NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Torres and Cape COVID-19 response

feature tile text 'quick collaborative response to Torres and Cape COVID-19 outbreaks' & image of omicron virus cell

Torres and Cape COVID-19 response

COVD-19 has reached most Torres and Cape communities in far north Queensland. As of Thursday 20 January 2022 there were 279 active cases in the region. This has Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Phillemon Mosby highly concerned.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Marlow Coates said while there is understandable concern as cases emerge, the community is banding together well to combat the spread.

“A lot of our planning is centred on partnering with local organisations, councils, elected leaders, non-government organisations in the region, Aboriginal medical services and outreach providers to ensure we’re providing as much broad support as possible,” he said.

“When coronavirus is (first) detected in communities… there are the understandable concerns that it’s finally arrived in that region. But it triggers a quick escalation and collaboration and togetherness from all of those agencies to support.”

To view the SBS NITV article in full click here.

view of Torres Strait Island from a plane

COVID-19 has reached the northernmost tip of Queensland, including the Torres Strait. Image source: SBS NITV website.

Fitzroy Valley needs dedicated rehab centre

An Indigenous alcohol and drug specialist says the Fitzroy Valley needs a dedicated rehabilitation centre and locally-based counsellors to put an end to problem drinking in communities.

Rene Dingo, Indigenous AOD Specialist/Collaborative Coordinator at Gurama Yani U, says that the alcohol bans that have been in place for up to 14 years “have taken away the how and the where but they have not addressed the why” behind drinking.

“Putting blanket restrictions across the whole of the Kimberley on its own – you have to do something to address people’s issues and their trauma and why they want to drink alcohol. You have to put support in place,” he said.

“Many people are talking about the need for a rehabilitation facility here. There is one in Broome and one in Wyndham,” Dingo said. “We need local counsellors for local people during and following their time in rehabilitation and there needs to be transitional housing, supported by alcohol and drug workers, to integrate people back into the community.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Fitzroy Crossing wooden bridge, river

Fitzroy Crossing. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

IMeRSe public consultation underway

Consideration for the funding of the Integrating Improved Medication Management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Feasibility Study (IMeRSe Feasibility Study) goes before the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) in March 2022.

The public summary document for Indigenous Medication Review Service (IMeRSe) is available here and NACCHO would like to invite you to make a submission on behalf of your ACCHO in support of funding for a culturally responsive Indigenous Medication Review service, delivered by community pharmacists integrated with local Aboriginal Health Services as proposed in the IMeRSe study.

Submissions can be made on the provided ‘survey’ form on the above link or by direct email.

If you need help to interpret public documents or have other questions, please contact the NACCHO IMeRSe team using this email link.

multiple tablet & capsule blister packs, multiple colours

Image source: Healthline.

TGA vaping ban and Aboriginal health

Academic and Indigenous commentator Dr Anthony Dillon has encouraged Australian politicians and their ‘experts’ to do “more thinking and less talking.”

One thing that he believes certainly deserves “more thinking” is the recently introduced ban on nicotine-infused ‘vape juice’ for use in electronic cigarettes. That ban affects all Australians keen to shed their addictions to traditional cigarettes via the vaping substitute, and it hits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers, among the nation’s heaviest cigarette smokers, hardest of all.

To view the Quadrant article in full click here.

row of vapes

Image source: GPNews.

Victorian Aboriginal suicide rate jumps

Victoria’s Indigenous suicide rate jumped by more than half in the past year, a report from the Coroners Court has found, with young people and those in regional areas most at risk.

Deaths by suicide of Indigenous people living in Victoria have been steadily increasing since 2018, with around two thirds of deaths among men and one third women. In 2021, there were 35 Indigenous deaths by suicide in the state, up on 20 the year before. The jump represents a 75% increase in just one year. The report notes that even though the sample size is small, the increase is still statistically significant as a portion of the population.

“Suicide is complex and has many layers,” the manager of the Coroner’s Court Koori Engagement Unit Troy Williamson wrote in the report. “It is vital that barriers to seeking support are dismantled and culturally competent practices are put in place to save lives.” He said the increase in suicide deaths of Aboriginal Victorians was a “heartbreaking reminder of the systemic inequalities our communities face and this report needs to be used to drive change for our people.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

back of mourners at funeral, one with Aboriginal flag draped over shoulders

Image source: SBS NITV website.

Remote PHC Manuals January 2022 update

Review and updating of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) continues. The most recent RPHCM update advises: 30% of all protocols have finished the primary review and are now ready for secondary review; and 70% of protocols are in the updating stage with progress towards finalisation of protocols.

While secondary reviews are due to commence in March 2022 may need to be delayed dependent on the COVID situation, there is adequate time to allow for delay.

To view the RPHCM January 2022 update click here.

Safe, reliable water supply needed for NT

The Northern Land Council (NLC) is calling on the NT government to bring its water management system into the twenty-first century and in line with its commitments to Aboriginal Territorians.

NLC Chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the government’s directions paper for a Strategic Water Plan for the next 28 years – until 2050 – does not go far enough to protect precious water resources for future generations. “What we need is a new approach of integrated land and water management across the Territory with a series of local stakeholder committees.”

Mr Bush-Blanasi said “We repeat our call – that we’ve been making for years – for government to make sure safe and reliable drinking water is available to all Territorians, including those living in remote communities where the water supply often isn’t fit for purpose. Substandard water quality and water infrastructure is unacceptable in this day and age and we call on the government to make improved water infrastructure and quality for Aboriginal Territorians a priority, not an afterthought.”

To view the NLC media release in full click here.

Aboriginal hand held under running tap in NT outback

Photo: Isabella Higgins. Image source: ABC News.

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: U AND ME CAN STOP HIV


For the second year in a row NACCHO have joined forces with The University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health to co-host Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) trivia which coincides with World AIDS Day.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be disproportionately impacted by sexually transmitted diseases and blood borne viruses, including HIV. There is also an ongoing outbreak of infectious syphilis affecting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This higher prevalence of other STIs increases the risk of HIV transmission.

Professor James Ward from University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health said “ATSIHAW in its eighth year brings together researchers, health workers, policymakers and the community and gets the conversation going in our community about HIV prevention and the importance of regular testing for HIV. ATSIHAW empowers our community to take a stand on HIV Prevention with the ‘U and me can stop HIV’ campaign with 44 community events hosted by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services during the week of ATSIHAW 2021.”

The theme of World AIDS Day 2021 ‘End inequalities. End AIDS’ focuses on reaching people left behind and drawing attention to the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services. This message also resonates with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector.

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said, “The theme this year for World AIDS Day is very relevant to us considering the disproportionately high rates of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), blood borne viruses (BBVs) and other communicable diseases driven by a legacy of neglect, disjointed public policy, insufficient or poorly distributed resources that fail to reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the ground, and lack of genuine co-design or culturally appropriate holistic health services.”

“We have demonstrated that a commitment from the Australian Government Department of Health, in partnership with NACCHO, to provide direct funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to address the syphilis outbreak has produced some positive outcomes.”

“Over the last five years, the Australian Government’s public health response has built on the strengths of the ACCHS sector. NACCHO, together with members and other partners, has delivered increased rates of testing and treatment for STIs and BBVs. Though this sector-led response has seen some success, more must be done.”

“We thank the Australian Government Department of Health who so far have committed over $30 million over the next 3 years (2021–2024) to support locally developed responses to STI/BBVs.”

“To achieve the goal of eliminating HIV transmission in Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we need further investment for the scale up of preventative measures, innovative approaches to increase access to culturally safe testing and treatment pathways and improved stigma reduction programs. More must be done to improve the HIV cascade of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ensuring access to treatment and supporting people to achieve viral suppression. “U AND ME CAN STOP HIV’, the conversation needs to start now,” said Ms Mills.

Michael Brown, Sexual Health Project Officer, working with the Cherbourg Regional Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Services (CRAICCHS), 170 km north-west of Brisbane, in Wakka Wakka tribal country first discovered he was HIV-positive, when he lived in Cairns in far north Queensland. He is a firm advocate for My Health Record and is encouraging other HIV-positive people to use their record and take control of their health, knowing their privacy is protected.

Mr Brown said, “It has been 40 years since the first HIV diagnosis, and we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still in need of a culturally appropriate support system in the HIV area. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be a priority if we are going to eradicate HIV in Australia.

“We need funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV peer support and case management programs post the diagnosis of HIV where there is a lived experience of HIV within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

NACCHO will continue to advocate for ongoing funding and work with our partner organisations including our Affiliates, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO),  National Association of People Living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Australasian Society of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) to address the disproportionate rates of sexually transmitted diseases and blood borne viruses. This is an important step towards Closing the Gap.

To view the NACCHO Media Statement in full click here.

blood testing for HIV

Image source: SBS NITV website.

Ernie on Country with vax message

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the Pilbara is proceeding slowly but a push to translate jab information into Martu and a visit from Ernie Dingo have medical services feeling positive. Among the general population, the Pilbara is the least vaccinated part of WA.

The Pilbara has three Aboriginal medical services, Puntukurnu, Wirrika Maya, and Mawarnkarra, which in March came together to establish the Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance (PAHA). The alliance is working together with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the WA Country Health Service to get jabs into arms, but PAHA CEO Chris Pickett said it was not an easy task. “People need to remember the logistics of making this happen. We’re talking about people in communities hundreds of kilometres from the nearest hospital,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Min Ken Wyatt, 2 other Aboriginal men & Ernie Dingo holding cardboard Vaxx the Outback campaign, NIAA

Photo: Leslie Dingo, Bush TV. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

AMSANT responds to vax misinformation

Claims on social media that the Australian Army had forced Aboriginal people in the remote NT communities at Binjari and Rockhole to have COVID-19 injections have been strongly rejected by Aboriginal leaders and a peak NT health body. The unsubstantiated claims, which were reported globally caused further stress to the community members – according to AMSANT CEO John Patterson.

To listen to John Patterson speak on the topic click here.

black & white portrait of AMSANT CEO John Paterson

AMSANT CEO, John Paterson. Image source: CAAMA Radio Network Australia website.

AOD support missing piece of puzzle

When it comes to addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal people in criminal justice, out-of-home care, family and domestic violence and homelessness, the missing piece of the puzzle is alcohol and other drug support. AOD treatment is chronically underfunded, but for every dollar spent on treatment services, we see a $7 return to the community.

Many of the leading causes of death and harm for Aboriginal people stem from AOD misuse. Similarly, there is a strong association between suicide and harmful AOD use.

AOD use ultimately stems from the violence and trauma enacted on Aboriginal communities since colonisation. A 2013 report from the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee found services for Aboriginal people should be culturally secure, have strong community engagement, and support Aboriginal control of solutions. There should also be continued support for the capacity building of ACCHOs to provide AOD services at a local level.

To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Daniel Morrison, Wungening Aboriginal Corporation

Daniel Morrison, Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Videos to keep mob strong and deadly

The WellMob website is an online library of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific mental health and social and emotional wellbeing resources. These resources include over 250 apps, videos, podcasts, websites and pdfs that provide low intensity mental health interventions and cultural wellbeing content for our diverse communities. The website fills the gap in the online space not serviced by mainstream mental health providers.

The WellMob website team have recently launched a series of short videos to improve awareness about how the WellMob website can keep our diverse mob feeling strong and deadly.

The WellMob: An introduction video describes the WellMob website, a digital library of wellbeing resources made by and for our mob including over 250 apps, podcasts, websites, videos, social media and printable wellbeing materials.

The WellMob: Website tour video shows you how to use the WellMob website. Starting on the landing page, it shows the six main topics and steps through how to find digital wellbeing resources.

The WellMob: Tips for workers video has tips for health workers on how to use digital wellbeing resources found on WellMob.

For further details about the video rollout click here.

Lived experience role in mental health 

The role of lived experience is being embedded within the mental health system and suicide prevention system, with the launch of Australia’s first national guidelines for a lived experience workforce.

The National Mental Health Commission has released the National Lived Experience (Peer) Workforce Development Guidelines, which contains the principles, values and roles of the lived experience workforce, together with detailed steps for employers to help them plan and embed lived experience into their core business. The guidelines are the result of an extensive consultation and co-design process with almost 800 stakeholders.

To view the media release in full click here.

grey silhouette of head, scrunched colourful paper coming out of head

Image source: Pro Bono News Australia website.

Missing, murdered women and kids inquiry

The Australian Senate has voted to hold an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children. Yamatji Noongar woman and Green Senator for WA Dorinda Cox called for the inquiry in her first speech to the Senate in October this year.

In a statement, the office of Senator Cox said the inquiry will be the first of its kind in Australia and will investigate “the systemic causes of violence including underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes contributing to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities of First Nations women and children.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Senator Cox clapping in park with crowd in background

Senator Cox. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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: ‘Point-of-care’ testing for infectious diseases

National Framework for 'Point-of-care’ testing for infectious diseases in remote communities.

‘Point-of-care’ testing for infectious diseases

Researchers, clinicians and community and government partners have been funded to develop a national framework to scale up point-of-care testing for infectious diseases in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Announced on Sunday by the Minister for Health the Hon. Greg Hunt, the team, comprising over 20 organisations will receive $9,967,326 over six years from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

“This significant grant from the federal government represents a paradigm shift for managing infectious diseases in remote communities, by bringing the power of diagnostic laboratories into a local community system,” says Prof. Guy, who is the Public Health Theme Director at the Kirby Institute.

“It will allow us to improve clinical practice by better targeting treatment, and thereby reduce the burden of infectious diseases and their complications for Aboriginal communities in rural and remote Australia.”

The research will be governed by an Indigenous advisory committee chaired by NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey. The advisory committee will include members from across all states and territories and will ensure Indigenous ownership of the processes and outcomes of the research.

You can read the article in The National Tribune here.

Point of care testing for syphilis

Point of care testing for syphilis at the Maningrida Community Health Centre with staff from the Mala’la Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

Vaccination gap a big concern

Dr Jason Agostino, GP and epidemiologist with ANU, and Senior Medical Advisor at NACCHO spoke with with Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning about how the national double vaccination rate continues to climb, but the figures are much lower in Aboriginal and Torres Strat Islander communities.

With the national double vaccination rate at close to 82% of people aged 16 and over, only 55% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Agostino says the vaccination gap is of big concern as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being hit hard by Delta already.

“Over the last three months in NSW, Victoria and the ACT we have seen over 7,500 cases of infection, 750 hospitalisations, close to 90 people in the ICU and 15 deaths.”

“We are really concerned about what will happen when boarders open and more people are exposed,” said Dr Agostino.

In the interview he also talks about why the vaccination rates are so low, what is working to increase those rates and what the focus needs to be moving forward.

You can listen to the full interview on ABC RN Breakfast here.

Dr Jason Agostino COVID-19 vaccination Gap


Orange region passes 95% double vaxxed

After facing the virus head-on throughout July and then again during a lengthy lockdown in August, September and October, the Local Government Areas of Orange, Blayney and Cabonne have rallied.

All three LGAs can boast a first dose of 95 per cent or greater, according to the Australian Government’s LGA vaccination roadmap data, while the double dose rates are equally impressive. Orange and Blayney have both passed the 95 per cent double jab mark too – with the combined 15 and over population of those areas around the 40,000 people mark.

You can read the article in the Central Western Daily here.

Joey getting vaccinated at Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS). Image Source: OAMS.

Joey getting vaccinated at Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS). Image Source: OAMS.

Rumbalara vaccine rollout boosted by van

A vaccine van has rolled into town to help increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among First Nations people in Shepparton.

“I think the van will be a great asset in that it will complement the hard work our team have been doing at Rumbalara,” said Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative chief executive Felicia Dean.

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Rumbalara jointly launched the dedicated Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) COVID-19 Vaccine Van in Shepparton on Tuesday. The van is staffed by health professionals from Rumbalara,  Star Health and VACCHO.

“The van can go out to homes for those that are struggling and don’t have transport,” Ms Dean said.

The Rumbalara chief executive officer said home visits could be booked via Rumbalara Medical Service, which also offered walk-in vaccinations.

“All we can do is provide as many opportunities for people to come and get vaccinated as possible, be it in Mooroopna or Shepparton, or in the home,” she said.

You can read the article in the Shepparton News here.

Protect mob: Rumbalara staff Shelley Norris and Jannali Fermor, wearing tops designed by Yorta Yorta artists, are part of a collaborative effort to boost vaccination rates among Traditional Owners. Picture: Megan Fisher.

Protect mob: Rumbalara staff Shelley Norris and Jannali Fermor, wearing tops designed by Yorta Yorta artists, are part of a collaborative effort to boost vaccination rates among Traditional Owners. Picture: Megan Fisher.

Requirements for a safe COVID opening up of the NT

In a media release by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) they outlined key principles and actions required for a safe COVID opening up of the Northern Territory. These were agreed to following the release of the new Doherty modelling for the NT and following a meeting of AMSANT’s Board in Darwin on Tuesday.

“Critical to reopening is the need to achieve a safe threshold of high vaccination rates across NT communities as well as reliable data to tell us when we have reached these thresholds and can safely take the next steps,” AMSANT CEO, John Paterson said.

“Above all, our urgent priority is to accelerate the vaccination rollout across the NT and particularly in Aboriginal communities, as the best protection we can provide. But to do this we need a close partnership and collaboration between the NT Government and the ACCHSs sector, as well as the Land Councils and other key stakeholders”, Mr Paterson said.

“Finally, before we open up, we need to ensure we have enough staff to deal with COVID outbreaks across primary health care and the hospital sector, that we know will occur when we open up.”

You can view the media release by AMSANT here.

AMSANT - Vaccinate to protect our community

Concerns as COVID care transitions back to community

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt last Friday announced the next stage of care for COVID-19 patients in light of rising vaccination rates and the lower numbers of people expected to require hospitalisation.

“As we open up, we know that there will be more cases that will be treated at home because people will be fully vaccinated. They may not require hospitalisation, and so the balance will shift from hospitalisation to community care,” Hunt said at a press conference.

The move to devolve the care of COVID-19 patients from hospitals and specialised services to general practitioners has alarmed some patients and doctors concerned at the risk of infection in waiting rooms and an inadequate $25 “bonus” Medicare payment.

The Government’s $180 million funding package for primary care to support COVID-19 patients at home and in the community includes:

  • A new, temporary MBS item for $25 for general practices to cover the extra cost of treating COVID-positive patients face-to-face, including infection control measures.
  • GPs supervising COVID patients will receive pulse oximeters from the national medical stockpile to assist in remote monitoring of patients’ oxygen levels at home.
  • The existing GP-led respiratory clinics will be continued until June 2022.
  • Home visits for COVID patients by nurse practitioners and practice nurses organised by Primary Health Networks.

You can read the article in Croakey Health Media here.

GP with stethoscope. Image source: AMA website.

GP with stethoscope. Image source: AMA website.

National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap update

Cancer Australia has released the third Roadmap Construction Update on the development of the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap.

The National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap will identify key priority areas for action over the next five years to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer.

In focus for this update are the priority setting process, and the development of Roadmap resources.

You can visit and interact with the infographic here.

National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap

Working together to improve outcomes for people affected by pancreatic cancer.

Seeking submissions on cannabis use or diabetes research

The 42-year-old HealthBulletin has been renamed to the ‘Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet. The newly designed journal (with a new logo and website) will facilitate access to evidence-based research and other information to support those working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector and is becoming increasingly visible and accessible to researchers and other readers.

To celebrate the launch of the journal’s new name, the journal is encouraging submissions to accompany two Special Editions in 2022. Each year the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet commissions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health topic reviews which are subject to blind peer review and published as Special Editions in the journal. In 2022, the following reviews will be published:

  • a Review of cannabis use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • a Review of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Submissions may cover any evidence-based aspect of either cannabis use or diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and can be full or brief research reports. All manuscripts will be subject to blind peer review.

The closing date for submission is Thursday 23 December 2021.

See the For Contributor’s page for further information and submission preparation guidelines.
View the new website here.

Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet _ Edith Cowan University


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: Lung cancer, fifth most common cancer

feature tile text 'almost 100 per month in WA diagnosed with lunch cancer' & image of pair of lungs, one healthy pink, one black with cancer

Lung cancer, fifth more common cancer

CANCER Council WA is using November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month to remind those living in regional WA of the symptoms of lung cancer and what to do if they notice any unusual changes to their body. It’s important to visit your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker right away if you experience any symptoms.

If you’ve coughed up blood or had a long-standing cough that worsens or changes, repeated chest infections, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite or persistent chest or shoulder pain, then it’s important to get it investigated. It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer, often it turns out to be something less serious, though it’s critical to have the symptoms investigated early to be sure.

Remember, the chances of successful treatment are much higher when cancer is found early. Lung cancer was the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2017 and the most common cause of cancer death in 2019 according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data. In WA in 2018, 1,155 people were diagnosed with lung cancer and 752 people died from it.80% of lung cancers in Australia are caused by smoking.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Oncology News Australia.

ACT mob hit hard by COVID-19

There have now been 197 cases in the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community during the latest outbreak. 11% of all cases in the ACT during this outbreak have identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak has had a disproportionate effect on the ACT’s Indigenous community. She noted the ACT Government is working with community partners, including Winnunga Nimmityjah, Gugan Gulwan and Yeddung Mura to enable culturally responsive support for the community.

CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah, Julie Tongs, said the Aboriginal health service no longer requires appointments for vaccination. “You can just come in to Winnunga whenever you can,” Ms Tongs said. “Getting our mob vaccinated is now the most important thing we can do to protect our families and community. Remember that vaccination prevents serious illness related to COVID-19.”

To view the Canberra Weekly article in full click here.

CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah, Julie Tongs. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Genuine COVID-19 concerns for SA mob

Less than 40% of SA’s Aboriginal population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest data, prompting calls for greater protection of remote communities when the state reopens its borders in three weeks. Federal government figures show that as of last Tuesday, only 37.8% of Aboriginal people in the state over the age of 15 are fully vaccinated, while 51.3% have received a first dose.

Flinders University senior lecturer and epidemiologist Dr Emma Miller said lagging Indigenous jab rates came down to three “compounding” issues: low socioeconomic status, lack of resources and cultural sensitivity. Miller said the vaccination disparity echoes similar inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in health outcomes for chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

To view the INDAILY article in full click here.

Dr Emma Miller. Image source: Flinders Foundation website.

Medicare to cover case conferencing

New Medicare items will encourage eligible health providers to work together more closely to support the health of vulnerable Australians. Allied health professionals will – for the first time – be reimbursed through Medicare for taking part in case conferences to support people with chronic diseases or young children with developmental disorders like autism.

$13.7 million has been committed in the 2021–22 Budget to create the new Medicare items – in response to recommendations to the MBS Review – which will also increase the number of doctor-led multidisciplinary case conferences in primary care.

Under the change, allied health professionals will be paid to attend multidisciplinary conferences held by the patient’s regular doctor – in person, via video conference or phone –to discuss diagnosis, care and treatment plans.

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

Image source: Evensi website.

Us Mob and HIV

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has just launched the ‘Us Mob and HIV’ website. Us Mob & HIV began as a health promotion resource (pocket-sized booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, produced by the AFAO, with the aim of increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s knowledge about HIV and its impacts.

The booklet provides basic information on HIV, focusing on HIV testing, transmission, prevention, HIV treatments, health monitoring, care and support available for people with HIV, as well as service contact details. Information on HIV treatments, testing and other topics has been updated for the latest edition and importantly, it provides a clear explanation of the concept of undetectable viral load.

The booklet includes a series of ‘yarns’ written by community members, designed to reinforce and personalise key health messages. Information is also communicated in visual form.

To access the Us Mob and HIV website click here.

Unique addiction-breaking prison program

52 prisoners have graduated from a unique new rehabilitation program at Casuarina Prison, designed to break the cycle of addiction to alcohol and other drugs that so often leads to criminal behaviour. The nine-month program, called Solid Steps, was developed by the Department of Justice in conjunction with external service providers the Palmerston Association and Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. It is the first residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation program to be delivered in an adult male prison in WA.

Department of Justice Director General, Dr Adam Tomison, said breaking the cycle of addiction is critical to improving community safety in the longer term, “The program is based on a culturally safe, modified therapeutic community model. It also strengthens connection to self, family, culture and community.”

To view the media release about the program click here.

Image source: WA Government website.

Innovative aged care workforce solutions

In an ageing society, there are increasing demands for personal care workers as well as an existing shortage of personal care workers. How do we address this dilemma to ensure quality care can be accessed by all who need it? What can be done to encourage and then retain people in personal care jobs in regional and remote areas? How can we make personal care a destination career instead of framing these important roles as steppingstones to vertical career progression?

A collaborative workshop is being held from 13:00 PM – 14:00 PM Wednesday 17 November 2021 where attendees and speakers will work together to share their insights and collaborate on ideas to develop solutions to address these concerns. The aim of the workshop is to create a statement that could be used as the basis for a future roadmap for what needs to happen to attract, keep and adequately value personal carers.

You can register for the workshop 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.

COVID-19 vaccine update for GPs webinar

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health’s series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs webinar will be held from: 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 4 November 2021.

At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout. GPs and all health professionals are welcome. Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health will chair the session tomorrow and will be joined by guest panelists Dr Sonya Bennett, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Dr Tanya Robertson, GP, Yarralumla Surgery, Canberra.

When you’re ready to join, use this link. The webinar will have live captioning and be available to view on-demand via the same link within a few hours of the live stream ending.

National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week

This year’s National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week will be held 8-14 November 2021. The disruptions of the past 2 years have impacted people’s ability to access healthcare and the battle to stay up to date with cancer screenings continues. An awareness raising campaign for 2021, will again remind women that it is “Time to Catch Up” with their cervical screening. In 2020, The World Health Organisation launched the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer by 2028.

For more information about National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Race to protect communities after borders open

feature tile text 'race to protect ATSI communities after borders open' & image of Aboriginal elderly woman receiving vax Wilcannia

In feature tile Leanne Bulmer, 67, receives the Pfizer vaccine on the verandah of her home from nurse Susie Jarman, watched by Dr Joy Linton. Photo: Brian Cassey. Image source: The Australian.

Race to protect communities after borders open

In his article in The Australian titled Sprint is on to close gap after ‘Covid cyclone’ journalist Tom Dusevic says “As we begin to open up, the race is on to protect Indigenous communities lulled into complacency by lockdowns and vulnerable to bureaucracy and the spread of dangerous ideas.”

Wilcannia became an emblem of COVID-19’s nasty streak, when the Delta strain steamrolled through the remote, mainly Indigenous town in the dust-red NSW far west in August and September. Infections reached 152, or between one-quarter and one-fifth of residents, most of whom were living in overcrowded public housing.

Delta hit Wilcannia like a cyclone, as some locals described the outbreak , but it did not surprise Pat Turner, NACCHO CEO. More than a year earlier, Turner’s organisation told a parliamentary committee Wilcannia was a sitting duck. If COVID-19 hit the town, “it would be impossible to contain due to overcrowding, poor sanitation and a lack of resources needed to quarantine properly,” NACCHO said in a submission in July last year.

Late last week, Ms Turner, who is also lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks, told the Senate’s COVID-19 committee the “rapid spread of Delta has been entirely predictable. Despite repeated calls for appropriate accommodation, the residents of Wilcannia were left to isolate in tents during the first weeks of the outbreak.”

As Wilcannia’s cases escalated, authorities threw everything they could muster at a response – including the Australian Medical Assistance Team, a crack team of emergency disaster responders, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, state services, and volunteers – while community leaders stepped up to distribute food, persuade family and friends to get vaccinated, and sort out living arrangements.

The good news today is there isn’t a single active case in Wilcannia and there hasn’t been a new infection in 16 days. Thirty motor homes set up on the banks of the mighty Darling in Victory Park for quarantine – only six were eventually occupied – are being moved to Wentworth and Dubbo.

To view The Australian article in full click here.

Wilcannia residents Aunty Sissy King and sister Tammy on the verandah of their home

Wilcannia residents Aunty Sissy King and sister Tammy have had many family members test positive to Covid. Photo: Toby Zerna. Image source: The Australian.

National Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse Centre

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of the National Apology for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, commemorating the childhoods that were stolen and renewing the Government’s commitment and responsibility to protecting Australia’s children.

In honour, the Morrison Government announced that the Blue Knot Foundation, along with its key consortium partners the Australian Childhood Foundation and The Healing Foundation, would establish and deliver the National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. PM Scott Morrison said on this day three years ago we confronted our failure to listen, to believe, and to provide justice.

To view the media release in full click here.

art of child's face, shadows by Alex Williamson, red, grey, black, cream

Art by Alex Williamson. Image source: The Economist.

Success in turning around type 2 diabetes

In a new 3-part documentary series, Ray Kelly teams up with world renowned medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley to explain research showing how rapidly the progression of type 2 diabetes can be turned around.

Ray Kelly has developed the ‘Too Deadly for Diabetes’ program to turn around the progression of type 2 diabetes within the Indigenous community. It has been provided through Aboriginal medical services in Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett, Coonamble and other locations throughout the state. The results have shown that if community are provided with a program they understand and good support, they will achieve great results. In just 11 months the community in Coonamble have lost a combined total of 1,316kg, with many having medications reduced or totally removed. In other towns people have been taken off insulin within weeks, after 15-20 years of giving themselves daily injections.

The programs are led by their local team of GPs, nurses and Aboriginal health workers.

To view the article in IndigenousX in full click here.

Australia’s Health Revolution aired on SBS on October 13 and October 20 at 7:30pm. The last episode will air next Wednesday 27 October 2021. You can also watch on SBS On Demand here.

2 images: Aboriginal & TSI flags blowing in breeze; bowl of fruit, tape measure & blood sugar level monitor

Image source: IndigenousX.

Pleas for transport in face of COVID-19

The head of a Victorian Aboriginal health organisation is pleading for personal transport assistance as her community grapples with its first Delta outbreak. Jacki Turfrey from Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) says she has been asking for help from the Health Department to get infected people to emergency accommodation, testing and vaccinations.

While mobile testing vans and pop-up vaccination clinics have been set up to accommodate people who cannot travel, Ms Turfrey says positive cases are the organisation’s greatest concern.

“The biggest challenge that we’ve had is people who have been contacted by the Department, know that they’re COVID-positive or a close contact and need to be put into emergency accommodation and there is no transport available for those people to safely move from one place to another,” she said. “I’ve been asked personally on a number of occasions to get in a bus, put on some PPE and drive people around, which is just not acceptable.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey, Jimmy Kennedy, and Victoria's COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar in Mildura standing in front of MDAS van

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey, Jimmy Kennedy, and Victoria’s COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar in Mildura on Monday. Photo: Richard Crabtree, ABC Mildura-Swan Hill. Image source; ABC News.

Liver disease could be next epidemic

A first of its kind study published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) shows liver disease looks to be Australia’s next epidemic affecting at least 36% of regional Victorians. The study looked at rates of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) in the Goulburn Valley area and concluded the rate in this regional community was higher than the estimated rate in metropolitan areas.

Based on the Fatty Liver Index which uses pathology data combined with Body Mass Index (BMI) and other measurements, researchers found NAFLD affects 36% of people in the region, and 45% of those aged 60 or more. Lead author, Professor Stuart Roberts, is the Head of Hepatology and a consultant gastroenterologist at The Alfred, he said; “Rates of liver disease have been based on estimates developed from overseas data and little is known of the true prevalence of fatty liver disease in Australia.

To view the Pathology Awareness Australia media release in full click here.

torso of man holding stomach overlaid with image of a liver

Image source: eMediHealth.

Promise for future rural general practice

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) General Practice: Health of the Nation report shows promise for the future of rural general practice. An annual health check-up on general practice in Australia, the Health of the Nation report draws on publicly available data, as well as the Health of the Nation survey of RACGP fellows from across Australia. This year’s survey was undertaken by EY Sweeney during April-May 2021, with 1,386 respondents.

This year’s report highlights strong and growing interest among GPs to work in rural health, offering hope for the future health of rural general practice and communities, including: Almost three in five (59%) GPs in training report an interest in rural practice, compared to two in five (40%) of other specialists in training. While two out of five (44%) GPs in training report that they intend to work in urban areas post-Fellowship, a larger proportion (48%) plan to work in rural or a mix of urban and rural locations.

To view the RACGP media release in full click here.

yellow road sign with vector of head, shoulders, with stethoscope around neck

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Remote PHC Manuals progress update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCMs) are currently being reviewed and updated. Monthly updates are provided to health and other organisations to keep them up-to-date throughout the review process.

What’s new: almost all (98%) of the Primary Reviews have now been completed! Protocols are now being updated to reflect endorsed changes. Clinicians will be consulted about major content changes prior to Secondary Review.

Protocol groups endorsed: alcohol and other drugs; ante/post natal emergencies; clinical assessment; eyes; women’s health; and wounds.

Coming up: secondary reviews will start early in 2022. If you use the manuals please visit the RPHCM website to see how you can become a Secondary Reviewer.

Protocol groups coming up for endorsements: contraception; diabetes/renal/cardiac; mental health’ scabies; and urinary.

To view the RPHCM October 2021 information flyer 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.

Suicide Prevention Strategy launch

In early 2020, the Commonwealth Government tasked Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia (GDPSA) to renew the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Extensive consultation with governments, stakeholders and community members over the past 12 months contributed to the renewed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy 2021-2031.

The virtual launch of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy 2021-2031, via Zoon Meetings (hosted at the University of WA by GDPSA) originally scheduled for tomorrow, at 3:00pm AEDT, Friday 22 October 2021, has been POSTPONED.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Natural helpers help counter vax hesitancy

feature tile text 'Aboriginal natural helpers help counter COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy' & vector image of syringe & vial

Natural helpers help counter vax hesitancy

An Edith Cowan University project funded by the WA government has been consulting with natural helpers in Aboriginal communities in the south west and Perth urban areas of WA. Led by Dr Uncle Mick Adams, Senior Aboriginal Research Fellow at the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, Professor Neil Drew, Director of the HealthInfoNet, and Associate Professor Stuart Medley from the School of Arts and Humanities, supported by community Cultural Consultant Brett Hill, the project has been asking natural helpers about their experiences of COVID-19.

Natural helpers are those in the community who are naturally turned to in times of crisis for information and support. A particular focus was to explore where people are getting their information from and how trustworthy they feel those sources are.

Many participants in the study felt that, despite the overwhelming weight of information available, they still lacked information that they could trust. They felt that many of the people used to promote the messages, like sports people or politicians were too far-removed from the circle of trust in communities. Many want to see and hear from local identities or natural helpers; people they know and trust. This includes Elders and community leaders but also, and importantly, other trusted natural helpers. They want authorities to visit and sit with them to discuss the issues in their community.

To view the full article click here.

large group of people sitting & standing around table

Mandurah Focus Group.

Improving Hep C diagnosis

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said to help improve the treatment times of those with hepatitis C, the Morrison Government will fund a new national point-of-care testing (POCT) program that can confirm active hepatitis C infections within an hour and allow treatment to begin immediately.

The Kirby Institute at the University of NSW and the International Centre for Point-of-Care Testing at Flinders University will be provided with $6.5 million combined to establish the program. Being able to provide the testing and treatment all in one visit is a real game-changer for people who would normally have to wait several weeks for a test result.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release click here.

young Aboriginal man in front of brick wall, overlaid with line drawing of hands & syringe, text 'protect' your blood

Image source: VIVA Communications website.

Kids with disability in OOHC

The 16th hearing of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has shifted its focus to the experiences of Indigenous children with disability in out-of-home care (OOHC).

More than 20%of Indigenous children have a disability, compared to 8% in the general population. Out of the 45,996 children in OOHC in Australia in 2019 and 2020, 18,862 – more than 40% – were Indigenous despite only making up 6% of the total child population.

Earlier, the inquiry heard that some Indigenous families were having their disabled children taken from them amid a shortage of specialised support programs. The children often need constant care but a lack of services to help parents was leading to perceptions of neglect, health service the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) said. “They can’t meet the care needs of that child because the care needs are higher,” CAAC chief executive Donna Ah Chee said. “We need to have equitable access so that the ability to provide the appropriate level of care is not a consideration for children being removed.” Ms Ah Chee called for more early intervention and child care programs, and trained carers to help struggling families, many of whom live in poverty.

To view the 7 News article in full click here.

young girl gazing out a window

EY Oceania website.

CAAC welcomes NT COVID-19 plan

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) has acknowledged the NT Government’s Plan for COVID-Management At Stage 3 of The National Plan which will enact some of the strongest protections in the nation for our vulnerable Aboriginal population.

“The modelling for Victoria shows that even opening up at 80% will lead to daily infections in the thousands along with potentially thousands of deaths and a hospital system close to breaking point,” said CAAC CEO Donna Ah Chee.” The NT cannot afford to get to anything like this and the NT Government should be commended for their approach,” she continued.

To view the media release click here.

CAAC logo & CAAC staff member receiving covid-19 vax

CAAC logo from CAAC website. Image source: NT News.

Speech Pathology Indigenous Health major

The number of domestic applications for the undergraduate speech pathology course at Southern Cross University (SCU) have increased 79% compared to the same time last year. It is the only Speech Pathology degree in Australia to offer an Indigenous Health major. The SCU Speech Pathology program has multiple community partnerships which support the students to engage in a range of external placements, across NSW, Queensland and beyond.

“One reason for our growth in demand for the course is a greater community awareness about the need for people trained in this discipline, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas,” SCU Professor Yoxall said.

“There is such a high demand for paediatric speech pathology services, that some families can wait years to have their young child assessed, thereby missing out of vital early intervention. We hear about children who have NDIS funding but are going through a full calendar year or longer without managing to secure an appointment with a speech pathologist.”

To view the Echo article in full click here.

Model improves Type 2 Diabetes outcomes

Research shows an innovative model-of-care that includes a weekly nurse review and an injection of a drug known as Exenatide-LAR significantly improves sugar management for Indigenous Australians with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) in remote communities.

Diabetes affects Indigenous Australians at alarmingly high rates – more than three to four times that of non-Indigenous Australians. In some of the worst-affected communities in Australia, Indigenous Australians are experiencing a 13-fold increase in kidney failure for people aged 35-44 years and an alarming eight-fold mortality attributed to CVD.

A cluster randomised study known as the ‘Lower Sugar Study’ allocated two communities in Central Australia to receive either a once-weekly Exenatide injection with weekly nurse review and adjustment of medication for 20 weeks, or a weekly nurse review in addition to standard care over 20 weeks in the community without Exenatide.

The aim of the study was to test the feasibility of the intensive diabetes management model-of-care with and without weekly supervised Exenatide. The research team also looked at the change in HbA1c, which is a marker of sugar levels.

Associate Professor Ekinci said there are many reasons why Indigenous Australians have been impacted by diabetes. “We know that the social determinants of health matter here. These include significant cultural losses and dispossession, racial discrimination and food insecurity. These historical, social and other issues contribute to Indigenous Australians developing early on-set and rapidly progressive forms of diabetes,” Associate Professor Ekinci said.

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

Aboriginal person's hands, blood sugar level testing

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

New RPHCM website launched

Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) have launched a new website. The RPHCMs are a widely used and highly regarded resource in remote health across central, northern, and remote Australia – they support and promote good clinical practice in primary health care.

To view the RPHCM website launch flyer click here.

cover of each of 4 RPHCMs

You can also view the RPHCM September 2021 Update here. More than 85% of the Primary Reviews are now completed. Protocol groups endorsed include: birth and birth emergencies; bites and stings, injuries; mental health emergencies; skin; and wounds. Protocol groups coming up for endorsement include: cardiac, renal and diabetes; clinical assessment; contraception; eyes; and respiratory.

Secondary reviews of protocols to check that protocols are clear and can be applied to
remote practice will start later this year.

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium

Virtual registrations are now open for the 8th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium which will be held on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 October 2021. The full digital program includes more than 60 research presentations, poster sessions and engagement with high-quality keynote speakers.

The theme of the virtual symposium is ‘Connecting research, practice and communities’ – bringing together rural health academics, clinical researchers and practitioners, students, as well as policymakers engaged with the Alliance and the rural health sector. The symposium offers comprehensive knowledge learning and professional development, as well as the opportunity for personal engagement with speakers, presenters and peers.

To register for the symposium click here.

Professor Tom Calma AO will be a keynote speaker at the symposium.

Ngar-wu Wanyaraa Health Conference

Health professionals and community members from across Australia will come together online for the 6th Annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference on Wednesday 13 October 2021. The conference will be hosted by the University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health and showcase advances in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, highlighting key findings and current health issues facing the community.

Multi-award winning broadcaster and journalist, Stan Grant, who is currently International Affairs Editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will deliver the keynote address. Further information and updates can be viewed on the Department of Rural Health website here.

To register for the virtual conference click here.

Norm Stewart, Kidneys of the Dungala, 2012. Community/Language Group: Yorta Yorta, acrylic on canvas.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AHWs lead major vaccination blitz

feature tile text 'AHW led COVID-19 vaccination blitz sees unbelievable community update'

AHWs lead major vaccination blitz

In Wellington, a small community in western NSW, Aboriginal health workers are leading a major vaccination blitz. While Indigenous vaccination rates in this region are still the lowest in the state, Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS) is working hard to change that.

“Over the last two weeks we’ve been able to deliver about 1,500 individual doses,” Jay Forrester from the WACHS said. “I think the community uptake has been unbelievable.”

The health service in Wellington is in the midst of a six-week vaccine drive. Staff believe they have already vaccinated about 50 per cent of the targeted population, and they aim to reach 80 to 90% by the end.

To view the article in full click here.

Feature tile shows WACHS staff administering COVID-19 vaccine. Image source: ABC News.

WACHS vaccination clinic

WACHS vaccination clinic. Image source: ABC News.

Second COVID-19 death in Western NSW

The tiny community of Enngonia in Northwest NSW is in mourning following the death of an Elder yesterday (6 September 2021). The lady in her 70s, who was unfortunately unvaccinated, passed away in Dubbo Hospital after contracting COVID-19.

The news follows the death of an Aboriginal man  in his 50’s in Dubbo on August 30. “A really sad day for a little place like Enngonia to lose one of their much-loved Elders up there,” said Western NSW Police Commander Geoff McKechnie.

The small isolated community, which is an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital in Bourke, has less than 200 residents in the town with almost half the population Indigenous. There are 21 active cases of the virus in the town, while six new cases were announced in Bourke on Monday.

Western Health District CEO Scott McLachlan urged the community to continue to follow health advice to prevent further spread of the virus. “This is a very sombre reminder of the tragic outcomes that can happen when people get COVID,” he said.

To read the full SBS article click here.

entrance to Dubbo Hospital

Image source: The Guardian.

Free WellMob website webinar 

Our health and wellbeing workers are under extra pressure given the COVID-19 pandemic and additional physical and mental health risks to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

A free webinar will explore the WellMob website, a project delivered by some of our University Centre for Rural Health staff who work under the national electronic Mental Health in Practice project. Wellmob is a digital library of Indigenous specific SEWB resources that makes it easy for you to find culturally relevant online tools to keep our mob strong in these challenging times.

The seminar will tell you about how best to navigate the website and discuss ways for you to use digital wellbeing tools in your work and with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. The Q & A will allow you to share your insights and discuss your needs in using online resources to maintain the health and wellbeing of our diverse First Nations communities.

The webinar will take place on Thursday 16 September 2021 at 4:00pm AEST. The webinar is free to attend, however, registration is required.

WellMob Health Our Way banner/logo

Discrimination links to poor mental health

Globally, Indigenous populations have higher rates of suicidal behaviour and psychological distress compared to non-Indigenous populations. Indigenous populations also report high rates of exposure to discrimination, which could potentially contribute to poor mental health outcomes.

A research team have estimated the prevalence of discrimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in Australia and examined the role of discrimination in the association between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms.

The team’s analysis adds to evidence that discrimination is a contributor to mental health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations in Australia. The research concludes that reducing discrimination ought to be considered as part of strategies to improve the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To access the article published in the Australian and NZ Journal of Psychiatry click here

silhouette of Aboriginal man's head with light shining on to eye

Image source: Australian Men’s Health Forum.

A Life Changing Life campaign

The Australian Government wants to see a growing skilled and sustainable care and support workforce. As part of their A Life Changing Life campaign, they have partnered with SEEK to help employers attract the right people to fill care and support roles

They are hosting an exclusive webinar exploring current employment trends and showcasing the tools available to support your resourcing strategies. In the webinar, employers will learn:

  • Employment market trends and insights
  • Employment trends in care and support sector
  • Tools and products available to optimise hiring activity.

The free webinar will be held from: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST Thursday 9 September 2021.

This is part of a new webinar series in partnership with SEEK, connecting employers with industry experts who will share insights and practical advice tailored to recruiting people into the care and support sector.

The webinar is designed for all employers in the care and support sector, and there is no cost. To register for the webinar click here.

A Life Changing Life tile - Aboriginal woman & man sitting on a bench outside

Support available if concerns about drinking

With the extension of COVID restrictions affecting many Australians, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is reminding people that there are supports available if they have concerns about their drinking or the drinking of someone they know.

FARE CEO, Caterina Giorgi, said that people might notice themselves drinking more frequently or drinking as a way to cope with anxiety or stress. “Many of us are experiencing disrupted routines and increased levels of stress as we deal with the affect that the ongoing pandemic has on our everyday lives,” Ms Giorgi said.

“These feelings are unsettling and can increase the likelihood of turning to alcohol to cope. But alcohol increases anxiety and leads to sleep disturbance and having less energy.” Ms Giorgi encouraged anyone concerned about their drinking to reach out to support services.

“There are a range of online, phone and face-to-face support that people can reach out to if they are concerned about their alcohol use or that of someone in their lives,” Ms Giorgi said.

Support is available by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline (1800 250 015) and online support sites Daybreak, Drinksmeter and Bushtribe.

More support services are available on the FARE website here.

To view the FARE media release here.

FARE logo, photo nuclear family

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

R U OK? Day

R U OK? is a harm prevention charity that encourages people to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives. Their work focuses on building the motivation, confidence and skills of the  help-giver – the person who can have a meaningful conversation with someone who is struggling with life.

R U OK? contributes to suicide prevention efforts by encouraging  people to invest more time in their  personal relationships and building the capacity of informal support networks – friends, family and colleagues – to be alert to those around them, have a conversation if they identify signs of distress or difficulty and connect someone to appropriate support, long before they’re in crisis.

This year’s R U OK? Day message is Are they really OK? Ask them today.

Do you know how the people in your world are really going?

Life’s ups and downs happen to all of us. So chances are someone you know might be struggling. Your genuine support can make a difference whatever they are facing, big or small.  So, don’t wait until someone’s visibly distressed or in crisis. Make a moment meaningful and ask them how they’re really going. Are they really OK? Ask them today. Your conversation could change a life.

You can visit the R U OK? website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Health problems dire long before COVID-19

feature tile text 'ATSI health problems dire long before COVID-19 hit' & image of Aboriginal man on dialysis Purple House

Health problems dire long before COVID-19

According to Brewarrina GP Dr Sonia Henry the recent headlines about the northwest of NSW have been clear in their message. Here are two: “Australia’s failure to vaccinate Indigenous Australians” and “Funeral in Wilcannia leads to COVID-19 spread”. Anyone who has lived or worked in remote Australia with Indigenous populations knows the real headline should be: “Australia’s failure of its Indigenous people – full stop”.

The reason Indigenous populations are so “vulnerable”, as we say, is that we effectively have created a two-tiered health system where this is inevitable, long before COVID-19 and long after.

Dr Henry says Brewarrina shares many similarities to Wilcannia (about 500 kms away), where COVID-19 is spreading through the Indigenous population. We all know if COVID-19 were to explode here, not only would issues such as overcrowding and food be problematic (we have two tiny shops, both of which would be forced to close if there were a big outbreak), but also what is always an issue – how to get decent medical care.

To view the article in full click here.

mural on Moorundi Aboriginal Community Health Service building, Raukkan, SA

A mural on the Moorundi Aboriginal Community Health Service building, Raukkan, SA. Photo: Coorong Council. Image source: The Australian. Image in feature tile: NITV news website.

ACCHO trying to meet high vaccine demand

Awabakal Ltd, which runs an Aboriginal medical service in the Hunter, has been running regular vaccination clinics to try and meet the high demand. They have been inundated with requests for appointments and are doing what they can to progress their waiting lists as quickly as possible, although demand far outweighs current supply.

Awabakal is considering mobile vaccination services. “We are in the process of assessing suitable locations and will actively seek to provide outreach services in the coming weeks,” it said.

Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Andrew Smith said Aboriginal people often relied on organisations like Awabakal for health care, rather than GPs. “We don’t necessarily participate in the mainstream health sector like everyday Australians do. Generally we don’t get any help until it’s almost the 11th hour. Wilcannia and other communities are a clear example of where we are continuously being left behind and put in the too-hard basket.”

To view the article in full click here.

Worimi Local ALC Andrew Smith receiving first jab

Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council Chief Executive Andrew Smith receiving first Pfizer vaccination. Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Community-led programs to reduce family violence

Nine service providers across Australia have received a share of $13.5 million for targeted community-led programs to reduce violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. This funding is part of $35.3 million for Indigenous-specific measures under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said each of these measures were driven by the experiences and expertise of local Indigenous communities. “Breaking the cycle of violence requires community-driven approaches that prioritise cultural healing and family restoration,” Minister Wyatt said. “Putting Indigenous experience at the heart of our efforts is absolutely crucial to reducing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.”

To view the media release in full click here.

rear shot of three Aboriginal women in dim light, dusk

Image source: The Conversation.

Indigenous Eye Health Measures 2021

On Monday this week (1 September 2021) the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) launched its Indigenous eye health measures 2021 report which shows measurable progress towards improving the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Despite the pandemic’s impact, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist continued to grow, reaching 104,300 in 2019-20 (compared to 100,700 in 2018-19).

The report also highlights some of the continuing challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in accessing the eye care they need, such a wait times substantially longer for cataract surgery (a median number of 124 days) than for other Australians (82 days).

Vision 2020 Australia says investing in public provision of priority treatments (such as cataract surgery and treatments for diabetic eye disease), supporting development of community led models and building local case management that can help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people connect to, and remain engaged with, treatment are all critical.

Vision 2020 Australia continues to call for Australian Government investment in these and other priority areas so that we can achieve the goal of ending avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by 2025.

You can read Vision 2020 Australia’s media release in full here and access the AIHW Indigenous Eye Health Measures 2021 report here.cover of AIHW Indigenous eye health measures 2021 report

Old homelessness interventions don’t work

A government taskforce looking at Adelaide’s Aboriginal homelessness population has found COVID-19 lockdown shelters which permitted alcohol consumption and yarning circles led by Indigenous translators and leaders were more successful than traditional responses.

The taskforce’s report found that unless changes occur to understand and help the “constantly changing groups of people” who gather in the City of Adelaide and Adelaide Parklands, there will continue to be “severe” health and safety consequences of Aboriginal people. “Tragically, this includes a significant but unknown number of Aboriginal people dying prematurely in the heart of the City of Adelaide,” the report says.

Some of the 30 recommendations include decriminalising public drunkenness, funding more Aboriginal health workers, and pursuing tenancy reform to support more culturally appropriate housing.

To view the article in full click here.

homeless person lying on ground covered entirely with blanket, next to shopping trolley

Image source: CityMag website.

First Nations’ community development framework

Community First Development’s (CFD) latest publication A First Nations’ Approach to Community Development: our community development framework results from over 20 years of experience and practice working alongside First Nations’ communities.

Alyawarre woman, Ms Pat Anderson AO, known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for the health of Australia’s First Peoples, said, “It is my view that  Community First Development’s Community Development Framework is an essential guide in the field of community development, both in Australia and internationally. This practical and ethical guide is the culmination of conversations shared, relationships nurtured, and activities facilitated. I encourage you to read and reflect on this guide and consider how your initiatives can respect, promote, and fulfil the right to self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

To learn more, join a webinar with special guests Ms Pat Anderson AO, Stephanie Harvey, CEO regional staff and representatives from two communities from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Wednesday 8 September. To register click here.

cover of 'A first nations' Approach to Community Development', image of two Aboriginal boys sitting on back of a ute

Overdose deaths remain stubbornly high

International Overdose Awareness Day, marked on Tuesday this week (31 August 2021) is proclaimed as the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

It also comes with an urgent demand for action on a number of fronts according to Professor Dan Lubman and Associate Professor Suzanne Nielsen, from Turning Point and the Monash Addiction Research Centre who have written:

‘Unfortunately, the number of Australian deaths from unintentional overdose remains higher than the national road toll, and deaths involving heroin and climbing. We build safety barriers on our roads to reduce fatalities, but too often our response to drug use is just to park the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. As heroin harms increase, we need to rapidly upscale a broader range of treatment options, and remove as many barriers to care as possible.’

‘Pilots and trials are welcome, but we’ve had evidence-based solutions to the problem of overdose for a long time. They should be implemented everywhere and without further delay. As we’ve seen with other public health responses, small, slow steps in the right direction are not enough in the race to save lives.’

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

purple ribbon, black background, text in chalk font 'Drug Overdose Awareness'

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

Women’s Health Week

In 2013, realising there was no event dedicated to women’s health in Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health ran the very first national Women’s Health Week. Women’s Health Week held from Monday 6 to Friday 10 September 2021 is a nation-wide campaign of events and online activities – all centred on improving women’s health and helping women to make healthier choices. For more information click here.

During Women’s Health Week the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention will hold its final public hearing with a focus on the mental health concerns and systems that impact women.

Chair, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The Committee commends the work of Jean Hailes in continuing Women’s Health Week. When we support women in accessing mental health care, as and when they need it, we improve women’s overall health, boost women’s participation in the workforce, and support Australian families.’ To view the Parliament of Australia’s media release in full click here.

Aboriginal mother & two young children, girl, boy

Image source: Jean Hailes for women’s health website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: System failing traumatised kids

Feature tile - Thu.12.8.21 - System failing traumatised kids

System failing traumatised kids

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NACCHO CEO talks about COVID-19 vaccination rates

feature tile text 'NACCHO CEO talks about COVID-19 vaccination rates in ATSI communities' photo of back of Aboriginal man in outback receiving vaccine

NACCHO CEO talks about COVID-19 vaccination rates

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM spoke with journalist John Paul Jenke (Wuthathi from Cape York and from Murray Island in the Torres Strait) on NITV’s The Point last night about COVID-19 vaccination rates. Mr Jenke asked Pat Turner why we aren’t further along with the vaccinations in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and whether this is a supply issue or vaccine hesitancy.

Pat Turner said the vaccination rates are worrying but 96 of NACCHOs [143] member services around Australia are now delivering the Pfizer vaccine and 16 ACCHO Commonwealth vaccination centres (formally the respiratory clinics ) have commenced delivering Pfizer and 13 ACCHOs are being supported by the RFDS. In total have 197,246 doses have been ordered by ACCHOs, 75,486 of Pfizer and 121,760 of AstraZeneca. Pat Turner emphasised that COVID-19 is a very dangerous virus and to avoid getting seriously ill and ending up in hospital and possibly dying you must get vaccinated.

You can watch the interview with Pat Turner at 19:43:40 here.

tile text 'NITV NACCHO CEO Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks Pat Turner AM COIVD-19 Vaccine rates National Agreement on Closing the Gap View Episode 15, Season 2021: The Point, NITV' & photo of Pat Turner smiling in very colourful shirt

Image in feature tile from The Conversation.

GP COVID-19 update for GPs TOMORROW

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health webinar series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs is tomorrow Thursday 12 August from 11:30am-12pm (AEST). Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response Department of Health and Dr Chris Harrison, General Practitioner, Canberra will join Professor Michael Kidd AM on the webinar this week.

At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout.  GPs and all health professionals are welcome.

When you’re ready to join the webinar, use this link.

Mental health fastest growing hospital admission

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has warned that despite additional investment in the last Budget, chronic underfunding of existing frontline services and a lack of psychiatrists is besetting a mental health sector struggling to cope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AMA has told the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Australia’s mental health system is suffering from underfunding at all sector and government levels, and services are not coping with demand, even before the impact of COVID-19 is felt.

Calling for more investment into mental health care, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said that although extra funding in the last Budget was welcome, the providers of existing mental health services received no additional support despite overwhelming demand. The situation in public mental health is even more dire, landing more people with severe mental health conditions in already over-stretched hospital emergency departments.

“There are not enough psychiatrists in Australia and there is likely to be increased demand for their services generated by the pandemic. We urgently need an alternative to emergency departments treating people experiencing acute mental ill-health. We know that mental health admissions to hospitals are the fastest growing of any hospital admission, increasing at an average rate of 4.8% each year from 2013–14 and the five following years, so that’s a total growth of 26.4% over five years from 2013.

“People with mental health conditions are also staying longer in hospital – up to twice as long as people with heart conditions, for example, according to data from AIHW. “Australia also has a serious shortage of child and adolescent child psychiatrists and we need a serious commitment to grow this cohort of the mental health workforce to support early detection. We need to understand there is very high demand for mental health services in regional and rural areas and getting the workforce into these places requires urgent attention,” Dr Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release in full click here.

Image source: Australia247 website.

First Nations census inclusion only 50 years ago

It’s been half a century since Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were included in the national headcount. It’s more important than ever. The national census rolls around every five years, like just another item on life’s to-do list. But this year is special.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1971 census, the first ever to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It followed the successful 1967 referendum to change Australia’s constitution, allowing First Nations people the right to be counted as citizens in their own country.

While many may see the quinquennial event as just another piece of government administration, a glorified headcount, it’s a significant moment. It’s a chance to get a clear picture of the country: where we come from, how old we are, what languages we speak, our health, and so much more. It’s why this anniversary is important: it gives us a snapshot of where we are as a community.

“The census is the largest time where our voices are heard as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” says Haidee Allan, a Census Spokesperson for 2021. “The census tells us things like housing, education, who’s living at home, and those things are really important for the services that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders need so vitally.”

To view the article in full click here.

Census Engagement Officers. Image source: NITV News.

Funding boost for FASD diagnosis and care

The diagnosis and treatment of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is set to be strengthened with the announcement of $3.68 million in funding from the Federal Government’s Drug and Alcohol Program awarded to Griffith University researchers.

Led by Professor Sharon Dawe and Associate Professor Dianne Shanley from Menzies Health Institute Queensland, the projects worth $1.88 million and $1.8 million respectively, will help further the development of diagnostic and family support across south-east Queensland and establish new diagnostic facilities in rural and remote Queensland with a focus on supporting First Peoples communities.

In collaboration with Associate Professor Doug Shelton (Queensland Health), Dr Andrew Wood (University of the Sunshine Coast) Dr Gerald Featherston (Kummara Association) and Associate Professor Paul Harnett (Griffith) Dr Dawe’s project will help establish a specialist neurodevelopmental clinic at Griffith’s Logan Campus. It will also assist ongoing collaboration with the Gold Coast Child Development Clinics, Kummara Association, Institute of Urban Indigenous Health, University of the Sunshine Coast and Coastal Developmental Paediatrics, Sunshine Coast.

“The expansion of these clinics allows us to provide services to younger children aged 3–7 and embed a pathway of care that support children at a key developmental phase,” Professor Dawe said. She said early diagnosis and support was essential for children with FASD, “Early to middle childhood is a time when children learn important foundational skills around managing their own behaviours, learning to plan activities and follow more complex instructions. These skills are essential for success in school and life.” “Children with a FASD need extra help in developing these skills and there is growing evidence that supporting children and their families at this critical time can help reduce some of the damage that has occurred due to prenatal alcohol exposure,’’ Associate Professor Shelton said.

“This grant will expand the capabilities of health professionals in primary care, by using our co-designed, culturally sensitive, tiered assessment process to identify and support children who are developmentally not-on-track. Our project involves true partnerships between community Elders, health practitioners and university researchers whereby multiple world views have been genuinely valued and integrated,’’ Dr Page said.

To view the full article click here.

Image source: Australian Government AIFS website.

Build ’em up podcast

The Build ’em up podcast series which aims to inspire communities to build the health, social and mental wellbeing of rural, regional and remote communities around Australia.

In the first episode of Build ’em up Elsie Seriat OAM, a Torres Strait Islander Elsie Seriat, an inspirational mum of two young boys, talks about her life and her involvement in Deadly Runners an Indigenous marathon project involving her participation in the New York Marathon. Elsie talks about why she took up running to self-manage her weight problems, the role models in her life and how important it is to inspire others in her community to make positive changes and not to be shame or ashamed.

You can listen to the Build ’em Up Elsie Seriat interview here and access the Build ’em Up website here.

TSI mum Elise Seriat holding two young sons - a baby & toddler

Torres Strait Islander Elsie Seriat. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance website.

Solving rural health workforce shortages

Three local government areas (LGAs) in north-western NSW have been selected to participate in a research project to address their long-standing health workforce shortages. Glen Innes, Gwydir Shire and Narrabri LGAs will work with a research team headed by Dr Cath Cosgrave to establish, fund and manage a Health Workforce Recruiter & Connector (HWRC) position.

“We have had a fantastic response from interested communities to establish the Health Workforce Recruiter and Connector (HWRC) positions,” said Dr Cosgrave. “The successful towns should be congratulated for their commitment to ensuring their residents have access to a range of health professionals needed to keep people healthy.” The purpose of the HWRC is to build networks to better identify and successfully attract health professionals (allied health, doctors and nurses) who are a ‘strong fit’ for the local community.

To view the media release click here.

Image source: University of Melbourne.

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard