Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference
At the national CONVERGE Conference in Lismore organised by First Nations Media, Pat Turner Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO provided an update on the Coalition of Peaks work, and progress on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. You can access a transcript of Pat’s speech here.
NDIS reforms will discriminate against Mob
John Gilroy, ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development, University of Sydney says although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the greatest human services reform in Australia’s history, and holds great promise in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, the federal government’s proposed “independent assessments” aren’t the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.
“I’m a Koori bloke from the Yuin Nation who lives with disability and has a research career spanning nearly 20 years. The biggest problem I have with the proposed framework is that it’s disrespectful and discriminatory towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rather than designing another layer of bureaucracy, I recommend the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) invests more resources into building and up-skilling the current NDIS planning workforce and the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector.”
Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.
The letter says ‘write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government. Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.’ The letter calls on the Australian government to:
Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement
Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit
Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicehave issued a joint media release saying ‘The NT Government’s budget is framed in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of Territorians, hideously expensive and unlikely to be effective. It bolsters resources to allow the policing and surveillance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reduces funding where it is actually needed, in providing effective solutions when dealing with complex issues, like youth justice. The Government is moving to bring damaging and non-evidenced based youth reforms to parliament.
CEO of Danila Dilba Olga Havnen said “More prisons and jailing more people does not work. Even the USA has moved away from locking people up. It is costly and does not work. It is time for the Government and Opposition to listen to the advice at hand and look at alternative options that work.”
CEO of AMSANT John Patterson agreed “the proposed [NT Government] youth reform changes will likely lead to a surge in reoffending and offer nothing more than a path to jail. The complex health needs of our youth need to be taken into consideration. These reforms are not in the best interests of our youth or in the best interests of the Territory.”
“We call on the Government to reconsider the proposed youth reforms and talk to us. Punitive legislation does not rehabilitate young offenders or keep communities safe. We know the tough-on-crime approach only facilitates more crime and disadvantage for our community. It is time the NT government responded humanely and responsibly by addressing the real causes of youth offending and investing in these evidence-based approaches.”
To view the joint AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service media release click here.
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicealso joined CAAC, AMA NT Inc, The Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the AMA in an open letter to the NT Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing outlining concerns over the NT government’s proposed youth justice reforms.
The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has also condemned the NT Government’s youth justice reforms. NTCOSS CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said incarcerating more children will not reduce crime. “This legislation will reduce access to diversion programs and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction. It does not break the cycle of crime. It entrenches it.”
To view the NTCOSS media release in full click here.
Image from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report. Image source: Croakey.
Indigenous workforce needs better support
Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is surveying its members on the impact of COVID-19 on their education, training and professional practice. Its findings to date hold important lessons for educators, employers and governments on how they can better support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and, ultimately, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, particularly in times of disruption and public health emergencies.
Megan McIntosh and Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela and Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service’s offices. Image source: The Inverell Times.
AOD research – treatment, services, prevention
A number of papers and reports relating to alcohol and other drugs have recently been released.
The University of Sydney released a paper Alcohol consumption and dependence is linked to the extent that people experience need satisfaction while drinking alcohol in two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitieswhich argues that due to systematic disadvantage and inter-generational trauma, Indigenous Australians may be less likely to have satisfied basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). When people are need-thwarted, they may engage in compensatory behaviours to feel better in the short-term. Better understanding the functions that alcohol may play for some Indigenous Australian drinkers may aid communities, clinicians, and policy makers in improving programs for reducing drinking-related harms.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: key findings, click here, and Patterns of intensive alcohol and other drug treatment service use in Australia 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, click here.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has also released a report Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, click here.
The Glen Art program participant. Image source: The Glen website.
Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program will commence from next week. People in priority groups who are most at risk and who need protection the most – will receive a vaccine first. The rollout will begin with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and following the approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) earlier this week, will include the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from early March. The initial priority groups include aged care and disability care residents and workers, frontline healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt reaffirmed that Australia’s vaccine strategy is strong and on schedule, saying “Australia will begin rolling out the COVID-19 Vaccination program from next week.”
To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Human Resources Director.
Facebook blocks Indigenous health groups
Indigenous health and media groups fear Facebook’s shutdown of community pages could have a dangerous impact on regional communities during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Crucial sources of information have been lost as small media outlets, community noticeboards and health services have been caught up in Facebooks’ sweeping shutdown of Australian news. Facebook has blocked the feeds of Australian news companies on its site and is preventing users from sharing Australian news content. The tech giant is pushing back against the federal government’s plans to make it and Google pay for publishing Australian news content — a world-leading initiative the companies have fiercely resisted.
But the effect of Facebook’s ploy has extended well beyond major media companies. Several Aboriginal community-controlled health services have had their posts blocked, including organisations such as the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and Danila Dilba Health Service. CAAC, a community-controlled primary health care provider, vented its frustration on Twitter at the timing of Facebook’s move, given the impending COVID-19 vaccine rollout to Indigenous communities, “A primary vehicle for health promotion, disabled at a crucial time,” it tweeted.
CAAC is a community-controlled health organisation for people living in Central Australia. Image source: ABC News website.
Removing information sources is corporate bullying
Tech giant Facebook’s decision to remove official sources of information, including Federal and State Government health pages, is irresponsible corporate bullying during a global pandemic, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said yesterday. Dr Khorshid outlined his concern over Facebook’s actions, “The world is battling the COVID-19 crisis, and Australia is days away from beginning the biggest mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. Yet, to save itself from having to pay a few million dollars to Australian news organisations for the work their journalists do, Facebook has decided to punish all Australians by removing their access to news on its platform. This irresponsible action – taken with no notice – has clearly had unintended consequences, with some health department pages taken down, but not others; with people unable to access the Bureau of Meteorology’s page on a day of bushfire and flood warnings. Facebook play a huge part in the lives of ordinary Australians and the company must take its responsibilities seriously.”
“It is truly ironic that Facebook has allowed health misinformation to be spread via its platform throughout this pandemic, yet today much of this misinformation remains on Facebook while official information sources are blocked. The AMA calls on Facebook to restore public access to official information, and to stop putting the health of Australians at risk in order to bully the Australian Government.”
Be vaccine ready – link digital government services
The Morrison Government is encouraging Australians to get ready for their COVID-19 vaccination by linking their digital government services, particularly their myGov and Medicare accounts. The call to link digital services follows the announcement that the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) will be the record for all vaccinations for Australians and that record will form the basis of the vaccination certificate that all Australians will be able to use, including visa holders. The AIR has undergone significant upgrades in preparation for COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Almost 5.5 million immunisation history statements were securely accessed by individuals between October 2019 and August 2020. Your immunisation history statement will record your COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr Kelvin Kong has produced a new COVID-19 video clip for the Australian Government Department of Health. He reminds everyone that anytime you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms, get tested immediately for COVID-19 and stay home until you get a negative test result. It is the best way to protect yourself and your community. To access the NSW Government Keep Our Mob Safe webpage click here.
Image source: Department of Health Facebook page.
Tailored vaccine information for Mob
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have been identified as a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out program. This is because of the higher risk of getting and developing serious illness from COVID-19 due to a number of factors. This may include a higher rate of chronic health conditions and in some cases crowded-living conditions, which increases the risk of spreading the infection.
COVID-19 can cause serious health issues. Getting a vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting yourself from getting really sick from COVID-19. Encourage your family, Elders and community to get vaccinated so that they are protected from serious illness from COVID-19.
The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, available to everyone in Australia and free.
For more information you can access the Australian Government’s Department of Health’s Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about COVID-19 vaccines webpage here.
Free on-line training to keep staff COVID-19 safe
COVID-19 has brought new challenges in the way we work, particularly for people who care for others day-to-day. You want to stay on top of current and relevant information to keep care recipients, staff and visitors safe. That’s why the Australian Government Department of Health has created online COVID-19 infection control training.
This program is free to everyone and especially recommended for people working in the healthcare sectors. People like Rachael Phillips, Manager of Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service – a long day care centre in Tamworth, NSW – have already seen results. Biralee’s staff are feeling more confident and able to carry out the centre’s policies to keep everyone safe. For them the reliable nature of the training made it essential. The short length and being able to do it online on a phone made it easy. And the interesting information made it stick.
For further information about the training click here.
Food insecurity post-pandemic
Wide-ranging systemic and structural changes are needed to ensure food and economic security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to University of Queensland academics, Professor Bronwyn Fredericks and Dr Abraham Bradfield. Socioeconomic factors and the affordability of fresh food significantly impact what Indigenous peoples consume and what they are able to access. Dr Megan Ferguson and her colleagues conducted a study comparing the price of food baskets in urban supermarkets in Darwin and Adelaide and remote stores in the NT and SA, finding that products from remote locations cost an average of 60% more. In addition to this, Indigenous peoples earn an average weekly income of $250 less than non-Indigenous Australians. This means that in remote Australia – where employment opportunities are scarce and reliance on welfare a necessity – people must stretch their income just to feed themselves and their family. Purchasing cheaper and often unhealthy processed foods is one way to achieve this.
In the wake of the pandemic, we find ourselves in a situation where Indigenous health – which is often compromised by pre-existing (and preventable) health conditions – is placed at greater risk because the underlying issues informing food insecurity and wider socioeconomic disparities haven’t been addressed. Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), observes this in relation to Outback Stores, a government-owned company servicing 39 food and general stores across remote NT, WA and SA. In an interview for the ABC, Turner spoke of the government’s delayed and reactive response to food security that in some cases contributed to food shortages during the early days of the pandemic: “Given the fact that we have had Outback Stores for a long time and so on, I’m just really disappointed that the pre-planning wasn’t done to ensure ready access to healthy and affordable food. Our people need access to fresh produce and they need, now more than ever, healthy food to keep their immunity system up.”
Professor Bronwyn Fredericks & Dr Abraham Bradfield. Image source: Griffith Review.
Battle for the Kimberley
The Kimberley is set to be hotly contested at the upcoming March election, with a record number of Aboriginal candidates in the running for the 2.5 million square kilometre seat. The seat has been held by an Aboriginal person since 1980, when Ernie Bridge took the seat from Liberal incumbent Keith Ridge and became the State’s first Aboriginal member of Parliament.
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.
Clockwise: map of the seat of Kimberley, WA, Divina D’Anna (Labor), Naomi Pigram (Greens) & Millie Hills (Nationals). Image source: National Indigenous Times website.
1,000+ with cognitive disability detained each year
“Is the justice system being used as a de facto disability service, one that proceeds by punitive rather than therapeutic measures?” That was one of the questions posed by Senior Counsel Assisting Dr Kerri Mellifont at the opening day of two weeks of hearings by the Royal Commissioninto Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability into the experiences of people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system.
The focus has been broadly welcomed, however the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) has said that the over-representation of First Nations People with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system – acknowledged by Commission Chair Ronald Sackville in his opening remarks – warrants its own dedicated First Nations hearing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned with one third reporting a disability, 50% reporting a history of psychosocial disability, and 25–30% of prisoners having an intellectual disability, said FPDN CEO Damian Griffis in a statement.
The Australian Government Department of Health is promoting NACCHO’s work to support and educate communities on practising safe and consensual sex via its website. To view the webpage in full click here.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Cashless debit card a paternalistic response
Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter said: “The cashless debit card was always just another paternalistic response to addressing issues that affect Indigenous people in this country. Approaches that have failed to make significant inroads into addressing intractable issues like poverty and discrimination. The report into the trial, conducted at great expense, found that people involved in the trial of the CDC felt discriminated against and shamed for receiving welfare payments. Shaming people doesn’t improve anyone’s situation, but condemns them to the same discriminatory treatment they’ve experienced for generations.”
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media statement in full click here.
The cashless debit card trial in Ceduna in 2016 was met with some community resistance. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.
SA pilot suicide prevention program
South Australia’s most vulnerable now have better access to support services thanks to a new pilot program to help survivors of attempted suicide. Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said the Way Back Support Service, a Beyondblue initiative delivered in collaboration between AnglicareSA and Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), provides one-on-one support to survivors after they leave hospital. “We are committed to tackling our suicide rate through offering appropriate services to those who need support and ensuring that people at increased risk of suicide don’t fall through the gaps, Minister Wade said. “Suicide is a complex issue, however we know raising awareness, breaking down stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviours can save lives.”
To view the joint media release from the SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing and the SA Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention and Community Resilience click here.
Aboriginal campaigner and suicide survivor Ingrid Cumming. Photo credit: Amelia Searson. Image source: Western Independent Stories from Curtin University’s Journalism Program website page.
Aboriginal Ear Health webinar
The Academy of Child and Adolescent Health (ACAH) The Academy of Child and Adolescent Health promotes the health and wellbeing of every newborn, child and young person in order that they may meet their maximum potential.
As part of the ACAH 2021 webinar series Associate Professor Kelvin Kong will deliver via Zoom a FREE special WHO World Hearing Day presentation on Aboriginal ear health from 7:00–8:00 PM (AEDT)Wednesday 3 March 2021. To register click here.
Associate Professor Kong is an amazing Australian and part of Australian medical history as the first Aboriginal surgeon, other than the tens of thousands of years of Ngangkari healers. He is one of Australia’s leading ear health experts as part of the Centre of Research Excellence in Indigenous Children’s Healthy Ears and the Australian delegation to the WHO World Hearing Forum. Join his webinar to hear about his journey, his work and the current innovations in ear health in Australia.
Image source: the social photographer website.
NSW – Wyong – Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited
Family Time / Case Work Support Worker x 1 FT (identified) – Wyong
Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Service Ltd. is an Aboriginal Community Controlled organisation, which aims is to deliver holistic, comprehensive and culturally responsive health care, integrated social, emotional and community programs to the Aboriginal community.
Yerin is seeking a suitably qualified Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander individual to join their Ngaliya PSP team. In this role you will support child focused quality contact between a child, young person and their parent/family/kin who are in statutory Permanency Support Program Placements.
To view the position description and to apply click here. Applications close 5:00 PM Thursday 4 May 2021.
Random Acts of Kindness Week – 14–20 February 2021
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a small non-profit organisation that believes all people can connect through kindness and that kindness can be taught. Scientific evidence shows the positive effects of doing kind acts for others as well as receiving or even witnessing kindness. Even the smallest act of kindness can change a life. Seemingly insignificant moments where a stranger helps another stranger can impact the rest of someone’s life. When a person tunes into kindness happening around them, the day seems a little bit brighter. The week seems a little more manageable.
Aboriginal Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts is spreading the word about kindness with his book My Kind. The book’s main purpose is to convey messages about diversity, equality, acceptance, anti-bullying, caring for the environment and, most of all, kindness. You can view Eddie’s website Eddies’ Lil’ Homies spreading kindness & culturehere.
In 2021, the foundation in encouraging everyone to Explore the Good and Make Kindness the Norm. For more information about the Random Acts of Kindness Foundationclick here.
Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts. Image source: The Advertiser.