortunately, not surprising. The NT reopened its borders last month and, since then, coronavirus has spread into every region in the territory.

“We predicted this, predicted that the virus would spread like wildfire through our remote communities and this is exactly what we’re seeing now,” Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance (AMSANT) CEO John Paterson said. “This is a jurisdiction where we’ve got high numbers of the most vulnerable population in Australia.

“Aboriginal Territorians are the sickest in this country with all the chronic illnesses and it was just going to be doubly hard for them if they contracted COVID for them to recover. “It’s very alarming, very concerning, we’re disappointed.”

To read the ABC News article in full click here.

portrait of Kalinda Griffiths, an UNSW epidemiologist and Yawuru woman

Kalinda Griffiths, an UNSW epidemiologist and Yawuru woman, said experts had long warned that Aboriginal people were more at risk of severe COVID-19 disease. Image source: ABC News.

CoronaCheck fights misinformation

CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check’s weekly email newsletter dedicated to fighting the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

You can read an extract from latest edition below, and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

Welcome to the first edition of CoronaCheck for 2022. As the world enters the third year of the pandemic, we remain committed to helping our readers separate fact from fiction.

This week, we take a look at some of the most pervasive incorrect claims being spread over the summer — from the fake death of a child supposedly following a COVID-19 vaccination to the continued misrepresentation of coronavirus hospitalisation and death statistics.

To view the ABC News item in full click here.

vector image covid-19 cell with text 'Corona Check' red, black, beige colours

Whole-of-organisation approach gets results

New research from the University of WA (UWA) has highlighted the importance of a whole-of-organisation approach in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients.

Putting Policy into Practice: How Three Cancer Services Perform against Indigenous Health and Cancer Frameworks is the first study to compare the performance of tertiary cancer services against two national Australian best practice guidelines.

Lead author, researcher Emma Taylor from UWA’s WA Centre for Rural Health, said with cancer one of the leading causes of death for Indigenous Australians, it’s time to focus attention on how cancer services are best delivered to this section of the population.

“The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Framework and the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) User Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health are key national policy documents that aim to reduce health disparities,” Ms Taylor said.

To view the University of WA article in full click here.

WA Centre for Rural Health researcher Emma Taylor

Researcher Emma Taylor from the WA Centre for Rural Health. Image source: University of WA website.

Tracking BBV and STI strategy progress

The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society’s reportTracking the progress 2019: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI strategy provides an annual account of progress of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood-borne Virus (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) Strategy.

Australia’s National BBV and STI Strategies aim to improve testing, treatment and uptake of preventative measures for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, STIs and HIV, and to reduce the incidence, morbidity, mortality,  personal and social impacts they cause.

The report describes the targets, objectives and indicators of the strategy, and the level of progress being made in response.

To view the report click here.

Aboriginal dot art of communicable disease spread, over map of Australia

Image source: ATSIHAW HIV and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities in 2017 booklet.

Planning for end of life

The GroundSwell Project has released a video Yarning our wishes: a film about planning for end of life which aims to provide health professionals and community organisations with key points and learnings, as well as other cultural considerations when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in end-of-life care. 

The GroundSwell Project collaborated with partners, CuriousWorks, South Western Sydney Local Health District Palliative Care, and Aboriginal communities in South Western Sydney, NSW for conversations about what matters and what is missing when it comes to planning and caring for someone when they are dying.

The video below is accompanied by a guide, which also offers additional resources about end-of-life care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You can access the guide and resources here.

Kidney health information for mob

Kidney Health Australia has a webpage which provides information about kidney health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It covers the following:

  • the role of the kidneys
  • ways to keep your kidneys healthy and reduce your risk of getting kidney disease
  • information on kidney health checks.

The page has links to further resources on these topics, including:

To view the Kidney Health Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people website page click here.

Aboriginal painting re kidney health

Image source: Kidney Health Australia.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: APO NT calls for urgent COVID-19 action

feature tile text 'urgent support from Commonwealth Government needed in face of NT COVID-19 crisis' & photo of Aboriginal man being tested in Katherine

Note: the image in the feature tile is of COVID-19 testing in Katherine, NT. Image source: The Canberra Times.

APO NT calls for urgent COVID-19 action

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) has called for urgent Commonwealth Government support in the face of a growing emergency in the COVID-19 response in the NT.

“Despite a lot of hard work and good collaboration on the part of government and Aboriginal community sector organisations, the haste towards living with COVID is pushing the health system, Aboriginal community service organisations and the communities they serve to the brink”, APO NT spokesperson, John Paterson said.

“We need urgent direct support from the Commonwealth Government. The multiple outbreaks we are now seeing in remote communities and in our towns have been fuelled by a critical shortage of workforce, testing and logistical capacity that is overwhelming local health services and exhausted staff, leading to rapid, avoidable spread of the virus”.

“Critical shortages in availability of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) is leaving Aboriginal health and community service organisations with insufficient capacity to test their own staff, let alone the needs of the community members they serve. The result is that infected individuals are not being identified and are spreading the virus undetected.”

To read the APO NT media release in full click here.

AMSANT CEO John Paterson wearing a covid-19 mask

John Paterson, CEO AMSANT/Chairperson APO NT. Image source: ABC News.

Calls for military help on NT outbreaks

APO NT Spokesman John Paterson said there are not enough health workers on the ground, and local health centre staff are exhausted and at breaking point. NT virus response teams are also struggling to transport and isolate infected people, who are “being left to isolate in overcrowded and inadequate accommodation”.

Mr Paterson said the labour shortage had slowed the remote vaccination rollout in communities with ACCHOs. A surge workforce is urgently needed to deal with the current crisis,” he said while raising concern over “a looming food security crisis” due to supply chain issues. This is the time, when the essential elements of the COVID response are faltering, to enlist the direct support of the Commonwealth and defence force,” he said.

To view The Canberra Times article in full click here.

back of 3 uniformed military staff in PPE walking in remote community

Image source: The Canberra Times.

Useful COVID-19 readiness resources

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) and the Queensland Government have produced a number of useful COVID-19 readiness resources. Although some of the information contained in the documents below are Queensland-specific, the information is useful across all jurisdictions.

front of QAIHC COVID-19 Readiness Family Plan document - Aboriginal family at table with paper & pens

NDIS COVID-19 vax access support continues

Minister for the NDIS Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC has announced support for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants to access the COVID-19 vaccination and boosters will continue into 2022.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has a temporary pricing arrangement in place, for eligible providers to support participants to get their two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination.

This support for the first two doses will be extended to the end of March. An additional $75 payment is now available for eligible providers to support participants to get their COVID-19 vaccine booster.

The COVID-19 booster support will be backdated to 8 November, and available to 30 June 2022. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and wellbeing of NDIS participants has been our utmost priority, and this extension ensures eligible participants will continue to be supported to get the COVID-19 vaccination,” Minister Reynolds said.

To view the Minister Reynolds’ media release in full click here and for more information, click on the NDIS coronavirus page here.

vax being drawn from vial

Image source: The Guardian.

Pharmacists embedded into ACCHOs

Consideration for the funding of the Integrating Pharmacists in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to Improve Chronic Disease management (IPAC project) goes before the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) in March 2022.

The public summary document for IPAC is available here and NACCHO would like to invite you to make a submission on behalf of your ACCHO in support of funding for pharmacists in ACCHOs as per the model proposed in the IPAC project.

Submissions can be made on the provided ‘survey’ form on the above link or by direct email. If you require help to interpret public documents or if you have other questions, please contact the NACCHO IPAC team using this email link.

Aboriginal hand reaching for pharmacy supplies from plastic draw

Image source: Danila Dilba Health Service (NT) website.

Tangentyere Youth Development Model

Young people living on Alice Springs Town Camps will be supported through a new multifaceted Youth Development Model designed by Tangentyere Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Tangentyere CEO Walter Shaw said Town Campers had identified the need for a program model that supported young people to have safe, healthy lives and make positive choices about their futures. “Culture is key to our youth development model,” Mr Shaw said “We know that practising cultural activities increases the wellness of all Aboriginal people, including young people. Culture is fundamental is each of the four elements of the model and is incorporated into each activity
and program.”

To view the Tangentyere Council’s media release click here and to access the model click here.

NT Minister for Town Camps and Remote Housing Chansey Paech, Tangentyere vice president Benedict Stephens, Tangentyere CEO Walter Shaw and Territory Families Minister Kate Worden

NT Minister for Town Camps and Remote Housing Chansey Paech, Tangentyere vice president Benedict Stephens, Tangentyere CEO Walter Shaw and Territory Families Minister Kate Worden announcing the Youth Development Model,  Thursday 16 December 2021.

Cervical cancer conference invites abstracts

The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control is inviting abstract submissions for the Preventing Cervical Cancer 2022 Hybrid Conference (PCC2022), a hybrid face-to-face and virtual event from 23–25 March 2022.

This is a great opportunity to present and discuss your findings with other researchers in the field and contribute towards the elimination of cervical cancer. Abstracts can be submitted for selected presentation as a pre-recorded oral or virtual poster.

The abstract deadline is Friday 28 January 2022 and you can submit an abstract here.

aqua banner text 'preventing cervical cancer 2022 - hybrid conference 23-25 March 2022' photo of 3 women with arms around each other

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: 10-year plan to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

PLEASE NOTE: This is the last edition of the NACCHO Aboriginal Health News blog for 2021 and we will resume again in the new year from 18 January 2022.

Artwork in feature tile from the cover of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021–­2031. Artwork created by Tarni O’Shea and Gilimbaa.

10-year plan to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

In partnership with state and territory governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, the Morrison Government has today Wednesday 15 December 2021 launched the refreshed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021-2031 (Health Plan) – a national policy framework to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the next 10 years.

“The Health Plan is the first national health document to address and embed the health targets and Priority Reforms of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap,” Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said.

“In particular, the Health Plan prioritises the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health sector and the imperative for mainstream health services to provide culturally safe and responsive care.”

CEO of NACCHO and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM shared the following messages in a video about the release of the plan:

“The Plan embeds an integrated life course approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care and prioritises our holistic model of care.”

“Critically, this Plan recognises the significant role that the Aboriginal community controlled health sector plays within Australia’s primary healthcare architecture. Our ACCHO sector is leading the way in the delivery of comprehensive, primary health care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“Implementation will enable ACCHOs to strengthen and grow so they can continue to deliver integrated care and primary health services over the next 10 years,” Ms Turner said.

You can read the Department of Health media release here.

View and download the 10-Year National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021-2031 here.

Watch the joint video release from ministers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders about the release here. The video message features recordings from:

  • The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care
  • Ms Donna Murray, CEO of Indigenous Allied Health Australia, Co-chair of the Health Plan Working Group
  • Professor Tom Calma AO, National Co-ordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Deputy Chair of the Health Plan Working Group
  • Ms Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation
  • The Hon Key Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians
  • Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, and Minister for Sport
  • The Hon Dr David Gillespie, Minister for Regional Health
  • The Hon David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme scripts deadline 31 January 2022

As of 31 January 2022, Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS scripts will not be available for people who aren’t registered correctly with Services Australia.

There are recent changes to the CTG program which aim to make it easier for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access medicines. Patients from any geographical location only need to be registered for the program once in their lifetime, to get free or reduced cost PBS medicines from any community pharmacy in Australia, without the need for each script to be marked ‘CTG’.

As of 1 July 2021, there is a new national registration system run by Services Australia for the CTG PBS Co-payment program. This system is called Health Professional Online Services (HPOS). Unfortunately, not all patients who previously received CTG scripts were transferred to the new database on HPOS, resulting in some people paying more for medicines. Potentially thousands of people who have previously had CTG scripts may be affected.

In response to this issue, the Australian Government allowed all people who had previously received CTG scripts but are not currently registered for CTG on HPOS, to continue to access CTG-subsidised medicines until 31 January 2022.

You can view the NACCHO media statement here.

PBS Co-Payment Gap

Laynha joins the NACCHO family

We wish to welcome Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation (LHAC or ‘Laynha’) as the latest member of the NACCHO family. Upon recommendation from the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), the NACCHO Board approved Laynha to become the 144th member of NACCHO on 8 December 2021.

Laynha was established in 1985 and has since been providing support to some 30 Indigenous Homelands across North East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory with a population of approximately 1100 Yolngu residents across the region, and approximately 300 regular visitors.

Laynha supports homeland communities through:

  • Yirralka Rangers
  • Health Services
  • Community Services
  • Homeland Services
  • Ganybu Housing Aboriginal Corporation
  • Partnerships with organisations in the region with shared interests to support employment and training opportunities, culture and community, and economic development
  • Representing and promoting Laynha homelands

You can find about more about Laynha by visiting their website.

Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation - logo

Program needed to invest in culturally safe public health workforce

In one of the biggest demonstrations of support for significant new investment in Australia’s over-stretched public health workforce, well over 500 people registered for an online symposium on 7 December 2021. The symposium brought together many of Australia’s leading public health experts in the field.

Jointly presented by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) and NACCHO, the two-hour symposium discussed the new and existing public health workforce gaps, and the actions and support required to create increased efficiency and efficacy of public health services.

Medical Advisor for NACCHO Dr Megan Campbell spoke to Adam Evans from the National Indigenous Radio Service following the symposium.

“There is a need for a national program to train up people in public health and we need to have really broad based skills in that training program. We don’t just want doctors, we also need nurses and Aboriginal health workers who are interested in public health.”

Dr Campbell also stated that here is a real need for investment from all governments to fund positions.

“It’s really important that there are competencies as part of the curriculum around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health so that we can build the workforce within the sector but also build cultural safety of the workforce in mainstream organisations,” Dr Campbell said.

You can listen to the interview here.

Image sources: Public Health Association Australia.

Attention turns to supporting mob through QLD outbreak

Indigenous COVID vaccination rates continue to trail behind other parts of the Queensland community, and health experts say the race is now on to prepare for outbreaks following the easing of border rules this week. Health services working with First Nations people are working to drive up those rates, as are state-mandated rules that will lock non-vaccinated Queenslanders and visitors out of cafes, bars, venues and even some health facilities from Friday.

Kaava Watson is the network director for the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (UIH) in the state’s south east. The Birri Gubba and Kungalu man said it was now too late to worry about whether the state should risk new COVID cases by opening the border.

“Our attention is now geared towards the actual work that we’re going to have to do in terms of supporting our mob through this outbreak,” he said.

“Our concern has moved to a sense of urgency — really around the things we need to do to keep mob safe over the coming months, once we start to see community transmission of COVID.”

He said that included ensuring there was access to medication, food supplies, and support if people had to isolate.

You can read the article in the ABC News here.

Sue Andrews looks through a patient list during a door-to-door vaccination drive along the beaches in South Yarrabah. Image source: ABC News.

Sue Andrews looks through a patient list during a door-to-door vaccination drive along the beaches in South Yarrabah. Image source: ABC News.

Australia must move quickly to speed up COVID-19 booster program

The AMA has warned Australia’s COVID-19 booster program is already falling behind, risking more suffering from COVID-19 and a repeat of mistakes seen overseas where we are seeing the rapid spread of Omicron.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today the AMA was extremely concerned at the lack of support for the booster program, particularly through General Practice and pharmacies.

“Whilst we recognise that the state and territory vaccination hubs have taken nurses out of hospitals, aged care, and other health settings, it is critical that state and territory governments continue to run these clinics to ensure adequate access to vaccines for Australians needing their booster shot.

“By the end of this month close to four million people will be eligible for the booster, however, in the last week Australia has only been able to administer just over 210,000 booster doses.

“The latest strain of COVID-19, Omicron, poses a significant potential risk to the population and appears much more transmissible than previous strains, so we have to pick up the pace to protect the community.

“We need to urgently reach out to the public to encourage them to come forward for their booster, and GPs are best placed to do this for many in the population,” Dr Khorshid said.

You can read the AMA Media release here.

Senator Patrick Dodson getting his COVID-19 vaccine booster! Image source: Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services.

Senator Patrick Dodson getting his COVID-19 vaccine booster. Image source: Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services.

WA on high alert as COVID-19 spreads towards border

With proximity to the South Australian and Northern Territory borders, one of Australia’s most remote communities is facing a renewed urgency to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. As of December 8, only 43 per cent of Indigenous people in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands were fully vaccinated.

With COVID-19 scares over the border in neighbouring states, community leaders are concerned an outbreak could be devastating.

On Monday, SA Health said the virus was detected in the wastewater in Pipalyatjara, just 30 kilometres from the West Australian border.

You can read the article in the ABC News here.

In a related article, the Northern Territory has detected four new COVID-19 cases in the community as an outbreak spreads towards the West Australian border. One of the infections is linked to a cluster in the town of Katherine, 320km south of Darwin. The other three cases are unconfirmed, but Health Minister Natasha Fyles said they are very likely to be genuine infections due to the close contacts. Two of those are in remote Timber Creek near the WA border, 225km east of Kununurra, and the other one is in Kalkarindji, 550km south of Darwin.

Meanwhile, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory has called for Katherine and its surrounding area to be locked down to slow the spread.

It said vaccination rates are not high enough to be fully protective and more health workers were urgently needed in the area.

You can read the article in the Mudgee Guardian here.

The NT has four new COVID-19 cases as an outbreak spreads towards the Western Australian border. Image source: The Mudgee Guardian.

The NT has four new COVID-19 cases as an outbreak spreads towards the Western Australian border. Image source: The Mudgee Guardian.

Significant progress to Close the Gap for Vision

The 10th annual update on the Implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision shows significant progress has been made to improve eye care outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but service shortfalls and equity gaps remain.

Professor Hugh Taylor AC, Harold Mitchell Professor of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne says there is now Roadmap activity across the whole country.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, Aboriginal and/or Torres Islander people and other Indigenous-controlled organisations are also leading eye care activities at regional and state levels.

“With Australian Government support for the remaining recommendations, the gap for vision can be closed and we will be well on the way to end avoidable blindness in Indigenous communities by 2025, the goal set by Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan,” Professor Hugh Taylor said.

He also notes that the increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership of eye care work, on all levels, is a crucial step towards ensuring the best and most appropriate models of care are available.

You can find out more about the update on the SBS NITV Radio website.

Reanna Bathern having an eye test

Optometrist Kerryn Hart with patient Reanna Bathern, who needed updated glasses, and works at the public health section of the Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: Optometry Australia.

Regional statistics about First Nations’ health and wellbeing

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has developed the Regional Insights for Indigenous Communities (RIFIC) website to be an accessible and user friendly website, intended for communities to access data about the regions in which they are located.

The website brings together a range of regional statistics about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. The aim of the website is to provide access to data at a local level, to help communities set their priorities and participate in joint planning with government and service providers. The Indigenous communities and Other locations referenced, are derived from the Australian Government Indigenous Programs & Policy Locations and Australian Bureau of Statistics’ State Suburbs data sets.

You can view the RIFIC website here.

Woman gently touching child's face

Image source: AIHW RIFIC website.

Winnunga News December 2021

The Winnunga News December 2021 edition is now available. In this issue you can read about:

  • Aboriginal Hero and Great Australian – Dalaithngu
  • Indigenous Woman Sues ACT Over Forced Strip Search Her Legal Team Alleges Amounts To ‘Torture’
  • Canberra’s Don Dale Moment?
  • Labor-Greens Governing Agreement Status Report Raises Serious Questions
  • Anti-Vaxxer Staff in The AMC May Risk the Lives of Vulnerable Detainees
  • Fix The System First or It’s Just A Political Stunt
  • I Write While My Children Steal Cars and Rob Houses…
  • Experience Of An AMC Prisoner
  • COVID-19 Update
  • Winnunga Christmas Shut Down
  • Staff Profile

You can view the newsletter here.

 

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.