NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Our Mob and Cancer website launched

The image in the feature tile is artwork by Riki Salam, an artist and graphic designer and the digital designer of the Our Mob and Cancer website. Born and raised in Cairns on Yidindji land, Riki has connections to Muralag, Kala Lagaw Ya, Meriam Mer, Kuku Yalanji peoples on his father’s side and the Ngai Tahu people in the South Island of NZ on his mother’s side. Image source: Our Mob and Cancer Artworks webpage of the Our Mob and Cancer website.

Our Mob and Cancer website launched

Australia’s first comprehensive cancer website developed by and for Indigenous Australians was officially launched yesterday in a bid to boost health outcomes and care across the country. Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, launched the Our Mob and Cancer website which provides culturally-safe support and information for patients, their families, communities and health professionals. The website includes critical information about how cancer affects Our Mob, ways to protect against cancer, types of cancer, diagnosis, treatment and living with cancer, how cancer spreads and where to get help and support.

In 2015–2019, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 1.4 times more likely to die from cancer compared to non-Indigenous Australians and they experience higher incidence rates, and lower participation rates in bowel, breast, and cervical cancer population screening programs.

To view Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release Ground-breaking platform launched for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer in full click here.

Health students get a taste of rural life

First year health students have had a taste of what it would be like to work in a rural or remote area during a recent trip to the Atherton Tablelands as part of three Health Workforce Queensland’s GROW Rural Programs, aimed at encouraging them to return and work in the region. The program is focused on ensuring remote, rural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities have access to highly skilled health professionals when and where they need them, now and into the future.

It is being supported by Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) over the next three years. GROW Rural NQ presents first-year medical, nursing, midwifery, dentistry, and allied health students with a unique experience to develop familiarity and a deeper understanding of the potential of a professional and personal life they could have working in rural Queensland.

By cultivating strong connections with the health workforce community and the broader community, the GROW Rural program encourages health students to return to rural communities for their clinical placements and to consider rural practice as a future career opportunity. HWQ Future Workforce team leader Meredith Connor said the 25 students visited Atherton, Ravenshoe, and Mareeba. “Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre welcomed the students with fantastic cultural activities including traditional dance and an art workshop in which the students painted boomerangs and clapsticks,” Ms Connor said.

To view The Express article Health students get a taste of rural life in full click here.

Seven of the GROW Rural students (from left) Savindie Abeynayak, Louis Huynh, Maddy Harris, Elliot Hunt, Caitlin Brims, Karif Hung, and Jessica Lanza on the Tablelands. Image source: The Express.

Indigenous Doctor of the Year 2022

Tennant Creek’s Dr Sarah Goddard has been crowned Australia’s Indigenous Doctor of the Year award for 2022. She won the award at the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association conference after being nominated by her community and practice for going above and beyond and making a difference within healthcare. Dr Goddard said she was shocked, overwhelmed and very honoured to receive the award. Dr Goddard grew up in Tennant Creek. Her mother was very unwell for a time and Dr Goddard said she was inspired by the doctors and medical crew around her mother to go off and study and come back to the Barkley.

You can listen to ABC Radio National Drive presenter Rohan Barwick speaking to Dr Sarah Goddard here.

Dr Sarah Goddard has been named Indigenous Doctor of the Year 2022 by the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association. Image source: ABC News Alice Springs.

Close the Gap September 2022 newsletter

The September edition of the 2022 Close the Gap Quarterly Newsletter has been released. It includes information about the Deadly Physios Podcast show; words from the Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Commissioner June Oscar AO; and upcoming events:

  • ANTAR Celebrating 25 Years – ANTAR National Forum, Canberra or online – Wednesday 12 October 2022
  • launch of the Recommendations for Culturally Safe Kidney Care for First Nations Australians – Sunday 16 October 2022
  • CEO forum on how your organisation can support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Sydney – Wednesday 16 November 2022

You can access the Close the Gap Quarterly Newsletter September 2022 edition here.

Benefits of early mental health interventions

Sueanne Gola is a Kamilaroi (Aboriginal) woman and Clinical Psychologist who has worked in mainstream mental health for 15 years says World Mental Health Day (yesterday) was an opportunity to share and showcase First Nations perspectives of Mental Wellness such as the Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Framework. The framework takes into account the complexity and holistic nature of our experiences of mental wellbeing and includes connection to land, culture, and community. SEWB also takes into account the historical, political and societal experiences continuing to impact on our experiences of individual and community mental wellness and mental illness.  

Yesterday, she said, was also an opportunity to talk about infant mental health. Infant mental health is well established worldwide, however across much of Australia is still a relatively unknown and fledgling area of mental health. Ms Gola supports families in the first weeks of an infant’s life as they get to know the unique addition to their family. She gets to work with families to support the social and emotional development of their young children and most importantly support parents to improve the mental wellness of the family unit which aides in the recovery from intergenerational trauma and provides the next generation with a strong foundation of mental wellness.

Ms Gola said that lastly, but no less importantly, yesterday was an opportunity to reflect on Mental Wellness. All too often we talk about mental illnesses and what can be done to reduce a) symptom severity or b) the impact of mental illness symptoms on the individual and/or society. Yesterday was an opportunity to have conversations about Mental Wellness. 

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article Celebrating 2022 World Mental Health Day with IAHA Member Sueanne Gola, Clinical Psychologist/Infant Mental Health Clinician in full click here.

Image source: myDr.com.au.

ACCHO recipients of oral health grants

While Australia has seen substantial improvements in oral health over recent years, we are beginning to see this positive trend decline in disadvantaged and remote communities. In fact, Australians from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds are now almost half as likely to consult a dental professional, and nine times more likely to suffer complete tooth loss. While there are a number of factors at play, barriers such as lower access to dental facilities, financial pressures, and lower health literacy all contribute to Australia’s dental health inequity.

Now in its 11th year, the Mars Wrigley Foundation and Australian Dental Health Foundation (ADHF). Healthier Smiles Community Service Grants program is a well-established initiative supporting dentists and dental students from across Australia who seek to improve oral health outcomes by providing screening, treatment, and education to those most in need. This year, the Mars Wrigley Foundation has awarded approx. AU$111,000 in grant funding to 10 worthy projects. Among the 2022 recipients are:

Cherbourg Volunteer Dental Clinic

Indigenous people of Cherbourg – Australia’s most disadvantaged community – experience many health inequalities, including a lack of access to regular dental services. With the grant funding, the project team will work in conjunction with the Cherbourg Regional Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Services to provide volunteer dental screening, treatment, and education. The clinic’s aim is to allow the community of Cherbourg to transition from emergency intervention to preventative dental health through ongoing education and support.

Biripi Aboriginal Medical Corporation

Many Indigenous elders are unable to afford dental care and treatment, resulting in the loss of teeth or poorly fitted dentures that affect their lifestyle and ability to derive proper nutrition. The grant funding will assist the Biripi Aboriginal Medical Corporation in supporting Elders of the Biripi community through the provision of comprehensive dental care, including fillings, extractions and specialised denture services. The project team also aims to create awareness of the importance of maintaining oral health and the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking on the deterioration of oral health.

To view The National Tribune article Recipients announced for 2022 Healthier Smiles Community Service Grants in full click here.

Image source: Australian Dental Health Foundation website.

SWAMS develops syphilis awareness video

The short video (below), developed by South West Aboriginal Medial Service (SWAMS), aims to increase awareness around syphilis in the south-west region of WA, due to an ongoing outbreak. The video briefly discusses:

  • transmission
  • symptoms
  • treatment
    • risk if untreated during pregnancy
  • testing
  • prevention

You can access the SWAMS website here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Bowel screening test kits for ACCHOs

The image in the feature tile is from the article Targeted screening could improve bowel cancer diagnosis, but not cost-effective published in The Senior on 21 November 2019.

Bowel Cancer screening test kits for ACCHOs

NACCHO is working with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to roll out bowel cancer screening kits to all ACCHOs. This new approach means that more community members can be supported to participate in bowel cancer screening. All participating ACCHOs will soon be able to issue kits directly to community members and bulk order additional kits from the Healthcare Provider Portal.

NACCHO is holding a free training webinar for all participating community-controlled organisations.

A live training webinar will be held from 12.30 PM – 2.00 PM (AEST) Monday 10 October 2022.

The training will guide staff through the simple steps to:

  • issue a kit to ensure that the completed kit can be easily linked to the participating community member. Linking completed kits to people means that the results of the screening can be successfully communicated to both you as the provider and the community member
  • bulk order additional kits
  • engage in conversations with community members about the importance of screening.

Attendees will also hear from community-controlled organisations who participated in the pilot program for this work and there will be lots of opportunities for questions.

NAATSIHWP and RACGP have provided CPD endorsement of the training webinar.

You can register for the training here.

If you have any questions, please contact the NACCHO Cancer team via this email link.

In the short video, Bowel Cancer Get Tested Early, Chris Lee, Assistant Director of Aged Care and Disability Programs from NACCHO, encourages mob to get tested and catch bowel cancer early so you can be around for your family and grannies.

Lack of telecommunications creates divide

A new AMA position statement looks at the many reasons telecommunication infrastructure and platforms must be rolled out and secured across the country. The AMA’s position statement on ‘Better Digital Connectivity to Improve Health Care of Rural Australians, available here, emphasises that technology telecommunication platforms must be able to accommodate developments in information and communications technologies, and provide digital connectivity through suitable combinations of fibre, mobile phone, wireless, and satellite technologies.

The position statement also highlights the need for enhancing the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure to natural disasters throughout the country to provide sustainable health care services for all Australians. The federal government’s decision on 1 July to remove Medicare rebate for longer telephone consultation but keep patient rebates for video calls of the same duration (20–40 minutes) and longer has excluded rural patients to access Medicare rebate through video telehealth.

Conducting video consultations is challenging with black spots and low internet speeds in rural setting. Government policies play a tremendous role in bringing internet access to remote regions and to ensure broadband services are reliable and affordable for all communities, business and services throughout the country.

To read the AMA article AMA says lack of telecommunication creates another health divide in the bush in full click here.

Image source: AMA website.

Improving newborn outcomes

Indigenous babies are generally born earlier and smaller than the rest of the population. The Government wants to close the gap, aiming for 91% of newborns to be at a healthy birthweight in the next decade. Michelle Kennedy from the University of Newcastle says “if we are going to close the gap we really need investment in ACCHOs who will drive the biggest change in our health and wellbeing.”

You can view the ABC News video VIDEO: Govt aims to improve Indigenous newborn outcomes featuring staff from Awabakal Aboriginal Health Service NSW by clicking on this link.

Mob encouraged to slow COVID-19 spread

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has recently released the video below with Dr Aleeta Fejo, Aboriginal GP and senior Doctor, encouraging us all to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The collection also contains information on:

  • COVID-19 vaccination – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare workers talking about the COVID-19 vaccines
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Living with COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

You can access the Department of Health and Aged Care webpage Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Dr Aleeta encourages us all to help slow the spread of COVID-19 here.

Baabayn Mums and Bubs Group initiative

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) works closely to support Baabayn, an Aboriginal Corporation that connects with individuals and families and provides them support and links to services that help them heal from the past and nurture their sense of confidence and pride in the future. One Baabayn initiative, Baabayan Mums and Bubs Group, helps young people in western Sydney grow and contribute to an Aboriginal-led movement for better outcomes for First Nations women and children.

Mercy Works supports the “bubs” component of the group which engages Aboriginal children in cultural, educational, health-promoting and healing activities in weekly three-hour sessions. This includes storytelling, learning culture, native gardening projects, motor skills activities and pre-school literacy and learning sessions.

The mums also participate in programs such as WSLHD’s Public Health Unit ‘Bedazzled Bras’ breast cancer initiative and Real Futures Job Training ‘Bring Your Bills Day’ with Legal Aid designed to empower, promote healthy lifestyles, and enhance life skills.

To read The Pulse article Western Sydney Baabayn mums shine a light at Vivid in full click here.

Advocacy for Bathurst mental health facility

A mental health facility which has had strong results for patients in other regional areas could be operating in Bathurst in the near future. Member for Bathurst Paul Toole has confirmed he will be advocating for a Safe Haven in Bathurst, similar to the ones already operating in Parkes and Dubbo, following news there is “one on the cards” for Orange.

There have been increased calls for improved mental health services for teenagers in regional areas following the death of Bathurst teen Tilly Rosewarne earlier this year. Tilly took her own life following what has been described as years of relentless online and schoolyard bullying. This call to reduce the number of young lives being lost to suicide across the western region is being led by Australian Community Media, publisher of the Western Advocate. Parkes’ Safe Haven opened in December 2021, which was followed by the opening of a similar facility in Dubbo in March 2022.

To read the Western Advocate article Toole confirms he will be advocating for Bathurst to have its own Safe Haven in full click here. The video below is from the NSW Government NSW Health webpage Safe Haven, available here, explains what a Safe Haven is.

Mala’la Health Service turning its health crisis on heart disease around

The National Indigenous Times (NIT) featured a story on how a local-led effort with an NT community is turning around the shockingly high rate of two dangerous heart diseases in Arnhem Land’s remote Maningrida community. Mala’la Health and community service manager Lesley Woolf said Maningrida was desperate for action to tackle the high rate of heart disease.

“Prior to the commencement of our program, Maningrida had the highest incidence of rheumatic heart disease and acute rheumatic fever in Australia, if not the world,” she said.

“In 2019, we had the opportunity to get Commonwealth funds. That gave us the chance to work with the community, who were very passionate about getting action, to develop and implement a plan. We were able to get additional staff and to look at environmental issues and addressing them.”

In 2018 more than 600 school children in the community were screened for RHD and one in 20 were diagnosed with rheumatic disease. Mala’la worked closely with the local school to provide education, health screening, health promotion, secondary prophylaxis and treatment to school children and their families.  This also included working with One Disease in treating scabies and providing education about skincare from a community-based approach.

Community engagement and awareness, as well as active case finding through echocardiographic screening, contributed to an increase in the number of people accessing care for RHD.

Read the story published in NIT here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and women are being urged to listen to their bodies and react quickly to any unusual changes. Being aware of changes in your breasts can mean prompt screening and early diagnosis which, in turn, can improve treatment outcomes.

“If you’re unsure about a possible symptom, you should make an appointment to discuss the change with your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. This is particularly important if it’s been more than four weeks since you first noticed the change.”

“Everyone’s breasts are different. It is important that you get to know what your breasts look and feel like, so you know what is normal for you. There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts.”

What to look out for

  • A lump or hard area in your breast or underarm, especially if it is only on one side.
  • Change in the look of your breast: your skin looks like the skin of an orange, your skin looks and feels different in one area, redness, or rash.
  • Changes to the nipple: pulled inwards, leaking, itchy or has a sore that won’t heal.
  • Breast pain or discomfort, especially if it is only on one side.
  • A change in the size, shape or feel of your breast.

To access the WA Cancer Council webpage Listen to your body this Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full click here.

The graphic below is from the Know Your Lemons Foundation website and lists the 12 symptoms of breast cancer. Dr. Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont MFA, PhD, is the founder of the Know Your Lemons Foundation (formerly known as “Worldwide Breast Cancer”) and the designer behind  Know Your Lemons, an innovative campaign teaching about the symptoms of breast cancer and the process for detection. Her groundbreaking work is creating a new paradigm of healthcare communication and has been viewed by over 1.5 billion people worldwide in 32 languages. Because the familiar, friendly lemon crosses common healthcare communication barriers of literacy, taboo and fear, #knowyourlemons is the only truly global breast cancer education campaign that works for diverse audiences regardless of age, ethnicity or gender.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Men’s Health, Our Way – Let’s Own It!

Image in feature tile is of Tristan who features in an Australian Government Department of Health Twitter post, saying “It’s best that we all get the 715 check.”

Men’s Health, Our Way – Let’s Own It!

Earlier this morning NACCHO released the following media release to mark Men’s Health Week 2022:

Men’s Health, Our Way – Let’s Own It!

Men’s Health Week 2022: Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys

In the 2022 Men’s Health Week, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), draws attention to the importance of improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, across Australia.

The Aboriginal community-controlled health sector has made vast changes to outreach, education, and engagement with men, providing a wide range of preventative and early intervention, and culturally sound men’s programs that address critical social and emotional issues that some men face.

Donnella Mills, NACCHO Chair, states, ‘Our goal is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males to live longer, healthier lives and we urge them to visit their local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services more often to discuss their health.’

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men access primary health care services at the lowest rate, compared to other Australians, and health statistics indicate they have the poorest health outcomes in Australia. Research shows there are various barriers for Aboriginal men accessing health services including, societal related issues such as, stigma and gender differences; cultural differences, including language, beliefs, and law; logistical challenges, such as distance and transportation; trust in health services, financial challenges, and individual reasons including, health understanding, previous experiences and illnesses, self-esteem, and confidence, etc.

Ms Mills said, ‘The theme of this year’s National Men’s Health Week, Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys is about the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services creating a holistic, culturally safe and engaged space for men to discuss and treat their health issues.

‘NACCHO are committed to reducing the rate of hospitalisations, which is almost three times higher than for other Australian men; and reducing suicide rates, which is one of the highest leading causes of death for Aboriginal males in this country.’

Chris Bin Kali, NACCHO Deputy Chair, said, ‘NACCHO works alongside the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector to ensure quality health services reach all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in a culturally appropriate and safe environment. Ongoing support from governments to ensure these services continue, are essential.

‘A great way to check on your overall health is with a 715 Health Check that our health services offer, and I would stress the importance to get them done regularly for our men! The 715 Health Check assesses your overall health with the aim to provide health care matched to your specific needs via early detection, diagnosis, and intervention for common, treatable conditions. It is designed to support the physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients of all ages.’

Case study Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services, NSW:

The Yerin Men’s Group sessions are a local group that partner with other Aboriginal health organisations and host a session every month touching upon various issues that support men’s business, sharing knowledge, assistance and guidance amongst each other.

The Glen Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation centre recently joined the Men’s Group session to share their personal stories and assist with information. In March, they invited Yadhaba Aboriginal Health Workers and community Elders to host a day of yarning about mental health and well-being and fishing on Country.

You can access this media release on NACCHO’s website here.

Image source: Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal.

Apunipima hosts Men’s Health Summit

Apunipima Cape York Health Council (ACYHC) is hosting its annual Cape York Men’s Health Summit in Hope Vale this week. The event will see 120 males from all over Cape York descend on Elim Beach for a week of camping with a focus on men’s health. The theme of the week is ‘growing together as fathers, providers and protectors’ and there will be a range of activities and discussions throughout the week, focusing on men’s business with a host of talented guest speakers presenting over the whole week.

“We’re very excited about the return of the Apunipima Men’s Health Summit in 2022. We haven’t been able to hold a Men’s Summit for the last two years due to Covid, so there’s been a lot of interest in this year’s event. Our male staff are excited to be hosting so many men from across the Cape and providing a space where they can come together to talk about issues that are important to them,” said Apunipima CEO, Debra Malthouse.

Headlining the week will be one of FNQ’s funniest comedians, Sean Choolburra. The very popular former cultural dancer will address the summit with his unique blend of history, cultural knowledge and spiritual wisdom, delivered with loads of energy and plenty of cheek. Also speaking throughout the summit will be BBM Cairns’ National TalkBlack radio host Trevor Tim, former Gold Coast Titans player Davin Crompton and more including academics, athletes, motivational speakers and health industry professionals.

The event runs all week from Monday 13 to Friday 17 June, 2022.

To view the ACYHC’s media release Apunipima Hosts Men’s Health Summit in Hope Vale in full click here.

Elim Beach, 25km east of Hope Vale. Image source: ACYHC.

Life expectancy improvement too slow

The main point of an editorial from the current online issue of the Medical Journal of Australia is that while it is possible to Close the Gap, current efforts are inadequate. Life expectancy for Indigenous people is improving, but closing the gap remains unacceptably slow

Although recent boosts to funding are welcome, much more needs to be done by the Commonwealth to fill service gaps with ACCHOs and by jurisdictional governments on social determinants especially housing, justice and education. In key matters like housing, national leadership would be welcome and it may be time to reintroduce National Partnership Agreements. Despite the editorial comments referencing an NT article, it has national relevance.

You can read the editorial Life expectancy for Indigenous people is improving, but closing the gap remains unacceptably slow in full click here.

Photo: Chloe Geraghty. Image source: Amnesty International Australia website.

Qld mob to have bigger healthcare say

Indigenous Queensland communities are set to have a much bigger say on their own healthcare and housing needs, as well as how their children are educated. The state’s 26 Indigenous councils will soon start deciding how Queensland government services such as health care, housing and education are delivered.

Advisory panels will be appointed in each Indigenous community within two years to advise the government. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford says the move is an important step towards self-determination. “Progressing local solutions and decision-making with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people is critical for communities to thrive,” he said yesterday. The new Local Decision Making Bodies (LDMBs) will be told how much money the government is investing in each community. Information will include details such as how much is spent on services, the amount of funding for each service contract, who is delivering the contracts, and whether they employ local people.

To view the Northern Beaches Review article Qld Indigenous to be handed more control in full click here.

Image source: Northern Beaches Review.

Funding for eating disorders research

Sydney’s first eating disorders research and translation centre is offering a nationwide grant opportunity to progress prevention, treatments and support in partnership with research, lived experience, clinical and community experts. The Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, led by InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, has launched the IgnitED Fund to unearth new ideas that have the potential to solve the problem of eating disorders. IgnitED is offering grants of up to $25,000 to develop and test innovative ideas that have potential to improve outcomes for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. It is the Centre’s first funding initiative following the $13 million grant awarded in January to establish the new national centre.

According to the Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-Lead, Leilani Darwin, First Nations Australians are believed to experience high rates of eating disorders, disordered eating and food insecurity issues. People with lived experience expertise and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are encouraged to apply for the grants. To view The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health News article National eating disorders centre ignites research fund for new solutions in full click here.

Additional $400m NSW CTG funding

The NSW Government has announced $401 million in additional funding over four years in the 2022-23 Budget, to prioritise Closing the Gap and other projects that improve outcomes for Aboriginal people across the state. Premier Dominic Perrottet said the significant investment reflected the need for a fresh approach to meaningfully shift the dial on Closing the Gap targets.

It’s clear traditional Government-led approaches haven’t worked. This needs to be done hand-in-hand with Aboriginal communities, who know best what changes need to be made to help communities thrive, Mr Perrottet said. That’s why we’ve worked in partnership with Aboriginal stakeholders to co-design a suite of initiatives across all areas of Government to make a greater difference.

To view the media release $400 million to empower Aboriginal communities & deliver outcomes in full click here.

Image source: Canberra Times website.

TB treatment safe during pregnancy

Seven out of 10 pregnant women were cured of their multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and delivered healthy babies after taking a medication that had previously been considered unsafe in pregnancy, a new Curtin and Telethon Kids Institute study has found. Published in JAMA Network Open, the study examined the experiences of 275 pregnant women with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis living in South Africa, Peru, Brazil, Iran and Uganda.

Lead researcher Dr Kefyalew Alene, from the Curtin School of Population Health and Telethon Kids Institute, said the study had found a medication used to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, Linezolid, was associated with favourable pregnancy outcomes and high treatment success. “This is the first comprehensive review of treatment outcomes for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in pregnant women, who remain one of the most vulnerable groups among the half a million people living with the disease globally,” Dr Alene said. Dr Alene said the study answered a challenging global issue of when to treat pregnant patients living with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

You can view the full paper Treatment Outcomes Among Pregnant Patients With Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis’ online here and the Curtin University article Study finds TB treatment during pregnancy is safe for mum and baby here.

Image source: SBS NITV website.

HESTA Excellence Awards nominations open

HESTA has opened nominations for the 2022 HESTA Excellence Awards to celebrate exceptional professionals working in disability, allied health, aged care and community services in Australia. With a $60,000 prize pool on offer, the national Awards celebrate professionals from the four sectors who are going above and beyond the everyday high-quality care they provide to achieve outstanding health outcomes for Australians.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said coming out of the pandemic and adapting to a ‘new normal’ has demonstrated the critical importance of these professionals to protecting and supporting our communities and our economic recovery. “Our world has changed so much these past few years and through it all, these amazing professionals adapted and innovated to continue supporting our communities, our families and our nation to keep us safe and healthy,” Ms Blakey said.

“Each year we’re privileged to find and recognise incredible people and organisations for their exceptional work. I’m very proud of the platform HESTA and these Awards provides to help share their stories and draw attention to the extensive impact these individuals have had on so many lives.” Anyone working in the four sectors – allied health, disability services, aged care or community services – and who are involved in the delivery of exceptional care or service can nominate or be nominated.

Nominations are open for both the Outstanding Organisation and Team Excellence categories. Independent judging panels comprising industry experts will select finalists and choose a winner from each sector and for each category. Nominations will close at midnight on Sunday 14 August 2022. 

For more information or to submit a nomination, visit the HESTA Awards webpage 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.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is commemorated each year on 15 June to highlight one of the worst manifestations of ageism and inequality in our society, elder abuse. Elder abuse is any act which causes harm to an older person and is carried out by someone they know and trust such as a family member or friend. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect. In many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response. It is a global social issue which affects the health, well-being, independence and human rights of millions of older people around the world, and an issue which deserves the attention of all in the community.

In Australia the safety of older Aboriginal people and a better understanding of Elder abuse prevention is a clear priority as the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years and over is increasing and is projected to more than double from 59,400 in 2011 to up to 130,800 in 2026. Identifying and measuring Elder abuse in Indigenous settings is challenging. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (2016) reported that mainstream conceptualisation of elder mistreatment requires reconsideration in Indigenous contexts; substantially more work and the collection of quality and consistent data is required to better understand Elder mistreatment amongst Indigenous peoples. There are no precise statistics on the prevalence of Elder abuse in the Aboriginal population in Australia and the strategies which would be effective in preventing this abuse have not been identified.

You can read more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elder abuse in the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute report What keeps you safe: approaches to promote the safety of older Aboriginal people here. You can also access a range of resources associated with the The Queensland Government’s Together we can stop elder abuse campaign, including the video below here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

Image if the feature tile is by Aboriginal photographer Bobbi-lee Hille, Daily Mail.

Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

When Kelsey Muhl’s midwife caught her new baby in a hospital shower it was a shared moment between two women who had built a relationship over months. “Gravity helped,”  The mother of three described her latest birth as poles apart from her earlier experiences. Ms Muhl and her midwife, Storm Henry, are part of a midwifery program pairing First Nations mothers with midwives for the duration of their pregnancy, delivery and the first days of the baby’s life. About one in 10 Australian mothers opt to have a single midwife, or caseload midwife, throughout their pregnancy, but for mothers of First Nations babies that rate has historically been much lower. “We know when women have a main midwife or continuity-of-care model there’s reduced childbirth complications,” La Trobe University professor Helen McLachlan said. “Babies are less likely to get sick, mothers are less likely to need caesarean sections.”

More than 18,000 First Nations babies are born across the country each year. Those babies are at a higher risk of arriving early, being born underweight or needing special care. “Outcomes for [First Nations] mothers and babies are pretty much twice as bad as non-Aboriginal mothers and babies — double the rate of preterm birth, almost triple the rate of maternal mortality,” Professor McLachlan said. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13% of Indigenous babies were born underweight in 2019. Reducing that number is a key target of the Closing the Gap agreement.

The culturally safe Baggarrook midwifery care program, being led by Latrobe University and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, has now matched more than 700 women giving birth to Indigenous babies with either a First Nations midwife or one who has been through cultural awareness training. “We’ve gone from 5% of Aboriginal women receiving access to this gold-standard model of care to over 90% of Aboriginal women presenting at one of the three hospitals participating,” Professor McLachlan said.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal midwife program works to close the gap in infant mortality and birth complications in full click here.

Kelsey Muhl enlisted a midwife from a First Nations program to help deliver her daughter Emilia. Photo: Nicole Asher, ABC News.

Helping older Australians avoid ED

Improving the care of older Australians in a bid to help them avoid hospital emergency departments will be the focus of a new project that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says has been awarded funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. Led by Flinders University in partnership with SA Health’s Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and the SA Ambulance Service, the research will engage patients and the medical community to find the best way forward for treating older Australians, who make up almost a quarter of all ED visits. “Emergency departments across Australia are often overwhelmed by the high demand from our growing ageing population but nearly half of the visits are potentially preventable,” says Flinders University’s Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Director of Rehabilitation, Aged, and Palliative Care at SAHLN and the project’s Chief Investigator.

The project will also explore what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers look for in emergency care, as well as seek to understand the barriers they face, with the team including two Aboriginal researchers – Associate Professor Tamara Mackean and Shane D’Angelo – from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Health group in Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health. They bring both public health and Indigenous health research experience and will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through yarning circles. “This is an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews and experiences to be incorporated into the conduct of the research from the beginning,” said Associate Professor Mackean.

To view the Flinders University article Helping older Australians avoid ED click here.

Image source: Flinders University News webpage.

Lower healthcare costs, but no PHC reform

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) welcomes recent announcements from both major parties that the cost of prescriptions will be eased by reducing the PBS co-payment. In addition, both parties have committed to raising the threshold for access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said that these two measures will help to bring down costs for people on fixed incomes in the face of rising inflation pressures. “Commitments to lower the cost of prescriptions if either side wins the election will be a much needed saving for health care consumers. When medicines become unaffordable, the costs to the nation’s healthcare system becomes more burdensome, as people are missing essential treatment,” said Ms Wells.

“However, we remind both parties that there are many others in the community such as young people, those who have had their NDIS packages cut, and people living in poverty on Jobseeker for whom access to affordable healthcare is dire.  Measures to support their capacity to access healthcare are sorely needed. CHF would like see more health care affordability measures directed to people on low incomes, who need it most,” she said. “We are acutely aware that many families in Australia will be forgoing items in the household budget to make ends meet,” said Ms Wells, “but affordability and access to healthcare goes beyond the cost of medicines.”

To view the CHF media release Parties promise to reduce costs but what about health care reform? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Inquiry highlights rural NSW’s health crisis

The NSW government has been handed a scathing report finding the rural health system is “in crisis and is failing residents of rural, regional and remote areas”. A cross-party committee has made 44 recommendations, following hundreds of hours of evidence held across NSW, to try to overhaul the system. What was found was people living outside of the city have “significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidents of chronic disease, and greater premature deaths”.

To address “historic failures” by both levels of government to fix workforce shortages, particularly in relation to doctors and nurses, it put forward a range of sweeping changes. They include the state government collaborating with the Commonwealth on a 10-year workforce strategy, a single employer model for GPs, and for the committee to hold another inquiry in two years’ time to see if the changes have been implemented.

You can view the ABC News article Inquiry into rural, regional and remote healthcare hands down findings to NSW government in full here.

The AMA (NSW) has welcomed the final report from the NSW parliamentary inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional, and remote New South Wales, but says achieving the report’s recommendations will not be feasible unless Governments make a meaningful funding commitment to improving health. “The report underscores the paucity of investment made into rural health to date and the absolute necessity to rethink current funding arrangements,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen. “The

To view the AMA’s media release Rural health inquiry highlights desperate need for more funding, AMA (NSW) says in full click here.

Image source: Careers Connections.

80% + Aboriginal people speak Kriol

Sylvia Tkac was born to be an Aboriginal interpreter but fell into the profession quite by accident. “My grandmother was an interpreter,” Ms Tkac said. “She said to me, ‘I need another interpreter, are you interested in interpreting?’ “I did it for the first time and I thought, ‘Gee I’m fluent’, because I spoke it as a child.” Kriol interpreter services are still used regularly across Australia. Interpreters hold an important role in communities for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “A Kriol interpreter is needed in the local courts,” Ms Tkac said. “Darwin use them, (as well as) Katherine and Alice Springs — they’re also used in the Supreme Court and in hospitals as well.”

Ms Tkac is an Anindilyakwa Interpreter from the Groote Eylandt archipelago and is based in Darwin with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. She interprets for a wide range of service providers in topics such as health, education, and law at the Local, Supreme and Children’s courts. The service collaborates on recordings with other agencies and mining companies, and produces a range of aids and resources, including DVDs, animations, driving apps and video interpreting. The service is vital to the 80% of Aboriginal people in Australia who speak Aboriginal English or Kriol, which has been recognised as a language since the 1970s.

To view the ABC News article More than 80% of Aboriginal people speak Kriol — why is it still widely misunderstood? in full click here.

Research Institute to tackle health inequities

Charles Sturt University’s new Rural and Regional Health Research Institute will work with communities to address the local burden of disease in lower socio-economic communities within rural, regional, and remote areas. Professor of Medicine and Executive Director of the Institute, Professor Allen Ross is applying his extensive international experience in rural and remote health to establish an organisation that delivers regional, national, and international impact. The Institute received $18 million over five years from the Australian Government to develop a world-class rural health and medical research facility that will support the needs of rural communities in Australia and beyond.

The Institute will focus on conducting research that:

  • addresses First Nations people’s health inequities
  • improves the experience of ageing and aged care in rural communities
  • improves child development health outcomes
  • promotes consumer-driven rural health research
  • boosts clinical research capability and
  • enables research to improve health and medical service delivery in regional cities, rural towns, and remote communities.

Professor Ross said “We will work with community leaders, such as the local Aboriginal Medical Services, to identify chronic health issues of the highest priority.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Rural and Regional Health Research Institute, a world-class facility to tackle health inequalities in full click here.

Image source: Charles Sturt University.

People urged to get vax as flu cases rise

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan, say with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s winter season will likely see both an increase in transmission of the coronavirus and, for the first time since 2019, a resurgence in influenza. Given this, it is important that people, particularly those in at-risk population groups, maximise their protection against both viruses by being vaccinated – and continue to practise all of the safe hygiene measures we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic. Both influenza and COVID-19 are highly contagious viral infections that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death. Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine each year.

To read the Dr Bennett and Professor McMillan’s media release in full click here.

In a related media release NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said flu is circulating widely in the community for the first time in two years, coinciding with ongoing high levels of transmission of COVID-19. “It is crucial everyone gets vaccinated against flu to not only protect themselves, but their colleagues and loved ones against serious illness or worse,” Mr Hazzard said. “Whilst we know there is vaccination fatigue, I urge the more vulnerable members of our community to book in for a flu jab with their GP or pharmacist as soon as possible. The elderly, pregnant women, children aged under five years, Aboriginal people and those with serious health conditions can get a free flu shot now, so please book in.”

To read Minister Hazzard’s media release in full click here.

Image source: The Department of Health 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.

World Ovarian Cancer Day

World Ovarian Cancer Day was stablished in 2013 by a group of leaders from ovarian cancer advocacy organisations around the world. May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day, is the one day of the year we globally raise our voices in solidarity in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, are 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

For more information about World Ovarian Cancer Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO selected to drive home care workforce

Image in feature tile from IRT Group article Booraja Home Care Secures Funding Through End of June, 3 February 2020.

NACCHO selected to drive home care workforce

NACCHO is one of six organisations selected by the federal government to drive the growth of the Australia’s home care workforce by 13,000 over the next two years, and support more senior Australians to access Home Care Packages and remain independent at home. More than $91 million under the Home Care Workforce Support Program has been allocated to organisations in each state and territory, and to the NACCHO.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, said all home care providers can work with these organisations to grow and upskill their workforce. “The Home Care Workforce Support Program will help senior Australians to remain at home by growing the personal care workforce. This will allow people to access home care services where and when they need them,” Minister Hunt said.

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

Booraja project manager Bunja Smith helps Veronica Holmes tidy the front yard of her Moruya home. Photo: Rhett Wyman. Image source: SMH.

Dementia rates show racism’s lifelong impact

In his article Dementia Rates of Indigenous Australians show the lifelong impact of racism Nick Keppler argues “The collective trauma of Australia’s Indigenous population may have begat one of the highest dementia rates in the world.” Mr Keppler said “A new study published last month in Neurology, that found the prevalence of dementia in a group of Indigenous Australians living in urban areas was double that of non-Indigenous Australians, echos the findings of a growing body of research.”

Mr Keppler continued “Several health problems and unfortunate life circumstances increase one’s risk of dementia, and many of them are heaped disproportionately onto marginalised and persecuted groups. To look at dementia among Australia’s First Nations population is to look at how the effects of colonialism, racism, and inequity pile up in the brain over a lifetime.”

To view the Inverse article in full click here.

Bidyadanga residents with dementia supported by workers L-R Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean. Photo: Erin Parke. ABC Kimberley. Image source: ABC News website.

ACCHO model lauded by CHF

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has welcomed the recommendations in the Community Affairs References Committee’s interim report into the provision of general practitioner and related primary health care services to outer metropolitan, rural and regional Australia. CHF CEO, Leanne Wells said that the report focuses on some of the major issues encountered by regional health consumers, who “have very different experiences accessing primary health care than do people living in cities.”

Ms Wells was disappointed however that the report made no mention of the more systemic reforms to primary care, such as a connected system of primary care, integrating general practice with other health services. “Incorporating new models of care which have already been tested with great success in location-based, or state-based initiatives would be a huge step forward in changing the infrastructure needed to support general practice,” said Ms Wells.

There are existing models of care already demonstrating system reform, such as ACCHOs which operate clinics across Australia delivering holistic community-based is health care services for First Nations people, as well as some state-based models offering community-based medical services.

To view the CHF media release in full click here.

Image source: Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, NSW website.

Gap widens for children in early years

SNAICC have issued a media release saying it is critical that Governments act now to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children if there is to be progress on closing the gap. For the second time in a week new data shows the gap is widening in critical areas relating to young people. The Australian Early Development Census National Report released yesterday shows there has been a decrease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child development overall across key measures (domains). SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said the declines highlighted the importance of Governments acting on the solutions put forward by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled early childhood services.

To view SNAICC’s media release in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Australians Agency website.

AKction project transforms kidney health

In 2018, a funding cut put an end to a free shuttle bus that took Aboriginal patients in Adelaide to and from the dialysis treatments. Nari Sinclair, a Ngarrindjeri and Yorta Yorta woman, was furious about the implications, for herself and others. Reliant on a wheelchair because both her legs have been amputated, Nari is unable to drive, catch public transport or take a standard taxi, and face significant inconvenience and costs as a result of the funding cut. She knew of other kidney patients who were also hit hard.

Determined to fight the decision, Nari joined forces with Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara Elder Inawinytji (Ina) Williamson, a renowned artist who was forced more than a decade ago to move to Adelaide, away from Country, family and friends, for dialysis treatment that cannot be access in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

They got together for a yarn about how the complex clinical, cultural and social determinants impact Aboriginal people, families and communities affected by chronic kidney disease. Nari and Ina then met with Kidney Health Australia and University Adelaide researcher Dr Janet Kelly, who was working with kidney health professionals on a project to improve the quality and cultural safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s healthcare journeys, particularly for those from remote communities. “And it’s gone from there,” Nari sad of how she, Ina and Janet worked with others to launch what would become the landmark Aboriginal Kidney Care Together – Improving Outcomes Now (AKction) project. It is transforming kidney health research and care.

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

From back L: Amy Graham, Dr Kim O’Donnell, Kelli Owen, Ina Williamson

From back L: Amy Graham, Dr Kim O’Donnell, Kelli Owen, Ina Williamson. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Tom Calma presents Basil Hetzel Oration

A transcript of the 2021 Basil Hetzel Oration delivered by Professor Tom Calma AO was published in the 2022 Online Australian and NZ Journal of Public Health last week. In his oration Professor Calma specifically addressed the crises of COVID-19, racism, mental health and smoking. Below are two extracts for the oration:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are at increased risk from COVID-19 given the higher prevalence of health risk factors amongst our populations, implicated with coloniality and systemic racism. However, the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has meant that we have taken the pandemic seriously from the outset. In bringing prevention measures to communities, Indigenous skill and excellence have been highlighted. We must use this momentum to address ongoing issues among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples brought through colonisation, systemic racism and associated health inequalities.”

“We have known for over 60 years that, when used as directed, tobacco will kill you. Colonisation introduced and continues to support tobacco use. Tobacco was often used in first encounters between colonisers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a gesture of goodwill and to establish and build relationships. It was also used as a form of payment in lieu of wages until the mid to late 1960s. This entrenched smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Colonisation has also actively placed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder – an outcome that has impacted over generations through mechanics of colonisation that have actively excluded us from the education system and the economy. Socioeconomic status is strongly linked to smoking, and other health and wellbeing outcomes, in an unjust, perpetual and predacious cycle.”

To view Tom Calma’s oration in full click here.

Professor Tom Calma AO. Image source: The Guardian.

Nominate for eye health awards

Nominations are invited for the 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards. The awards – formerly known as the Leaky Pipe Awards – recognise achievements and contributions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.

Nominations are open in the following categories:

  • Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO)
  • Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health (Individual)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in eye health
  • Allyship in contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health

‘Unsung heroes’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health are particularly sought.

Click here to find out more. Nominations must be received before close of business on Friday 22 April 2022.

Kristopher Rallah-Baker has become Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist

Kristopher Rallah-Baker has become Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC22) will take place on Larrakia country in Darwin from 22-24 May 2022. Presented by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH), the NATSIEHC22 conference aims to advance the collective work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector towards the shared goal of improving eye health access and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Key note speakers at this conferences are: Jaki Adams, Thomas Mayor and Nicole Turner. Delegates will include representatives from ACCHOs and other primary care service providers, eye care clinicians, policy makers, researchers, non-government organisations, hospitals, professional peak bodies and government departments from across the country.

To find out more about the conference and key note speakers click here and/or register to attend here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Image in feature tile from Australian National Audit Office website.

Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Following the release of the 13th annual Close the Gap report, Pro Bono Australia spoke to the CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, about the need for governments to embrace genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap in health outcomes.

Produced by the Lowitja Institute, this year’s Close the Gap report centres on the work of community-led organisations and services providing health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Among its key recommendations are calls for action on gender and climate justice, a national housing framework, and full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Adjunct Professor Mohamed, said that the report showed that community-led work on closing the gap on health outcomes was already happening, but now it needed to be “truly” supported.

“The report is a beautiful and powerful call to action, showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led brilliance at work, in all sorts of settings, paving the way ahead as we have done as peoples over millennia,” Mohamed said. “Now it’s time for governments and mainstream services to step up, and step back, if we are to truly close the gap in health outcomes for our peoples.”

You can read the Pro Bono Australia article in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono Australia website.

2022 National Immunisation Program

Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Health, Dr Brendan Murphy has provided a 2022 National Immunisation Program influenza program update, with important information about influenza vaccines available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for the 2022 Influenza season.

Dr Murphy says that the influenza vaccination is particularly important this year. Over the COVID-19 period/reduced circulation of influenza virus and lower levels of influenza vaccine coverage compared with previous years may have resulted in low levels of community immunity. With international borders reopening a resurgence of influenza is expected in 2022, with the Australian community potentially more vulnerable to the virus this year.

You can view Dr Brendan Murphy’s letter in full here.

ATAGI advice on COVID-19 vax winter dose

The Australian Government Operation COVID Shield 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin includes the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on the winter dose of the DOVDI-19 vaccine. The ATAGI recommends an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine for winter for selected population groups who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and who have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose. These groups include:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the 11th February 2022 ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older

ATAGI recommends the rollout of the winter dose for the above groups commence from April 2022 and coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program.

You can access the 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin here; recommendations for key population groups for an additional COVID-19 vaccine winter dose from April 2022 here; and the ATAGI Recommended Dose and Vaccines poster here.

syringe entering arm

Photo: Albert Perez, AAP. Image source: ABC News website.

Health workforce: not normal, not safe

Dr Clare Skinner, President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has written an article Health workforce: Not normal, not safe, but it can be fixed for the Medical Journal of Australia’s online publication, InSight. Dr Skinner writes: There is a Māori proverb in Aotearoa New Zealand that says, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata he tangata.” It translates as, “What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers across Australia have said, repeatedly, the biggest problem is not the supply of ventilators, or intensive care beds, or personal protective equipment, the problem is people, specifically the supply of skilled workforce. We don’t have enough staff, we don’t have enough staff in the right places, and we don’t have enough staff with expertise in the right areas.

The clinical workforce is unevenly distributed. Health professionals, especially doctors, are highly concentrated in major cities. Health outcomes in rural and remote areas lag behind outcomes in metropolitian areas. There is an urgent need to develop workforce models that improve health care access and equity, especially for Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.

Australia must also train an adequate health workforce to meet its own needs, and the needs of the region, as well as allowing for some international movement of trained clinicians with well designed and responsive re-credentialling processes. In particular, we need urgent and sustained attention to training and supporting Indigenous health professionals.

To view the InSight article in full click here.

Dr Clare Skinner with stethoscope around neck in front of ER sign

Dr Clare Skinner, President Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

Diabetes across the Lifecourse

The Menzies School of Health Research has developed a range of health professional resources to improve systems of care and services for people with diabetes and their families in rural and remote Australia, specifically the NT, Far North Queensland and the Kimberley, WA.

You can access the resources here, including Dhalaleena’s Story – Talking about Diabetes video here. This video features Dhalaleena, an Aboriginal Health Practitioner with the Top End Regional Health Services, talking about her journey with diabetes. In the video Dhalaleena discusses the following topics 1) diabetes and glucose 2) the role the pancreas plays in diabetes 3) the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, and 4) the importance of exercise in managing diabetes.

Cognitive function in those with diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) has a subtle deleterious effect on cognition and imposes a higher lifetime risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. A research article Using health check data to investigate cognitive function in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with diabetes in the Torres Strait, Australia published in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism says the findings of their research suggest that early and subtle decrements in working memory may be a potential complication of diabetes among Indigenous Australians living in the Torres Strait. In this population, which has elevated dementia rates linked to chronic disease, our results highlight the need for more preventative health resourcing. The results of the research suggest that early identification of younger people with diabetes, targeted education and supported glycaemic control could be important for protecting cognitive health.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: ICU Management & Practice website.

Using digital wellbeing tools webinar

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have always adapted to new technologies and are finding creative ways to maintain their health and wellbeing in the digital world. There are a range of websites, apps, videos and other online resources that our health and community workforce can use with their Indigenous clients to help them stay physically and mentally well. A recorded one hour webinar available on demand will introduce you to a new social and emotional wellbeing website called WellMob. The WellMob website is a bank of over 200 Indigenous-specific digital resources to promote a healthy mind, body and culture.

The inspiration for the WellMob website came from our frontline workers who identified the need for a ‘one-stop-shop’ of culturally appropriate wellbeing resources. An all-star panel of Indigenous wellbeing workers will share some online wellbeing resources and yarn about how to use with your clients and community.

You can access further details about the webinar and enrol using this link.

Image source: The Australian & NZ Mental Health Association.

Trauma and pregnancy project research position

The Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health has an exciting position to work with VACCA and La Trobe Regional Hospital in Morwell, supported by the Healing the Past By Nurturing the Future project team:

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), in partnership with Latrobe Regional Hospital, are looking for a new Community Researcher to work with them on a research project: Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future.  It is an Aboriginal-led project that aims to demonstrate how we can best provide support during pregnancy and after birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who have experienced complex trauma. The Community Researcher will work to engage Aboriginal Community members and use their knowledge of Community, culture and Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing to advise the team.

This position is based at VACCA and Latrobe Regional Hospital, with support from University of Melbourne. This is a fixed term position for up to 4 years, open to full-time or part-time applicants. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply. If you would like more information or to apply, please refer to the Position Description here and/or contact Cath Chamberlain on 0428 921 271 or via email using this link.

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.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) encourages and assists entry-level Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health students to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to one of Australia’s most outstanding Aboriginal leaders, the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter. Puggy is known for his outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of NACCHO. He devoted the majority of his life to improving Aboriginal health outcomes.

From this year, the Scheme is extending the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor. The program pairs up PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners. The aim is to increase the amount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals and retain them. This will be done by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition them successfully into their practice as smoothly as possible.

For more information and to apply visit the Australian College of Nursing website here. No need to register, just click on the link on the day to join. Applications close Monday 11 April 2022.

There will also be an online information session at 1:00PM on Monday 4 April 2022 via Zoom here.

Working with the Nephrologist: Stages 4 & 5

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a health professional webinar from 7:30PM–8:30PM (AEST) Tuesday 12 April 2022. Nephrologist A/Prof Richard Baer will present a case study that addresses symptoms, management and treatment options in stages 4 and 5 of CKD. A suitable management plan to slow the progression of CKD will be discussed along with treatment options in kidney failure and when to refer to a nephrologist.

This is a RACGP accredited activity for 2 CPD points. Activity # 331983 (pending approval).

To register for this webinar, you will require a Zoom Account. If you have a Zoom account you can register here for the webinar.

If you do not have an existing Zoom account sign up here first sign up for Zoom here and then register for the webinar via the link above.

Upon successful registration you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom.

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 & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

Image in feature tile from ABC News article Out of sight.

Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

In the crowded homes of the NT’s remote communities, residents are trying to keep their hopes of a better future alive. On most afternoons in the community of Rockhole, NT’s third-biggest town, about 340 kilometres south of Darwin, Evelyn Andrews can be found holding court in her front yard, sat beneath the shade of a tree. At house number 21, she shares her home with between 10 and 15 other people. “We love it in the community, we’ve got the river right there and the kids are safe,” she says. “But we need some more houses.”

Dr Simon Quilty, who has worked in medicine in the NT for over 20 years, says “the consequences of overcrowding on health are really quite profound”. “When people live in very close proximity in very warm houses that disconnect from electricity all of the time and often have serious problems with plumbing … then it is the ideal environment for the spread of infectious diseases,” he says. “I would say that housing circumstances for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory are by far and away the most significant driver of poor health outcomes universally.”

In a submission to the NT government’s 2016 inquiry into housing repair and maintenance on town camps, the Aboriginal-owned and operated Kalano Community Association, who manage housing in Rockhole, listed a number of conditions hampering its progress. These included “overcrowding and homelessness”, “a large backlog of repairs and maintenance”, “the condition of some housing being uninhabitable” and a “lack of land availability for the construction of new accommodation units within the Katherine township and [surrounds].”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

5 women, two toddlers one room of house in Rockhole

Image source: ABC News.

Funds for IUIH Early Childhood Wellbeing Program

Queensland is closing the gap on early childhood development under a $1.4m wellbeing program for Australia’s biggest and fastest growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the state’s SE corner. On National Close the Gap Day last week Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford announced funding for the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) – one of Queensland’s largest Indigenous-controlled health organisations – to establish a local Early Childhood Wellbeing Program. “Queensland’s Closing the Gap commitment includes targets focusing on life expectancy, healthy birthweight, early childhood education attendance and early development,” Mr Crawford said.

IUIH CEO Adrian Carson said the funding “will build on the proven Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) model of care to continue supporting families through the early years. We know that strong families require us to support our people right across the life course and that journey starts with supporting Mum and Dad during pregnancy. We are now able to continue to support the family through the early years and into early childhood education,’’ he said. The Early Childhood Wellbeing Program will support positive health, social and wellbeing initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children up to three years of age, including through comprehensive primary health care, early learning activities, playgroups and intensive support for families in priority need.

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

Image source: IUIH website.

Important COVID-19 vax updates

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) Bulletin and associated information was released last week, on Tuesday 15 March 2022. The documents contain important updates on stock management and CVAS functionality changes as well as the results from the COVID-19 communication materials survey conducted between 12–20 February 2022 . You can access the documents by clicking on these links:

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out ACCHS update 15 March 2022

COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System (CVAS) Ordering Amounts

Update of COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System

COVID-19 communication materials survey findings March 2022

If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact NACCHO using this email or the Commonwealth Department of Health using this email.

Image source: AMA website.

First Nations people and stroke

Australia’s First Nations people are 1.3 times more likely to die from a stroke than non-Indigenous people and are hospitalised 1.6 times more. Whether it’s in the statistics or stories of people affected by stroke, the existing gap in stroke outcomes is unacceptable.

Charlotte, a proud Wiradjuri woman, has shared her story through the Stroke Foundation’s Young Stroke Project which helps to shine a light on this issue. Charlotte is a mother of four and was working a double shift on the day of her stroke in 2018. Charlotte had a pounding headache, extreme fatigue and then noticed that her arm felt heavy and she could not lift it. She went to her local health clinic who called for an ambulance immediately. After the 23 hour wait, it was good treatment. I had doctors tend to my current situation, which was pretty good because I didn’t want to leave hospital knowing that I live in a rural area. I have no doctor here.

You can access the Stroke Foundation EnableMe newsletter with Charlotte’s story here and watch Charlotte tell her story in the video below.

National strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

On 17 November 2021 the Australian Government announced the development of a collaborative National Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy (the Strategy), led by the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer (ACPCC). This project will inform the Australian Government Department of Health’s future activities to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in Australia by 2035.

The Strategy will be informed by a series of consultations with experts, representatives of priority communities, and other interested parties, to inform the three pillars of cervical cancer elimination – vaccination, screening, and treatment – and ensure a strong equity lens is applied at every step of the project. The overarching vision is to achieve elimination for all women and people with a cervix across the diverse communities we have in Australia. 

If you would like to be part of the development of a strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in Australia by 2035, you can register to join the consultation here.

Aboriginal artist Madison Connors, a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Kamilaroi woman from North East Victoria has created art inspired about the importance of cervical screening. Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

Women must lead equity drive

Equity for Indigenous women and girls is at the forefront of this year’s Closing The Gap Day message, with first Nations people still facing lower quality of life and shorter life expectancies compared to the rest of Australia. Last week’s Closing The Gap Day on March 17 marked the ongoing progress of the campaign to expand health, education and other fundamental expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Aoriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Close the Gap Co-Chair, Bunuba woman June Oscar, said gender equity was central to supporting strong families and communities to lead healthy lives. She reinforced the message that it was through Indigenous leadership that prospects for Indigenous people would improve. “This year’s report highlights in no uncertain terms what we already know,” she said. “It’s our organisations that know our people, carry our culture and knowledges, and deliver the services that we need.”

To view the 9 News article in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl with Aboriginal flag on shoulders of Aboriginal woman with Aboriginal art covid-19 mask

Indigenous women and girls must be central to the ongoing #MeToo movement, the Close The Gap campaign has said. Photo: Cole Bennetts. Image source: 9 News website.

Jail rates related to unmet basic needs

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO and Yorta Yorta woman Nerita Waight says the justice system is incapable of benefitting First Nations people who are at a systemic disadvantage. Ms Waight said incarceration numbers reflected the position of Indigenous people within the political and social landscape as a whole. Homelessness, the education system, workforce discrimination, racism and over-policing were identified by VALS as contributors to disparity.

“Most people end up in the justice system because society has failed to provide them with basic needs, like a home or proper healthcare,” Ms Waight said. “Once our people are in the justice system they are subjected to systemic racism from police, the courts, and prison staff. Most people get trapped in the justice system for the rest of their lives.” VALS conceded the cost of inadequately addressing these issues would likely see devastating results.

To view the National Indigenous Times Aboriginal Legal Service calls out justice failures on Closing the Gap Day article click here.

A related article Shocking Numbers of Aboriginal Children are in Prison and it’s a threat to Closing the Gap cites Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) spokesperson and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee Chair Professor Ngiare Brown spoke to the ongoing damage that early incarceration can have on an Indigenous young person. “As the RACP has emphasised, along with other medical and First Nations experts, there is substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long term effects youth incarceration has on physical and psychological health and wellbeing.”

Rather than jump to incarceration, the report is calling for Attorney Generals to consider alternative approaches including earlier care, support and treatment options which will preserve human rights and hopefully, more just outcomes for the First Nations Youth community. It is hoped that continued advocacy and increased awareness will push the issue into the spotlight, encouraging critical reform and address the significant disadvantages experience by Australia’s Indigenous community. To view this NIT article in full click here.

Aboriginal man waist up no clothes, hands gripped together through jail bars

Image source: The Conversation.

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.

Multiple Birth Awareness Week

Multiple Birth Awareness Week (MBAW) is a national campaign to raise awareness around, and draw attention to, the unique realities for multiple birth families in Australia – and how advocacy, positive education and engaged communities can contribute to enabling positive health outcomes for families with multiples. You can access more information about MBAW on the Australian Multiple Birth Association website here.

Indigenous Australian twins and their mothers face unique challenges, according to research supported by Twins Research Australia. All mothers of twins face challenges but the study found these may be more difficult to overcome for some Indigenous Australian mothers. The study investigated the birth data of over 64,000 indigenous twins in NSW and WA.

It was found that many Aboriginal twin pregnancies and births are physically and practically challenging and the majority of multiples are born early and small. Factors included that they are: more likely to live far from specialist medical care, are younger, more socio-economically disadvantaged, and more likely to have older children. Researchers recommended that specific guidelines for the care of indigenous mothers and twins may be need to improve outcomes. The study highlights the importance of policies that support health services to meet the practical, financial and psychosocial needs of mothers and families, in addition to meeting their health needs.

You can read the Twins Research Australia article in full here, the paper in full here and a simplified explainer here.

Aboriginal women with her hands & partner's hands on her pregnant belly

Image source: Pathology Awareness Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO on ABC’s The Drum

Feature tile - Fri 18.3.22 - CEO on The Drum

Image in feature tile: NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM, Photo: Alex Ellinghausen, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Pat Turner on The Drum

When NACCHO CEO Pat Turner appeared on the ABC’s The Drum last night she said the Close the Gap report released earlier in the day “highlights in no uncertain terms what we already know – policy and programs led by our own people work better for our people. They work so much better because they provide a culturally safe environment for our people to engage with service providers and they also have an ability to reach out into the community. Most of our services are more trusted that government services. The recent Four Corners program on RHD shown that lack of trust was evident in the Doomadgee community.”

“But we also know that comprehensive structural reform is needed to ensure more equitable outcomes for our people, and quite frankly we’ve been telling governments this for decades and it’s about time they took note of the evidence that this report and many others demonstrate that Aboriginal-led initiatives and locally-led solutions work and that’s where the investments have to be made.”

“Key data shows that the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health is profound, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are:

    • 5.0 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease;
    • 4.5 times more likely to smoke during pregnancy;
    • 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease;
    • 3.2 times more likely to have diabetes;
    • 2.1 times more likely to suicide as young people;
    • 2.0 times more likely to die in infancy; and
    • 1.4 times more likely to die from cancer.”

“So it’s really hardly surprising that we live 8–9 years less than other Australians.” Pat Turner also said there is a continuing funding gap in health with a dangerous myth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive ‘plenty of health funding’. A recent conservative calculation put the gap in health expenditure, compared to other Australians, at $5,042 per Aboriginal person per year. You can watch the full episode of the ABC’s The Drum here.

screenshot of ABC The Drum episode & panelists Narelda Jacobs, Pat Turner, Paul Karp & Kudzai Kanhutu

Awabakal opens new dental clinic

Hamilton is now home to a new Awabakal Dental Clinic following the official opening of the $400,000 facility this week. The state-of-the-art centre will operate in partnership with Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) to provide bulk-billed dental services to the local Aboriginal community.

Previously, the clinic boasted two chairs working out of a small section of the Awabakal Hamilton Medical Clinic. The new-look facility, funded by NSW Ministry of Health – Oral Health Unit, via the Centre for Aboriginal Health, was custom-built to meet the demand of local oral health needs. “We’ve been trying to get this off the ground for some time,” Awabakal CEO Raylene Gordon said. “So, it’s an important day for us – and I believe it’s one of the best clinics around. This is a collaboration between Awabakal and Hunter New England Local Health District that’s about making dental care more affordable for Indigenous people. Good oral hygiene is directly linked to good overall health. Poor dental care can impact on lots of nutrition and lifestyle issues. If you have no teeth, you can’t eat.”

To view the Newcastle Weekly article in full click here.

wabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon, HNELHD Oral Health Unit’s Dr Lanny Chor, City of Newcastle councillor Deahnna Richardson and Newcastle state MP Crakanthorp at the official opening of the Awabakal Dental Clinic at Hamilton

Awabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon, HNELHD Oral Health Unit’s Dr Lanny Chor, City of Newcastle councillor Deahnna Richardson and Newcastle state MP Crakanthorp at the official opening of the Awabakal Dental Clinic at Hamilton. Photo: Peter Stoop. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

COVID response praised in CTG report

The Close the Gap report released yesterday detailed how Aboriginal decision-making was critical in responding to the unprecedented health challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found there was a need for trust and accountability in partnerships to enable transformative change.

Lowitja Institute CEO Janine Mohamed said the report showcased how community-led organisations and services were working to provide equitable health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “The report is a beautiful and powerful call to action, showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led brilliance at work, in all sorts of settings, paving the way ahead as we have done as peoples over millennia,” she said. “Now it’s time for governments and mainstream services to step up, and step back, if we are to truly close the gap in health outcomes for our people.”

Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Service CEO Vicki O’Donnell said Indigenous community-controlled services were crucial for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “They achieve better results, employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are connected and embedded in the community, and are therefore often preferred over mainstream services,” she said.

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

vax being administered into arm

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

ACCHO model for LGBTQ+ health services

The NSW government has committed more than $4 million toward establishing a health centre, which will provide tailored medical services to Sydney’s LGBTQ+ community. The funding announcement is part of NSW Health’s five-year LGBTQ+ health strategy, which also saw the state dedicate $3.4 million annually for a specialist trans and gender diverse public health service. A further $2.65 million went toward NSW Health workforce education and training initiatives to support the strategy.

Operated by LGBTQ+ non-profit ACON, the health centre will also offer state-wide services through telehealth, service partnerships and shared care arrangements. ACON Deputy CEO Karen Price – who, it should be noted, is a fully separate person from RACGP President Dr Karen Price – said that the health centre is similar in concept to an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Centre. “In other areas, we know that specific services really work well to meet the needs of specific populations,” Ms Price said.

To view The Medical Republic article in full click here.

Aboriginal and Pride flags flying

Photo: Julia Turner. Image source: Cosmos Magazine.

Community Dream Research Project

First Nations’ organisation, Community First Development, has launched a new research project that explores the benefits of tracking the narrative of the long-term dreams of First Nations’ communities.  The research project is set to spark some conversations and challenge some research and evaluation norms.

The organisation holds the belief that research can-and-does enable the creation of spaces that promote First Nations’ self-determination and strong Country. It is intended to make way for the valuable insights found in First Nations’ perspectives and to strengthen the leadership and governance of First Nations’ people in evaluation. Community First Development’s approach is to push the boundaries that limit people’s understanding of First Nations’ perspectives and culture. The organisation’s approach is inclusive to the hundreds of diverse First Nations’ communities it works with – over 800 over the course of the past 20 years.

Community dreams are multi-dimensional and consider a range of aspects: the economic, environmental, mob, spiritual, cultural customs, and Country. Dreams are holistic, shared and form the basis for strengthening First Nations’ future generations and ensuring that Country is sustainable. The dream narrative cannot be understated, not only for the success of individual community projects, but also for the revitalisation and resurgence strategies that communities are putting in place.

To view the Community First Development media release please click here.

Deadly New Dads video competition

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet and SMS4dads are proudly supporting a competition giving soon-to-be-dads or dads with a bub under 12 months old the chance to win $3,000 in a video competition.

First Nations dads are invited to submit a short video (under 2 minutes) showcasing what they love about being or becoming a new dad. The video should be about:

  • What’s deadly about becoming a new dad? (for soon-to-be dads); OR
  • What is something you love doing with your new bub? (for dads with a bub under 12 months)

GET YOUR ENTRY IN NOW!!  Don’t miss out – total prize pool of $10,000. To view a flyer with all the details click here.

banner for Deadly New Dads Video Comp - image of young Aboriginal dad & his baby

Medicines safety PhD opportunity

The Univeristy of Queensland in offering PhD opportunity focused in the area of medicine safety in primary care, as part of the MRFF funded trial “Activating pharmacists to reduce medication related problems: The ACTMed trial”. The focus of the PhD can take a number of directions related to this trial including: (i) co-design of the service with health practitioners and/or consumers; (ii) health service design and evaluation; (iii) medicine safety; or (iv) health economics, depending on the skills and interests of the candidate. The specific research questions can be tailored to the candidate.

The candidate will have the opportunity to work with the experienced team to improve medicine safety at ACCHOs and in mainstream health services and improve population health, including the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. First Nations candidates will have access to the UQ “Yarning for Success” program which will connect you with other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander researchers throughout their PhD.

The candidate will be required to work closely with ACCHOs, peak bodies such as NACCHO, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and other government agencies.

For further information about this PhD opportunity and to apply click here.

Image source: Journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society website.

Scholarships to research racism

Two research scholarships funded by Australian Research Council (ARC) are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The first is an ARC Indigenous Discovery Aboriginal Youth Racism Project, a 3-year research project funded by the ARC to the value of $30,000 p.a. tax free for 3.5 years full-time study (or part-time equivalent). The objective of this project is to test a new model for assessing covert racism experienced by Indigenous youth, which includes the roles and responsibilities of non-Indigenous agents. This model can be utilised to guide evidence-based interventions to address multiple forms of racism against Indigenous Australians. You can access further information about this scholarship, including application details here.

The second scholarship is for the Aboriginal Youth Racism Project, a 3-year research project funded by the Australian Research Council to the value of s for $27,609 p.a. over 3 years. This project involves researchers from across five universities, led by Murdoch University. The candidate will be enrolled at the University of Technology Sydney based on research at the Perth and Sydney sites and the primary supervisors’ university affiliation. The objective of this research project is to test a new model for assessing covert racism experienced by Indigenous youth, which includes the roles and responsibilities of non-Indigenous agents. This model can be utilised to guide evidence-based interventions to address multiple forms of racism against Indigenous Australians. For further information about this scholarship, including application details here.

hand writing 'RACISM' with chalk on blackboard

Image source: Monash University 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.

Dietitians Week 2022

Dietitians Week, held from Monday 21 – Sunday 27 March 2022, is about supporting our nutrition champions and the work they do transforming our lives and communities. Accredited Practicing Dietitians (APDs) around the nation, supported by Dietitians Australia, will be sharing stories about how they improve lives through their experience as nutrition professionals.

Dietitians Week is the time to honour the dietitians in your community. Whether they are your colleagues, acquaintances, loved ones, educators, healthcare partners or carers, help share their extraordinary impact on the lives they touch.

You can find out more about Dietitians Week and download the Dietitians Week digital toolkit here.

The Good Tucker App is one example of the great work that dietitians do in the ACCHO sector. The App was developed by Uncle Jimmy Thubs Up, The University of SA and Menzies School of Health Research in partnership with The George Institute, to provide a simple way for people to identify the healthiest food and drink options available in stores. You can watch a video about the App below download the Good Tucker App here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

Image in feature tile: Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO, Lead Convenor of The Coalition of Peaks. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

The Close the Gap report released today has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NACCHO strongly supports the messages, the actions taken and the recommendations that need to be addressed to drive health transformation.

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner states, “We already know that policy and programs that are led by our people work better for our people and that comprehensive structural reform is needed to ensure equitable outcomes for our people. These are things we’ve been telling the government for decades, and it’s about time they took note of the evidence that this report demonstrates – that Aboriginal-led initiatives and locally-led solutions work.

“Key data show that the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health is profound. It is hardly surprising that we live 8-9 years less than other Australians.

“The big questions for all governments and all jurisdictions are in closing the funding gap in health and in fixing the deplorable state of Aboriginal housing.”

“Fully implementing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap will be critical to ensuring structural reform that embeds Aboriginal self-determination and leadership. That means increased investment in models and approaches that are self-determined and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led. It also means ensuring the health system more broadly is equipped to provide flexible, culturally safe and place-based care across the whole life course.”

“We are already seeing some movement from governments to implement the four Priority Reforms, which is encouraging. But there is still a significant way to go before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have decision-making power over the policies and programs that affect us.

The 2022 Close the Gap campaign report will be available for the public to read and is accessible here.

To view the NACCHO media release in full click here.

banner with image of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner & quotes re CTG report

Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

ACCHO health service for prisoners

The Winnunga Alexander Maconochie Centre Health and Wellbeing Service (AMCHWS) is the first prison health service operated by an ACCHO in Australia. A pilot study has developed and implemented a patient experience survey to evaluate the novel model of healthcare delivered by the Winnunga AMCHWS to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

Patients accessing the Winnunga AMCHWS between February and May 2020 were invited to participate in the study. Descriptive data were analysed and compiled for demographics, patient satisfaction, patient perception of care quality, cultural safety, and patient thoughts on the Winnunga AMCHWS.

Sixteen of 26 eligible patients participated in the survey (62% response rate). At least 75% of patients were satisfied with the waiting time to see staff at the Winnunga AMCHWS most or all of the time. All 16 patients reported that Winnunga AMCHWS staff always treated them with dignity and respect. Of 14 patients who identified as Aboriginal, nine felt that they were treated better by staff because of their Aboriginal identity while the other five felt their Aboriginal identity made no difference to their treatment by the staff.

This patient experience survey of the Winnunga AMCHWS found that it has provided highly satisfactory, timely, respectful, and culturally safe care to patients. Due to the limitations of this study, continual evaluation of the Winnunga AMCHWS and future studies to evaluate the continuity of care, health, and re-offending rates of released patients are needed to fully evaluate the Winnunga AMCHWS model.

You can view the Evaluating Patient Experience at a Novel Health Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoners: A Pilot Study article that appeared in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet here.

view of front of AMC

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Kathleen Dyett. Image source: ABC News.

National Close the Gap Day

Australia’s peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations are working together to achieve equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.

In February 2018 the Close the Gap: 10 Year Review was released. The review examines why Australian governments have not succeeded in closing the health gap, and why they will not succeed by 2030 if the current course continues. The aim is to close the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health gap by implementing a human rights based approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets to track and assess developments in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These targets include achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation and halving the mortality rate gap for children under five years old within a decade. In March 2008, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the Opposition Leader at that time, Brendan Nelson, signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent at the Close the Gap Campaign’s National Indigenous Health Equality Summit.

The Close the Gap Statement of Intent is the touchstone of the Close the Gap campaign. When the Australian Government signed the Statement of Intent it committed to a sound, evidence-based path to achieving health equality, a path supported by the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

To access the Australian Human Rights Commission website click here.

screenshot of Close the Gap new website home page

Community-led health solutions need funding

The Close the Gap campaign has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country. The 2022 Close the Gap Report: Transforming Power – Voices for Generational Change has 12 recommendations for large scale transformation and systemic reform to avoid further preventable deaths and protect Indigenous health, wellbeing, culture, and Country.

These include the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap plans, investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data development at the local level and the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led research agenda for health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the impacts of systemic racism in health systems.

To read the Close The Gap media release in full click here.

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW.

Impact of jailing children unfathomable

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says the age of criminal responsibility must be raised to 14 years to end the jailing of mostly Indigenous primary-aged children, warning incarceration is harming their mental health. The college is part of a Close the Gap campaign and supports their report released today calling for urgent investment in community-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

Professor Ngiare Brown, a Yuin nation woman and National Mental Health Commissioner, said about 600 children under the age of 14 were jailed every year despite “substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long-term effects” on physical and mental health. “The fact that Indigenous children account for 65% of youth incarcerations is a harrowing statistic,” Professor Brown, who chairs the RACP’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee, said. “The human impact of this is unfathomable.”

RACP President Professor John Wilson called on governments to follow the recommendations of the 2021 Close the Gap report to take a preventative and rehabilitative approach. “We are calling for all Australian states and territories to address the incarceration of Indigenous children and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years in line with the best health evidence,” Professor Wilson said.

To view the Brisbane Times article in full click here.

Aboriginal hands gripping mesh wire

Image source: The Conversation.

$140m to improve health services for mob

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt released a joint media statement today saying:  National Close the Gap Day, is a day to reflect on the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. All of us can contribute to closing the gap by working together to recognise and address the factors behind the health gap.

To continue to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities, a $140 million major capital works program is being opened tomorrow for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to build, buy or renovate health clinics and staff housing. The Major Capital Program grant opportunity complements the recent Service Maintenance Program grant opportunity which was for repairs, maintenance and minor upgrades. Minister Wyatt said “For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people will become genuine partners in efforts to support their mental and physical health. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap, reached in July 2020 between the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, and the Australian Local Government Association, was an historic step forward. “Through the agreement, in health and other areas of government service, we are working with Indigenous experts to design and deliver policies and programs for indigenous people.”

“We are also adopting more effective, better targeted approaches to other major health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” Both grant programs were co-designed in partnership with the sector through the national peak body – NACCHO. Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and NACCHO Ms Pat Turner, said, “NACCHO has advocated for a long time for increased funding for infrastructure for the health sector and this funding supports and recognises the critical role that ACCHS play in the Australian primary health care architecture.”

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

staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service standing in front of OAMS building

Staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness website.

Calls to lower bowel screening age

New research led by the Daffodil Centre, a partnership between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, shows screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for bowel cancer from the age of 45 instead of 50 could reduce bowel cancer death and incidence rates by up to 44% and be cost-effective. The research, published internationally in the Journal of Cancer Policy and conducted by a team from the Daffodil Centre and Wellbeing SA, is the first Australian study to establish the benefits of extending the age range and boosting participation of Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Lead author Dr Jie-Bin Lew, from the Daffodil Centre’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Policy and Evaluation stream, said the study modelled and compared maintaining the current program age range of 50-74 to lowering the starting age to either 40 or 45. “The benefits in lives saved and cancers prevented were higher if the starting age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was lowered to 45 and could also be cost-effective,” Dr Lew said.

“In our analysis, screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from age 45 would reduce bowel cancer mortality rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by 28%, compared to no screening if the current participation rate of 23% is maintained. If participation increased to 42%, bowel cancer mortality could drop by 44% compared to no screening.

To view The National Tribune article in full click here.

Photo: Andreas Smetana.

PHMSS Mental Health Studies mentors needed

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) would like to extend the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor.

The mentoring program pairs PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners with the aim of increasing entrance and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals into practice. It will do this by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition successfully into practice.

The benefits for participants in a mentoring program include: improved confidence, self-awareness, clearer career direction, better communication skills, listening skills, feedback skills, more assertive communication, and enhanced management skills.

During the program, you will receive frequent communications from the scholarships team, giving you helpful tips and information about mentoring and access to other relevant materials available for supporting mentees. For first-time mentors and those who would like a refresher, there is an online training program and relevant materials available to help prepare you for a mentoring relationship.

During the seven month program, mentors and mentees will be expected to be in contact at least monthly.

You can apply now by clicking here. ACN will be holding an online information session Monday 4 April 2022, full details will be uploaded here soon.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the ACN scholarships team by email here or call 1800 688 628.

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 Oral Health Day

The World Dental Federation began World Oral Health Day in 2007 with the aim to bring together the world of Dentistry to achieve good oral health for everyone. World Oral Health Day aims to empower people with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to secure good oral health. On the 20 March each year the world is asked to come together to help reduce oral diseases which affect individuals, healthcare providers and economies everywhere.

Oral diseases are a major health concern for many countries and negatively impact people throughout their lives. Oral diseases lead to pain and discomfort, social isolation and loss of self-confidence, and they can often be linked to other serious health issues. There is no reason to suffer as most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages, this is the message being spread across the world.

For more information about World Oral Health Day click here.

Image source: Quality Compliance Systems website.