NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference

feature tile text 'Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media National Conference CONVERGE', image of Pat at lecture at conference with screen in background with words 'Coalition of Peaks Update from Pat Turner'

Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference

At the national CONVERGE Conference in Lismore organised by First Nations Media, Pat Turner Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO provided an update on the Coalition of Peaks work, and progress on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. You can access a transcript of Pat’s speech here.banner First Nations Media Australia logo map of Australia with Aboriginal painting dots aqua, black, ochre, dark yellow; First Nations Media National Conference CONVERGE Lismore 4 - 7 May in dark aqua, 4 dots orange, ochre, aqua, moss green

NDIS reforms will discriminate against Mob

John Gilroy, ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development, University of Sydney says although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the greatest human services reform in Australia’s history, and holds great promise in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, the federal government’s proposed “independent assessments” aren’t the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.

“I’m a Koori bloke from the Yuin Nation who lives with disability and has a research career spanning nearly 20 years. The biggest problem I have with the proposed framework is that it’s disrespectful and discriminatory towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rather than designing another layer of bureaucracy, I recommend the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) invests more resources into building and up-skilling the current NDIS planning workforce and the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector.”

To read the full article click here.

wheelchair sitting in a field at sunset

Image source: The Conversation.

Health leaders urge action on climate crisis

Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.

The letter says ‘write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government. Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.’ The letter calls on the Australian government to:

  • Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement
  • Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit
  •  Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine members march in nipaluna/Hobart in 2019, man is holding a sign with text 'Emergency Doctors diagnose Climate Emergency'

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has signed the open letter. Here its members march in nipaluna/Hobart in 2019. Photo: Amy Coopes. Image source: Croakey.

New Simon Says ear health booklet

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) has released Volume 3 of its Simon Says Ear Health series. This publication specifically looks at Swimmers Ear, what it is and how to prevent and treat it.

To view the booklet click here.ront of Aboriginal Health Council of WA Ear Health Simon Says booklet, title 'It's Summer Time!' cartoon drawing of Aboriginal family in a car with dog & roof piled with camping gear

NT budget & youth reforms flawed

AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service have issued a joint media release saying ‘The NT Government’s budget is framed in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of Territorians, hideously expensive and unlikely to be effective. It bolsters resources to allow the policing and surveillance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reduces funding where it is actually needed, in providing effective solutions when dealing with complex issues, like youth justice. The Government is moving to bring damaging and non-evidenced based youth reforms to parliament.

CEO of Danila Dilba Olga Havnen said “More prisons and jailing more people does not work. Even the USA has moved away from locking people up. It is costly and does not work. It is time for the Government and Opposition to listen to the advice at hand and look at alternative options that work.”

CEO of AMSANT John Patterson agreed “the proposed [NT Government] youth reform changes will likely lead to a surge in reoffending and offer nothing more than a path to jail. The complex health needs of our youth need to be taken into consideration. These reforms are not in the best interests of our youth or in the best interests of the Territory.”

“We call on the Government to reconsider the proposed youth reforms and talk to us. Punitive legislation does not rehabilitate young offenders or keep communities safe. We know the tough-on-crime approach only facilitates more crime and disadvantage for our community. It is time the NT government responded humanely and responsibly by addressing the real causes of youth offending and investing in these evidence-based approaches.”

To view the joint AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service media release click here.

AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service also joined CAAC, AMA NT Inc, The Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the AMA in an open letter to the NT Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing outlining concerns over the NT government’s proposed youth justice reforms.

To view the open letter click here.

The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has also condemned the NT Government’s youth justice reforms. NTCOSS CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said incarcerating more children will not reduce crime. “This legislation will reduce access to diversion programs and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction. It does not break the cycle of crime. It entrenches it.”

To view the NTCOSS media release in full click here.

rear view of 2 Aboriginal children on swings

Image from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report. Image source: Croakey.

Indigenous workforce needs better support

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is surveying its members on the impact of COVID-19 on their education, training and professional practice. Its findings to date hold important lessons for educators, employers and governments on how they can better support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and, ultimately, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, particularly in times of disruption and public health emergencies.

To view the full Croakey article click here.

Megan McIntosh & Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela & Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service office

Megan McIntosh and Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela and Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service’s offices. Image source: The Inverell Times.

AOD research – treatment, services, prevention

A number of papers and reports relating to alcohol and other drugs have recently been released.

The University of Sydney released a paper Alcohol consumption and dependence is linked to the extent that people experience need satisfaction while drinking alcohol in two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which argues that due to systematic disadvantage and inter-generational trauma, Indigenous Australians may be less likely to have satisfied basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). When people are need-thwarted, they may engage in compensatory behaviours to feel better in the short-term. Better understanding the functions that alcohol may play for some Indigenous Australian drinkers may aid communities, clinicians, and policy makers in improving programs for reducing drinking-related harms.

To view the paper in full click here.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: key findings, click here, and Patterns of intensive alcohol and other drug treatment service use in Australia 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, click here.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has also released a report Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, click here.

Aboriginal man painting at The Glen

The Glen Art program participant. Image source: The Glen website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Voice to Parliament key to social justice reform

feature tile text ' A Voice to Parliament is a veital step towards social justice reform', image of Aboriginal flag flying in the breeze taking up 2/3's of the image with Parliament House with Australian flag flying in the background

Voice to Parliament key to social justice reform

The Fred Hollows Foundation, ANTaR National, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Bakerare are together calling for the government to commit to a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament (the Voice) once the model for the Voice has been settled. The call comes after The Foundation, ANTaR, RANZCO and DCA made submissions to the Australian Government’s Indigenous Voice co-design process.

The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart said “Fred Hollows believed ‘inequity diminishes us all’ and this couldn’t be more glaring than when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. More than 50 years after being granted the right to vote, Australia’s First Nations still do not have a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament which would give them a say in laws and policies that affect them. A Voice to Parliament designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is a vital step towards social justice reform. A constitutionally enshrined Voice would ensure First Nations Peoples will always be able to provide frank and fearless advice to the government.”

To view the article in full click here.

painting of Aboriginal flag in shape of map of Australia

Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom. The image in the feature tile is from the SBS NITV News website.

Prevention key to health crisis

The AMA has made a submission in response to the Department of Health’s draft National Preventive Health Strategy, welcoming many parts of the draft strategy while also calling for strengthening specific measures targeting social determinants of health. The National Preventive Health Strategy, due to be finalised mid-year, forms part of the third pillar for mental health and preventive health as outlined in Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan.

Currently only 1.7% of the health budget is invested in preventive health. The AMA supports the draft Strategy’s proposal to increase that to 5% of health funding by 2030. “The AMA welcomes the draft Strategy as a leading example of collaborative, evidence-based policy work and is pleased to be involved in genuine engagement with the Government during its development,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“We know a person’s health is shaped by social, economic, cultural and environmental conditions in which they live. Prevention is key. Investing just 1.7% of the health budget in preventive measures is woefully inadequate and far below the example set by similar countries in the OECD. The AMA’s submission calls on the Government to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a volumetric tax on alcohol to source revenue for increased funding, rather than taking from other areas of the already-stretched health budget.”

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

tip of sneakers, red hand weights, yellow tape measure, scales, apple, wholemeal bread slice, bottle of water & cherry tomatoes

Image source: Medgadget Newsletter.

Indigenous-led birthing benefits

It was “very, very scary” being pregnant at 16 years old for Mackapilly Sebasio. The Torres Strait Islander Erubian woman felt she would be judged if she went to her local hospital. “It’s really hard to ask for help or get that support you need, when you’re with a [non-Indigenous] different organisation,” Mackapilly says. “You feel you’re being judged, or you’re not speaking proper. But when you’re around other Indigenous mothers and people that understand how you feel, it just makes you feel a lot better.”

It was thanks to the Birthing in Our Community program, which provides Indigenous-led birthing programs and support services for women who are pregnant with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander baby, that “changed everything” for Mackapilly.

To view the ABC article in full click here.

photo of Mackapilly Sebasio with her three children, baby Melanie-Ann on her lap & older daughters e.g. 3 and 7 sitting either side of her with Aboriginal white ochre on faces under a young tropical tree& Sunni.

Mackapilly Sebasio with her three children, Seini, Melanie-Ann and Sunni. Image source: ABC News website.

Childhood immunisation rates break records

Australian parents continue to show their confidence in vaccinations, with record rates of childhood immunisations in the first quarter of 2021. For the fourth consecutive quarter, the coverage rate for five year olds has increased to a historic 95.22%. This surpasses the national aspiration of 95%, and gives Australia the herd immunity needed to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

It is also well above the estimated World Health Organization international average immunisation coverage rate of 86% for five year olds, making Australia a world leading vaccination nation. The highest coverage rate continues to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at five years of age – an impressive 97.26%. The vaccination rate for two year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children increased to 91.73%t, while for one year olds it was 93.7%.

To view the media release in full click here.

photo of baby from neck down lying down, red white stripe sleeveless body suit, gloved hands about to give injection in the thigh

Image source: healthdirect Australia.

Greater attention for rural challenges

Queensland Health’s Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, has taken on a new role as Deputy National Rural (NRH) Health Commissioner, which will see her play a key role in the Federal Government’s agenda to increase access to rural health services and address rural workforce shortages.

Federal Rural Health Minister, Mark Coulton, and NRH Commissioner Professor Ruth Stewart welcomed the engagement of Professor Nowlan, as a second NRH commissioner. “By engaging two Deputy Commissioners to provide expert advice on allied health, nursing, and Indigenous health disciplines and making the National Rural Health Commissioner a permanent office, we are ensuring rural challenges receive the attention and the expertise they deserve.

To view the media release in full click here.

green highway sign text '43 Forgotten World Highway, Healthcare 819 km Nearest Town 87 km' sitting in green grass to side of ploughed field blue sky white fluffy clouds

Image source: Croakey.

Northern Australia agenda report

The Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda, Final Report, tabled 28 April 2021 has  recommended:

  • investment in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce to continue development strategies, including in innovative community roles and in leadership positions.
  • continued expansion of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service models of community governance.

Ms Marion Scrymgour, CEO, Northern Land Council, emphasised that development in Northern Australia ‘cannot be successful unless it properly acknowledges Aboriginal rights and interests, engages fully with Aboriginal people as partners rather than just another stakeholder’. Ms Scrymgour stated that Aboriginal people must be placed ‘at the centre of the policy framework in regional and remote areas’.

To view the final report of the Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda click here.

top of map of Australia vector image, 3 segments light orange WA, yellow NT & dark orange QLD, overlaid at edges

Image source: Austrade.

Is it really the end for Dan Murphy’s?

After a five-year saga involving court challenges and political twists, the Woolworths has abandoned its plan to set up its first Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin. Woolworths is now in the process of a demerger with Endeavour Drinks Group, the company that oversees the Dan Murphy’s portfolio.

While Woolworths says it won’t pursue a large-scale liquor outlet at the same location, it’s CEO Brad Banducci, says there’s no guarantee its subsidiary won’t propose an alternative Darwin site, if and when it becomes an independent entity, “As to whether there’s a future Dan Murphy’s in Darwin, that would be up to the Endeavour Group.”

To view the article in full click here.

photo of Helen-Firth leaning on verandah rail full of drying clothes, small Aboriginal child is to right, Helen is wearing a yellow t-shirt with black footprints, in the background door with posters/stickers, besser bricks either side of door Aboriginal hand paintings

Helen Fejo-Firth was fiercely opposed to the Dan Murphy’s proposal. Photo: Emilia Terszon. Image source: ABC News website.

Lung Health Awareness Month

Since 1990, Lung Foundation Australia (LFA) has been promoting lung health and early diagnosis, advocating for policy change and research investment, raising awareness about the symptoms and prevalence of lung disease and championing equitable access to treatment and care. 

May is Lung Health Awareness Month. With 1 in 3 Australians affected by lung disease, LFA is asking the community to start taking their lung health seriously and know the early signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis is critical and the LFA wants you to encourage your community to take two minutes to complete its new Lung Health Checklist.banner text in purple font 'Lung Health Awareness Month Check. Protect. Connect. Take the Lung Health Checklist, Lung Foundation Australian' cartoon drawing of man sitting on park bench seat with hand to his chest

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Woolworths dumps Dan Murphy’s mega store plan

feature tile text 'Woolworths dumps plan for dan murphy's mega store after 5-YEAR battle with Aboriginal & health groups' & logo, vector drawing of Dan Murphy & text 'Dan Murphy's' with red cross through image

Woolworths dumps Dan Murphy’s mega store plan

Supermarket giant Woolworths has scrapped its long-running push to open a large-scale Dan Murphy’s outlet near Darwin’s airport, but has not ruled out a development at another location. The company said a review found Woolworths had not done enough to engage with Aboriginal groups concerned the store would worsen the region’s already high rates of alcohol-related harm. The outlet was to be built on airport land in Darwin’s northern suburbs, close to three dry Aboriginal communities.

The announcement was welcomed by Darwin’s Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, which had launched a legal challenge to the development, calling on the Woolworths board to abandon the project. Chief executive Olga Havnen said she commended the company on its decision. “We think that’s the right thing to do and it was certainly more than just the lack of appropriate consultation. It actually goes to the question of public health issues, the public health concerns that we raised consistently and the potential for increased harm as a result of alcohol.”

Noelene Swanson, NT director of Save the Children, also welcomed Woolworths’ decision, saying it was the best outcome possible for children and their families in the territory. “It made zero sense to open a Dan Murphy’s megastore in the NT, especially so close to dry communities′ Ms Swanson said. “This shows the power of community advocacy and I’m very relieved that Woolies has listened to the people.”

You can read the ABC News article here; a related article in the Financial Review here. and a Joint Statement from the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Danila Dilba Health Service and the Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) here.

Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen in blue Danila Dilba logo shirt stanind inside an office building near a very large glass window

Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen. Image source: ABC News website.

RHD cases continue to grow

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown that the burden of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) continues to grow in Australia. RHD is rare in most high-income countries yet in Australia it persists in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, causing grief and heartache for many families and communities.

RHD is a consequence of ARF, stemming from an abnormal immune reaction to untreated Group A streptococcal (Strep A) infection in the throat or on the skin. The report shows that the rate of definite or probable ARF notifications from health services increased from 67/100,000 in 2015 to 81/100,000 in 2019. The data for the report, drawn from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales from 2015 to 2019, also highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounted for 81%, or 4,337, of all RHD diagnoses during that same time.

To view the RHDAustralia and Menzies School or Health Research media release click here, and to view a summary and analysis of the April 2021 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report into rates of ARF and RHD in Australia click here.

small Aboriginal boy pretending to listen to heart of adult woman with Aboriginal girl & rack of dress-ups in the background

Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.

Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions

The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) have released a video of Professor Alison McMillan answering the top 3 questions asked on the DoH’s social accounts. You can view the video here.YouTube title page text 'Your top 3 questions answered Chief Nuring and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMilan' with photo of Prof McMilan in checked blazer, blue background with COVID-19 virus cell

Deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response

Both the Federal Government and the Opposition have announced funding regarding Indigenous deaths in custody, spurring hope for a multifaceted national response which addresses the impact of the criminal justice system on First Nations people. Last week the Morrison Government announced an investment of $2.4 million across three years to create a new Custody Notification System (CNS) in SA as of July 1 this year and a funding increase of over $724,000 for the NT and Victorian services.

The CNS is a 24/7 phone line that is mandatory for police to use when a First Nations person is taken into custody. It provides access to health and welfare checks and access to legal services. “With contemporary knowledge of police processes and experience in providing crisis support, Custody Notification Services delivered by Aboriginal Legal Services are a proven way to reduce the risk of a death occurring in custody,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

To view the article Indigenous deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response in the National Indigenous Times click here.

protest march female & male wearing covid-19 maskes with banner in background of Aboriginal flay overlaid with words 'stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody'

Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

Ask a Pharmacist Sessions

NPS MedicineWise is running a series of ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions on the topic of Opioids. These use existing NPS MedicineWise platforms and are being promoted on the NPS MedicineWise Facebook page. The ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions provide an opportunity for consumers to ask their medicines questions via Facebook, for these to be answered by specialist pharmacists. Responses may include links to relevant online resources, suggestions to call the NPS MedicineWise telephone line services, or referral to another appropriate health service provider.

The pharmacists provide evidence-based information about opioids, their safety profile, side effects and interactions with other medicines and health conditions. Responses provided as part of these sessions aim to inform consumers about medicines, offer reassurance where appropriate and direct consumers to trusted sources of information including the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Line and AME Line telephone service.

Upcoming sessions will be active for one week starting:

  • Session 4: 3 May 2021
  • Session 5: 24 May 2021
  • Session 6: 14 June2021

The theme for Session 4 starting on Monday 3 May will be Reducing the risk of harms associated with opioids. Themes for other sessions will be advised at a later date.banner man with tie, white shirt grey pullover jumper, black belt, grey pants, text 'Ask a Pharmacist about Opioids - NPS MedicineWise'

Racism declares a serious health threat

The United States’ leading public health agency, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has recently declared racism to be a “serious public health threat” that must be a critical focus of its work. In here article United States public health agency declares racism a serious health threat. Meanwhile, in Australia… Marie McInerney says this declaration contrasts with continuing muted responses from the Australian Government. Instead, ‘the Australian health system’s Black Lives Matter moment is best characterised as indifferent; a ‘business as usual’ approach that we know from experience betokens failure’.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

drawing of multiple head silhouettes in different colours white, drawn brown, brown, peach overlaying each other superimposed with th transparent thick white cross

Image source: TED Recommends website.

Telehealth needs to stay

The Government’s decision to extend Medicare-funded telehealth for GPs and non-GP specialists until the end of the year is welcome but is a missed opportunity to enshrine telehealth as a permanent feature of the Australian health system in a form which has greatest benefit for our vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.

“The existing COVID telehealth items were designed specifically to respond to the pandemic, which, as the recent lockdown in Perth illustrates, is far from over,” Dr Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

vector image laptop with white coated doctor reaching through the screen writing on a clipboard, either side of laptop is stethoscope, pill bottle, pen holder, thermometer & mobile phone

Image source: Musculoskeletal Australia website.

Cultural supervision research scholarship

The University of Sydney is offering a $20,000 postgraduate research scholarship in cultural supervision. The scholarship is to support Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander PhD students at the Faculty of Medicine and Health. For further information, including how to apply for the scholarship click here.Sydney University logo vector image of lion against red rectangle & blue cross with yellow star on each cross end with open book in the middle inside yellow outline of a shield, text 'THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY' & photo of sandstone uni building seen from arched sandstone walkway

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Continuity of care is key to giving birth better

feature tile text 'continuity of care is key to giving birth better', image of newborn baby cradled in the palms of an adults hands

Giving birth better

One third of Australian women who give birth report their experience as traumatic, whether through physical injury or psychological effects. But many women suffer in silence. A recent SBS Insight episode, Giving Birth Better, explored the impacts of birth trauma and what can be done to ensure better outcomes for women and their families.

This episode of SBS Insight features Melanie Briggs, a descendant of the Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr people, and a senior midwife at Waminda, a women’s health and welfare service on the NSW South Coast on Yuin Country. In June 2020 Melanie became the first endorsed Aboriginal midwife in NSW and only the second in Australia.

Melanie provides antenatal care in a community setting and explained the importance of continuity of care in reducing stillbirth, premature birth, the requirement to be induced or have a caesarean section. Melanie also explained how intergenerational trauma can play out for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in their reluctance to access mainstream services due to racism and fear their children will be removed. To view the SBS Insight Giving Birth Better episode click here.

Image in the feature tile from Wiyanga: A Guide for Mothers and Families.

Midwife Melanie Briggs holds newborn Talekai during a special cultural ceremony

Midwife Melanie Briggs holds newborn Talekai during a special cultural ceremony. Photo: Naomi Locke Photography. Image source: ABC News.

Most recent indicators of health report

The most recent indicators of the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are documented in the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s authoritative publication, the Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2020.

As part of the Health InfoNet’s commitment to knowledge exchange, other resources have been produced to access this information including a plain language infographic Summary version of the Overview’s key topics and PowerPoint slides based on the Summary. cover of report text ' Overview of A&TSI health status 2020' Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet' - Aboriginal dot painting of goanna - colours black, yellow, wide, blue, pink, blue

New rural health podcast Build ‘Em Up

The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) has released a new podcast for rural health called Build ‘Em Up. The podcast showcases upbeat rural health stories from communities and towns around Australia. The monthly podcast raises the voice of great people building the health and wellbeing of local communities. Telling positive stories is part of journey of creating a level playing field where people in rural and remote Australia can access affordable, quality health care.

Episode 1 is an interview with Torres Strait Islander, Elsie Seriat. Elsie grew up on Thursday Island and returned home after an incredible journey that saw her run the New York Marathon in 2014. Elsie achieved this incredible success only six months after joining up with Rob de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Foundation. Since completing several marathons and being awarded an OAM, Elsie continues to inspire her family, friends, community and people around Australia to get moving. To hear these great stories head to the Build ‘Em Up podcast here.tile text 'Build 'Em Up Podcast by National Rural Health Alliance, Supported by nbn' collage of 5 image: man in checked shirt with two ladies either side one in an Akubra & pink hsit the other in a blue shirt; Aboriginal mum holding toddler & baby; two Aboriginal sportswomen; Rob de Castella & two Aboriginal women; panorama view of rural township

Sexual Health Conference abstracts DUE

The Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences will be hosted in a virtual format between 6 to 9 September 2021.

There are multiple prizes available for those who submit abstracts to the conferences.

But you need to be QUICK, the abstract submission deadline is this Sunday 2 May 2021. To submit an abstract click here.tile text 'sexualhealth+hiv&aids 2021 VIRTUAL Joint Australasian Sexual Health + HIV&AIDS Conferences 6–9 September 2021, Abstract Submission deadline 2 May 2021' background pink, yellow pie piece shap of 6–9, test black, blue & year in pink in white circle

Mornington Island health & welfare crisis

To view the full The North West Star article click here.

Arial photo of the main township of Mornington Island& Mornington Shire Mayor Kyle Yanner

Arial photo of the main township of Mornington Island. Image source: ABC News website. Mornington Shire Mayor Kyle Yanner. Image source: Mornington Shire Council website.

NT cancer treatment accessibility

A recent study, Accessibility of cancer treatment services for Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory: perspectives of patients and care providers has looked at the reasons for the poorer cancer outcomes of Indigenous Australians in Australia’s NT compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts. The study found accessibility of health care is a multidimensional construct, including physical, logistical, psychosocial and cultural dimensions and concluded that while previous research has identified specific areas of reduced access to CTS for Indigenous Australians, the higher burden of cancer borne by Indigenous Australians warrants a more comprehensive understanding of access to CTS in the NT. The purpose of the study was to explore and map the accessibility of CTS for Indigenous Australians in the NT and to identify key access barriers.

To view the research article in full click here.

central line for chemotherapy - 3 bags hanging from a drip holder, orange background

Image source: MD Anderson.

AOD treatment services in Australia

Alcohol is the most common drug of concern for clients of publicly funded specialist alcohol and other drug treatment services, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The report, Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2018­–19, provides information on just under 220,000 closed treatment episodes provided to an estimated 137,000 clients of publicly funded specialist alcohol and other drug treatment services.

‘Alcohol was the principal drug of concern in 36% of treatment episodes. It was the main or an additional drug of concern in 48% of cases,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips. ‘In one-third (33%) of treatment episodes where alcohol was the principal drug of concern, the client also reported other drugs of concern—most commonly cannabis or nicotine.’ While alcohol remains the number one drug for which Australians seek help, specialist treatment for amphetamine use has grown over the past decade.

To view the AIHW AOD treatment services in Australia: key findings webpage click here.

table with cigarettes, one alight with smote in ashtray, lighter, pills, bottle of alcohol, glass with spirits, packets of white powder

Image source: Dennison Psychology.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

feature tile text 'Ongoing Telehealth drives innovation and gives everyone better access to healthcare' image of two Aboriginal men & health professional looking at a screen

Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has welcomed the extension of Medicare coverage for telehealth consultations for GPs, allied health and specialists to the end of 2021.

To be able to consult with your health care provider by phone or video was an important step in making ongoing healthcare safer for patients during the early days of the pandemic. “This was particularly essential for people with complex and chronic conditions who needed ongoing care.” said the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

Before the introduction of the telehealth items, there was fear and concern in the community about the spread and virulence of the virus, to the extent that many people stopped going to their regular medical appointments and were also not following up on referrals. “It makes good use of the technology we already have, Ms Wells said. “Ongoing, telehealth is about modernising Medicare. “Telehealth supports treatment and management plans and has considerable benefits when combined with face-to-face consultations, Ms Wells said.

“Telehealth also presents the opportunity to accelerate new ways of delivering health care – building on remote monitoring and consultations that are already happening in rural and other health care settings”, said Ms Wells.  “This means that many rural and regional patients receive fairer opportunities to access health care as they can more often avoid costly travel and accommodation in capital cities.

To view the CHF media release in full click here. Image in the feature tile is from The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

female health professional in a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school

In a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school. Photo: Denise WIltshire. Image source: Partyline magazine.

BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop

The Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee (BBVSS) provides national leadership and advice to the Australian Health Protections Principal Committee on strategic policy, social issues, emerging risks and priority actions. Its membership is comprised of representatives from jurisdictional and peak bodies which address blood borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). The Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Strategy articulates the vision, principles, goals, and targets for a national response to BBV and STI in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the period 2018 to 2022.

The second BBVSS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy workshop BBV and STI Strategy making an IMPACT in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities was held last week on Thursday 22 April 2021. The workshop, facilitated by Adjunct Professor Jeanette Ward, discussed a range of matters including access to Point of Care Testing, Workforce composition, funding and retention, effective community education, health promotion strategies and critical actions for the BBVSS over the next 18 months to accelerate implementation of the Fifth Strategy in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

10 of the attendees at the BBV STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021

Attendees at the BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021.

Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to drinking problem

Helen Fejo-Frith, 73, likes a bit of a tussle. A former football coach and player in the Top End, she is combative, tough and proud. On a balmy Darwin evening, Helen roams the streets greeting neighbours, walking on her hardened bare feet. She explains it’s likely shards of glass and bits of gravel are lodged into her soles. Her current stoush has been going on for five years. She likens it to a David and Goliath-like contest. Her opponent is retail giant Woolworths. “I’m retired now, but I’ll keep fighting this,” she says.

Helen lives in Bagot, an Aboriginal community located off a main road leading into the city of Darwin, where alcohol and drinking is banned.

To view the ABC News article Community leaders say new Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to fire of town’s drinking problem click here.

photo of Helen Fejo-Frith in pink & red sleeveless dress standing on footpath with hand on metal gate & determined look on her face

Helen Fejo-Firth. Photo: Shaun Kingma. Image source: ABC News website.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is also calling  upon the NT Government to urgently reconsider its plans to allow a Dan Murphy’s superstore to be built next to electively dry communities in Darwin. “This governmental direction completely undermines the efforts of the Bagot people to protect their community, and their health. We require a government that listens to, and respects First Nations voices above that of large corporations,” AMSA President Sophie Keen said today.

AMSA Indigenous Portfolio Manager Bradley Goff said the members of the Bagot community have exercised their right to self-determination through electively having their community declared dry under the Liquor Act (2019). “This was a course of action grounded in a desire to minimise the impact of alcohol on their community,” Mr Goff said. “The development of a liquor superstore within walking distance of the Bagot community not only jeopardises the effectiveness of their actions, but also renders farcical the legislative provisions that afforded them the opportunity for self-determination in regards to alcohol access.”

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

artist's impression of the proposed Dan Murphy's store near Darwin Airport - top down image of large white roof of store & covered parking & green grass & hedge area

Artist’s impression of the proposed Dan Murphy’s store near Darwin Airport. Image supplied by NT Airports. Image source: ABC News website.

General Practice COVID-19 Update

The latest in a webinar series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs will take place from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM (AEST) Thursday 29 April 2021.

The webinar will provide the latest information on the vaccine rollout, presented by a panel of Australian Government Department of Health representatives: Dr Lucas de Toca (Chair) First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response; Nick Henderson, Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce; and Dr Steph Davis, General Practitioner and Primary Care Response.

For further details click here.GP COVID-19 update Professor Michael Kidd AM, photo of Prof Kidd in suit & blue purple image of COVID-19 cell under a microscope

Refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework

NPS MedicineWise has released a refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework. The Prescribing Competencies Framework describes the competencies that health professionals require to prescribe medicines judiciously, appropriately, safely and effectively in the Australian healthcare system. NPS MedicineWise recognises the ongoing need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights.

Since the publication of the original framework in 2012, prescribing rights have been extended to new professional groups. This places an onus on a broader range of health professionals to contribute to quality use of medicines within their scope of practice. The need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights is therefore ever more prevalent. Adequately preparing health professionals to prescribe within a quality use of medicines framework is essential.

As the national steward of Quality Use of Medicines, NPS MedicineWise, in consultation with key stakeholders in the sector, has undertaken a review of the original framework to ensure the document is contemporary, relevant and fit for purpose in order to continue to be of value in supporting quality prescribing decisions by all prescribers.cover of 'Prescribing Competencies Framework - Embedding quality use of medicines into practice - 2nd edition published April 20231, Review April 2025, NPS MEDICINEWISE - photo of woman smiling looking at medicine box, blurry pharmacy shelves in background

Decolonising medical education research

A recent article The role of governance in Indigenous medical education research considers the role of governance in Indigenous medical education research through the lens of an Australian Aboriginal research project titled Healing Conversations. The Healing Conversations project is developing and testing a targeted educational framework for improved clinical communication between healthcare practitioners and Australian Aboriginal peoples in regional and urban locations. It is proposed that an effective governance approach can support Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders to work together in decision-making structures to enable outcomes that promote and prioritise Indigenous worldviews and values in medical education research.

To view the article in full click here.

photo of word 'decolonise' in blue paint & handprints in purple lime & orange paint on cardboard against concrete pebble wall & paved floor

Photo: Louisa Billeter. Image source: OXFAM From Poverty to Power blog page.

Fears NDIS reforms will be traumatic & triggering

A doctor of 20 years with patients from the Stolen Generations says she fears contentious National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reforms will traumatise and trigger vulnerable people who already hold deep misgivings about government institutions. Debra Blackmore, a GP with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, made the comments in a submission to the bipartisan parliamentary committee looking into NDIS independent assessments, which have sparked sector-wide backlash.

The proposed assessments (expected to take around three hours), which new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has put on hold for the time being, would see people outsourced to a government-approved health professional they don’t know to determine their eligibility for the scheme and the support they receive. Critics say the reforms are a cost-cutting move that will make it harder for people to access the NDIS, leave existing participants worse off and force vulnerable people to be assessed by strangers who don’t know their nuanced medical history.

To view the article in full click here.

an Aboriginal flag flies outside Parliament House in Canberra

Image source: SBS News website.

Did ya wash ya hands?

The NT’s Department of Health and Families No Germs on Me is a social marketing campaign to raise awareness of, and promote the benefits of regular face washing and hand washing with soap. The campaign is designed to be used in schools, at home and in the community to prevent the spread of germs and respiratory illnesses. It was developed to address the high rates of infection among children in Aboriginal communities.

The aim of the campaign was to motivate men, women and children to regularly wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet, after changing babies’ nappies and before touching food. The resources were developed with the assistance of focus groups and in-depth interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Top End and Central Australia, which determined the barriers and drivers to people routinely washing their hands with soap.

To view No Germs on Me campaign resources click here.

no germs on me logo, outline of two hands against splattered orange paint with white text 'no germs on me!'

Image source: Food Safety Information Council.

World Immunisation Week

Saturday 24 – Friday 30 April 2021

World Immunisation Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need, and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood and into old age.

Using the theme ‘Vaccines bring us closer, World Immunization Week 2021 will urge greater engagement around immunisation globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life. As part of the 2021 campaign, WHO, partners and individuals around the world will unite to:

  • increase trust and confidence in vaccines to maintain or increase vaccine acceptance
  • increase investment in vaccines, including routine immunisation, to remove barriers to access

For more information about World Immunization Week 2021 click here.

banner text 'Vaccines Bring Us Closer World Immunization Week 2021' text maroon colour, background dusty pink colour & arm of Aboriginal child & gloved hand with syringe holding arm

Image sources: World Health Organisation & SBS NITV website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Pandemic restrictions retrigger trauma for some Stolen Generations survivors

feature tile text 'pandemic health restrictions retrigger trauma for some Stolen Generations survivors' slide from The Healing Foundation video, black line drawing of Aboriginal person holding a pink cracked heart

Pandemic restrictions retrigger trauma

New research released by The Healing Foundation shows that the strong and necessary public health restrictions introduced to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia since early 2020 retriggered trauma for some Stolen Generations survivors. The research data suggests an increased and heightened sense of vulnerability; significant disconnection from family, community, and country; and significant impacts on mental health and wellbeing among an already vulnerable cohort of people.

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said the research results will assist governments and authorities in future pandemic planning to build on Australia’s world-leading public health efforts to ensure the most vulnerable in the community are protected. “The excellent work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 – as part of national efforts guided by the National Cabinet – ensured that infection rates were very low in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations,” Ms Cornforth said.

To view The Healing Foundation’s media release click here,

black & white collage of 40 portrait shots of Stolen Generations survivors

Image source: Creative Spirits.

ACCHO program reduces recidivism

Tyrone Walter says the Ngudjoong Billa program has put him on a better path. He’s recently completed the 20-week program and said it has helped him get his white card and feel a greater connection to his Aboriginal culture. And now his eyes are set on joining the Army. During its demonstration phase, the program has helped 73 young Aboriginal people reintegrate and transition out of the juvenile justice system. All of those who completed the 20 week program did not re-offend during that time.

Started in 2017, and delivered in partnership between the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) and the Department of Communities and Justice, the program provides a consistent support network for Aboriginal children exiting custody on the South Coast.

Jordan said Tyrone had gained a lot of confidence from the program which had helped him with his mental health. Jordan said Tyrone was lacking motivation at the start of the program because of his lifestyle choices with drugs and alcohol. But through a slow and intensive approach with a particular focus on strengthening Tyrone’s cultural identity and building his connections to family, community and country, Tyrone is now off drugs and has been for a while.

To view the full article click here.

Tyrone Walter standing between his caseworker Jordan Farrell, and the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward

Tyrone Walter standing between his caseworker Jordan Farrell, and the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward. Image source: South Coast Register.

Facts about COVID-19

In a short video Dr Mark Wenitong, a GP in Indigenous health for 25 years, reminds us to get information about COVID-19 vaccines from trusted sources. You can access the video including a transcript here.

slide from YouTube clip, Dr Mark Wenitong, text 'Dr Mark Wenitong - Find out the facts about COVID-19 vaccines, Hi, it's Dr Mark here. Dr Mark Wenitong Aboriginal GP and Public Health MO

Suicide prevention roadmap

Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australians aged 15–44 years – more common than deaths from motor vehicle accidents or skin cancer (Aleman & Denys 2014). Over 2,500 people die from suicide in Australia each year and more than 65,000 make an attempt.

The Final Advice of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, announced today, paves the way for a clear roadmap for reform. In particular, the recommendation to establish a National Suicide Prevention Office has the potential to create a significant enhancement of suicide prevention and in turn, save lives. Suicide Prevention Australia, the national peak body for suicide prevention, is urging Governments across Australia to use the findings of the report to drive down suicide rates. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, said, “the Final Report of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser has the potential to be a game changer for suicide prevention in Australia. Immediate uptake of the key recommendations is critical to enable real reform that will save lives.”

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia’s media release in full click here.

painting of grey puzzle pieces, missing piece in the centre shows blue sky & white clouds

Image source: Australian Psychological Society website.

Child protection & adolescent self-harm

A history of child maltreatment is known to elevate the risk of self-harm in adolescence. However, until a recent study this link had not been investigated for Aboriginal children who experience a greater burden of both. This study Patterns of child protection service involvement by Aboriginal children associated with a higher risk of self-harm in adolescence: A retrospective population cohort study using linked administrative data confirms a higher risk of self-harm in adolescence is associated with child maltreatment, especially in middle childhood and concludes that addressing the intergenerational trauma in Aboriginal families is crucial to preventing child maltreatment and informing reforms to child protection responses that can better identify and address the culturally-specific unmet needs of Aboriginal families.

To read the research paper click here.

back of child leaning against outside of railing arms outstretched on the railing over-looking a riven, image in black & grey

Image source: ABC News website.

Cultural training in health services survey ENDS SOON

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has developed a short survey to gain an understanding of the type and level of cultural safety training currently being undertaken by health service organisations. The Commission is committed to ongoing and evolving culturally safe practices, which are developed in consultation with, and determined by, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The NSQHS Standards define six actions that specifically meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. One of the six actions states: “The health service organisation has strategies to improve the cultural awareness and cultural competency of the workforce to meet the needs of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.” The Commission is calling on feedback to assist in the development of resources to strengthen cultural safety training and support services in implementing this action.

Click here to complete the survey for your organisation. The survey is open until Friday, 23 April 2021, and takes up to 10 minutes to complete.

You can read more about the survey here.

torso of healthcare professional with blue scrubs & stethoscope with hands over patient's hand

Image source: NursingCE.com website.

Stop it at the Start campaign

The Stop it at the Start campaign encourages adults to positively influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people aged 10–17 by role modelling positive behaviour, calling out disrespect and starting conversations about respect. It aims to unite the community around positive actions everyone can take to break the cycle of disrespect, and ultimately, violence against women.

Community influencers and campaign supporters Kristy Masella, Andy Saunders, Renee Thomson, and Sean Choolburra share a common message—even the simplest, smallest actions can make a big difference for young people, and for our community.

To access a range of Stop it at the Start resources released earlier this week click here. Please note, in this document the link for the Sean Choolburra & his daughter Tyra – Tips on how to speak up when you see disrespect video does not work, this link does.

To view the Australian government’s Unmute yourself – speaking up to end violence against women media release in full click here. and to access an editorial from Darumbal woman Kristy Masella, campaign supporter for the Stop it at the Start campaign click here.

Kristy Masella campaign supporter for the Stop it at the Start campaign, leaning against a brick wall smiling at the camera, blurred background of city street, text 'when it comes to talking to my daughters about respecct, I often draw on personal examples of things I've experienced or reflected on myself. I talk abou the disrespectful behaviours that I accepted at times in my life or thought were normal. Violence against women Let's Stop It at the start. For tools and resources visit respect.gov.au

Sexual wellbeing – what we do well

A recent research project, Fostering the sexual wellbeing of Aboriginal young people by building on social, cultural and personal strengths and resources has looked at how urban Aboriginal young people foster sexual health and wellbeing for themselves and others. The project purposely sought to adopt a strengths-based approach by identifying the resources and capacities of Aboriginal young people to minimise harm and promote health.

More specifically, the project aimed to explore the community resources that Aboriginal young people access to help them make positive sexual choices, inform their understandings of sexual health and relationships, manage their sexual wellbeing, and engage with health promotion and health care services. The research will provide health services and policymakers with insightful new knowledge to better support young urban Aboriginal people and their communities.

For further information on the project click here.

rear view of two Aboriginal youth walking down a road in Redfern, derelict terrace houses & entire wall painted with Aboriginal flag & graffiti

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Healing Foundation CEO – National Press Club

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth will be addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday 2 June 2021. Fiona will be releasing The Healing Foundation’s “Make Healing Happen: It’s time to act” report. The report sets out a plan with recommendations to achieve real and lasting healing for Stolen Generations Survivors and to promote intergenerational healing. The address will be televised live on ABC TV.

The details of the event are here.

banner for National Press Club of Australia event Fiona Cornforth CEO of the Healing Foundation "Make Healing Happen: It's Time to Act"' & portrait shot of Fiona Cornforth

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: COVID-19 vaccine info in Yolŋu Matha and English languages

COVID-19 vaccine info in Yolŋu Matha and English languages

In these vaccine information videos produced by Menzies School of Health Research, you will see Elders and community members discuss about vaccines, answer some pertinent questions and direct you to seek advice from your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Watch the video featuring COVID-19 expert Dr Jane Davies, Melanie and Rosemary click here.
English videos

Yolŋu Matha:

VIDEO 1: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: Why do we need a vaccine? 

VIDEO 2: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: What is the vaccine? Is the vaccine safe? 

VIDEO 3: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: What happens when I get the vaccine? How will I feel after I get the vaccine? 

VIDEO 4: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: How does the vaccine affect people with chronic conditions? Do pregnant women and children get the vaccine?  

VIDEO 5: If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, ask your AHP, nurse or doctor. Or call the COVID hotline on 1800 020 080 

Protect yourself, Elders and your community and get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s your turn. Learn more click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update – March 2021

This March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update provides information on the department’s work on Indigenous health policies and programs on:

  • Refreshed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Communication activities
  • COVID-19 vaccine rollout
  • National Guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban and regional settings
  • Indigenous interpreting service and translated resources available via My Aged Care
  • New grant opportunity for design of rural and remote primary health care services
  • Allied health measures in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs)
  • Mental health support during COVID-19
  • Renewal of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy
  • Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program
  • Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA)
  • The National Preventive Health Strategy
  • Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol
  • United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs
  • The Roadmap for Hearing Health
  • Antimicrobial stewardship in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care)
  • Draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan 2021-2031 (National Workforce Plan)
  • Kava commercial importation pilot

To view the update click here.

Measuring risky drinking according to the Australian alcohol guidelines

In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the revised Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC 2020).

These guidelines were created following a review of the health effects of consuming alcohol, and define drinking behaviours that Australians can follow to reduce their risk of alcohol-related disease or injury.

Australian alcohol consumption behaviours are routinely reported in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) which is undertaken every three years, the most recent collection occurring in 2019. The aim of this technical paper is to provide a methodology for measuring risky alcohol consumption according to the revised Australian alcohol guidelines.

To read the full report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021 click here.

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering in Perth last week was looking at ways in which effective SEWB services could and are being delivered, how this could be measured, the interaction between SEWB and tertiary mental health. More info 

Pat Dudgeon, Director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) and lead CI on a NHMRC Million Minds Mission Grant investigating Indigenous mental health posted on her social media page: This is the Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Model we have been working with. It explores welbeing from an Indigenous perspective. Different domains make up what is important and these are influenced by social determinants, historical, political and cultural determinants.
The ACCHO sector has been taking this forward. I will post the full report when it is completed.
More information: There is a national strategic MH&SEWB Framework and this diagram is part of it. The Framework was never implemented. The Gathering discussed this and Gayaa Dhuwi has been tasked with refreshing and ensuring it is implemented. Victoria and Western Australia has made funding commitments already but we want the commonwealth also to commit. We are about putting the power back into our communities. Indigenous self-determination is a essential part of SEWB.
This diagram comes from a long line of effort by our communities, it goes back to the Ways Forward Report 1995 and our first MH&SEWB Framework (again not implemented). A group fo Aboriginal psychologists: Graham Gee, Clinton Schultz, Amanda Hart, Kerrie Kelly and myself had promoted it at various community conferences and then we met in Brisbane, locked oursleves away for 2 days and developed the final diagram/model and wrote a chapter for the Working Together Book 2014.

Free online training for health professionals supporting new/expecting parents

Access to training and resources has always been challenging for health and other professionals working in rural, regional and remote Australia, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more online learning opportunities.

Recognising this need, St John of God Social Outreach now provides free online training and materials to support positive outcomes for families through its Connected Parenting resources.

The Connected Parenting resources and training materials have been created to support anyone working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, to promote secure parent child attachment and social and emotional development.

For more info click here.

Photo of Aboriginal man and pregnant partner

Image Source: NITV News.

Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2020

The most recent indicators of the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are documented in the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s annual publication, the Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2020 Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status – Health Facts – Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (ecu.edu.au)

Improvements were noted in several areas. In 2018, 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers reported smoking during pregnancy which is a decrease from 52% in 2009. The proportion of expectant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers attending antenatal care in the first trimester has increased from 50% in 2012 to 66% in 2018. In September 2020, 97% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 5 year old children were fully immunised against the recommended vaccine-preventable diseases. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people drink less alcohol than non-Indigenous people, those who do are more likely to at harmful levels. Evidence suggests better health outcomes are seen when there are adequately resourced and culturally safe alcohol and other drug services provided by community controlled organisations.

As part of the HealthInfoNet’s commitment to knowledge exchange, a plain language infographic Summary version of the Overview’s key topics has also been produced https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/health-facts/summary-aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-health/

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew, said ‘The 2020 Overview was written in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and I want express our admiration for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led response to OVID-19 that has lessened the impact and protected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. This exemplifies what can be achieved with strong and authoritative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. With their ongoing support we continue to strive to develop our capacity to accurately and authentically represent the data and statistics to support the efforts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce’.

banner text Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet goanna & Aboriginal dot painting black grey white yellow pink

Partnership a sign of shared commitment to Aboriginal health

Yoorana Gunya Family Healing Centre is celebrating a partnership with Western NSW Aboriginal Health, and a shared commitment to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people in Forbes.

“Twenty years ago, when I first began Yoorana Gunya, it was in a small house with very limited services,” CEO Donna Bliss says.

“This partnership will extend our services even further without losing our common goal, providing a range of health, education and family programs to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”

To read the full story click here.

Brendan Cutmore from Western NSW LHD, CEO Yoorana Gunya Donna Bliss, Director of Yoorana Gunya Aunty Mavis Ohlsen, Forbes Shire Mayor Phyllis Miller and Scott McLachlan from Western NSW LHD. Photo courtesy of Council.

AMA states: Time to extend telehealth further

The AMA is again calling on the Government to extend temporary COVID-19 Medicare Telehealth items until the end of the year. The current outbreak in Queensland highlights that the June extension does not go far enough.

“The Queensland outbreak and the flow-on impact on other states is a timely reminder that the pandemic is far from over,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“With the emergence of new and more transmissible COVID-19 variants, it is unlikely that this will be the last lockdown before the end of the year.

“But we cannot become complacent. We must continue to plan for the worst.

“We know that every time there is an outbreak, thousands of people face requirements to self isolate and telehealth ensures these patients can continue to assess care.

“Telehealth remains fundamental to the national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, by protecting the health workforce, while reducing the need for unwell patients to move around the community.

“We need to maintain continuity of care for patients during any future lockdown.

“We need a telehealth framework that can operate in the context of a pandemic response, which is exactly what these temporary telehealth items are designed to do,” AMA President Dr Khorshid said.

Read the full media release by AMA here.

Have Your Say on Suicide Prevention

South Australians are being asked to help shape a new three-year plan to reduce suicide across the state. The Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention and Wellbeing SA are inviting all South Australians to have their say on the development of a new SA Suicide Prevention Plan for 2022-2025.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said reducing the number of suicides in South Australia is a high priority of the Marshall Liberal Government. “Every life matters and, tragically, so many of us have been touched or impacted by suicide in some way,” Minister Wade said. “That’s why we need to hear from as many South Australians as possible about what could make a difference. We are working in partnership with the community and reaching out to people with lived experience of suicidal distress, and their loved ones, to help us make a meaningful change in suicide prevention.”

Read the full media release here.

young Aboriginal girl's hands with chipped nail polish holding another Aboriginal child's hands

Image source: Amnesty International website.

National Anti-Racism Framework plan launched

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it.

The Commission has released a concept paper detailing key components required for a national strategy to address racism and social cohesion, and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan. There has already been widespread support for the framework, including from the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke MP, and from FECCA, the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Read the National Anti-Racism Framework concept paper >>

No Room for Racism words inside yellow map of Australia in centre of Aboriginal flag

Image source: LibGuides at Ursula Frayne Catholic College.

 

JOB ALERT

Melbourne/Full-time – Aust Physio Association

Senior Policy Advisor | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.

To view position descriptions and to apply click here. 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Communities can rely on trusted ACCHOs

ATSI communities can relay on trusted ACCHOs for vaccine info, vial & syringe

Communities can rely on trusted ACCHOs

The first batch of potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine has arrived at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services in northern WA. “We knew our only way out of this was a vaccine – to be here 12 months later is a remarkable feat,” medical director Lorraine Anderson told AAP. Last Friday a thousand doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were delivered to the Broome clinic by a courier, and health workers are due to begin delivering the jabs on Monday.

To view Donna Ah Chee’s media release click here.

CAAC AHP Lynnette O'Bree receiving the COVID-19 vaccine

Registered Aboriginal Health Practitioner Lynnette O’Bree receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Image source: CAAC.

You can also view a short video about Aboriginal health services in the Top End campaigning to encourage Indigenous Territorians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 here.

local Darwin Elder; Tina Murphy, community leader; Thomas Mayor and Danila Dilba Chair; Carol Stanislaus

Local Darwin Elder; Tina Murphy, community leader; Thomas Mayor and Danila Dilba Chair; Carol Stanislaus were among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at Danila Dilba.

Cultural shawls encourage breast screening

Artwork by Echuca’s Alkina Johnson-Edwards has been chosen for the upcoming Beautiful Shawl Project at Njernda Aboriginal Corporation. The project is a partnership between the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Breast Screen Victoria to address barriers facing indigenous women getting a breast screen.

It sees a local artist’s work printed onto shawls to be worn by women during their appointment in one of Breast Screen Victoria’s mobile vans. Ms Johnson-Edwards called her artwork Winyarr Malka, meaning “Woman Shield”, with the design representing the strength and support given to women affected by breast cancer. Njernda community engagement officer Kristie Hearn said the whole experience was designed to create a safe atmosphere for women.

To view the full article click here.

artwork by Alkina Johnson-Edwards for breast screening shawls; purple, pink, dark orange which line drawing of outline of 3 women, 2 with both breasts, the middle figure with one breast

The artwork designed by Alkina Johnson-Edwards will be printed on 100 shawls to make indigenous women feel more comfortable during breast screens. Image source: Riverine Herald.

ACCHOs well-equipped to deliver vaccine

According to NACCHO medical advisor, Dr Jason Agostino the “Aboriginal health sector is extremely [well] equipped in delivering large-scale immunisation programs and has been working hard to support communities during the pandemic.” To view The Guardian article Aboriginal health sector overcoming major challenges to deliver first Covid vaccine jabs with Dr Agostino’s comments click here.

4 photos, elderly Aboriginal woman screwing up face as gets vaccine, smiling middle-aged Aboriginal mad, health worker holding vaccine vial, rear view of health professional with gloves drawing vaccine from vial

Mallee District Aboriginal Service was one of the first ACCHOs to start vaccinating their community. Image source: Guardian Australia.

Vaccine benefits far outweigh unfounded clot links

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has commented on decisions in Europe to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of a potential link with thrombotic (clotting) events. Based on evidence to date, the ATAGI do not see any reason to pause use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia.

Thrombotic events occur commonly in the absence of vaccination and rates of thrombotic events are not higher in vaccine recipients than the expected background rate. No cases of coagulation disorders have been identified following COVID vaccination in Australia. Clotting disorders are designated as ‘adverse events of special interest’ that are closely monitored.

To view the ATAGI statement in full click here.

image of AstraZeneca vaccine vial & text 17,0000,000 people vaccinated, 27 cases of blood clotting' against purple red & blue speckled background

Image source: ABC News website.

Have your say on pain treatment & opioid use

NACCHO is working on a project to create some support materials for pain management and the use of opioid medicines, including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We are looking for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumers and health professionals to take part in group discussion to understand the important issues so that the materials we make can be useful.

If you are a health consumer and experience pain and use opioids or are interested in pain management as a practitioner in your ACCHO we invite you to contribute to this project.

We will provide financial compensation for your participation.

To apply or learn more please contact Fran Vaughan at NACCHO by phone 02 6248 0644 or email medicines@naccho.org.au.

drawing of jail bars made of pills being gripped by hands

Image source: Practical Pain Management website.

Remote Jobs Plan for the NT

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APONT) is calling on Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt and Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston to get behind APONT’s Remote Jobs Plan for the NT. APONT Governing Group member, John Paterson said, “We have heard many comments from around the country today about the Commonwealth’s failed program to create 1,000 Jobs for remote Aboriginal people. The Canberra package has delivered just 99 jobs in the NT since 2019 yet we have the widest employment gap in Australia. Just 37% of Aboriginal people of working age have a job compared with more than 80% of non-Aboriginal Territorians. We must do so much better than 99 jobs.”

Mr Paterson added, “To make remote employment work, governments must face the fact that jobs out bush are rare and many are held by non-Aboriginal people. Resources in Aboriginal controlled organisations are also scarce. We have created an NT Jobs Plan that will create 5,000 jobs with a focus on training and employment of young people. Funding will be required for 5 years with an option to extend, so Aboriginal Controlled Organisations can create real jobs, reduce poverty, get people off CDP and provide some long term security for those positions.

To view APONT’s NT job creation proposal click here and to view the APONT media release click here.

5 Aboriginal workers in high-vis building fence in Laramba community NT

Fence construction, Laramba, NT. Image source: Central Desert Regional Council.

Family violence support still lacking

Five years after the Royal Commission into Family Violence, rates of violence against Indigenous women continue to increase and organisations promised consistent funding say they still have to plead for money to develop programs. Antoinette Braybrook, the chief executive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island family violence prevention and legal service Djirra, said Aboriginal children were still being taken away from families because “mothers are not supported to escape the violence”. Leaders working in specialised family violence services say a lack of long-term funding and not enough focus on prevention has failed to bring “everyone into the tent” and remove the barriers women face when trying to receive culturally sensitive support.

Indigenous adults are 32 times as likely to be hospitalised for family violence as non-Indigenous adults, and are more likely to be murdered by a family member, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Productivity Commission research also shows the rate of Aboriginal children taken into out-of-home care is also increasing, with family violence shown to be the main driver of child removals.

To view The Age article in full click here.

portrait shot of Djirra chief executive Antoinette Braybrook

Djirra chief executive Antoinette Braybrook; Image source: The Age.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts

feature tile text 'Second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts with 33 ACCHOs first to administer the jab', image of COVID-19 vaccine vial & syringe destroying a virus cell - image from The Conversation

Second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts

While Liverpool became a COVID-19 hotspot during the pandemic, not one case was recorded at the Gandangara clinic. Medical adviser to NACCHO, Jason Agostino, said Indigenous leadership was critical in this achievement. “All the ACCHOs across the country have just been really incredible in getting messages out to their communities about how to stay safe in the initial part of the pandemic and in those spots where there have been outbreaks, places in Melbourne, in Brisbane, have just been exceptional in supporting their communities and keeping them safe,” he said. “So it’s been a whole bunch of things all put together but at the heart of it is leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The second phase of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started today with 33 ACCHOs being the first to administer the jab, including the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council’s health service in Liverpool, in Sydney’s south-west.

But questions remain within the community about the vaccine. “A lot of them are saying yes, a lot of them are just not sure,” said Dunghutti elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Aunty Gail, who’s worked in the health industry for almost 40 years, said despite the community’s low case numbers the pandemic had had a huge impact. “It was a big strain because they couldn’t go out or meet their families, a lot of us come from country areas we couldn’t go there as well,” she said.  “I think it’s been tough across the board for everybody… but now we’re slowly getting back to it. I encourage everyone if they could, it’s up to them, [but] if its gonna help our community and our people, why not, because we’re survivors and we want to survive for our next generations as well.”

To view the ABC news article in full click here.

Dunghutti Elder & Gandangara Local ALC board member Aunty Gail Smith

Dunghutti Elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Image source: ABC News website.

Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance launched

Kimberley-based Aboriginal community-controlled and government health services, research institutes and universities have united to form the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance (KAHRA) with the objective of improving and promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley through the development and application of practical health research. This collaboration combines the power of research to drive evidence-based change, the commitment of regional health services, and the vast cultural knowledge and strength of communities.

The development of collaborative projects utilising the strengths of the Alliance will seek to drive change to health outcomes, policy and services within the Kimberley and ultimately improve health outcomes of Kimberley Aboriginal community members. KAHRA has already seen unprecedented collaboration across health services in the region, with a collective voice advocating for better use of data to inform health service delivery in the region. Work has begun on a project to enable health services and researchers to see the full picture of disease burden in the region.

To view the KAHRA media release click here.banner text 'KAHRA - Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research' yellow black & red dots

Vicki O'Donnell - KAMS CEO speaking at the launch of KAHRA

KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell speaking at the launch of KAHRA.

Rhetoric and action gap needs to close

As communities across Australia mark National Close the Gap Day, leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have come together to call for enduring reforms to support self-determination and tangible outcomes for First Peoples. According to  Pastor Mark Kickett, UAICC Interim Chair, “after 13 years of Closing the Gap, it is time to turn rhetoric into real action that genuinely empowers First Peoples and delivers lasting benefits.

Pastor Kickett continued, “the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has the potential to be a gamechanger. But we are yet to see the structural change and funding commitments needed to achieve real reform, and pressure needs to be kept on governments to maintain their commitments and to apply the principles of reform that they signed off in 2020. Real change requires more than words and minor policy tinkering. It requires closing the gap between rhetoric and action. And it requires enduring structural and constitutional reform to empower First Peoples to take leadership in their affairs, in true partnership with government. The response of our communities to COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of community-led action and the enduring resilience, creativity, and decisiveness of First Peoples leaders and governance.”

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church lamented with First Peoples the ongoing health inequality, lack of self-determination, experiences of racism, high incarceration rates and the tragic prevalence of preventable deaths in custody. Dr Palmer said investing in solutions led by First Peoples was key to Closing the Gap.

To view the joint media release here.

4 Mutitjulu elders at Uluru, all with checked shirts & Akubra hats, one in a wheelchair

Mutitjulu elders at Uluru. Photo by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Image source: BBC News.

Aged care fails remote communities 

For the last five years, Mary Dadbalag, aged in her 90s and confined to a wheelchair, has been living in a tent on a verandah in the NT remote community of Jibena. For the last three years, her granddaughter Jacqueline Phillips has been knocking on every government service provider’s door she can think of asking for help to get her grandmother a bedroom built with a toilet attached. She said her grandmother is living in the tent at the edge of what she described as a “chicken house” because she can’t get to the nearest toilet 20 metres away over grass in her wheelchair, but she can shuffle to the edge of the verandah.

“It’s upsetting, not healthy and not hygienic. Like, her tent is just right next to where she does her toilets. She’s a great, great, great-grandmother, one of the last elders of our region and she’s just not being respected.” Ms Phillips is worried her grandmother may continue to fall through the cracks. “There needs to be better aged care services, especially for the people on the homelands,” she said. “We really need the federal government to listen to the very remote communities and provide that service, it’s human rights.”

To view the full article click here.

Elder Mary Dadbalag sleeping on ground outside tent on the veranda of a makeshift home

Mary Dadbalag has been living in a tent on the veranda of a makeshift home. Image source: ABC News.

High youth detention FASD rates acknowledged

Danila Dilba Health Service has welcomed the release of the Senate’s report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (17 March 2021). Danila Dilba provides comprehensive primary health services within the Darwin/Palmerston region, including to many children and families impacted by FASD or other neurodevelopmental impairments. The release of the Senate’s report the day before National Close The Gap Day provides a timely reminder of the tangible ways the government can fulfil its commitment to address the health gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

The report highlights the need to incorporate FASD prevention, assessment, and management into a comprehensive primary health care model. In particular, the Senate Committee recognises the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) like Danila Dilba in delivering culturally appropriate, holistic care to families affected by FASD.

Danila Dilba’s Head of Clinical Governance, Dr Andrew Webster, gave evidence to the inquiry about the lack of culturally appropriate assessment, therapeutic interventions, and support for children with FASD and their families, “ACCHOs can provide a ‘one-stop shop’ within a trusted service rather than families having to go through the process of diagnosis and therapy with multiple providers. Sadly, due to the barriers to assessment, many children suffering from FASD or other impairments do not get a diagnosis, and so are unable to receive the supports that they need. It is these children that we then unfortunately see coming to the attention of the child protection and justice systems.”

To view Danila Dilba’s media release in full click here.

Aboriginal youth at skate park with hands over his face & policeman in the background

Image source: The Conversation.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Yesterday the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called upon Canberrans to reflect on their personal responsibility in combatting racism. “This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against Racism’, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the power that young people have in shifting narratives and creating change, both online and in person,” said ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racism to the forefront of global conversation. In Australia it drew attention to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system, and reignited conversations about racism and implicit bias more broadly.”

To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.banner text 'Internationald Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March 21' vector image of handprint finger colours yellow, red, blue, aqua, black & brown palm with white heart

Diabetes management in Aboriginal communities webinar

The first webcast session of a four-part series of interprofessional webinars focusing on Diabetes management in an Aboriginal community will be held from 12:30–1:30 PM this Thursday 25 March 2021.

The webcast, Prevention and Control of Type-2 Diabetes in Aboriginal Communities: Changing Dietary, Activity and Lifestyle Patterns will explore evidence-based approaches and practical strategies for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behaviour changes to support the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people. Barriers and solutions to improving engagement with Aboriginal communities will also be discussed.

Diabetes is a complex condition that can impact people in different ways. It has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This webcast provides an overview of the prevalence of diabetes in the Aboriginal population, discusses risk factors for early diabetes detection and focuses on the key lifestyle behaviours for the prevention and management of diabetes. Key nutritional considerations relating to the use of whole foods, fibre, carbohydrates and how to shop on a budget will be discussed. Further to this, stress management, importance of sleep, exercise, flexibility and ways to reduce sedentary behaviour will be covered. The presenters will also discuss their local Aboriginal community group programs, including culturally safe practices.

For more information you can download an event flyer here and register here.

Aboriginal person's hands - diabetes blood test

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: 107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines – Pat Turner

107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum

Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.

“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.

“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.

“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.

“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.

“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.

“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.

“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.

“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.

“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”

Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.

National Close the Gap Day 2021

“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.

“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.

“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

To watch the full episode of ABC The Drum click here.

General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout

More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.

Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.

Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.

This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.

Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.

This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.

To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.

ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine

Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.

The benefits far outweigh any unfounded links.

Read the ATAGI statement here.

gloved hand administering vaccine to upper arm

Image: SBS website.

Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?

The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?

The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.

Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.

To read the full article in the Conversation click here.

Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities

Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).

To view the journal articles click here.

Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation

This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.

To view the information click here.

medical tray of COVID-19 vaccine syringes

Image source: Surf Coast Times.

National Anti-Racism Framework plan launched

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.

The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.

To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework click here.

Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief

Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.

The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.

The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.

Read the Close the Gap policy brief here.

Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.

Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.

The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.

Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.

To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.

Aboriginal woman holding pregnant belly with hand on top and hand below

Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.

Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.

Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Read the full article here.

Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong

COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia

Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.

Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.

Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosby told ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.

“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.

Read the full story released in Croakey here.

safe effective free vaccines Department of Health banner orange tick in white circle, blue background, circles with vector image of different people's heads, text ' safe effective free

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?

Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians.  The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.

Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners.  We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.

Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated.  The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.

Please click the link to the survey to get started here.

 

Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA 

The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.

‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.

‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.

‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.

‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.

AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.

Aboriginal painting by Adam Hill white hand reaching down to middle of page with words Close the Gap and black hand reaching up to the words

Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.

First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination

Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.

Read the full media release by Australian National University here.

vector image of microscope over female reproductive organs

Image source: MedPage Today website.

Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA

The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.

On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
by 2032.

The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.

“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.

“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.

Read the AMA media release here.

Images: mivision The Opthalmic Journal website and AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid.