NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rural and regional health system is broken

Image in feature tile from Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, NSW website.

Rural and regional health system is broken

Dr Rob Phair, GP in Bairnsdale Victoria, and President of the Rural Doctor’s Association of Victoria. Dr Robin Williams, GP in Molong NSW, and Chair of the Western NSW Primary Health Network and Dr Gabreille O’Kane, CEO of the Rural Health Alliance were guests this morning on an episode of ABC Radio National Life Matters hosted by Michael Mackenzie discussing the question ‘Is the medical system in rural and regional Australia still fit for purpose?’

Rural doctors say the death, earlier this month, of a 72-year-old man in Bairnsdale, eastern Victoria, died in an emergency room bathroom after waiting more than three hours for treatment is the latest example of a broken medical system, which, they argue, needs a radical restructure to meet the changing needs of the times.

Dr O’Kane said the ACCHO model of care is appealing to the rural health sector and is proposing a community-led model of care employing a range of healthcare professionals, from GPs and psychologist to nurses and physiotherapists, similar to ACCHOs.

You can listen to the Life Matters interview in full here.

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images. Image source: ABC News RN Life Matters webpage.

Health sector needs ‘whole-of-workforce’ strategy

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is urging all political parties to recognise the importance of our workforce in establishing a health system that can deliver the care Australians deserve. ‘Matching and forecasting the needs, demands and supply of the health workforce is complex in any context,’ says AHHA Acting Chief Executive Kylie Woolcock. ‘However, ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, urgent action is needed to address workforce issues in Australia’s heath system if it is to continue to provide vital services to the community.’

To view the AHHA media release Whole-of-workforce strategy needed to deliver healthcare that Australians deserve in full click here.

RHD not purely due to remoteness

Lynette Bullio’s son Jalil was just seven years old when he found out he would need painful injections each month until at least his 21st birthday. The Cairns boy was limping around but he and his mother thought it was because he had tripped over at school. When, by the end of the week, Jalil couldn’t even manage a short walk from his mother’s car to the school gate, Ms Bullio knew it was something more serious. Jalil, now 11, was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease(RHD).

He is one of thousands of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across northern Australia with the condition that was largely eradicated in Australia’s urban non-Indigenous population about 60 years ago. “It still is traumatic, I think, when I talk about it and realise how huge this disease is,” Ms Bullio said. “I start getting a lump in my throat.”

Ben Reeves, a paediatric cardiologist at Cairns Hospital, said while the disease was often associated with isolated communities he still saw new cases of rheumatic fever in Cairns children every week. “This is not purely due to remoteness,” Dr Reeves said. “It’s a lack of access to appropriate facilities and it’s a lack of awareness among the community and some health staff and we’re trying very hard to turn this around.”

You can access the ABC Far North News article Rheumatic heart disease strategy launched in Queensland as more people get sick in large centres in full here.

Image source: newsGP.

Major Parties ‘Nowhere on Health’

The AMA is disappointed the federal election campaign is half-way through and ‘nowhere on health’, while calls for politicians to address health policy are getting louder in the community. State Premiers, Health Ministers and State Treasurers have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Federal Health Minister previously to ask for a 50-50 split on hospital funding, and to remove the annual cap on activity, in order to deal with the backlog of care in the community following COVID-19 lockdowns.

“State and Territory Ministers, and even Premiers, have stated their clear, unequivocal support for a 50-50 agreement that removes the cap on funding growth – this is not something an incoming government is going to be able to ignore. So instead, political parties should be outlining how they will fix our hospital system, should they win government,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release Halfway to Nowhere on Health, AMA says future PM and Government can’t hide from urgent need for new hospital agreement in full click here.

Fears NT bill will open booze floodgates

Three Indigenous bodies are calling on the NT government to immediately shelve legislation which could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 communities from mid-July this year. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency and Aboriginal Housing NT have proposed the bill be dismissed.

Under the 2007 Federal Intervention, these communities in NT became Alcohol Protected Areas, which continued under the Stronger Futures legislation. AMSANT CEO John Patterson said consultations for the proposed change have not begun. “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available,” he said. “Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill. This Government has introduced many excellent alcohol reforms, and this sudden and puzzling change is a backward step that has not been explained properly to anyone. Why not move to an opt-out system instead which would ensure all communities make an active decision about what they want to do rather than simply have the current protections taken away.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency executive officer Priscilla Atkins said the mixture of dry and unrestricted communities would be impossible to monitor. “The biggest issue we’ve got is a lot of criminal matters that come before the court are alcohol related,” she said. “You’re going to have alcohol coming into the remote communities there’ll be more violence, more pressure on the courts, more pressure on the police…and it’s disappointing that we’re talking about this now and the legislation expires on the 30th of June.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article Fears NT Govt bill will open booze floodgates in dry communities in full here.

Photo Tim Wimborne, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Agent Orange poisoned WA mob

Premiering from June onwards on both NITV and SBS online platforms, a documentary On Australian Shores, produced and directed by Ngikalikarra Media, will tell the harrowing story of a large number of Aboriginal men and their families, who were knowingly and unwittingly poisoned by government in order to enhance the profits of the agricultural industry. The story of the wanton neglect of the WA Agricultural Protection Board (APB) via a series of interviews with survivors, their family members that have outlived them, and current generations still affected by Agent Orange poisoning.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has spoken to Ngikalikarra Media co-producer, director and editor Dr Magali McDuffie about how despite numerous inquiries and reports the overwhelming majority of victims remain uncompensated, while the WA government continues to deny any of it ever happened.

You can read the article WA Poisoned First Nations With Agent Orange: An Interview With Ngikalikarra’s Dr Magali McDuffie in full on the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website here.

One of the APB work crews employed to unknowingly spray Agent Orange around the Kimberley. Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

NDIS access in the Kimberley region

An article Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article describes a study exploring the process and early outcomes of work undertaken by a program to increase Aboriginal people’s awareness of, and access to, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Access Program was reported as successful by staff in its aim of connecting eligible people with the NDIS. Vital to this success was program implementation by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector. Staff in these organisations held community trust, provided culturally appropriate services, and utilised strengths-based approaches to overcome barriers that have historically hindered Aboriginal people’s engagement with disability services. The results of the study demonstrate the Access Program is a successful start in increasing awareness of, and access to, the NDIS for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region, however much work remains to assist the large number of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region believed to be eligible for NDIS support who are yet to achieve access.

To view the article in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Get ready for Heart Week

One Australian is having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes.

This Heart Week from Monday 2 -–Sunday 8 May 2022, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and for GPs, nurses and general practice staff to deliver Heart Health Checks for more at-risk Australians. It is an opportunity for health professionals and the Australian public to start a conversation about heart health and take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. General practice teams and health professionals have a pivotal role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and have the power to change the one every 4 minute statistic by focusing on simple, routine practices that have a measurable lifesaving impact.

For more information about Heart Week 2022 click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

Image in feature tile is of Tenaya Bell, one of 1000s of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the incurable disease, RHD. Image supplied to ABC News by Telethon Kids Institute.

Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

In a media statement released earlier today NACCHO commented on a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) concerning the rate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in comparison to other Australians. The media statement is reproduced here in full:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease than other Australians

In a report released on 12 April 2022, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlight the alarming findings that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than all Australians. New diagnoses of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are also increasing. Previous research has also shown that Aboriginal children between 5 to 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from RHD than other Australian children.

Pat Turner, NACCHO CEO said, “ARF and RHD are preventable conditions. Despite this, too many of our communities continue to experience the effects of these diseases of disadvantage. This updated report provides further evidence that a new approach to ending ARF and RHD is needed. It is imperative the ACCHO sector now plays the lead role in identifying and implementing future solutions.”

To address some of the significant issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in rural and remote areas, NACCHO, with funding support from the Department of Health, is co-designing a new program of activities with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. These activities will be designed to support early detection and effective treatment of RHD and ARF and ensure services are provided in a culturally safe way, targeting highest need communities.

You can view the media statement on the NACCHO website using this link.

Image source: AIHW ARF and RHD in Australia, 2016–2020 website page.

Galiwin’ku AHP clocks up 30 years

Wanamula Dorothy Gondarra, who celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday, has shown dedication to health promotion in the Galiwin’ku community over the last three decades. During that time Wanamula has worked at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation for almost 20 years.

AMA gives major parties ‘F’ on health

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and Victorian emergency physician Dr Stephen Parnis where interviewed this morning on Channel 9’s Today show about the crisis in health and what Labor and the Liberal National Party are promising for health in the federal election.

Dr Omar said “what we need is a solution for our epidemic of chronic disease in the community. That means modernising our Medicare system and making sure that GPs can look after those things properly in the community and take the pressure on off our hospitals. And of course, the other thing we need is both sides of politics to get real, to understand that the ambulance ramping crisis is actually affecting people’s lives on a daily basis now in Australia. They’ve got to find a solution to work with the states, properly fund those hospitals and make sure that every Aussie who gets sick knows that when they go to the hospital, they’re going to get the care they need, when they need it.”

Dr Paris said “a whole number of things were needed, including better resourcing, and part of that means a better financial contribution from the Federal Government for hospitals. It needs better support for staffing, some of that in the short-term to ensure that staff can have time away – there is no substitute for that when you’ve got thousands of people who are burned out. And you also need the support of systems that take away pressure from hospitals, as Omar said, with general practice, but also in the area of aged care which puts an enormous amount of pressure on emergency departments and inpatient wards.”

To view the AMA’s transcript of the interview in full click here.

Calls to shelve NT alcohol legislation

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT) are calling on the NT Government to immediately shelve legislation that could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 Community Living Areas, town camps and other small communities from mid-July 2022. These communities became Alcohol Protected Areas (APAs) under the 2007 Federal Intervention, and this continued under Federal Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation. The alcohol-related Stronger Futures provisions will expire on 16 July this year. Territory communities that were already ‘dry’ General Restricted Areas for many years, through their own choice, will keep that status – but the APA communities will have to apply to stay alcohol-free or the condition will lapse and they will have no restrictions.

If the Government’s amendments to the Liquor Act Bill is passed in May, it will open the floodgates to take-away alcohol unless communities ask the Director of Licensing to declare them ‘dry.’ “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available. Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill,” said Mr Paterson, CEO of AMSANT. “Consultations for the proposed changes have not even begun”, Mr Paterson. “We call on the Chief Minister in the strongest terms to cease playing with Aboriginal people’s lives. High levels of alcohol consumption continue to lead to serious health and social problems in the Territory. This Bill must be withdrawn now, or the Federal Government must act.” concluded Mr. Paterson.

To view the joint AMSANT, Aboriginal Housing NT and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency media release in full click here.

Photo: Claire Campbell, ABC News.

Deadly Choices drives positive health

The Men’s Health Golf Day marks one of Deadly Choices’ first community participation events for 2022, driving positive health behaviour from the Gold Coast’s Palm Meadows Golf Course.  The annual event brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men from across Queensland to ‘drive home’ the messages associated with healthy lifestyles, with a focus on raising awareness of mental health and encouraging men to seek out support from their local ACCHOs.  As with all Deadly Choices events, participants must have an up to date 715 Health Check.

The event will allow recently named Birmingham Commonwealth Games weightlifter and Olympian Brandon Wakeling a chance to limber up before international competition in July, joined by fellow Olympian, Australia’s fastest man and 2032 Brisbane Olympic Organising Committee member, Patrick Johnson. The Olympic feel is complemented by a distinct NRL presence, with league legends and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Brenton Bowen and Tyrone Roberts enjoying the Gold Coast fairways.

“Mental health overarches everything we do with Deadly Choices relating to overall health and wellbeing, so when men can get on top of that, everything else seems that little bit easier to manage,” said Renouf. “These issues can blind men from their responsibilities as a son, as a husband and as a father – they become closed off and that’s when depression can take hold.”

Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Tyrone Roberts, Brenton Bowen, plus Olympians Brandon Wakeling and Patrick Johnson joined150 men from right across Queensland to tee off this morning.

Deadly New Dads video competition

Entries are now open for the SMS4dads Deadly New Dads Video Competition, which invites soon-to-be and new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to submit a short video (under two minutes) showcasing what they love about being or becoming a new dad.

Click here For more information. Those who enter the competition will go into the draw to win from a total prize pool of $10,000. For each category, prizes include:

  • overall winner – $3000
  • second prize – $1000
  • third prize – $500.

Entries close on Sunday 22 May 2022.

Real time prescription monitoring

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, says a new medicine management system is now live across the NT ensuring greater care for patients. NTScript was jointly funded by the Territory Labor Government and the Federal Government, and it provides real time prescription monitoring (RTPM) information for controlled drugs at the point of care, helping to improve clinical decision making.

Through using NTScript, Clinicians in the NT now have greater access to prescribing records, including up-to-date information about the supply of high risk medicines. NTScript will assist with the identification of people who may be at risk of harm from medicine use. This will enable clinicians to have informed conversations with patients and help reduce the risk of medication related harm.

To view the media release in full click here.

TB in Australia’s Tropical North study

The NT has the highest tuberculosis (TB) rate of all Australian jurisdictions. A study has been undertaken combining TB public health surveillance data with genomic sequencing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates in the tropical ‘Top End’ of the NT to investigate trends in TB incidence and transmission. This retrospective observational study included all 741 culture-confirmed cases of TB in the Top End over three decades from 1989–2020. The findings of the study support prioritisation of timely case detection, contact tracing augmented by genomic sequencing, and latent TB treatment to break transmission chains in Top End remote hotspot regions.

To read the research paper Tuberculosis in Australia’s tropical north: a population-based genomic epidemiological study published in The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific click here.

L-R: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium which causes TB. Image source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. TB most commonly causes pneumonia, The Conversation. A Mantoux test for TB being administered in a Darwin Clinic – Katherine Gregory, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS + Sexual Health Conferences

For 30 years the Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference, the leading HIV conference in Australasia, has brought together delegates from Australia, NZ, Asia, and the Pacific. Importantly, the Conference reaches beyond Australasia, with keynotes and invited speakers from around the world. This makes for an event with global and local relevance, giving delegates a global platform with access to state-of-the-art research and evidence.  ASHM coordinates the conference to disseminate new and innovative research findings among delegates from a range of backgrounds

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)’s vision for reconciliation is that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience equity, dignity, and respect in all aspects of life. Therefore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples representation in research, policy and health education is an ongoing goal for both ASHM and the Conference, and we welcome all Indigenous delegates and submissions from Indigenous professionals. 

The four-day face-to-face conference will be held from Friday 29 August – Monday 1 September 2022 at The Sofitel Central Brisbane Centre.

For more information visit the Australasian Sexual Health Conference (ASRHA) website here.

Abstract Submission Deadline: Sunday 1 May

Early Bird Registration Deadline: Thursday 30 June

Standard Registration Deadline: Sunday 14 August

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Cost of living hikes a health danger

feature tile text 'cost of living hikes dangerous for ATSI health' & Aboriginal hands holding shopping trolley

Image in feature tile from Adult Learning Australia website Food in remote Australia is expensive section.

Cost of living hikes a health danger

The cost of basic household items has reached new heights in regional centres but also Aboriginal communities. In yesterday’s episode of ABC radio’s The World Today with Sally Sara experts Diane Temple, Mamu woman, Queensland, June Riemer, Gumbaynggirr woman and deputy CEO, First Peoples Disability Network and Dr Joy Linton, GP, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, Yarrabah discuss how the cost of living hikes are dangerous for Indigenous health. Health experts are worried the lack of access to fresh fruit and vegetables will cause serious health issues.

You can listen to the radio segment here and a related story Doctors fear impacts of more expensive fruit and veg, featuring Dr Kean-Seng Lin, GP in Mt Druitt, western Sydney and Professor Sharon Friel, Australian National University also on The World Today here.

screenshot of The World Today ABC logo tile

Dietitians Australia say Improving food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in remote, regional and urban parts of Australia is essential to achieving health equity. “Food security is a fundamental human right,” said Board Director of Dietitians Australia and Gamilaroi woman, Tracy Hardy. “The 2021 Close the Gap Report stated that we need strategies to manage food security in response to the rising cost of food, and the impact of climate change on food availability.” You can view the Dietitians Australian media release here.

Remote community stores across Australia are receiving $8 million to strengthen the supply of essential goods, groceries and other critical supplies. Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, said the funding will provide 43 stores with the resources they need to improve their supply chains, storage and delivery of products in their communities. “In the 2021–22 Budget we committed $5 million to invest in remote stores to improve food security and strengthen supply chains,” Minister Wyatt said. “Since then, we’ve seen an increased need for reliable food security in remote communities, and we’re responding with increased support. “We’re now investing $8 million to directly support remote stores to fund infrastructure upgrades, cool and dry storage expansion, green energy systems and training for staff and management.”

To view the Minister Wyatt’s Securing Essential Supplies for Remote Australia media release click here.

Gina Lyons, Irrunytju WA cooking with frypan

Gina Lyons, Irrunytju WA. Photo: Suzanne Bryce, NPY Women’s Council. Image source: The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre website.

Purple House making families well on Country

Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation is the official name for what is now more commonly known as the Purple House. The Purple House is an organisation dedicated to getting First Nations Peoples from remote communities back home on Country through the delivery of renal services. Its conception, design and delivery are based firmly in the values of Yanangu. It remains entirely Indigenous-owned and run, with an all-Yanangu Board of Directors who are elected by its members.

A translation of the Purple House’s official title means ‘making all our families well’. This is also the vision statement for the organisation. Since its beginnings in 2000, Purple House has concentrated on addressing the epidemic of renal disease inflicting remote First Nations communities. It has done this effectively and successfully, vastly improving the quality of life and life expectancy of renal patients. It is now possible to say that, in this space, the Purple House has not only closed the gap but has opened a gap on the national average.

The Purple House now operates 19 permanent remote dialysis clinics and two mobile units called Purple Trucks. The success of the model has led to an expansion of services, which now include aged care, disability, primary health and social support. However, there remains a constant call from other remote communities to support their needs as well.

To view the RAHC Partyline article in full click here.

Purple House van

The Purple Truck. Image source: RAHC Partyline website.

The disease of racism

Veteran Queensland health professional, Bindal Elder Gracelyn Smallwood and Aboriginal businessman and human rights campaigner Dr Stephen Hagan have filed complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission alleging they were recently racially discriminated against at a Townsville service station. Professor Smallwood told CAAMA Radio it was not unusual in Townsville and that nothing surprised her about the alleged incident. Following a phone call from Ms Smallwood, Dr Hagan drove to the same service station to fill up his car as a “test” – but says he too was also discriminated against by the same attendant because he was Aboriginal. Professor Smallwood says despite being stereotyped for decades because of her stand against racism the only way attitudes are going to change is by suing the perpetrators. You can listen to the interview in full here.

A related article looks at a study exploring the relationships between experiences of perceived racism, mental health and drug and alcohol use among Aboriginal Australians. The current research indicates that racism is still frequently experienced by Aboriginal Australians and is directly associated with poorer mental health, and indirectly with substance use through poorer mental health. The findings demonstrate a clear need for further research in this area. To view the Examining the Associations Between Experiences of Perceived Racism and Drug sand Alcohol Use in Aboriginal Australians article in full click here.

Annual overview of First Nations health

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has just released its annual authoritative online publication The Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2021. There is a featured section on the Coronavirus disease and its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. During the pandemic, health authorities have reinforced that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at greater risk but have praised the response of ACCHOs in delivering strong evidence based and culturally responsive prevention initiatives.

The release of the key findings from the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provides promising news for specific diseases. There was a decline in total burden for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, hearing loss and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Improvements in birth and pregnancy outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies continue, with evidence of an increase in the proportion of mothers attending antenatal care in the first trimester (increased from 49% in 2012 to 67% in 2019), a decrease in the rate of mothers smoking during pregnancy, and a slight decrease in the proportion of babies born small for gestational age. The national target for childhood immunisation has been met for 5 year olds with 97% coverage.

Of all specific causes of death, ischaemic heart disease was  the leading cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT combined in 2020.  Injury was the leading cause of hospitalisation in 2019–20 (excluding dialysis).

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew, said ‘Our annual authoritative Overview is a comprehensive evidenced based resource for those working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. The overall data shows it is critical to also address environmental health factors  – such as housing and hygiene – that underpin the spread of many infectious diseases.”

As part of the HealthInfoNet’s commitment to knowledge exchange, a plain language infographic Summary version of the Overview’s key topics has been produced here with PowerPoint slides of the key points.

An ‘increasingly angry black woman’

In an article for the Canberra City News Winnunga CEO Julie Tongs refers to a feature in The Guardian written by South African writer, activist and political analyst Sisonke Msimang. Msimang says “while I have been full of admiration, each time Tame has earned the spotlight, I have imagined the response if I had behaved that way, or if any number of black and Indigenous women in the public domain had dared to do the same. I am yet to see black women’s anger greeted with the same kind of public solidarity or sympathy. And yet black women have been expressing anger for years as they address racist police and education systems, as they try to create opportunities for themselves and face the double burden of sexism and racism.”

Julie Tongs agrees with Msimang, saying “I will mention just two of the many issues that I, an increasingly angry black woman, have raised loudly, publicly and repeatedly over a number of years. However, the depth of the silence with which my entreaties for the scandalous treatment of Aboriginal women and children in Canberra to be addressed can, in my opinion, be best explained by reference to the fact that these issues are being raised and agitated by a black woman on behalf of other black women and their children. Frankly, what other explanation can there be?”

“Despite the lengths I have gone to, I have not generated any meaningful response from the ACT government or more than a scintilla of interest, concern or serious response from local media including the ABC, the Canberra community or the sisterhood. Those two issues are the rates of incarceration of black women and the number of Aboriginal children subject to care and protection orders in Canberra, the national capital and alleged haven of progressivity.”

To view the City News article in full click here.

Winnunga CEO Julie Tongs

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health & Community Services CEO Julie Tongs OAM. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Consent education needs Blak voices

The Teach Us Consent movement – founded by Chanel Contos in 2021 – has gained bipartisan political support to mandate consent education in Australian schools from 2023. The movement was rapidly successful after collecting over 6,600 stories of people who had experienced sexual assault by someone when they were at school. This was followed quickly by the federal government committing $189 million over five years to strengthen prevention and early intervention efforts in family, domestic and sexual violence.

Issues of sexual violence and consent are gaining momentum at a national level., yet, within these important discussions, the voices, experiences and needs of First Nations people are not widely represented or heard. Drawing on the current momentum and interest in consent education, there is an opportunity to fund place-based, culturally appropriate and co-designed consent education with First Nations young people.

The response to sexual violence must move beyond simply adding “dot paintings” to mainstream curricula to address the conditions that make sexual violence an issue for many. To have a real impact on young people and our communities, we need to be telling the whole story of women, gender and sexual violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives against the backdrop of colonisation.

To view The Conversation Consent education needs Blak voices for the safety and well-being of young First Nations people article in full click here.
Aboriginal teacher, two young boys with raised hands

Image source: The Conversation.

Urban health professionals in remote communities

Since 2008, the Commonwealth-funded Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) has been supporting urban-based health professionals wanting to work in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the NT. In that time, more than 1,700 registered nurses, GPs, dentists, dental therapists, dental assistants, audiologists and allied health professionals have taken up over 7,000 placements throughout the Territory.

RAHC’s main priority for 2022 is to assist in reducing health disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, addressing the Close the Gap strategy. More than a recruitment agency, RAHC provides cultural orientation and ongoing clinical support to healthcare professionals going out on placement. “Developing rapport with a community provides an experience that encourages health professionals to stay with us long-term,” says Clinical Manager Emma Thomas.

Acting National Manager Tess McGuigan adds, ‘We help improve the health and wellbeing of those living in rural, regional and remote areas of the NT with regular professional development, both online and through personal consultations with a clinical coordinator and cultural development adviser. It builds knowledge and confidence so our team can deliver high-quality health care tailored to the unique needs of that community.’

To view the RAHC Partyline article in full click here.

A RAHC health professional driving to Imanpa, a remote community in the NT. Photo courtesy of RAHC and Dr Richard Davey. Photo courtesy of Richard Davey. Image source: NRHA Partyline online magazine.

Increasing tick-borne dog disease awareness

An NT campaign to increase awareness in remote communities of a serious tickborne disease has been given a $150,000 boost by the Australian Government. Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the disease ehrlichiosis is caused by the tick-borne bacteria Ehrlichia canis and is carried by the brown dog tick, which is present across northern Australia. “The number of infections in dogs is continuing to increase in northern Australia’s vulnerable Indigenous communities, with prevalence rates of up to 100% in some places,” Minister Littleproud said.

“This disease is relatively new to Australia, having first been detected in WA in May 2020. It was then confirmed in the NT and SA within a year. Dog mortality rates range from 10–30%. However, the disease can be effectively controlled through a combination of antibiotic treatment, preventative measures such as tick collars and containing infected dogs. It’s not just an animal-health issue, dogs are an integral social part of many rural people’s lives.”

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

dogs on road remote community

Image source: ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Tuberculosis Day

March 24 marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease. However, TB still claims 4,100 people lives each day and close to 27,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. The emergence of drug-resistant TB poses a major health threat that could put at risk the gains made to end the global TB epidemic. World TB Day is an opportunity to focus on the people affected by this disease and to call for accelerated action to end TB suffering and deaths. For more information about World Tuberculosis Day 2022 click here.

Disparities in tuberculosis (TB) rates exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in many countries, including Australia. The social determinants of health are central to health inequities including disparities in TB rates. There are limitations in the dominant biomedical and epidemiological approaches to representing, understanding and addressing the unequal burden of TB for Indigenous peoples represented in the literature. This paper applies a social determinants of health approach and examines the structural, programmatic and historical causes of inequities for TB in Indigenous Australia.

Development of TB policies and programmes requires reconfiguration. Space must be given for Indigenous Australians to lead, be partners and to have ownership of decisions about how to eliminate TB. Shared knowledge between Indigenous Australians, policy makers and service managers of the social practices and structures that generate TB disparity for Indigenous Australians is essential.

To view the research article The missing voice of Indigenous Australians in the social, cultural and historical experiences of tuberculosis: a systemic and integrative review click here.

The most common kind of TB is pulmonary tuberculosis, which affects the lungs. A latent TB infection (left) can have no symptoms, while with active TB disease (right), the bacteria multiply in the body, becoming contagious. Image source: iStock, Everyday Health.

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 11:30 AM–12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 24 March 2022.

The panel this week will include Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, and Dr Michael Bonning, Medical Director, Inner West GP Respiratory Clinic, Balmain Village Health.

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

banner DoH Primary Care COVID-19 update Dep CMO - image of DCMO & COVID-19 virus cell

National Advance Care Planning Week

National Advance Care Planning week, Monday 21 to Sunday 27 March 2022, an initiative of Advance Care Planning Australia, is a reminder for Australians to talk to their loved ones about who they would want to speak for them if they become too sick to speak for themselves. Advance Care Planning Australia ambassador and AMA Vice President Dr Chris Moy said while advance care planning conversations might be confronting, they are important. “Advance care planning is a process of planning for your future health and personal care by ensuring your values, beliefs and preferences are known to guide those who will make health care decisions on your behalf, should you lose capacity in the future,” Dr Moy said.

“Without such a plan, you may have no voice to guide those decisions and no choice as to what decisions are made on your behalf, instead placing the burden of decision-making on loved ones who may have no idea what care you would actually want – which can bring a legacy of guilt on families which extends after death.

The AMA strongly supports advance care planning as it benefits everyone, the patient, their family, carers and health professionals and is particularly important for people with advanced chronic illness, a life-limiting illness, who are aged 75+ years or at risk of losing competence. The AMA strongly agrees with Advance Care Planning Australia that having an advance care plan can reduce anxiety, depression, stress and increase satisfaction with care for the patient’s family members. In addition, advance care planning assists healthcare professionals and organisations by reducing unnecessary transfers to acute care and unwanted treatment,” Dr Moy said.

Advance Care Planning Australia has found less than 15% of people have documented their health care preferences in an advance care directive.  Dr Moy said advance care planning discussions, and clearly delineating ‘goals of care’, should become a key part of routine healthcare conversations across Australia. He said the Advance Care Planning Australia website is an excellent resource for individuals, families, friends, carers and health professionals.

The AMA’s Position Statement on End of Life Care and Advance Care Planning can be found here and you can view a Palliative Care Australia video on Indigenous Advance Care Plans below.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Action needed on bullying of doctors in training

Image used in feature tile of doctor. Image source: News.com.au.

Action needed on bullying of doctors in training

AMA calls for legislation to tackle widespread bullying of doctors in training.

The results of the 2021 Medical Training Survey show bullying, harassment and discrimination experienced by doctors in training continues to be widespread and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) calls on state and territories to act now to address the underlying factors that can lead to this type of unacceptable behaviour.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the survey demonstrated the need to act now to tackle systemic issues impacting the training and wellbeing of doctors in training (DiT).

“Seven out of 10 DiTs experienced bullying, discrimination and harassment saying it had adversely affected their medical training,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Very disturbingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in training reported higher levels of bullying, discrimination and harassment, including racism, compared to non-Indigenous colleagues.”

You can read the AMA media release here.
The 2021 Medical Training Survey is available here.

Aboriginal student medical training, stethoscope to female patient's chest

Growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP workforce is a fundamental part of Closing the Gap. Image: James Cook University General Practice Training. Image source: newsGP website.

Case study of ACCHO’s holistic model

Culturally Safe and Integrated Primary Health Care: A Case Study of Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services’ Holistic Model

To understand the importance of culturally safe integrated primary health care for Aboriginal families in the Central Coast of New South Wales, where their social and emotional wellbeing is impacted through a range of health issues related to domestic and family violence.

You can read the case study in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet here.

banner text 'Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services' & Aboriginal dot painting yellow purple concentric circles surrounded by spokes-like border

Booster recommended three months after primary vax

More than four million additional Australians are now eligible for their COVID-19 booster dose as of yesterday 31 January 2022. This follows the recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to provide booster doses at a minimum of three months after a person has completed their two-dose primary course of vaccination.

“ATAGI made its recommendation to reduce the interval after closely monitoring the epidemiology and characteristics of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant. It also considered the emerging data on the need, potential benefits, and optimal timing of a vaccine booster dose to prevent COVID-19 due to this variant,” said Minister Hunt.

“Immunocompromised people who have received three primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to receive a booster dose in line with the timing for the general population. ATAGI has also highlighted the importance of boosters for pregnant women.”

You can read the article in the Australian Seniors News here.

Below is a video by the Australian Government Department of Health featuring Dr Mark Wenitong, Aboriginal GP and Public Health Medical Officer, talking about the importance of getting two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine followed by a booster dose.

Ongoing over-incarceration

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) have welcomed news that the average daily number of prisoners in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) has gone down but expressed deep concern about the ongoing over-incarceration of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

The recent Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (RoGS) highlighted:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people make up less than 2% of the general population in the ACT, but 24.4% of the population in the AMC
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are imprisoned at 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous people, well above the national average ratio of 16
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people are subject to community corrections orders at 12 times the rate of non-Indigenous people and have a much lower completion rate of 69% compared with 78%.

“We need to examine the myriad and complex factors that have led to these appalling outcomes for Aboriginal peoples in the ACT, including a lack of housing, a lack of access to specialist and mental health services and high rates of children in out-of-home care. This is not just a problem in our prison, but across the whole community. We need a whole-of-government response that takes our voices and our pain seriously,” said Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs OAM.

You can download the joint media release by ACTCOSS and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services from 28 January 2022 here.

hands gripping jail cell bars, overlaid with transparent Aboriginal flag

Image source: Amnesty International Australia website.

Aboriginal patient advocacy training

Health Consumers’ Council has partnered with the National Justice Project and The Aboriginal Health Council of WA to develop some training for organisations and workers who work with Aboriginal people, and Aboriginal community, to help support their clients and family, friends and community who are dealing with the health system.

The inequity and injustice that can confront Aboriginal people in our health system can lead to poorer health outcomes and health advocacy plays a big part in addressing these issues.

This training will help people gain a better understanding of the barriers and enablers for Aboriginal people in our health services and systems, a deeper understanding of health rights and the important role of health advocacy.

For further information about the training click here.

BRAMS December 2021 Newsletter

Broome Reginal Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS) December 2021 Newsletter is out now covering the following topics:

  • CEO Report
  • New Staff
  • Staff Christmas Lunch and Awards + Kids Christmas
  • NDIS Accreditation
  • World International Disability Day – Seeing the Ability in Disability
  • Staff Profiles
  • COVID-19 Alert
  • NDS Board Appointment
  • New Positions at BRAMS
  • AGM and Board Elections

You can download the BRAMS newsletter here.

 

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Free the Flag campaign successful

feature tile text 'free the flag campaign succeeds, Aboriginal flag now free for all to use' & image of Aboriginal man & woman in free the flag t-shirts holding Aboriginal flag aloft

Note: the image is the feature tile is from the Herald Sun.

Free the Flag campaign successful

The iconic flag that has become a symbol of Aboriginal Australia is now freely available for public use, after its designer agreed to transfer copyright to the Commonwealth following long negotiations. Luritja artist Harold Thomas created the flag in 1970 to represent Aboriginal people and their connection to the land, and it has been an official national flag since the end of the last century — but its copyright remained with Mr Thomas.

Anyone who wanted to use the flag legally had to ask permission or pay a fee. Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said following negotiations with Mr Thomas, the flag now belonged to all Australians. “Over the last 50 years we made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own — we marched under the Aboriginal Flag, stood behind it, and flew it high as a point of pride,” Mr Wyatt said in a statement. “Now that the Commonwealth holds the copyright, it belongs to everyone, and no-one can take it away.”

Mr Thomas said he hoped Australians would use the flag with respect and pride. “I hope that this arrangement provides comfort to all Aboriginal people and Australians to use the Flag, unaltered, proudly and without restriction,” he said. “I am grateful that my art is appreciated by so many, and that it has come to represent something so powerful to so many.”

The government has also agreed to establish an annual scholarship in Mr Thomas’s honour worth $100,000 for Indigenous students to develop skills in leadership, and to create an online history and education portal for the flag.

To read the ABC News article in full click here and to listen to an ABC Radio interview with the Free the Flag Free the Flag campaign and Clothing the Gaps CEO Laura Thompson click here.

Aboriginal flag on mast, text 'Breakfast with Sammy J, ABC News'

January 26 – a reminder of health battles

The following is an excerpt from Shahnaz Rind’s Opinion Piece for SBS NITV.  “I decided to become a nurse to change health outcomes for our people and to try to create a sense of equity in Indigenous health. Growing up, I would question why my family and my mob suffer from poor health outcomes compared to non-Indigenous people who had access to some of the world’s best healthcare.

It wasn’t until I was a little older that I started to understand how things were. Addressing racism key to better health outcomes for mob. A new study focusing on kidney disease adds to the growing evidence that suggests addressing institutional racism will improve overall health outcomes for First Nations peoples.

I am surprised by the numbers of non-Indigenous people I speak to, who aren’t aware of the true history behind January 26 and how it has impacted our health. It was the day our country was taken possession of by Captain Arthur Philip. It was the first introduction of the British flag, which was raised on Indigenous land.

This day was the start of our ongoing mental, spiritual and physical health struggle. It’s not one single thing that has caused this; but since the day of the invasion, our levels of health and education have declined, practicing our culture and language was denied and our lands were taken.”

To view Shahnaz Rind’s SBS NITV Opinion Piece in full click here.

RN Shahnaz Rind Rumbalara (VIC) in PPE

Shahnaz Rind is a registered nurse who has been on the frontlines during the pandemic in Victoria. Image source: SBS NITV website.

CAAC calls for urgent public health action 

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) is calling for more serious and effective public health measures to be put in place urgently; before it’s too late. “We need to see sharp and serious action to respond to growing case numbers in Alice Springs and surrounding Central Australian communities.” said Congress Acting CEO Josie Douglas.

“The lockout isn’t working. People are still moving around, and the virus is still spreading among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Hospitalisations are now increasing, along with ICU admissions. 78 people in hospital in the NT is the equivalent of 2,800 people in NSW. We are now on a par with NSW but we will pass this peak without decisive action and our health system has less capacity.”

To view the CAAC media release in full click here.

solar powered road sign text 'social distancing applies'

Image source: NT News.

COVID exacerbates regional staff shortages 

Regional health workers are warning the system is struggling under the weight of an increase in COVID-19 cases and staff shortages. Kristy Wilson knows Griffith Base Hospital well. She was born there and has worked there throughout her 25-year nursing career.

Ms Wilson said the hospital in central NSW, like many around the country, was now feeling the pressures of COVID-19 cases and furloughed workers, who were isolating either because they had the virus or were a close contact, “I can honestly say that this is absolutely the worst I have seen it. Staff are now beyond exhausted and tired.”

Federal Regional Health Minister, David Gillespie — a former regional doctor — agreed “the whole health system is under pressure”, but said the federal government had taken steps to address staffing shortages in hospitals around the country. “We’ve set up the private hospital arrangement where not only private hospitals make themselves available if needed — and they are being used by the state governments — but also their staff,” he said. In a statement, NSW Health said the state was actively addressing staffing issues.

To read the ABC News article in full click here.

Dr Simon Quilty demonstrates one of the ventilation pods Purple House constructed. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

NT COVID-19 surge isn’t unexpected

The number of people in NT hospitals with COVID-19 has doubled in the past week and tripled from the number reported 10 days ago. But experts say the surge isn’t unexpected considering the territory’s “vulnerable” population and caseloads reported over the past fortnight.

Although the territory’s hospitalisation rate has been steadily increasing over the past two weeks, the number of cases reported in the jurisdiction has been gradually dropping.

After looking at the NT’s daily COVID-19 case numbers over the past fortnight, Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett said she wasn’t surprised by the high number of people in hospital with coronavirus. Professor Bennett said if a patient needed hospital-level care because of COVID-19 this typically happened seven and 10 days after their initial positive test result.

“People are often fine for the first week, they might have normal symptoms, but it’s the second week when they might get particularly unwell and maybe have to go to hospital,” she said.

To read the ABC News article in full click here.

Dr Briceno, NT facing press, woman in background wears mask

Dr Briceno says NT health experts expected to see a higher hospitalisation rate. Photo: Dane Hirst, ABC News.

Health staff relieved border opening delayed

While WA Premier Mark McGowan maintains the hospital system is “strong and ready” to deal with COVID-19, he has also pointed to hospitalisations in other states as one of the reasons for delaying the border re-opening. “[The east] has hospitals overflowing with patients, hospitals in meltdown,” he said.“It would be grossly irresponsible of me not to act on that.”

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said while there has been relief from staff, he didn’t think the delay was the fix that was needed. “The hospital system is not ready, but is it going to be ready in a month?” he said. “We’ve had a couple of years, so I don’t think that’s what we need.”

To view the ABC News story in full click here.

Dr Omar Khorshid fronting press

Dr Omar Khorshid says the decision would buy time “at best”. Photo: James Carmody, ABC News.

COVID-19 vaccine update for Primary Care

The latest in the series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for Primary Care, providing the latest information on the vaccine rollout, will be held from 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 27 January 2022.

The panel this week will be: Professor Michael Kidd AM (Chair), Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

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

DoH tile test 'Primary Care COVID-19 Update' blue background with image of virus

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the Department of Health media release here.

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

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

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

Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme scripts deadline 31 January 2022

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

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

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

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

You can view the NACCHO media statement here.

PBS Co-Payment Gap

Laynha joins the NACCHO family

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

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

Laynha supports homeland communities through:

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

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

Laynhapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation - logo

Program needed to invest in culturally safe public health workforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can listen to the interview here.

Image sources: Public Health Association Australia.

Attention turns to supporting mob through QLD outbreak

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the article in the ABC News here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the AMA Media release here.

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

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

WA on high alert as COVID-19 spreads towards border

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

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

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

You can read the article in the ABC News here.

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

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

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

You can read the article in the Mudgee Guardian here.

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

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

Significant progress to Close the Gap for Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reanna Bathern having an eye test

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

Regional statistics about First Nations’ health and wellbeing

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

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

You can view the RIFIC website here.

Woman gently touching child's face

Image source: AIHW RIFIC website.

Winnunga News December 2021

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

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

You can view the newsletter here.

 

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Permanent telehealth to strengthen health system

Feature tile - Tue 14.12.21 - Permanent telehealth

PLEASE NOTE: the last date for this publication this year is Wednesday 15 December 2021 – the publication will start again in the new year from 18 January 2022.

Photograph in feature tile from MiVision – Delivering telehealth in Western Australia.

Permanent telehealth to strengthen health system

In a media release published yesterday 13 December 2021 by the Australian Government, telehealth will become a permanent feature of primary health care, which has been transformational to health care delivery and underpinned much of the Government’s successful COVID-19 response.

The Morrison Government is providing $106 million over four years to support permanent telehealth services, ensuring greater flexibility to patients and doctors for the delivery of health care; allowing GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals to continue to consult with their regular patients by phone or online.

The AMA says the health of all Australians will benefit from the availability of telehealth.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said telehealth also improved access to healthcare for people who found it difficult to take time off work; could not leave children or people they were caring for and who live out of town and away from their GP or non-GP specialist.

You can  read the AMA media release here and the Department of Health’s media release here.

Jigalong patient and carer being supported by Stephen Copeland, optometrists. Image credit: mivision.com.au

Jigalong patient and carer being supported by Stephen Copeland, optometrists via telehealth. Image credit: mivision.com.au

Urgency to contain Katherine and Big Rivers outbreak

In a media release published by The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) yesterday 13 December 2021, AMSANT expressed alarm and deep concern at the rapidly increasing numbers of cases stemming from the Katherine COVID-19 outbreak and its spread into communities in the surrounding regions.

“AMSANT is today calling on the NT Government to take immediate steps to strengthen their response to this continuing crisis”, AMSANT Chief Executive officer, John Paterson, said.

“We acknowledge the very good job that the NT Government has done in responding to the outbreaks in Robinson River, Binjari and Rockhole, however, subsequent measures to contain the Katherine outbreak have been unsuccessful.”

“News of a likely positive case in Timber Creek and multiple positive wastewater results appearing in numerous remote communities underscores the growing and urgent need for a stronger response,” Paterson said.

You can read the AMSANT media release here.

Possible positive COVID-19 case in Timber Creek

A possible positive COVID-19 case was recorded in Timber Creek yesterday and is being re-tested to confirm the result. Image source: CareFlight, ABC News.

Importance of timely COVID-19 booster vaccination

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) states that the COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia are critical in protecting against COVID-19 due to all variants, including the newly emerged Omicron variant. Given the likelihood of ongoing transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants, ATAGI recommends COVID-19 booster vaccination for anyone aged 18 and older who completed their primary course of COVID-19 vaccination 5 or more months ago.

Timely receipt of a booster dose is particularly important for people with increased exposure risk (e.g. occupational risk or outbreak areas) or who have risk factors for severe disease. ATAGI reiterates that a third (primary) dose of COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended for anyone with immunocompromising conditions, a minimum of two months after their second dose.

Either Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) are recommended for use as a booster vaccine, and are considered equally acceptable. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, has been provisionally approved for use as a COVID-19 booster vaccine in people aged 18 years and older by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as of 12 December 2021.

You can read the ATAGI statement on the Omicron variant and timing of COVID-19 booster vaccination here, and you can read the ATAGI recommendations on the use of Moderna as a COVID-19 booster vaccine here.

COVID-19 Dose One vial, Dose Two vial & Booster vial - ticks on first two doses

Image source: NIH Director’s Blog.

10-year preventive health strategy plan

Yesterday 13 December 2021, the Australian Government launched the National Preventive Health Strategy, a 10-year plan to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians at all stages of life. The Strategy seeks to improve Australia’s health system, fundamentally focused on the treatment of illness and disease, by increasing the focus on prevention – from illness to wellness, and from healthcare to health.

Chronic conditions are the leading cause of ill health and death in Australia and account for 87% of deaths. The Strategy recognises that around 38% of the chronic disease burden could be prevented through a reduction in modifiable risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity and the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. This figure rises to be 49% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Strategy identifies 7 key system enablers that will be integral to creating long-term, sustainable changes to the health system for all Australians, outlining seven focus areas that require critical action to reduce the risks of poor health and disease:

  • nutrition
  • physical activity
  • tobacco
  • immunisation
  • cancer screening
  • alcohol and other drug use;
  • and mental health.

You can read the Government Department of Health‘s media release here.
The National Preventive Health Strategy can be downloaded here.

National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030

Tracking progress in First Nations’ health

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has published a data visualisation tool for tracking progress against the 20 Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023. It presents data for each of the 20 goals, and assesses progress against the goals at the national level.

Of the 14 goals for which updates were available, 5 were on track, 6 were not on track and 3 were not assessed.

Some of the key findings:

  • In 2019, 64% of Indigenous mothers had antenatal care in the first trimester and 89% attended 5+ antenatal visits.
  • The proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15–17 who had never smoked increased from 61% in 2002 to 85% in 2018–19.
  • In 2020, 97% of Indigenous children aged 5 were fully immunised, compared with 95% of other children.

You can read more about the AIHW tracking progress here and you can view the report here.
View the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2012-2023 here.

Exciting opportunity for Aboriginal health students

Aboriginal health students across the Northern Territory can now apply for the 2022 NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. The Program is a key ‘entry to practice’ initiative for NT Health to achieve greater representation of tertiary educated Aboriginal employees and increase Aboriginal health professionals in our workforce.

NT Health currently supports five cadets and will offer a sixth space in the 2022 intake.

The program assists eligible NT Aboriginal students undertaking their first undergraduate degree or postgraduate studies to gain professional health qualifications in skill shortage areas. Additionally, the program provides work placement and experience within NT Health.

The program is funded by NT Health and will provide successful cadets with:

  • Study allowance of up to $1200 per fortnight whilst engaged in full time studies
  • Book allowance of up to $1000 per year
  • An incentive payment of up to $4000 per year
  • 12 weeks paid on the job work placement during the university major academic breaks.

NT Health has a dedicated Aboriginal Workforce Development unit that administers the program. The unit’s staff will provide ongoing mentoring and support to the cadets for the term of their cadetship.

You can read the media release by NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles here.
Further cadetship information can be found on the NT Health website.

NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. Image Source: NT Health Facebook page.

NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. Image Source: NT Health Facebook page.

Covid Song – Ali Curung

Check out this great Red Dust video with a straight-up message from the Ali Curung mob made with the help of Barkly Shire Council and Anyingini Health Aboriginal Corporation.

“I don’t want to see you get sick when the COVID comes in quick. We gotta get the jab before it’s too late. No time to hesitate. I got one, two, what about you! What ya gonna do? What ya gonna do when the COVID comes?”

“Yeah, we gotta do it for our families. To protect our communities. Go to the clinic and check the facts. We’re only safe when we all get vaxxed!”

Managing inappropriate comments online

The Department of Health has created a guide that can help your service with managing inappropriate comments and misinformation on your social media channels. There has recently been a significant spike in online activity and emotion. This high level guide provides information about steps your service can take to moderate inappropriate comments and content on your pages.

You can download the social media guide here.

Word cloud - misinformation

 

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: New campaign raising awareness of FASD

New National Awareness Campaign on the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy launched

Almost one in three Australians aren’t aware that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Nearly one in four aren’t aware alcohol should be avoided altogether during pregnancy.*

Every Moment Matters, a new national awareness campaign developed by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), supports and empowers Australians to go alcoholfree through all the moments of pregnancy, right from the moment they start trying.

Endorsed and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, this campaign provides clear and consistent messages about alcohol, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

“FASD is a whole of community issue. NACCHO is supporting ACCHOs across rural and remote Australia, to 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,” said NACCHO CEO Pat Turner.

“This project is about raising awareness and understanding of FASD and reducing stigma through: Providing culturally appropriate health information, training our Aboriginal healthcare workers and by bringing our communities together to create safe places for yarning about the impacts of alcohol on pregnancy.”

“Growing strong healthy mums and bubs leads to healthy communities. This project is about bringing our communities together to deal with FASD.”

“50% of pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. Being around alcohol during pregnancy can lead to lifelong problems. This campaign will spread awareness in our rural and remote communities that no amount of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy,” she said.

“FASD has lifelong impacts. Our communities need to understand the risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy, and where to go for support, so they can make good choices and ask for help if they need it. Health professionals need to support families to have access to the correct information about the risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy so they can make informed decisions and ask for help if they need it.”

“In Australia, it is still widely accepted that ‘a few’ drinks while pregnant is ok. However, the latest research demonstrates that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink whilst pregnant. This campaign will help us safely and respectfully communicate to our communities, and their health professionals, what can happen, and where to get support if they need it,” said Turner.

View the FARE media release.
View the Australian Government Department of Health media release.
Download the Stakeholder Toolkit for the campaign to share the campaign materials in your communications
View and share the Women Want to Know resources here
View the Key Findings of the alcohol and pregnancy research conducted by Kantar Public on behalf of FARE.
You can learn more about the campaign on the Every Moment Matters website.

* Polling Snapshot by FARE on Alcohol use, pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Here is one of the available assets for social media as part of the Stakeholder Toolkit for the campaign. 

Watch the below video, developed by FARE, to see how Every Moment Matters when it comes to pregnancy and alcohol.
Please share the video on Facebook or Twitter.

 

ACCHOs key to effective vaccine rollout

Larissa Behrendt spoke with NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks Pat Turner AM on Sunday 28 November 2021 on ‘Speaking Out’ on ABC Radio.

Ms Behrendt asked Ms Turner what her thoughts are on the effectiveness of the vaccination rollout for First Nations communities.

“I think overall our community controlled sector has done pretty well. Supply is not an issue. Supply has been available on request, so if any ACCHOs advise us of any quantity and other supports around administering the vaccines, we have supported them to the fullest extent possible,” said Ms Turner.

She said she’s not as confident about the rollout in the areas that are run by state government clinics and that they haven’t done a swell and need to pick up their game.

“As you said, where the response to COVID has been most effective is when it is community controlled. What sort of difference is the community controlled sector making?” asked Ms Behrendt.

“What the Aboriginal community controlled health services are good at is establishing a good relationship with the client population and people who use our health services. Cultural respect and cultural safety are key elements of our service provision in the comprehensive primary healthcare model that we deliver in the main. I think that people have really understood that and accepted that, so there’s a lot more trust between us and the patients that we have, and that’s all going well for us to get through to our people on the importance of looking after themselves during COVID and getting the vaccination,” said Ms Turner.

You can listen to the interview on ABC Radio here.

elder without shirt outdoor setting receiving covid-19 vaccine from KAMS worker

Photo: Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: The Guardian.

Vigorous booster roll out and quarantine facilities needed

The emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant underlines the need for Australia to develop a network of dedicated quarantine facilities and to pursue the roll out of booster shots more vigorously, the AMA said today.

With public health measures easing around the country and hotel quarantine starting to be dismantled, the AMA warned Omicron and the resurgence of COVID-19 in many parts of globe is a timely reminder that the pandemic is not over.

“The emergence of Omicron in Africa should come as no surprise, given the very low levels of vaccination in many African nations, providing the ideal environment for COVID-19 to mutate and spread to other nations,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“Effective dedicated quarantine arrangements are a necessary tool in our efforts to combat the inevitable emergence of COVID-19 variants and to protect the community. While work on quarantine facilities has commenced in some states and territories, we are yet to see a nationally coordinated approach, which could provide Australia with a national asset of dedicated Commonwealth quarantine facilities.”

“National Cabinet also needs to approach the roll out of booster doses with far more vigour,” Dr Khorshid said.

You can read the AMA media release here.

Single coronavirus cell with DNA strands and white blood cells. Image source: wfla.com.

Single coronavirus cell with DNA strands and white blood cells. Image source: wfla.com.

Keeping people with dementia connected to Country

A decline in verbal skills is a source of grief for any person living with dementia. For First Nations peoples, the loss of speech brings the added pain of lost connection to Country, community, family and culture, which are so central to their health and well-being.

Dementia is a serious emerging health issue for Indigenous people, who experience the disease at a rate between three to five times that of the general population, with onset at an earlier age.

Dementia Support Australia, funded by the Australian government, has produced a set of picture cards designed to support First Nations older people and people with dementia. Co-designing the cards involved listening to and learning what First Nations people needed.

The inability for a person with dementia to communicate what they want or need can be frustrating for both them and care staff. For an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person with dementia, the communication barrier with those providing care can be greater due to language and cultural differences.

You can read the article in The Conversation here.
Communication resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with dementia can be downloaded here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communication cards

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communication cards co-designed with First Nations representatives including artist Samantha Campbell.

Improving community health outcomes for Elders

An article published online in the Australian Health Review 23 November 2021 examines how Elders consider the Closing the Gap programs for improving community health outcomes.

A participatory action research project was undertaken in collaboration with eight Elders from a remote Aboriginal community in Tasmania. The findings emerged from thematic analysis of individual interviews and yarning circles.

The Closing the Gap programs were seen by Elders as having instrumental value for addressing Aboriginal community disadvantage. However, the programs also represented a source of ongoing dependency that threatened to undermine the community’s autonomy, self-determination and cultural foundations. The findings emerged to represent Elders attempting to reconcile this tension by embedding the programs with cultural values or promoting culture separately from the programs. Ultimately, the Elders saw culture as the core business of community well-being and effective program delivery.

The findings are reflective of tensions that arise when neoliberal policies are imposed on Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing. The Elders premised cultural well-being as the key determinant of Aboriginal community health.

You can read the article in the Australian Health Review here.

Elder walking with child.

Closing the Gap in Aboriginal health disparities: is there a place for Elders in the neoliberal agenda? Image source: NITV.

Employment and housing key to reduce re-imprisonment

New research has shown that employment and housing for those leaving prison are key to preventing recidivism and a subsequent return to detention. The research, which focused on former detainees in the ACT, highlighted the importance of reducing barriers to employment for people leaving prison, so that they are better equipped to begin life after detention and stay out of the justice system.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “The ACT has one of the highest rates of re-imprisonment in the country. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT experience re-imprisonment at the rate of 94% – the highest rate of any jurisdiction.

The research notes that a lack of access to safe and affordable housing is one of the barriers to obtaining employment post-release.

“ACTCOSS has joined with Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services and other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisations in calling on the ACT Government to initiate a Royal Commission or similar commission of inquiry into the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT’s justice system,” said Dr Campbell.

You can read the article in The National Tribune here.

silhouette of person in jail, sitting with head in hands

Image source: The Conversation website.

Only four days until ATSIHAW Trivia

It’s not too late for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services staff to join the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week Virtual Trivia.

Friday December 3, 2021
4pm AEDT, 3.30pm ACDT, 3pm AEST, 2.30pm ACST, 1pm AWST

Amazing prizes up for grabs including a set of Bose Wireless Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones 700, clothing, apparel and accessories from organisations that are 100% Indigenous owned, giant microbes and other sexual health resources for your clinic.

Register your team here.
Registrations close COB Thursday 2 December 2021.

Game on!

#atsihaw2021 #TriviaTime #hivawareness #hivawarenessandprevention

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Boosting care sector jobs for mob

Feature tile - Thu 30.9.21 - A Life Changing Life

Boosting care sector jobs for mob

The Morrison Government has launched A Life Changing Life, a new campaign to encourage Indigenous Australians to start a career in the care and support sector. The sector, which includes aged care, disability and veterans’ support is one of the fastest-growing in Australia.

Minister for Indigenous Australians the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP said it was important to highlight the breadth of opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the sector.

“Caring for mob is a part of our culture – it’s who we are. It makes sense we support Indigenous Australians to consider a future in the sector, so they can deliver the culturally appropriate services our vulnerable people need,” Minister Wyatt said.

“What many people might not know is that this is a sector full of job opportunities, and meaningful careers.

“In many cases, these are jobs you can do without leaving your community and can learn on the job, to start a life-changing career.”

You can read the media release by the Morrison Government here.
You can find out more about the care and support sector, and learn about the meaningful work that makes a difference for mob here.
You can view campaign resources here.

A Life Changing Life

Encouraging others to get the jab

Aboriginal health promotion worker Brittany Wright was asked by Albury Council to contribute to their vaccination messaging on social media.

“They just wanted some young people that have had the vaccination to encourage other people to come and get theirs,” she said.

“I was happy to spread the message, and working at an Aboriginal Health Service, we want to try and get as many Aboriginal people vaccinated as we can.”

AWAHS clinic manager Lauren Blatchford said demand for their program delivering AstraZeneca and Pfizer had increased recently.

“With the COVID cases on both sides of the border, a lot more people are wanting to be vaccinated,” she said.

“We’ve also got some outreach vaccine clinics going around community and that’s really targeting the vulnerable community members who can’t come to the service to be vaccinated, for example,” she said.

“It’s so good to have people like Britt sharing messages – they know who she is and that really encourages other people.

You can read the story in The Border Mail here.

Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service is seeing more Indigenous community members come forward for vaccination, with the support of Brittany Wright and Lauren Blatchford. Image credit: James Wiltshire.

Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service is seeing more Indigenous community members come forward for vaccination, with the support of Brittany Wright and Lauren Blatchford. Image credit: James Wiltshire.

New vaping laws come into effect tomorrow

The Australian Medial Association (AMA) believes new nicotine vaping laws which come into effect this Friday October 1, are timely, with the prevalence of harmful vaping rapidly increasing in the community. The new laws close a loophole in federal legislation which has enabled the unregulated importation and illegal sale of nicotine containing vaping products, or “e-cigarettes”, in each State and Territory.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said under the new rules, nicotine containing vaping products will only be able to be accessed via a prescription from a doctor. He said the changes have a stated aim of protecting the non-smoking public, especially younger people and children, from the clear harms of nicotine poisoning and addiction.

“Vaping is not the risk-free version of smoking that some would have us believe. It is addictive, is associated with proven harms and we know that if nicotine gets into the hands of young children and is ingested, it is highly toxic and can be fatal in very small amounts,” Dr Khorshid said.

The new regulations aim to make nicotine containing vaping products less accessible and aim to prevent the terrible exponential increase in use that is being seen overseas, such as in the US, where around one quarter of all high school students have admitted to current or recent use of mainly high concentration products.

You can read the media release by the AMA here.

hand holding a vap, lots of smoke from mouth

Image source: The Guardian.

Keeping a focus on First Nations’ eye health

The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) has launched its Indigenous eye health measures 2021 report which shows measurable progress towards improving the eye health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The report includes data from the 2019-20 year, which included the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Despite the pandemic’s impact, the report highlights that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist continued to grow,

However, the report also highlights some of the continuing challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in accessing the eye care they need.

You can read the article in ANZSOG here.

ANZSOG Overturning a blind eye: How coordinated action is on track to eliminate trachoma in Australia Image source: ANZSOG.

ANZSOG Overturning a blind eye: How coordinated action is on track to eliminate trachoma in Australia Image source: ANZSOG.

‘Australians can beat anything’ vax campaign

A powerful new public service campaign that heroes the country’s ingenuity, inventiveness and resilience to overcoming challenges is being released nationally in a bid to boost Australia’s double vaccination rate to 80% or more as quickly as possible. The ‘Australians Can Beat Anything’ campaign – a collaboration between Australia’s advertising, media and consulting industries – hit TV screens, online sites and social media from September 27, rallying Australians to get vaccinated by demonstrating our proven ability to overcome the most difficult of challenges and crises.

Professor Fred Hollows is one of several iconic Australians fronting the campaign.

“Fred was a staunch advocate of modern medicine and improving people’s living standards. We know he would have been encouraging Australians to get vaccinated,” said The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart.

You can view the advertisement below.

Ideas for looking after your mental health this October

Mental Health Australia has launched its October 2021 calendars for Mental Health Month ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, including daily ideas for all Australians to look after their mental health in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. Mental Health Australia’s downloadable and printable calendars are tailored with some great tips for different audiences, including: the general public, young adults, families, older Australians, and workplaces.

Mental Health Australia CEO, Dr Leanne Beagley says the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is creating an overwhelming situation for many Australians and these daily ideas will help reduce stigma, encourage help seeking and connect communities.

“The calendars provide reminders of something small and tangible we can all do each day to look after our own mental health, as well as improve the wellbeing of others in our families and broader communities,” said Dr Beagley.

This matters to everyone. And we can all benefit from looking after our own mental health and the mental health of our families and communities.

View the media release by Mental Health Australia here.
You can download the calendars here.
To find out more about World Mental Health Day activity this year use the hashtag #LookAfterYourMentalHealthAustralia or visit the website here.

Registration for CTG PBS Co-Payment program extended

Criteria for the Close the Gap (CTG) Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Co-payment program was expanded in July, allowing registered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients more streamlined access to subsidised medications.

A grace period to ensure all eligible patients are registered for the program has now been extended to January 2022, with the Department of Health attributing the need for an extension to the ‘significant number’ of eligible patients who are not yet ‘correctly registered’.

This period will prevent CTG PBS Co-payment prescriptions being rejected at the time of dispensing if the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is not formally registered for the program through Services Australia.

PBS prescribers can ensure their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients are registered for the program via Services Australia’s Health Professional Online Services (HPOS). If the patient is not registered, their status will be indicated as ‘inactive’ in HPOS.

You can read more about the extension in RACGP newsGP here.

Get the treatment you need

The co-payment initiative aims to support better access to medications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Image source RACGP.

Big Red Kidney Bus flips from vacations to vaccinations

The NSW Big Red Kidney Bus has been repurposed to serve as a mobile vaccination clinic while holidaying is not possible. The Bus is operating as a pop-up clinic in Western Sydney, providing easy access to vaccines for COVID-19.

You can read more in the Norther Sydney Local health District September newsletter here.

Big Red Kidney Bus

Big Red Kidney Bus. Image source: busnews.com.au.

 

Australian Digital Health Agency – identified positions

Partnership Manager
EL1 ($122,716 – $139,959)
Digital Programs and Engagement Division > Communications
Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney

Applications close: 11 October 2021
You can view more information and apply for the role here.

Partnership Lead
APS6 ($99,860 – $112,659)
Digital Programs and Engagement Division > Communications
Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney

Applications close: 11 October 2021
You can view more information and apply for the role here.

New process for job advertising

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

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


dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AMA wants consistency of mandatory COVID-19 jabs for healthcare staff

Feature tile - Thu 16.9.21 - AMA wants consistency of mandatory COVID jabs for healthcare staff

AMA wants consistency of mandatory COVID-19 jabs for healthcare staff

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) calls on National Cabinet to act urgently on nationally-consistent public health orders for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all healthcare workers, including GPs.

AMA President Omar Khorshid said legal protection should also be given to healthcare employers who mandate vaccinations for all their staff.

“Most health care providers in Australia are small businesses that don’t have the time or resources needed to navigate complex work health and safety laws. We need to make it easier for them to be able to mandate vaccination, which is the best way to protect their staff and patients.”

Dr Khorshid said the Federal Government needed to co-ordinate States and Territories through the National Cabinet to ensure a nationally-consistent approach to mandatory vaccination that included everyone – GPs and practice staff, pharmacists, hospital staff, ambulance staff, cooks and cleaners – leaving no exemptions, except for legitimate medical reasons.

“Nationally-consistent public health orders would provide legal protection to any employer who could reasonably establish work safety would benefit from a workplace vaccine mandate. It’s important for GPs and other small businesses to have government backing and protection when it comes to mandating vaccines for all employees,” Dr Khorshid said.

You can read the media release the AMA here.

female staff member of Northern Navajo Medical Centre receiving COVID-19 vaccine, 3 other staff in background, one taking a photo

Medical staff at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., were among the first in the Navajo Nation to receive their Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations, on Dec. 15. What’s followed has been a successful rollout to Navajo Nation residents. Image source: yahoo!life website.

Concerns regional hospitals won’t cope with major COVID outbreak

A COVID-19 outbreak in Western Australia is considered inevitable by many health experts, but doctors have warned if it happens before enough people are vaccinated it will be “horrendous” for regional areas where resources are limited and staff are hard to attract. WA has so far managed to keep out the Delta strain, despite it spreading through New South Wales and Victoria. However, with fewer than 40 per cent of people fully vaccinated in Western Australia, president of the Rural Doctors Association, Brittney Wicksteed, was worried.

“If COVID were to come before we’ve got adequate vaccination rates, it’s going to be horrendous in the regions,” she said.

Dr Wicksteed said many regional hospitals did not have the room, equipment or staff to cope with more than a couple of COVID cases at a time.

“The hospital has been extremely busy already this year,” she said.

“I [also] think it will be really hard to maintain adequate staffing in any of the hospitals in any of the regions in WA once there’s COVID there.”

“I don’t think any of our hospitals are fully prepared should we have a large outbreak … there are not enough ventilators at any hospital,” said Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) chief executive Vicki O’Donnell.

You can read the article in the ABC News here.

Rural Doctors Association president Brittney Wicksteed says staffing, equipment and space at regional hospitals would be stretched in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak. (ABC Kimberley Jacqueline Lynch).

Rural Doctors Association president Brittney Wicksteed says staffing, equipment and space at regional hospitals would be stretched in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak. (ABC Kimberley Jacqueline Lynch).

Improvements across health and welfare for mob

The two-yearly Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report on the welfare and wellbeing of Australians was launched today by the release of a video message (see below story) from Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services.

In recent years, there have been improvements across a range of measures of health and welfare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The median equivalised household income for Indigenous Australians grew 29% between 2002 and 2018–19, twice the growth rate of non-Indigenous Australians (14%) over the same period after accounting for inflation,” said AIHW Deputy Chief Executive Officer Matthew James.

“Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the proportion of working age Indigenous Australians relying on a government pension or allowance as their main income source fell from 47% to 45%.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities are at high risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and severe outcomes due to a range of health and socioeconomic inequalities. As of 15 August 2021, there had been 293 confirmed COVID-19 cases among Indigenous Australians since the start of the pandemic. This includes 145 confirmed cases since the beginning of 2021 (1.3% of all cases in the period), and 148 in 2020 (0.5%).

For more information, visit the AIHW website.

Western NSW sets example with COVID jab rates

“We’ve now seen the biggest increase in Western NSW compared to the whole of the state, in vaccination rates, particularly people receiving their first dose and particularly across our Aboriginal community,” he said.

“Thank you to everyone who’s come forward in the last month, in particular who’s changed life outcomes for people, getting protected from COVID.”

“Importantly second dose rates for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal in our community are now the same at 38 per cent right across our region.”

You can read the story in the Daily Liberal here.

A team from the University of Newcastle nursing staff travelled to Gomeroi Country to provide urgent vaccination and COVID-19 testing to the people of Walgett and greater Western NSW. Image credit: The University of Newcastle.

A team from the University of Newcastle nursing staff travelled to Gomeroi Country to provide urgent vaccination and COVID-19 testing to the people of Walgett and greater Western NSW. Image credit: The University of Newcastle.

Mental health and wellbeing support tailored to mob

As the serious Delta outbreak continues across the state, the Victorian Government is making sure more Victorians struggling during this difficult period have access to the mental health and wellbeing support they need.

On top of the $225 million the Government has already provided to support Victorians’ mental health throughout the pandemic, a further investment of $22 million will deliver fast-tracked, tailored care to those who need it, reducing the burden on emergency departments as the number of coronavirus patients grows.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are less likely to engage early with mainstream mental health services, will receive $4 million in support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to self-determine the best, most culturally appropriate response to the mental health and wellbeing needs of their local communities.

You can read more about this investment by the Victorian Government here.

Last week, the McGowan Labor Government also committed more than $374 million to ensure
positive outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities in Western Australia. The funding is split over three key policy areas: building strong communities, improving health and well-being, and delivering social and economic opportunities.

“This significant investment will help us Close the Gap in Western Australia and aligns with
our four Priority Reform Areas for changing how governments work with Aboriginal people,” said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Stephen Dawson.

You can read the media release by the McGowan Government here.

Aboriginal student resting on desk with two rocks one with the word 'lonely' & one with the word 'sad'

Headspace ‘take a step’ campaign photo.

Cultural safety important to patients and healthcare workers

Cultural safety is vitally important for the effective delivery of health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as in medical schools for our medical students and the health settings where our doctors work.

The Australian Indigenous Doctros’ Association (AIDA) supports the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) National Scheme 2020-2025 definition of cultural safety as:

“A sense of being as determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities” and furthermore, “culturally safe practise is the ongoing critical reflection of health practitioner knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in delivering safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism”.

You can read mora about AIDA‘s Cultural Safety Program here.

Culturally Appropriate Mental Health Care Is Vital For Indigenous Youth Right Now.
Reframing mental health care through a decolonised lens driven for and by Indigenous voices is the path forward to ensure sensitivity is delivered from diagnosis through to treatment and care. Psychologist and Palawa woman Jodi Jones told Junkee that culturally appropriate access to basic services is one of the biggest challenges impacting Indigenous youth mental health right now.

“Indigenous psychologists have the lived experiences of the real issues and disparities that have existed, and continue within our communities,” Jones said.

“We are the best equipped to deal with Indigenous issues with Indigenous perspectives”.

You can read the article in Junkee here.

AIDA - Cultural Safety Training

Innovative research explores responses to COVID-19

A study being conducted by the University of Queensland, led by Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, and Professor James Ward, seeks to unpack the complexities of Indigenous health and social systems to better understand the effectiveness of responses to COVID-19 in Brisbane.

Although the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have posed numerous health risks for Indigenous peoples, in the most part, it has merely exacerbated pre-existing issues relating to underlying health conditions, food insecurity, housing, and other social determinants of disparate health outcomes.

This study seeks to better understand the structural reforms needed to construct an effective health system, particularly during times of pandemics. It draws on the collective knowledge and experience of Indigenous and non-indigenous service-providers and healthcare professionals while recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the experts of their own needs and that sustainable change must be community orientated and driven.

You can read the article in Croakey Health Media here.

Deanne Minnicon and Maurice Woodley from the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, and Professor Bronwyn Fredericks. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Deanne Minnicon and Maurice Woodley from the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, and Professor Bronwyn Fredericks. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Rural health students protecting themselves and rural communities

The Australian Rural Health Education Network (ARHEN) has acknowledged the efforts of rural health students to protect themselves, their patients and rural communities from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated ahead of their clinical placements.

The Chair of ARHEN, Christine Howard, said health students play a vital role in the delivery of clinical services in many rural and remote communities and can help ease the burden on already stretched services.

“It is pleasing to see so many health students from a range of disciplines step up and get vaccinated and join the fight against COVID-19 in rural and remote communities. Around the country student nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, physiotherapists and occupational therapists have been recruited by state health services to support the vaccine roll-out.

You can read the ARHEN media release here.

health professional looking computer screen engaging in teleconference

Image source: National Rural Health Alliance website.

 

New process for job advertising

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

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


dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

 

Now Open: the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is delighted to announce that applications for the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) are now open!

Thanks to the Australian Government Department of Health, the PHMSS provides financial assistance to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who are studying or intending to study an entry-level health course in 2022, in one of the following disciplines:

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander primary health care
  • Nursing (RN and EN)
  • Midwifery
  • Dentistry/oral health (excluding dental assistants)
  • Medicine
  • Allied health (all specialties except pharmacy)
  • Mental health studies NEW

Additional places for mental health related studies have been made available for this year’s intake! You can view the full list of eligible courses and course areas on our website.

This is an exciting opportunity for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students to receive support to pursue their passion in health care!

Applications close at 11:59pm AEDT on Monday 11 October 2021.

If you have any questions or need assistance with your application, feel free to get in touch with us at 1800 688 628 or scholarships@acn.edu.au.

Download the flyer here.
You can apply for a scholarship here.

Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference

Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference 2021 
Online event
Wednesday 13th October 2021
The University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health

The aim for the conference is to facilitate the exchange of information on key issues in Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing through the delivery of high impact keynote addresses by national leaders from within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The conference also provides a forum for the presentation of cutting-edge program initiatives and research findings in Aboriginal health and wellbeing by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and their colleagues. The title of the conference ‘Ngar-wu Wanyarra’ translates to ‘listen and act’ in the language of the Yorta Yorta.

You can now download the program and conference booklet.
For up to date information on the conference please visit the website.
If you have any enquiries contact aboriginal-health@unimelb.edu.au or call (03) 5823 4512.

2021 Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference.