NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: How do GPs practice cultural humility?

The image in the feature tile is of GP Dr Simon Quilty with a patient. Photo: Stephanie Zillman. Image source: ABC News article Specialist on-country healthcare improving outcomes in remote Aboriginal communities, 1 December 2018.

How do GPs practice cultural humility?

Developing professional cultural humility is a ‘key strategy’ to help address health inequalities in Australia, according to researchers from the University of Melbourne. Defined as ‘a shift from the mastering of understanding other cultures, to an approach of personal accountability in advocating against the systemic barriers that impact marginalised groups’, cultural humility is also ‘positively associated’ with improved health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients.

It is why researchers, including RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, are asking practitioners to take part in a new project focused on assessing cultural humility in Australian GPs. The research will see GPs participate in a 10–15-minute online survey about their interactions with patients of different cultural backgrounds, experience in cultural humility training and their interest in further training in this area.

Dr Olivia O’Donoghue, a descendant of the Yankunytjatjara and Narungga Nations people and the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Censor – the first Aboriginal person to be appointed the role, says cultural humility is an ‘essential attribute’ for GPs. ‘For me, cultural humility is about understanding myself, my values, my affinities and biases, my attitudes and behaviours and how these effect the people around me,’ Dr O’Donoghue said.

To read the RACGP newsGP article How do GPs practice cultural humility? in full click here.

Dr Olivia O’Donoghue. Image source: SBS NITV Radio.

Culturally safe birthing for the Cape

Women in western Cape York’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will be able to give birth closer to home, thanks to a birthing project led by Weipa rural generalist obstetrician Dr Riley Savage. The Weipa Birthing Unit is set to open soon, with the completion of capital works due this month, September 2022. The unit’s central feature is the Palm Cockatoo Midwifery Group Practice.

‘I’m so incredibly proud of the service we have produced – a women-centred midwifery group practice model of care, focusing on collaboration, community engagement and cultural safety,’ Dr Savage says. ‘Bringing birthing services to Weipa is such important work. It is delivering maternity services to families who would otherwise have to leave their hometown for six weeks or more in order to have their babies, at great financial and psychological cost.’

The 2009 James Cook University (JCU) graduate, who has an advanced skill in obstetrics and gynaecology, was inspired to become a rural generalist while on fifth-year placement on Thursday Island. ‘I was starstruck by the rural generalists there, who were masters of so many disciplines, from critical care in the emergency department to primary care in beautiful island communities,’ Dr Savage says.

To view the National Rural Health Alliance Partyline article Culturally safe birthing for Cape in full click here.

NSW government responds to ice inquiry

The NSW Government has finally issued its response to a landmark report on ice addiction more than two years since it was handed down, and less than a month after the state’s peak legal organisations condemned cabinet’s failure to implement urgent reforms. On 21 September, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a half-a-billion-dollar investment to deliver health and justice reforms as part of the Government’s final response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Ice. “Ice can ruin lives and have devastating impacts on families and communities. This funding will provide relief, help and hope for thousands of people across NSW,” Perrottet said.

The Law Society of NSW also pushed for the Government to partner with Aboriginal communities to urgently develop and significantly increase the availability of local specialist drug treatment services that are culturally respectful, culturally competent and culturally safe. “Aboriginal people are a priority population in relation to the investment that the NSW Government is making in a range of new programs and activities to increase the availability of specialist drug treatment,” the Government’s response read.

“Funding will support new treatment services, including withdrawal management, substance use in pregnancy and parenting services, rehabilitation and community-based support. There will also be targeted workforce development activities such as increasing the Aboriginal Health/Nursing Workforce, introducing traineeships, and skills development.”

To view the Law Society Journal Online article NSW Government unveils response to ice inquiry in full click here.

Image source: NSW Crime Stoppers.

Helping dads help their partners

For health professionals working to improve the perinatal mental health of women in rural communities, supporting dads is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, recent research into the antenatal psychosocial risk status of Australian women found that over 95% of respondents in the study said they would seek emotional support from their intimate partner. Reported rates for seeking support from health professionals, including GPs, did not exceed 55%.

Clearly, it would be a lost opportunity not to include fathers in efforts to help women who may experience mental health distress in the perinatal period. SMS4dads is a free service that all health professionals supporting women in the perinatal period should be aware of. SMS4dads helps fathers understand and connect with their baby and partner through free text messages that provide information, tips and encouragement. Dads can join from 12 weeks into a pregnancy and throughout the first year of parenthood.

Once enrolled, dads receive three messages a week to help them understand and connect with their baby and support their partner. The messages are brief and some have links to more information or other services. When enrolling, dads enter the expected date of delivery or bub’s birth date, so the texts are linked to the developmental stage of the baby. Some messages provide tips and encouragement. Others are health-related with information on looking after their baby or being mindful of their own health and ways to support their partner.

To read the National Rural Health Alliance Partyline article Helping dads help their partners full click here.

Revised ITC Program for Western NSW

The new year will bring changes to local Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) in Western NSW following extensive reviews, with a revised Integrated Team Care (ITC) Program designed to improve the capacity of local services. The ITC is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents living with a chronic disease, and has been delivered by Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation since 2016.

Following a 2021 review, the redesigned program will change hands on January 1, changing how Coonamble, Gilgandra, Brewarrina, Walgett, Condobolin and Bourke implement ITC. CEO of Coonamble, Dubbo and Gilgandra AMSs, Phil Naden, has welcomed the funding from Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) for the ITC Program. “I’m looking forward to a strengthened approach in working with WNSW PHN and I’m keen to commence the project in our locations to service Aboriginal Clients in the region.”

To view the Western Plains App article Local AMSs receive funding to broaden services in full click here.

Phillip Naden, CEO of Coonamble and Dubbo AMS. Image source: AH&MRC website.

Advocating for mental health services for youth

Hayley Pymont is using the hundreds of kilometres she is clocking up on the NSW South Coast in preparation for the New York Marathon to build a new purpose for herself and help improve the mental health of others. The 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman, who grew up on Dharawal land is one of the young people selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) for 2022, which was founded by Australian champion runner Robert de Castella.

The program also asks participants to undertake further education and complete a Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership and Health Promotion. Pymont is putting her energy into building mental health resilience. “I struggled at school with bullying growing up,” she said.” Through the program, Pymont is reaching out to community organisations to urge them to provide more support to young people. “We need organisations out there and services to open their doors for everyone and to let people in regardless of how severe their mental health is,” she said.

To read the ABC News article Hayley Pymont aiming for place in New York Marathon to create positive ‘ripple effect’ for bullying support in full click here.

Hayley Pymont hopes to draw attention to the need for better mental health support services for young people. Photo: Billy Cooper, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

International Day of Sign Languages

The International Day of Sign Languages is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. During the 2022 celebration of the International Day of Sign Languages, the world will once again highlight the unity generated by our sign languages. Deaf communities, governments and civil society organisations maintain their collective efforts – hand in hand – in fostering, promoting and recognising national sign languages as part of their countries’ vibrant and diverse linguistic landscapes.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

For more information you can access the United Nations webpage International Day of Sign Languages 23 September here. You can also access a related ABC News article Aboriginal sign languages have been used for thousands of years here.

Michael Ganambarr showing the sign for “fruit bat”. Photo: David Hancock. Image source: ABC News.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: How poor housing affects health

The image in the feature tile is of Shannon Urban is camping in a derelict building with no power and water connected while he waits for new houses to be built. Photo: Che Chorley. Image source: ABC News article Feeling again forgotten at a federal election, remote voters lament empty promises to close the gap, 5 May 2022.

How poor housing affects health

The housing crisis is currently a hot-button issue making headlines Australia-wide. But it’s been endemic in Central Australia for decades. A chronic shortage of available housing in remote Indigenous communities has significant consequences, with unintended household crowding ultimately contributing to the poor health of residents.

University of Queensland anthropologist and architect Professor Paul Memmott has been visiting the Barkly region in the centre of the NT for decades. He’s part of a multi-disciplinary team of five UQ researchers who collaborated with local medical service, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, to examine the link between housing and health for Indigenous people living on remote Country. The resulting study, Pilyii Papulu Purrakaj-ji (Good housing to prevent sickness), won a UQ Research Partnerships and Translation Award (RPAT) on Friday (16 September 2022) last week.

“We co-designed a research project to investigate the relationship between housing, crowding and infectious diseases,” Professor Memmott said. “But importantly, it also collated an evidence base to advocate for change.”

To view The University of Queensland Australia article How housing affects health on remote Country click here.

Tin houses on the outskirts of Tennant Creek, NT, that are used informally as spillover accommodation. Image source: The University of Queensland Australia UQ News webpage.

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

A breakthrough treatment for tuberculosis and ways to prevent dementia were unveiled last week at the Cairns Hospital annual research and innovation symposium. The annual event featured more than 40 presentations from the Far North Queensland medical and allied health research community. The symposium heard about research into harnessing the power of immune cells for treating tuberculosis (TB), one of the world’s deadliest diseases, causing more than 1.5 million deaths a year.

Doctor Saparna Pai, from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University, said his team had discovered immune cells called Q+ cells, which could help fight TB. TB risk is low in Queensland, but it’s frequently reported in Papua New Guinea and health authorities are concerned about potential spread through Torres Strait to mainland Australia.

To view the Tropic Now article Far North research to treat tuberculosis and prevent dementia click here. Note, a more detailed article on preventing dementia was published in the in the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander News on 16 September 2022 , available here.

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

Over 200 Aboriginal women have convened on Eastern Arrernte Country to finalise a 4 year effort in designing an NT wide network aimed at supporting each other in the face of urgent issues impacting their communities. The Strong Women for Healthy Country (SWHC) Forum takes place this week at Ross River where women caring for Country across the NT will continue driving the network.

The forum has once again drawn hundreds of women to make the journey from over 30 remote towns and communities, to continue to build a strategy to realise their vision. “We are strong Indigenous women of the NT. We stand united as one strong voice. We commit to a network that gives equal power to the rights of all our women. Strong Women means Healthy Country.” (SWHC Vision Statement). The Strong Women for Healthy Country Network, with the support of Mimal Land Management, was initiated by women involved in ranger programs, who quickly invited Aboriginal healers, artists, and community workers to join the conversation.

To view the SWHC Network media release NT’s First Nations women take their futures into their own hands in full click here.

2021 Strong Women for Healthy Country Forum. Image source: Indigenous Carbon Industry Network website.

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

A research article Roadmap to incorporating group A Streptococcus molecular point‐of‐care testing for remote Australia: a key activity to eliminate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) has been published today in the Medical Journal of Australia. Strep A Point Of Care Testing (POCT) is a critical element in preventing acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and will contribute to the elimination of RHD in Australia.

Group A β‐haemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep A) most commonly causes superficial infections of the throat (pharyngitis) and skin (impetigo). In Australia, one‐third of primary school aged children have an episode of pharyngitis each year, with Strep A identified in about 20% of children with symptomatic pharyngitis and 10% of asymptomatic children. Superficial Strep A infections are the sole precursor of ARF and RHD. The burden of ARF and RHD in remote Australian communities is high and disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the reported mortality rates of RHD in Aboriginal populations are among the highest worldwide. This is despite ARF and RHD being preventable through the early treatment of Strep A. I

Given the increasing pipeline of POCT and momentum to expand decentralised testing across Australia, evaluations are urgently needed to determine the population benefits, health service impacts and costs associated with integrated multi‐pathogen POCT. These will ensure that adequate frameworks including workforce planning and funding models are in place to support further scale up. The infrastructure, rationale and need for Strep A molecular POCT in remote Australia, where prevention of ARF has the highest economic and societal benefit, is crucial.

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

New research shows that people released from prison who sought help for their mental health or substance use problems were more likely to end up back in prison, prompting calls for an overhaul of the system to allow quicker and more consistent support. The study, published in the Journal PLOS ONE, examined the link between contact with mental health and substance use treatment services and reincarceration rates among 1,115 adults released from prisons in Queensland, Australia.

Lead researcher Professor Stuart Kinner, from the Curtin School of Population Health, said despite widespread belief that access to substance use treatment and community mental health services after release from prison can reduce reincarceration rates, this study actually found the opposite. “Globally, more than 11 million people are incarcerated on any given day, and many of these individuals experience significant mental health and substance use issues. In our study, we found that more than half of the people released from prison had been diagnosed with a mental illness or a substance use disorder, and 21% had been diagnosed with both,” Professor Kinner said.

“In Australia, more than 60,000 people are released from prison each year and the incarceration rate is increasing rapidly. Almost one in two people released from prison is back in custody within two years. “Although you might expect that treating substance use and mental health issues would result in better outcomes, our study found that people who accessed these services after release from prison were actually more likely to be reincarcerated.”

To view the Curtin University article Inadequate post-release support drives up reincarceration rates: study click here.

Photo: Jono Searle, AAP. Image source: The West Australian.

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

Over five years, $5.6 million will be invested to support the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program which provide training courses and professional development opportunities for Aboriginal people who wish to work in the mental health sector. The state government said the program provided more than a dozen scholarships for students attending RMIT and Deakin Universities in semester one this year. “A mental health and wellbeing system that provides culturally safe and inclusive care ensures the best possible support for every Victorian with mental illness,” mental health and treaty and first peoples minister Gabrielle Williams said.

“Our dedicated mental health workers are the backbone of our reformed mental health system – supporting them through study and work is the best way to support every Victorian that needs help.” The program also allows our mental health services to learn from trainees about Aboriginal culture and gain knowledge and perspective, so they can develop more holistic and well-informed supports and care programs for all Victorians.

To view the Star Weekly article Funding for Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program in full click here.

Aboriginal Health Practitioner Stevie-Lee Ryan with a client. Photo: Justin McManus. Image source: The Age.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

Dementia impacts close to half a million Australians and almost 1.6 million Australians are involved in their care. The number of people living with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years. With so many people impacted now and into the future, it is vital we clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about dementia. People living with dementia can live active and fulfilling lives many years after diagnosis. Despite this, they often experience discrimination. In a Dementia Australia survey, more than 70% of people believed discrimination towards people with dementia is common or very common.

The concept for Dementia Action Week was developed in consultation with Dementia Advocates, who have a lived experience of dementia. The ‘A little support makes a big difference‘ campaign demonstrates that many people living with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their diagnosis. In 2021, the focus was also on supporting and celebrating carers of people living with dementia.

Dementia Australia has a range of resources for: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, available here, Aboriginal workers, available here, and Aboriginal health workers, available here.

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

The image in the feature tile is of the entrance to Doomadgee’s hospital emergency department. The photo is from an NCA NewsWire article Teenager given ‘shut-up pill’ before death, 7 March 2022.

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

Speaking earlier this week at the the inquest of three young Indigenous women from Doomadgee who died with rheumatic heart disease between 2019–2020, Queensland health chief operating officer David Rosengren told the Queensland coroner health service in the town was too complicated. Gidgee operates branches across Queensland’s north-west and works with Doomadgee Hospital and the State’s health service, which the inquest heard could confuse patients on where to go for help. Earlier this week former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman said she faced significant barriers during her time in Doomadgee.

The coroner heard those roadblocks included gaining ACCHO accreditation, recruiting, securing premises for operation and a fractured relationship with the local state hospital. Similar concerns had been echoed by witnesses during the week. The court heard difficulties obtaining medical notes between services complicated the treatment of one of the women at the centre of the inquest in the months leading up to her death.

Ms Blackman’s said Gidgee used a seperate platform for lodging patient records to the state hospital leading to constraints accessing information. The court heard a laptop was provided to the hospital for access to Gidgee’s notes when needed. But evidence presented to the coroner suggested there was a strained relationship between the two providers which may have affected collaboration. Ms Blackman said without a positive relationship people “will fall through the cracks”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Ex-health boss backs inquest calls to overhaul fractured QLD Aboriginal health service delivery in full click here.

Former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

A team from NACCHO had an awesome time last week in Darwin for the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference 2022 (NATSIEH). The team hosted an Aboriginal-led workshop to identify longstanding issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environmental health and new solutions through Closing the Gap.

This marked the beginning of NACCHO’s consultation for a National Strategic Roadmap on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Environmental Health Workforce with the NACCHO team excited to continue working closely with experts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health sector.

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

NACCHO presentation at 13th NATSIEH Conference in Darwin, 5-8 September 2022.

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

NACCHO held a meeting in Darwin last week with the first group of ACCHOs receiving funding through their new RHD program. This was a great opportunity to come together to discuss the program and hear from the participating ACCHOs and all the awesome work they are doing in community.

Organisations that attended included:

  • Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS)
  • Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation

as well the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) and Gurriny Yealamucka (Good Healing) Health Services Aboriginal Corporation who  as joined the meeting online.

ACCHO representatives who met with NACCHO staff in Darwin to discuss their participation in an RHD program.

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness, but a lack of funding, affordable housing and crisis accommodation remain bigger problems, a new report has found. Research by the University of SAhas revealed the homelessness rate for Aboriginal Australians is 10 times that of other people.

It found that dispossession of land, racism, profound economic disadvantage and cultural oppression continue to shape the lived experience of many Indigenous communities. And it identified poor literacy, education, criminal histories, domestic violence and lack of sustained tenancies as leading to a “revolving door” of homelessness among Aboriginal people in cities.

“Homelessness among Indigenous people arises from a clustering of vulnerabilities that easily spiral out of control,” the authors said in the report, commissioned by the Australian Housing and Urban Institute.

To view the Inverell Times article Funding call for Aboriginal housing in full click here.

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP . Image source: The Inverell Times.

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

During a visit to Broken Hill on 14 September 2022, the President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat said the remote area needs an alternative approach to making its community safer. She told ABC local radio “I was keen to get out here and particularly to some of the other regions that are further away from Sydney to just see what is going on and to really listen to some of the practitioners … to see what they’re facing in terms of their daily practice.”

Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows rates across multiple offence categories in Broken Hill sit at two and three times the state average. “With illicit-drug offences in Broken Hill in the year to March 2022 at about double the state average, and bail breaches at almost three times the average NSW rate, it’s clear that current approaches are not working,” van der Plaat said.

President of the Far West Law Society Eric Craney said establishing health and culturally safe treatment services for drug and alcohol use in Broken Hill would be a major step in helping to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. “Additionally, the Government should extend the Dubbo Aboriginal Bail Pilot across regional areas including Broken Hill, to reduce the incidents of technical bail breaches that cause no safety risk to the community, but that can result in unnecessary incarceration of vulnerable defendants,” Mr Craney said.

To view the NSW Law Society Journal online article Calls for better drug treatment and rehabilitation in NSW’s far west in full click here.

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

More than half of Indigenous dementia cases in far north Queensland could be prevented after scientists identified a series of risk factors linked to the condition. The James Cook University study found 11 risk factors contribute to up to 52% of dementia cases in its sample population. “Dementia is an emerging health issue among Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal peoples in Far North Queensland,” lead researcher Fintan Thompson said.

“We thought it likely that historically recent exposure to modifiable risk factors was contributing, and that a large proportion of dementia could potentially be reduced or delayed.” Analysing health data from more than 370 First Nations people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula, the research team identified risk factors that could be modified. “The most important dementia risk factors are already public health priorities in this population. Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were important contributors, which is somewhat similar to other populations,” the report said.

The study suggests rates of dementia could decline if these risk factors were reduced at a population level. The study also shows dementia risks in the Torres Strait region may be comparatively less certain. “Risks, such as social isolation and heavy alcohol consumption, contributed less to dementia in the Torres Strait region, which is great news,” Mr Thompson said.

To view the Pilbara News article Scope to lessen Indigenous dementia: study in full click here.

A study has found more than half of dementia cases in the Torres Strait region could be avoidable. Photo: Tracey Nearmy, AAP. Image source: Perth Now.

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

Three young people are taking on the Queensland government with a legal case claiming their human rights were breached when they were locked up in police watch houses. An anti-discrimination and human rights legal challenge is currently before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

The police cells are meant for some of the state’s worst criminals, including adults accused of murder or sexual abuse. Katie Acheson, the outgoing CEO of the Youth Advocacy Centre, believes the case will shine a light on the practice which she believes should end. “It should be a wake-up to the Queensland government and the Queensland population,” she said. “I think many of us don’t realise that there are children right now in an adult watch house. “They’re scared and alone and they’re children and we have a responsibility to take care of them and not be further traumatising them.”

One organisation is trying to keep kids out of custody. Five nights a week the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane outreach team, lead by Pita Taimani, head to areas where at-risk young people like to hang out. They check on their safety and offer them a lift home before there’s any trouble. “We see that there’s a need to support young people that are in the CBD, where they’re not in the eyes of the police, not getting into the watch house,” Pita Taimani said. Mr Taimani’s team also offers crucial support to young people, like access to health care and vocational education.

To view the ABC News article Young people taking legal action against Queensland government after being held in watch houses in full click here.

Pita Taimani’s outreach team is focused on keeping at-risk youth out of police custody. Photo: Michael Atkin, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Environmental experts share advice

The image in the feature tile is from the Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC) website.

Environmental health experts share advice

The impact of climate change upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was in the spotlight recently at the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference. Attended by over 170 delegates from most Australian states and territories, the conference, held on Larrakia Country in Darwin, also heard calls for the establishment of a National Environmental Health First Nations Expert Group.

The conference provided a platform for hearing from a variety of environmental health practitioners from across Australia, highlighting the programs and activities being undertaken and the challenges faced. Among the presenters was CEO of One Disease Team Michelle Dowden, whose  presentation A “Mitey” Task Made Easier By Working Together looked at the social determinants of health and the need for a strength based approach to underpin the its aim to achieve scabies free communities and households. Other presenters included Chicky Clements, an environmental health worker for Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation, who asked why after 13 national conferences over 26 years, action to consolidate a national environmental health workforce had not progressed and first time presenters from Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation who spoke about their important work in remote communities.

A wide range of topics were covered at the conference, including: the links to environmental health and the prevention of rheumatic heart disease and trachoma; WHO statistics showing 25% of the health burden is due to environmental health conditions; all wetlands in the NT being at risk of Japanese Encephalitis; the post border, active surveillance early detection biosecurity community dog and cat health project which results in an animal census for local decision making; the environmental health response to 2022 floods which included ensuring potable water, reopening flooded food businesses and managing waste; the need to incorporate traditional knowledge into water guidelines; the COVID-19 response; an overcrowding study; the cost of hospitalisation attributable to environmental health conditions; animal management; the impacts of climate change; and mosquito borne diseases.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Putting the spotlight on environmental health expertise and challenges in full click here.

Lived experience of addiction voices essential

Hundreds of people gathered in Canberra this week for a conference that flipped the usual proceedings and power dynamics. Too often people experiencing or affected by health issues are on the sidelines, in the background or completely missing in major health gatherings. But people with lived experience of addictions took centre-stage at this week’s inaugural Rethink Addiction convention, titled ‘It’s time to change the conversation’.

They were not just token voices on panels stacked with ‘experts’ as seen at many conferences, but the main voices in session after session of the two-day event, their expertise, knowledge and experiences privileged and valued. In heart-breaking detail, they told raw and powerful stories about addictions to alcohol, other drugs, and gambling which took many to the brink, facing suicide, prison, financial ruin, the removal of children or – in the case of Australian of the Year Local Hero Shanna Whan – waking up in Emergency after falling down a concrete flight of stairs.

As well as showcasing their courage, strength and commitment to others, they took strong aim at the structural barriers they have faced in their recovery, including government, industry and media, and a fragmented and flawed health system. Among the audience were health and service professionals, academics, policy makers and researchers – there to listen and put up their hands to ask the questions.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Privileging the voices of people with lived experiences of addiction in full click here.

Building our mental health workforce

The Andrews Labor Government is building a mental health workforce that provides culturally safe and inclusive care by supporting traineeships and scholarships for Aboriginal people who want to work in the sector. The Government has invested $5.6 million over five years to support the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program – providing training courses and professional development opportunities for Aboriginal people who wish to work in the mental health sector.

The program provided more than a dozen scholarships for students attending RMIT and Deakin Universities in semester one this year. Providing the best quality education and training for Victoria’s mental health workforce ensures the best quality care for all Victorians with mental illness. Building on the transition from study to work, the Government has also provided more than $7 million since 2017 for the Aboriginal Mental Health Traineeship Program – a specialist course that provides workplace training, while trainees complete placements and mental health qualifications.

The program also allows our mental health services to learn from trainees about Aboriginal culture and gain knowledge and perspective, so they can develop more holistic and well-informed supports and care programs for all Victorians. The first graduates are now working in an ongoing role with the health service where they undertook their traineeship or as an Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing worker in a local Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation.

To view the medianet article Building Our Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce in full click here.

Suicide prevention consultation in Balgo community. (L to R)Brian Darkie Junior (Community Liaison Officer Balgo), Vicki McKenna (Suicide Prevention Coordinator), Desmond Stretch, Daniel Rockman, Darren Brown, Justin Mosquito, Nathaniel Stretch, Larissa Mudgedell. Photo supplied by KAMS. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Calls for urgent action on detention protocol

The death this week of another Indigenous man in custody in Victoria, the third such life lost in the state’s prisons in the last 12 months, has renewed focus on Australia’s disproportionate incarceration rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. With over 500 deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) will use an upcoming submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) to call out Australia’s slow implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), to establish a system of unannounced visits to places of detention.

VALS condemns the lack of action on implementing the recommendations of 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and calls for OPCAT to be implemented in Victoria. “The urgent need to implement OPCAT in Victoria has been identified by the Victorian Ombudsman, which carried out two OPCAT style investigations in custodial facilities in 2017 and 2019,” the submission reads. The submission described the Victorian Government’s response as woefully inadequate and expressed concern that this once in a generation opportunity to prevent torture and inhumane treatment in detention is being squandered.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Clock is ticking for Australian governments to address human rights concerns around places of detention in full click here.

Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

In a related ABC News broadcast Why are Aboriginal deaths in custody still happening in Victoria? Jill Gallagher, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, spoke with Amber Irving-Guthrie. You can listen to the interview in full using this link.

Heal Our Way suicide prevention

Heal Our Way is a NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Campaign funded by the NSW Ministry of Health under Towards Zero Suicides (TZS) initiatives. Led by Cox Inall Ridgeway in partnership with Aboriginal communities in NSW, health leaders and people who have lived experience of suicide, the campaign aims to provide practical resources to community members to equip them with the skills to have safe conversations around suicide.

Uncle George Ellis has been shared as part of the Heal Our Way campaign. Uncle George Ellis is a descendant of Kinchela Boys Home. He is a Gomeroi and Likaparta man who now lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW. He said “What we’ve done with Heal Our Way, which is what we need to keep doing, is to put these kinds of stories at the centre of our conversations about suicide. They are stories of strength, sadness, resilience, hurt and hope – but they important because they are real. They also bring us together because they are shared experiences in our communities and that way, we can address them as a community.

To access the Croakey Health Media article Heal Our Way: supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have safe conversations around suicide prevention in full click here.

Uncle George Ellis. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Supporting mob with Musculoskeletal conditions

Despite national, state and local campaigns to Close the Gap in Australia, considerable health gaps still exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Musculoskeletal conditions are an area of health where there is a significant difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Although Indigenous people experience musculoskeletal conditions more. their access to high-quality and culturally informed support remains low.

Musculoskeletal conditions can have a considerable effect on people’s lives. Such conditions can affect a person’s ability to walk, complete simple tasks at home without help, and participate in sports or work. Government health organisations need to provide better support for Indigenous people suffering from these conditions by encouraging culturally safe community-based care.

Internationally, low back pain is the leading cause of disability, and osteoarthritis is the leading cause of physical activity limitiation. Both of these ailments are more common in Indigenous people, who are 20–50% more likely to have osteoarthritis and 10% more likely to report current back pain than the non-Indigenous population in Australia. Musculoskeletal conditions have also been shown to contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With 46% of Australia’s Indigenous population having at least one chronic condition, this may lead to even higher rates of chronic diseases.

To view The Conversation How do we support Indigenous people in Australia living with musculoskeletal conditions? in full click here.

Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

The image in the feature tile is from the Menzies School of Health Research webpage PANDORA – pregnancy and neonatal diabetes outcomes in remote Australia.

Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

To mark International FASD Awareness Day, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has released data that demonstrates the impact of the Every Moment Matters campaign – Australia’s first, nation-wide public awareness campaign supporting alcohol-free pregnancies and safe breastfeeding practices.

Developed by FARE and endorsed and funded by the Australian Government, Every Moment Matters aims to increase Australians’ awareness of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy, and increase the number of Australian women who intend not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

With the tagline ‘The moment you start trying is the moment to stop drinking’, the campaign features nationally on television, radio, digital and out-of-home channels and runs until July 2024. The results of the ongoing evaluation led by the University of Adelaide demonstrates that Every Moment Matters is overcoming the mixed messages people often receive about alcohol and pregnancy.

As part of the broader program of work, NACCHO has designed a culturally appropriate awareness raising campaign with regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said, “FASD is a whole of community issue. We look forward to launching the Strong Born campaign with ACCHOs across rural and remote Australia next month. The campaign will support mums, their families, their communities, their health practitioners and health services, to bring everyone together to help prevent and better understand the issues that contribute to FASD.”

You can find the joint FARE, NOFASD Australia and NACCHO media release Celebrating 9 months of impact on 9 September: International FASD Awareness Day on the NACCHO website here.

Referendum Working Group announced

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has announced members of the Referendum Working Group which will establish the path to a Voice to Parliament. Speaking at the Centre for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) State of the Nation conference at the National Museum of Australia, Ms Burney outlined a “working group of First Nations leaders” with Senator Pat Dodson and herself as co-chairs.

The Referendum Working Group will collaborate with the government to consider and navigate “the big questions” in the next following months. The minister said getting the groups working is the first step, with building a “broad consensus of community support” and “harnessing the goodwill in the Australian community to take Australia forward” being the following.

“[There are] many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum and let’s be clear government cannot lead this referendum,” she said. “This will come from the grassroots, from communities, because the Voice is a nation-building project.” Included among the  group of 22 are:

  • Co-chairs of Uluru Dialogue Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson AO
  • Co-chairs of the Indigenous Voice co-design group Professor Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM and former Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

To view the SBS article Linda Burney outlines next referendum steps including working group with Ken Wyatt in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Dedicated to fighting for mental health

Australians of all ages and backgrounds are increasingly at risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Paul Bird and Alex Speedy of the National Wellbeing Alliance, a First Nations-owned and -operated training provider dedicated to fighting for mental health, are right on the forefront of advocating for “acceptance” of the devastating, hidden conditions plaguing many in the region.

The two spoke to students from Murgon, Proston and Goomeri schools at last month’s careers expo at the Murgon Cherbourg Youth Hub, extending helping hands to those wishing to speak out and start the journey of recovery. “Mental health issues are bad – they’re definitely on the increase,” Mr Bird said. “People are getting younger with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm – and it’s not just for Indigenous people, it’s through all societies and countries!”

The pair are based out of the Murgon area but hold workshops for ‘mental first-aid’ wherever they are needed most -equipping people to have those all important conversations and to be able to respond in a mental health emergency. “Alex is a community member, born and bred here, and my father was born here, but I was born in NSW,” Mr Bird explained. “Through a turn of events I’ve come back to my father’s country to facilitate and engage with community through workshops and mental health first-aid.”

To read The Burnett Today article Locals join in tackling mental health crisis click here.

National Wellbeing Alliance workers Paul Bird and Alex Speedy are passionate about helping others improve their mental wellbeing. Photo: Julian Lehnert. Image source: Burnett Today.

Number of WA ACCOs to increase

The WA Government has announced a new strategy to strengthen the delivery of services to Aboriginal children, families and communities by increasing opportunities for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) to deliver culturally appropriate services. The ACCO strategy is directly aligned to Priority Reform Area Two of the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap, “Building the community-controlled sector.”

The ten-year strategy was developed by representatives from 11 ACCOs across the State, Department of Communities and the Department of Finance. It aligns to several Priority Reform Areas and Socio-Economic targets identified within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and aims to empower Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from the foundations provided by ACCOs.

“Aboriginal people across WA have repeatedly told us that to truly change outcomes, Aboriginal communities must lead the way, and that is achieved through community-based and family-led solutions,” Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said. “ACCOs usually achieve better results, employ a majority of Aboriginal workforce and are the preferred providers by Aboriginal people over mainstream services,” she continued.

To view The Sector’s article WA Gov will boost the number of ACCOs to improve services for First Nations families in full click here.

Image source: The Sector.

Physiotherapist making a difference

As an elite hockey player, Candice Liddy knew her strength was positioning: putting herself in the right place to maximise the team’s opportunity of moving forward and getting a goal. “There were other players who could run all day, but I just knew I had to be in the right spot,” she says.

Candice lives in Darwin, where she was born and raised on Larrakia land. Her grandparents on her dad’s side were part of the Stolen Generations, taken from other parts of the NT as children to live at Garden Point Mission on Melville Island. Her father grew up in Darwin and nearby Howard Springs but was evacuated after cyclone Tracy in 1974 to Brisbane, where he met Candice’s mother, who was born in India, and moved to Australia with her family.

Sporting talent runs in the family and also led Candice to a career in physiotherapy. Playing for many years at State level for the NT, she noticed the team physiotherapists were good at working in the athletes’ best interests while keeping them game-ready, and they also got to travel with the teams. “I wanted those skills and that lifestyle, and I was going to work as hard as I could to get there.”

A later non-clinical role brought her experience in remote communities as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planner, where she quickly realised that all the planning in the world would be useless if services weren’t available where they were needed. “And that’s when I thought, You know what, there’s a gap. A gap I’m trained to fill.”

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article 2022 World Physiotherapy Day in full click here.

Candice Lidday. Image source: IAHA website.

Prostate cancer, know the symptoms

The Cancer Council of WA (CCWA) is urging men to visit their doctor and learn the common symptoms of prostate cancer this month. CCWA Great Southern regional education officer Bruce Beamish said prostate cancer awareness month was the perfect chance for men to learn more about how their bodies might be telling them something is wrong. He said unlike for breast, bowel and cervical cancer which have screening tests to confirm the presence of cancer prior to symptoms presenting, there is no such test for prostate cancer. Therefore, it is “vital” to visit a doctor, Aboriginal health care worker or clinic nurse when unusual symptoms present.

“Common symptoms of prostate cancer include waking a lot at night to pee, a sudden or urgent need to pee, problems starting or stopping peeing, needing to pee more often, a slow or weak flow when peeing, or dribbling at the end of peeing,” he said. “These symptoms can be found in other conditions but if you have had any of these for more than four weeks, or you’ve noticed blood in your pee or semen even just once, tell your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. “It doesn’t mean you’ve got prostate cancer — often it turns out to be something far less serious and your doctor may be able to help reduce the annoying symptoms.”

To view the Broome Advertiser article Men urged to learn the symptoms during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in full click here.

Image source: Vitalii Abakumou, Getty Images, iStockphotos.

Emergency relief centre for Gippsland mob

A groundbreaking emergency relief centre to support members of East Gippsland’s Aboriginal communities in times of crisis is getting underway thanks to a $2.4 million investment by the Andrews Labor Government. Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes joined Member for Eastern Victoria Tom McIntosh and representatives of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal community to announce the funding and hear about their vision for the new centre.

The Lake Tyers Emergency Relief Centre project will bring together Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust and Lake Tyers community to co-design a supportive, safe and secure space for Aboriginal communities within Lake Tyers during and after a bushfire disaster. The centre will also bring community together for activities and meetings outside of emergencies.

The need for the dedicated relief centre was identified following the devastating 2019-20 Eastern Victorian bushfires, during which over 1,000 known registered Aboriginal heritage places were damaged and hundreds of Aboriginal Victorians were affected.

To read The National Tribune article First Relief Centre For Aboriginal Community In Gippsland in full click here.

Terylene Hood says residents need a place where they can be comfortable during an emergency. Photo: Bec Symons, ABC Gippsland.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Ask your mob, in your way, R U OK?

The image in the feature tile is of Steven Oliver, An R U OK? Ambassador, Aboriginal poet, comedian and performer whose life has been affected by suicide. Image source: R U OK? Day Facebook page, 29 June 2016.

Ask your mob, in your way, R U OK?

If someone you know – a family member, someone from your community, a friend, neighbour, team mate or workmate –  is doing it tough, they won’t always tell you. Sometimes it’s up to us to trust our gut instinct and ask someone who may be struggling with life “are you OK?”, in our own way. By taking the time to ask and listen, we can help those we care about feel more supported and connected, which can help stop little things becoming bigger things.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples share a special connection to this country and to each other, through our cultures, communities and shared experiences. Regardless of where we live, or who our mob is, we all go through tough times, times when we don’t feel great about our lives or ourselves. That’s why it’s important to always be looking out for each other. Because we’re Stronger Together.

Earlier this year 13YARN (13 92 76), a Lifeline supported service was launched. It is the first national crisis phone support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Designed, led and delivered by mob, 13YARN provides a confidential 24/7 one-on-one yarning opportunity with a Lifeline-trained Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.

You could also connect with a trusted health professional, like your doctor or your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Medical Service.

For more information about R U OK? Day and to access resources specifically for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities click here.

Working Group on Voice to Parliament

The government is primed to announce a working group on the referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group will be tasked with answering some of the big questions on the process in the lead-up to the referendum. The referendum’s timing, question and information on the Voice to Parliament will all fall under the remit of the group, made up of more than 20 Indigenous leaders from across the country.

Notable names include Pat Anderson, Marcia Langton, Tom Calma, Pat Turner, Ken Wyatt and June Oscar. It will be co-chaired by Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement Patrick Dodson. Ms Burney will officially announce the working group as part of her address today at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s State of the Nation forum. “These are the next steps, the plan on the road to the referendum,” Ms Burney said. “There is much to work to do, many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum. Let’s be clear, government cannot lead this referendum. This will come from the grassroots.”

To view the ABC News story Working group to answer big questions leading up to Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum in full click here.

The government’s Voice working group will help shape the looming referendum. Photo: Tim Leslie, ABC News.

JobKeeper rate a health hazard

Touted as a “much-needed boost” by the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, the JobSeeker payment is set to rise $1.80 per day on 20 September. The daily rate will go from $46 to $47.80 – $17,378 per year – still well below the Melbourne Institute’s poverty line of approximately $28,000 per year. “It does not deliver a real increase – an increase above inflation – and that is what people on JobSeeker and other payments need to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table,” Australian Council of Social Service CEO Edwina MacDonald said in a statement.

Karl Briscoe, the CEO of the National Association for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP), said the low JobSeeker rates affect food security and housing among Indigenous communities. “Access to adequate nutrition, fresh fruit and veg, is probably one of the biggest issues that people are faced with,” he said.  ” When people cannot access vitamins and minerals due to poverty, they can be more susceptible to a range of diseases, including skin infections and diabetes, according to Briscoe.”

Overcrowding is another major issue, he said. In Aboriginal communities, it can contribute to the spread of scabies, a skin infection which is linked to chronic kidney disease. Too many people living in the same house can also increase the spread of Strep A infections, which can cause rheumatic fever and RHD, an autoimmune condition where the heart valve tissue becomes swollen and scarred.

While increasing the JobSeeker rate is a clear necessity, what is really needed to improve conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is capital investment, such as infrastructure projects that bring jobs, according to Briscoe. “Poverty is an outcome of colonisation for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We don’t have a long line of inheritance that’s been passed down generation to generation,” Briscoe said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Stories from the frontlines: why the low JobSeeker rate is a health hazard in full click here.

Verdict on government’s first 100 days

The Albanese government has now passed its first 100 days in office and major announcements are coming in thick and fast. Key ministers and central figures within the for-purpose sector have reflected on the federal government’s progress so far and what should be the next steps from here.

The federal government came to power promising a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney said the government had “hit the ground running. A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is about improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.  It’s about making sure First Nations people have a say on the issues and policies that affect them,” she said. “It’s about drawing a line on the poor outcomes from the long legacy of failed programs and broken policies and about recognising the glaring omission of First Peoples in Australia’s birth certificate.”

CEO of SNAICC Catherine Liddle said many of the government’s broad commitments, including more affordable childcare, would benefit First Nations people. However, she said such mainstream reforms “must take into account the particular needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. SNAICC has already met with senior government ministers and we look forward to strengthening those relationships and working with the new government to progress much needed policy reform to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have their needs and voices heard,” she said.

“Federal Labor has committed to the implementation of the National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks. There’s no doubt that we lost some ground in the run up to and during the federal election. But I think that implementation of the National Agreement is being brought back to where it needs to be” Liddle said. “SNAICC looks forward to working with the government on reforms to early education, family services, and out of home care, with access to childcare identified as being particularly important as a lack of access can create barriers that prevent First Nations people from engaging in work and study.”

To view the Pro Bono Australia article Sector delivers verdict on government’s first 100 days in full click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

System rigged against people with additions

Amid concerns that Australian health systems are failing people with addictions to alcohol, other drugs and gambling, experts will call next week for a national roadmap to ensure better and more equitable treatment pathways. A two-day national conference in Canberra will put the spotlight on a lack of national policy leadership in addressing the fragmented, inadequate services available for people living with addictions, which one expert says means it’s a “complete lottery” as to what care people and families might find. The Rethink Addiction Convention titled ‘It’s time to change the conversation’, will bring together people with lived and living experience, clinicians, services providers, law and justice practitioners and policymakers and seek to address the stigma that affects access to treatment and care.

Jasmin Wilson, a Wellbeing Officer from from Aboriginal Drug & Alcohol Council SA will be speaking at the inaugural Rethink Addiction Convention. She says “Addiction doesn’t discriminate, so why do we? To Close the Gap we need to address addiction in First Nations Communities.”

Ending that harmful stigmatisation is the work at the heart of the Rethink Addiction campaign, headed by psychiatrist Professor Dan Lubman, who is Executive Clinical Director of the Turning Point and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University  and Director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre. He cites the damning statistics: around one in four Australians will develop an alcohol, drug or gambling disorder during their lifetime, and around one in 20 will develop addiction, the most severe form of the disorder. One Australian dies almost every hour from alcohol, other drug or gambling harm.

To view the Croakey Health Media article How the system is rigged against people with addictions in full click here.

Jasmin Wilson, a former ice addict will speak at the convention. Image source: The Advertiser.

Calls for youth justice system reforms

Amnesty International Australia issued a statement yesterday calling on all State and Territory governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility and close detention centres. “State and Territory governments have it in their power now to do more than make empty statements about the importance of child safety,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn, said. “Until they take the most obvious and proven step to truly care for some of the most vulnerable children in our country, then these words ring very hollow indeed.”

Calls for reform of the youth justice system have been echoed by many including, Change the Record, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) and the Public Health Association of Australia. The deep-rooted culture of abuse of children in youth detention was again in the spotlight last week during an Inquiry into Government Responses into Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings in Tasmania. The Inquiry and others before have highlighted the abuse of children in detention centres as a “black mark against this country as a whole”, according to barrister Greg Barns, the National Criminal Justice Spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Barns said “If there was ever a time for major reform and a cultural shift on the part of legislators and society generally when it comes to dealing with children and young people who come into contact with the police, then now is it. Doing nothing is not an option.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Calls for reform, not platitudes, on youth justice system in full click here.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

QAS drives cultural safety in the community

The Queensland Ambulance Service has appointed a team of leaders to build on the organisation’s cultural capability and advance health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The organisation’s recently established Cultural Safety Unit has appointed three new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Support Officers (CSSOs) and two new Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Advisors.

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Yvette D’Ath said it was vital for the Queensland Ambulance Service to embrace diversity in its ranks. “The QAS is really leading the way when it comes to Indigenous relations within the service and community,” she said. “We’ve seen first-hand, with initiatives like the QAS Indigenous Paramedic Program, what a difference it makes to health outcomes when First Nations people are on the front line in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”.

QAS Deputy Commissioner Operations North, Rural and Remote Kari Arbouin said three officers have been appointed to the inaugural CSSO positions and will be operating within their own areas, including North Queensland, Central Queensland and South Queensland. “Our CSSOs will also be out and about playing their part in improving health equity and foster better engagement across all Queensland communities.” “As QAS continues to develop a more culturally responsive and inclusive workplace, our new team will be working to support our workforce to become more culturally aware and safe.”

To view the Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath’s media release QAS drives greater cultural safety in the community in full click here.

Image source: Australian Paramedical College website.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Doomadgee launches first ACCO

The image in the feature tile is from the ABC News article Doomadgee Aboriginal organisation spells end of ‘failed, wasted services’, say local leaders, 2 September 2022. The image caption is ‘The only path to success is one that keeps Indigenous culture at the heart of any programs delivered, Goonawoona Jungai leaders say’. Photo: ABC Open Contributor Kane Chenoweth.

Doomadgee launches first ACCO

Over the past 15 years, the quality of life has not improved in the remote Aboriginal community of Doomadgee. That is despite the Queensland budget overview saying hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal funding had been thrown at programs and services for Indigenous people over the years. Now, for the first time in Australia, a group of First Nations people are taking power off the government to end years of “failed, duplicated and wasted services”, said Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council chief executive Troy Fraser. “At the moment, we find a lot of service delivery is very fragmented and duplicated because the government has been at the helm for a long time and one thing they don’t do well is talk to each other,” Mr Fraser said.

The community’s first Aboriginal community-controlled organisation, Goonawoona Jungai Ltd, launched last week. Mr Fraser said Goonawoona Jungai would be made up of First Nations residents, would stop organisations from copying and pasting programs with weak KPIs into the community, and would help foster services that delivered tangible results. “There is a lot of wastage around resources, around funding. Outcomes and objectives and KPIs that don’t fit in with our practices,” he said.

To view the ABC News article Doomadgee Aboriginal organisation spells end of ‘failed, wasted services’, say local leaders in full click here.

The first community-controlled Aboriginal organisation has been launched in Doomadgee. Photo: Larissa Waterson, ABC North West Qld.

Local CT scans for Torres Strait communities

A new computed tomography (CT) scanner will be installed at Thursday Island Hospital early next year, giving Torres Strait residents access to vital medical imaging services closer to home. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath announced the $2.14 million project when they visited the hospital yesterday. “This is an exciting addition to the region’s health services,” the Premier said. “We know how important it is for First Nations communities to receive health care as close to home as possible. Once this machine is installed, people living in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area will no longer have to travel to Cairns for CT scans.”

To view the Joint Statement from Queensland Premier and Minister for the Olympics, the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath Local CT scans soon to be a reality for Torres Strait communities click here.

Photo: Jessica Shapiro. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Women’s health declining

Women are continuing to suffer from the health effects of the pandemic regardless of whether they have contracted COVID-19 or not, a new survey has found. The national survey – conducted by researchers for women’s health organisation Jean Hailes – found there had been a significant decline in women’s physical and mental health since the pandemic began. Nearly half of the 14,000 survey respondents said their physical health had declined, citing weight gain, fitness loss and muscle and joint pain as the most common problems. One in five respondents said their mental health had stopped them engaging in everyday activities and 17% reported a pre-existing mental health condition had worsened.

Researchers had expected there would be a significant recovery in women’s health but the data collected for the survey revealed the opposite, Monash University Global and Women’s Health director Jane Fisher said. “We haven’t seen the bounce back in physical or mental health we were expecting to see by now,” she said. The survey also highlighted major health inequities particularly for women living with a disability, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, and in LGBTIQ and First Nations communities.

Nearly 45% of all women said they could not afford to see a doctor or health professional. But the same problem was reported by 70% of women speaking a language other than English, 62% of those with a disability and nearly half of Indigenous women. More than half of women from a non-English speaking background said they could not find health information in their own language.

To view The Canberra Times article Survey reveals decline of women’s health in full click here.

Photo: NATSIHWA. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance.

 

Bringing equity to adolescent health

Working as a youth mentor in his early career, Seth Westhead developed a strong sense of the health and well-being priorities of young Indigenous Australians. Now as co-lead of the Adolescent Health Group in the SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Research Unit, he’s working with colleagues to collect evidence and create positive change.

“Support for mental health, addressing racism and discrimination, access to education, health services and employment; these were the big issues then and still now,” Seth says. Seth and the Adolescent Health team at Wardliparingga are leading the development of the first national strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health. “It’s important to focus on this age group so we can provide support to young people before health crisis or chronic disease have a chance to become established,” Seth says. “But marching in and trying to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do won’t work – young people have to be a part of the process.”

The strategy focuses on people aged 10-24. “We’re asking Indigenous youth what they really want and need to support their health and wellbeing,” says Seth. “We find they engage really well using online platforms.” Once the survey work is complete, the evidence gathered will help create better, more accessible health and well-being services for young Indigenous people.

To view The Lead Health & Medical article Wardliparingga is bringing equity to adolescent health in full click here.

Seth Westhead and the Adolescent Health team at Wardliparingga are leading development of the first national strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health. Image source: ABC News.

Setting a course for change

When she left high school, Dr Talila Milroy thought becoming a journalist was the way for her to advocate for Aboriginal social justice. She certainly never thought she would become a GP. Luckily for her patients, she didn’t enjoy the media and communications course and not long after, decided a switch to medicine, with a strong feeling it would better satisfy her goals around social justice, health care education and research. “I knew there was a huge discrepancy between the health of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people. Medicine seemed like the place where I could make the biggest impact. I chose psychology as my major in my science degree which has worked in well.”

A Yindjibarndi and Palyku woman, Talila grew up in Perth, with family in the Pilbara. When she was 13, her mother got a job in Sydney, so she finished school there.  Talila was the only Indigenous medical graduate in her 2015 class at the University of Sydney. She spent her intern and resident years at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. With a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Sydney, Talila also has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology. 

She spent her undergraduate years working in the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University, The Garvan Institute and Moreton Consulting. She gained further experience doing her rural general practice medical school placement in Roebourne and medical elective team at the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern.  Earlier this year she was awarded her Fellowship with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. She lectures at UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health and is considering a masters and PhD.

To read the Medical Forum article Setting course for change in full click here.

Dr Talila Milroy. Image source: Medical Forum website.

Dental Health Week 2022 wrap-up

For this year’s Dental Health Week (DHW), which ran from 1 to 7 August, Australians were asked to love their teeth, with a campaign concept designed by talented ADA member, Dr Elice Chen. Promoting the importance of dental self-care was a timely one, with some Aussies having let their oral health fall by the wayside during the Covid-19 period, and with a good number only just getting back to the dentist.

In an effort to increase the oral health knowledge of non-dental professionals, the ADA holds webinars for other health associations and organisations. During Dental Health Week, ADA held a webinar for members of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) to provide an oral health update. The webinar was facilitated by Indigenous dental practitioners, Dr Georgia Clarke, and Ms Kirrily Phillips.

To view the Australian Dental Association article Loving their teeth: Dental Health Week 2022 wrap-up in full click here.

Dr Georgia Clarke. Image source: Brookwater Dental Facebook page. Oral Health Therapist Kirrily Phillips. Image source: 2019 QAIHC Youth Health Summit website.

Prison smokes ban will lead to ‘black market’

The ACT’s Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) is preparing to go smoke-free. Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs said the government’s plan to ban smoking at the prison is “ridiculous” and could lead to a black-market in contraband tobacco. “There’s no way it will be a smoke-free jail,” said Tongs. “Tobacco will become another contraband. At the moment it’s about $60 for a pouch of tobacco and if they ban it they’ll be paying $300 or $600 depending on the market. It’s ridiculous.”

To view the CBR City News article Smokes ban will lead to ‘black market’ in prison in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Inquest hears tragic victim statements

The image in the feature tile is of the sign outside the Doomadgee Hospital in the remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS. Image source: ABC Far North article Queensland coroner to travel to remote Doomadgee for rheumatic heart disease inquest published on 20 May 2022.

Inquest hears tragic victim statements

Family members of three women who died from complications associated with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the remote Gulf community of Doomadgee have given emotional victim impact statements to the inquest into their deaths. The three young women, whose families requested they be referred to as Kaya, Ms Sandy and Betty, died in 2019 and 2020.

Outside court, Alec Doomadgee, the brother of Ms Sandy and cultural father of Kaya, said the world needed to know the women were human beings and a crucial part of their families. He hopes the inquest would help bring these women’s lives — and the injustice they faced — to the public’s attention. He said that, if Kaya had been white, her treatment at various hospitals would have been very different. “It is an issue of race. It is an issue of systemic racism, institutionalised racism, and it is an issue of stereotyping Aboriginal people,” he said.

“We’re sick of being helped. We know what’s best for us, and we know how to help ourselves. We just need you to start listening to us.” He called on the state government to take real action and responsibility. “[Ms Sandy] didn’t die due to neglect, didn’t die due to negligence. She died because the system and the people [who are] supposed to help didn’t care.”

To view the ABC News article Inquest into deaths of three Indigenous women in Doomadgee hears tragic victim impact statements from family in full click here.

Alec Doomadgee, Ms Sandy’s husband, Edgar Sandy, and her daughters — Tinisha, Ellisha and Simona — outside the court. Photo: Holly Richardson, ABC News.

Traumatic brain injury data project

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the largest contributor to death and disability in people who have experienced physical trauma. There are no national data on outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI in Australia. Details of a study to o determine the incidence and key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe TBI, both for Australia and for selected population subgroups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, was published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) earlier today. The findings will be disseminated by project partners, including NACCHO, with the aim of informing improvements in equitable system‐level care for all people in Australia with moderate to severe TBI.

To read the MJA article The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) project: a mixed methods study protocol in full click here.

The news of this study comes at the end of this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week which ran from15–21 August with the theme Life is bigger than a brain injury. For further information about Brain Injury Awareness Week, including access to stories of those living with brain injury, you can access Synapse Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation website here. Below is a video relating to a previous study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traumatic brain injury.

Kowanyama dog control a big job

As the sun begins to take the chill out of the morning air, a litter of puppies emerges from its den of building materials on a vacant block of land. Soon the puppies disperse onto the streets, disappearing among dozens of other dogs that roam without boundary across Kowanyama, a remote Indigenous township in Queensland’s far north. The western Cape York community has a problem with loose dogs. They fight, they breed uncontrollably, they attack other animals and sometimes, they turn their attention on humans.

Samuel ‘Sinker’ Hudson, Kowanyama’s animal control officer is part of a small team of people trying to change the way locals care for their animals in Kowanyama. And he has a big job on his hands. There are 455 dogs registered with Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, about one for every 2.5 people in the community. It’s not known how many unregistered dogs there are, and unchecked breeding is an issue.

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama dog control reduces disease and keeps community safe, but more is needed in full click here.

Takeaway grog ban hotly debated

As communities in northern WA search for solutions to alcohol-fuelled violence and harm, a proposal to severely restrict takeaway grog is subject of a hotly contested debate. The state’s director of liquor licensing, Lanie Chopping, has been investigating whether all takeaway alcohol except light beer should be banned in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions since mid-2020. Crime rates, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour have led to the regions being compared to war zones.

The inquiry was launched after an application in 2019 by former police commissioner Chris Dawson in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse; his successor, Col Blanch, has given in-principle support. While it’s been met with widespread backlash from the tourism and hospitality sectors, which believe it would damage the area’s reputation, leaders in health care and social services have different views.

To view the ABC News article As officials consider a ban on most takeaway alcohol in northern WA, what do people on the ground say? in full click here.

The proposal has drawn a mixed response from the Pilbara community. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

Successful early childhood program

The school-based program, Getting on Track in Time has received a substantial financial boost to continue its fantastic work. A highly successful Aboriginal early childhood program has received a $2.7 million funding boost to ensure even more young children, their families and educators are skilled in discussing and managing, challenging emotions and feelings. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the Getting On Track In Time program – or GOT IT! – was culturally adapted for Aboriginal communities in partnership with local Aboriginal health services and piloted over four years with positive results.

“This program has united parents, teachers, mental health workers and Aboriginal people to achieve an important goal – to support young Aboriginal children to recognise, regulate and talk about any troubling thoughts and feelings they have,” Mrs Taylor said. “I am delighted more families will benefit from this excellent program, which was developed by South Western Sydney Local Health District in collaboration with local Aboriginal people.” Designed for children aged three to nine years, Aboriginal GOT IT! is a school-based program led by a team of mental health workers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal). Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the program aims to support children, families and educators to address emotional or behavioural concerns in children and reduce the emergence of mental health concerns later in life.

To view the NSW Government media release $2.7M for successful Aboriginal early childhood program in full click here.

Female prisoners need protection

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, is calling on the ACT government to guarantee that female inmates at Canberra’s jail are safe from predatory prison officers. It follows disturbing allegations of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and female detainees and ex-detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

On May 12, Tim Rust – a former senior director of operations at Canberra’s prison – blew the lid on a long-standing culture of drug taking and inappropriate behaviour among some corrections officers. Rust’s allegations – which have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission –  include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the matters.

Ms Tongs said she was deeply “concerned” by the allegations and has written to three key ACT ministers seeking an assurance that female detainees are safe. The ministers are ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne. “I’m calling on the ACT Government to guarantee the safety of the women detained in the AMC,” Tongs said.

To view the Canberra City News article Protect women from prison predators, says Tongs in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Innovative pathway to study medical career

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine are encouraged to consider a University of Newcastle pathway program, which could set them on the journey to realising their dream.

The Miroma Bunbilla Program is an alternate entry pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates applying for the University of Newcastle’s Joint Medical Program (JMP). Each year, up to 17 places are set aside for applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent for admission into the JMP. There are currently 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the JMP, and to date, 110 Indigenous doctors have graduated from the medicine program.

The five-day intensive assessment Miroma Bunbilla program, will be delivered from December 5 to 9, pairing students with mentors to successfully start medical school. In 2020, the program was extended beyond Newcastle to reach those outside the Hunter region and now also runs in Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Taree and Orange.

Applications for the Miroma Bunbilla Program are now open and close on 31 October 2022. For further information about the program and how to apply click here.

Medical student Kieran Shipp. Photo: University of Newcastle. Image source: National Indigenous News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

Image in the feature tile is from a video NT chief minister attacks ‘international trolls’ for spreading Covid misinformation published in The Guardian on 25 November 2021.

NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

As critical primary healthcare clinics are forced to close for some weeks in Central Australia due to the pandemic’s impact upon staffing, health leaders are calling for ‘vaccines-plus’ strategies to check COVID transmission, as well as better support for and investment in the Aboriginal health workforce. A leading public health expert has urged governments to do more to tackle the COVID pandemic in the wake of a related workforce crisis forcing the closure of important primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in Central Australia, with worrying implications for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) made the decision to close each of their five town clinics for one day each week from the beginning of August until the end of the month to help manage a shortage of healthcare staff. Congress delivers services to more than 16,000 Aboriginal people living in Mparntwe/Alice Springs and remote communities across Central Australia, including Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Wallace Rockhole, Utju (Areyonga), Mutitjulu and Amoonguna as well as many visitors.

Dr John Boffa, Chief Medical Officer Public Health at Congress is concerned recent major gains made in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NT will be reversed without urgent efforts to fix the Territory’s current PHC crisis. “Basically, we’ve got the biggest workforce crisis we’ve ever had now,” Boffa said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As COVID reduces Aboriginal health services in Central Australia, health leaders call for action in full click here.

Drone photo of Mparntwe/Alice Springs. Phot: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Meaningful health reform suggestions

In a recent Croakey Health Media article health professionals have explored some of the key health reform challenges facing the Federal Government and offered some ways forward, based on appreciation of the importance of addressing health inequities, the needs of patients, and strengthening critical relationships. They say a number of factors combine to deliver an Australian health system that is “universal” in name only, where those with resources can buy access to the care they need but where too many of those who need it most miss out.

Many of these “design faults” have a compounding impact on population groups who already experience the most disadvantage such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with disabilities, living in rural and remote areas and with low incomes. The resulting situation is a clear example of the “inverse care law”: the principle that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served. Reversing this situation will only be possible if at least some of these structural problems are addressed, in addition to increasing overall resourcing for primary healthcare and addressing workforce shortages.

Lessons, the article authors say, can be learnt from existing examples of community-based approaches to chronic disease in Australia and internationally. These include the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector, community health centres like co-health and rural health services, which often provide a more integrated and multidisciplinary approach than urban areas.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Amid competing agendas and priorities, some suggestions for ways forward for meaningful health reform in full click here.

Darren Braun is an Aboriginal Health Worker trainee at Danila Dilba in Palmerston, Darwin. Photo: Emilia Terzon. ABC News.

Caring for our mob, in health and wellbeing

Across Australia, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) continues to cause a greater burden of disease within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities than in the non-Aboriginal population. In the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, two EACH programs located in Ferntree Gully – the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Team (AHWT) and Project HOPE/THRIVE – have been successfully working together to provide wrap-around services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) concerns. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such collaborative care keeps clients with complex issues engaged, supported and hopeful along their recovery journey.

The Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report uses a case study approach to explore and develop a rich understanding of the key elements underpinning the collaborative model of care between EACH’s Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup AHWT and its HOPE/THRIVE program of federally-funded AOD support. This includes relationships and trust; good communication and frequent contacts; colocation of multiple services; supported transport; flexibility and responsiveness; a team-oriented, family-centric and holistic approach to AOD misuse, health and wellbeing; and operationalizing a philosophy emphasizing welcome attitude, empathy and hope. Three real-life client stories are presented in the report, in order to reveal what this collaborative model looks and feels like, from the perspective of those benefiting from it.

To access the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report click here.

NE Arnhem Land health lab on wheels

Chronic diseases – such as diabetes and heart disease – cause suffering for thousands of Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The Menzies School of Health Research is letting people experience the effects of long-term diseases before they get sick. HealthLAB – a clinic on wheels – lets people see heart and kidney ultrasounds, hear their heart beating, and try on ‘alcohol goggles’ that mimic raised blood alcohol levels. An award-winning interactive Time Machine app completes the picture – literally – by showing how those choices affect appearance.

HealthLAB travels to locations around Darwin and Northeast Arnhem Land, giving locals the opportunity to talk to a range of scientists and health professionals about the science behind the inner workings of the human body, the technology behind the equipment they use, and exciting future careers in science.

To view the medianet. News for Business article An AI ‘Time Machine’ and a health lab on wheels – Northeast Arnhem Land, NT in full click here.

Image source: Menzies HealthLAB Facebook page.

Increasing odds GPs will work rurally

New research which links the amount of training time spent in rural areas with the odds of GPs working in rural and remote areas has been published in the American Journal of Graduate Medical Education. The study addresses an urgent need to understand how to increase the likelihood of junior doctors choosing to practice as GPs in rural or remote areas. The paper titled: Family Medicine Residencies: How Rural Training Exposure in GME Is Associated With Subsequent Rural Practice, shows that when junior doctors do their GP training in rural and remote areas they are more likely to subsequently decide to work in rural areas.

While other research has previously identified associations between rural training – particularly as a medical student – and subsequent rural practice, this study showed that as the amount of rural GP training of junior doctors increased, so did their likelihood of rural practice. Lead author, Menzies Senior Research Fellow Dr Deborah Russell, said that in the US, where this study was undertaken, almost all (91%) junior doctors training to be GPs have no rural training, leaving enormous scope for government policy to increase rural training opportunities for junior doctors. The findings of this US study are relevant for ensuring that enough Australian GPs choose to work in rural and remote areas of Australia.

To view the Menzies School of Health Research media release Increasing the amount of training time in rural areas increased the odds that GPs work rurally in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

ACT Rising Woman of Spirit award winner

The Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards, announced yesterday, recognise women who have overcome adversity and gone on to make a positive contribution to our community, while inspiring others to do the same. A young Indigenous woman, Rachel Fishlock, who was a child carer for her mother who had mental health complexities, was honoured with the Rising Woman of Spirit award.

From the age of 12, Rachel became a full-time career for her single mum, who had severe mental health complications, and experienced systemic neglect during her mother’s frequent and prolonged hospitalisations. Through sheer determination, Rachel completed high school, and went on to found a successful international business, Lunar the Label. She closed this to pursue university education, graduating with a degree in social sciences in 2018 and has since earned a Master of Business Management.

A Yuin woman from Nowra NSW, Rachel now works in Canberra at Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit), the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. Today, Rachel continues to push for policy reforms to ensure other child carers do not experience the neglect that she did.

To view the Riotact article ‘Leaving the world in better shape than they found it’ – meet the winners of Lifeline’s Women of Spirit Awards in full click here.

Indigenous HealthInfoNet calls for papers

The Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (formerly the HealthBulletin Journal) has been published online since 2020. In that time, it has received over 6,500 downloads, in 62 countries and 230 institutions around the world. You are being invited to submit an article to this rapidly growing publication.

Papers are being sought from researchers and practitioners that address key issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Our goal is to provide high quality information that is timely, accessible and relevant to support the everyday practice of those in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce.

As of 27 June this year one of the most popular papers published by the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet was Culturally Safe and Integrated Primary Health Care: A Case Study of Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services’ Holistic Model, available here.

You find more information here and visit the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet journal here to submit your work. All submissions are subject to double blind peer review.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Recognising First Nations health workers

The image in the feature tile is from a post on the the Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) Facebook page, 7 August 2022.

Recognising First Nations health workers

Every year on 7 August the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) invites the health sector and all Australians to help celebrate the achievements and evolution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Health Practitioner workforce.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) has explained that “within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community this workforce is renowned as a vital and reliable resource critical to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners work on the frontline of Australia’s primary health care system. They are rarely part of the fly in fly out workforce, but instead have a lived experience in and deep understanding of the communities they serve. Their combination of clinical, cultural, social and linguistic skills delivers an engagement capability and community reach that sets them apart from others working in the health care system.”

“They act as cultural brokers; health system navigators; and provide a high standard of culturally safe and responsive primary health care. Their ability to respond to the clinical, social and cultural needs and contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities positions them as unique among Health Professionals.”

On the National Day of Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners and everyday, thank you to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners for their hard work supporting the community, keeping our mob’s health in our own hands.

You can read the NAATSIHWP media release National Day of Recognition for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners here.

Alarming rise in First Nations suicide

Ashleigh-Sue Chatters was sketching designs for her butterfly tattoo in the weeks before her death. Having struggled with mental illness since her teenage years, the 28-year-old Palawa woman told her mother the delicate insect planned for her upper arm was an ode to her will to live. “To her, the butterfly was a symbol of survival and that she hadn’t given up on herself yet, even though the system had given up on her,” her mother Tara Chatters said. Ashleigh had spent numerous inpatient stints in Victoria’s burdened mental health system. In February she was admitted to Dandenong hospital’s psychiatric unit, in Melbourne. She took her own life there four days later on 25 February.

Tara believes the biggest barrier her daughter faced was systemic racism in the mental health sector that undermined her ability to get culturally appropriate treatment. “She was labelled just another black fella. They thought well, this is just how they are and it’s a waste of time helping her,” Tara says. “They would look at her as an Aboriginal girl and think she was a drug addict even when the test results didn’t show that. I don’t want another Aboriginal girl to die because people just look at her like she’s not worth saving.”

Ashleigh’s death is part of alarming increase in First Nations suicide in Victoria. Thelest datafrom the state coroner revealed 35 Indigenous Victorians took their own life last year, a 75% increase, despite a drop in suicide in the state’s broader population. It is a trend that is also replicated nationally, where the rate of Indigenous suicide has nearly doubled in the past decade.

To read The Guardian article ‘I’m scared someone else will lose their child this way’: the alarming rise in First Nations suicide in full click here.

Ashleigh-Sue’s brother Wade Chatters and mum Tara. Photo: Jackson Gallagher, Guardian Australia.

Remote community cost of living crisis

With grocery bills rapidly increasing due to supply chain issues and rising inflation, all Australians are feeling the pinch. But in remote Aboriginal communities, the situation is even more dire. A social media post of a receipt from the Docker River store in the remote indigenous community of Kaltukatjara, in the NT – where many families already live close to the breadline – showed a 2L bottle of Pura Milk cost $9.20. While supermarket chain Aldi has warned grocery prices will “inevitably” continue to rise after the inflation rate surged to 6.1%, by comparison, at a Sydney Woolworths, the same product this week cost $3.10.

A 2021 AMSANT report showed groceries were 56% more expensive in remote communities than regional supermarkets in the NT due to poor quality roads and long supply chains. Back in December 2021 during the Morrison government’s Food Security inquiry, the then WA Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, said “Improving food security and making affordable, fresh and nutritious foods more available in remote indigenous communities is an important part of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” According to a Docker River resident “Nothing has been done” to since then to resolve the cost of living crisis.

To view the news.com.au article ‘Disgusting’: Outrage over cost of living crisis in Aboriginal township where 2L of milk costs $9.20 in full click here.

Two litres of Pura milk now costs $9.20 in Kaltukatjara, in the Northern Territory, showing the dire cost of living crisis in the remote indigenous communities. Image source: news.com.au.

Diabetes rate among world’s highest

Selina and Rhonda Bob are waiting for a lifesaving phone call — one that could be years away. Their kidneys are failing, and they hope they won’t have to wait too long on the organ transplant list. Every week, the sisters are bound to a chair for 16 hours as their blood is pumped out of their bodies and filtered through a dialysis machine. The pair were both diagnosed with diabetes – a disease that can damage the kidneys — at a staggeringly young age. And in this isolated pocket of the world, these sisters are not alone in their prognosis.

New research has found that rates of diabetes in Central Australia are amongst the highest ever seen worldwide – and they are getting worse, with more people diagnosed every year at far younger ages than ever seen before. The lead author is Matthew Hare, an endocrinologist at Royal Darwin Hospital and senior research officer at Menzies School of Health Research, said the new research showed a growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT communities, which was “unprecedented in terms of prevalence. Rates of diabetes in these remote communities are increasing such that now 29% of adults in remote Aboriginal communities are living with diabetes, and this is largely type 2 diabetes. The findings of our research were particularly concerning for the Central Australian region where communities are having diabetes prevalence rates up to 40% of adults.”

You can read the ABC News article Diabetes rates in Central Australia among highest in the world, new research shows in full here.

Selina and Rhonda Bob spend 16 hours a week on dialysis, but they are doing everything in their power to live a healthy lifestyle. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

GP role in primary mental health care

Tim Senior, a GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine is one of nine GPs who have contributed to an article Myth-busting: role of the GP in primary mental health care published in MJA InSight (a newsletter for medical professionals produced by the Medical Journal of Australia) today.

The authors write “In recent years, we GPs have seen a steep increase in mental distress, and the cracks in the system that fail the most vulnerable are familiar to us all. We are well aware of the enormous unmet need for mental health care at this time and we agree with Rosenberg and Hickie, who wrote in InSight+ recently that primary mental health care reform is long overdue. Where we disagree is in our understanding of the problem and in particular, the role of GPs in contributing to the current mental health crisis and its various solutions.

The article authors said “We [GPs] are the best value mental health care in the country using less than 3% of the total mental health budget to see the majority of the patients needing community care. Current underfunding added to rhetoric that alienates and misrepresents GPs seems a counterproductive strategy if we are to provide better mental health outcomes for all Australians.”

To read the article in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

AMSANT CEO – do alcohol bans work?

There’s been furious debate about the future and safety of hundreds of remote communities in the NT after alcohol restrictions imposed under the NT Emergency Response in 2007 were lifted last month. The NT Government says the intervention era bans were racist, and passed legislation in May this year, giving affected communities the ability to choose or “opt in” if they want alcohol bans.

A similar debate is happening in WA where the Director of Liquor Licensing is investigating whether all mid and full-strength alcohol should be banned from takeaway sales in the Pilbara and Kimberley. But do bans like this actually effect change in communities?

In an ABC Radio National broadcast John Paterson – CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT, Marianne Nungarri Skeen – Jaru Woman from Halls Creek region, former health worker and Harold Tracey – Broome Shire President discuss the issue.

To listen to the ABC Radio National broadcast The Roundtable: Are alcohol restrictions in remote communities working? click here.

Signs are supplied to premises that opt into the liquor restriction scheme, which is enforceable by WA Police. Image source: ABC Radio National website.

CATSINaM conference 18–20 August

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) is holding its 25th Anniversary National Conference from Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 August 2022.  The 4 event series, Opening, Exhibition, Conference and Gala Dinner celebrating 25 years since the organisation was founded on Gadigal Country in 1997 to the day, will commemorate and honour both individual and collective activism by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner will deliver a keynote address on the first day of the conference on 19 August 2022 and LaVerne Bellear Bundjalung, CEO of Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service will be a guest speaker.

To view a CATSINaM conference flyer click here and click here to access the CATSINaM National Conference website page

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.