Stop mass incarceration to prevent deaths in custody
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO said Australia must stop the “mass incarceration” of its Indigenous people or else deaths in custody will continue to occur.
Commissioner Oscar said her thoughts are with all the families who have lost loved ones over recent months, and in the 30 years since the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down. She said systemic reform is long overdue, and Australian governments must enact every recommendation of the royal commission.
“The fact that imprisonment rates have increased markedly since the royal commission shows Australia has failed to build a just relationship with First Nations peoples. It is a deep national shame,” Commissioner Oscar said.
Read the media release from the Australian Human Rights Commission here.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s article on Closing the Gap
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders for the way they have managed one of the most difficult and challenging years of our time.
The leaders have demonstrated the leadership, resilience and community that have guided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout significant adversity during 2020, that is sure to leave an enduring legacy for future generations, and one that is recorded in the 2021 Close the Gap Report.
The 2021 Close the Gap Report – Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe (released on Thursday, 18 March), showcases how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and peoples responded to critical health crises in 2020 – devastating bushfires and climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the mental health emergency facing First Australians.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, on behalf of the Close the Gap Steering Committee.
Latest ANTaR Blog from Paul Wright: Nationhood, Recognition and the deadly incarceration pandemic
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Australia in 2021 is a Dickensian periodical morphing into a ‘choose your own adventure’ where the state of things is entirely open to your worldview.
While it is understandable to be consumed by the drama of slow vaccination rollouts, rapid COVID outbreaks, sexual abuse scandals, and the return of the perennial Australian favourite soap opera that is our football seasons (pick your code here(link is external) or here(link is external)), it is sadly all too easy to have missed that in the same period a spate of First Nations deaths in custody have been reported, in the macabre irony that we are nearing the 30th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (link is external)(RCIADIC).
“For the vast bulk of our people the legal system is not a trusted instrument of justice. It is a feared and despised processing plant that propels the most vulnerable and disabled of our people towards a broken and bleak future.”
Paul is ANTaR’s National Director and has experience working in both Government and non-government sectors – covering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, health, immigration and social services. Paul studied politics and international relations at the University of Canberra and has a Masters of Strategic Studies from the Australian National University. Prior to his role with ANTaR, Paul was the Executive Officer for the Close the Gap Campaign Secretariat and the National Health Leadership Forum at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Two local mature aged students have been awarded scholarships to complete their nursing degree with Flinders University in honour of Loxton-born nurse Kirsty Boden.
Third-year Flinders University students Tammy Stephenson and Hollie Bullock are the 2021 recipients of the Kirsty Boden Nursing Memorial Scholarship which grants them $10,000 towards their studies at the University’s Renmark campus.
The annual scholarship is supported by a grant from the Government of South Australia and is named in honour of Kirsty Boden, a young nurse who tragically died in the London Bridge Terror attacks in 2017.
Ms Stephenson, of Monash, and Ms Bullock from Loxton, say they are only able to pursue their nursing studies because the course is offered close to home.
“If nursing wasn’t offered through Flinders rural campus in Renmark, I would not have been able to undertake my nursing degree,” Hollie says.
“Being only 45 minutes from home means I can attend contact hours at uni easily. Studying at Renmark has so many benefits. You feel like a big family having smaller class sizes and the same lecturers for numerous topics, so you build very close relationships.”
To read the Flinders University media release clickhere.
Ms Hollie Bullock from Loxton – Nursing Degree Scholarship candidate.
2021 WA Youth Awards highlight the best, brightest and the most dedicated
Youth Minister Dave Kelly said Derek Nannup, 23, of Nollamara has been formally recognised as Western Australia’s Young Person of the Year at the 2021 WA Youth Awards.
Derek is a proud Whadjuk Noongar man who has dedicated his life to strengthening cultural connections for young Aboriginal people. He has worked at Wesley College as the Indigenous Cultural Program Coordinator, with Wungening Aboriginal Corporation as a support worker for children in care and is currently employed at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA working in sexual health education.
Holistic and healthy childbirth for Indigenous women
Australia is generally a good place to have a baby, but Indigenous babies are more likely to be born prematurely, and their mums are less likely to attend medical appointments during pregnancy or be breastfeeding by the time they leave hospital. Aboriginal communities say part of the solution is ‘culturally safe maternity care’ that goes beyond just managing a woman’s physical needs.
Vaccine crucial to protect family, community & culture
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians received his vaccine earlier this week at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service. “The vaccine program plays a significant role in protecting Indigenous Australians”, said Minister Wyatt.
“Please get the vaccine. It is important to protect our communities, our families and our culture”, highlighted Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, who has also received her first dose yesterday.
More than 6 million people are eligible to receive their first doses after Phase 1B of Australia’s coronavirus vaccination program began on Monday this week. Phase 1B includes Australians aged 70 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples click here and to view a video of Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney speaking click here.
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians.
Voice to Parliament to include regional voices
Local Aboriginal groups will form an important part of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament under the federal government’s plan for the project. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt, appointed Aboriginal leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma to lead a group aimed at putting forward design options for an Indigenous advisory board. That plan is different from another voice to Parliament that was part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and includes calls for a treaty. “They’re proposing to go to a referendum first and if it gets voted up, then we’ll determine what it looks like,” Professor Calma said. “Whereas what the government’s doing is constructing it first and then working out whether they want to establish it through legislation or a referendum. If the government chooses to go by legislation, it gets something established, it gets tested and if it’s working then it can go to a referendum.”
The Indigenous Voice co-design board has been visiting regional communities across Australia getting feedback on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want from the process. Professor Calma said regional and local groups would be created under the plan to address issues on the ground. “We need to have a mechanism where a local voice could influence the state voice,” he said. “You’d break up Australia into between 25 to 35 regions, and within each region there’d be a little infrastructure to support people to express a view and pass it up to the state level.
CEO of Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation (Koonibba SA) Zell Dodd speaks with participants at the Port Lincoln local Indigenous Voice session. Image source: ABC News.
Qld Health Equity Discussion Paper – have your say
Following the passing of the Health Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (the Act) in August 2020, amendments were made to the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 requiring Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) to develop and implement Health Equity Strategies. A subsequent piece of legislation, the Hospital and Health Boards (Health Equity Strategies) Amendment Regulation 2021 (the Regulation) is due to be considered soon. According to the Act, the Regulation will define who must be involved in the development and implementation of a Health Equity Strategy (prescribed persons), and the way in which they must be consulted.
Over the coming months, Queensland Health, in partnership with QAIHC, will be hosting several consultation workshops on health equity design principles. The aim of these workshops will be to understand the types of support required for Health Equity Strategies (HES) to be successful. The vision is that HHSs will co-design, co-own and co-implement HESs with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation (ATISCCHO) and other partners. What the journey looks like in practice will be influenced by these consultations and the legal requirements that will be outlined in the Regulation.
To understand the cause and effect of these changes, QAIHC and Queensland Health have co-designed a series of documents, which can be accessed here, for the consultation workshops and seek your feedback about the principles put forward.
The CSIRO has partnered with Indigenous organisations and communities to co-design and co-develop potential e-Health solutions to complement existing successful models of care for some of the most significant health issues in their communities., including aged-related conditions and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
An increasing proportion of all Australians are aged 65 years and older and as people live longer, many experience chronic conditions. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ageing-related conditions are experienced at earlier ages than non-Indigenous Australians. Historical and contemporary experiences of colonialist policies and racism (direct and indirect) have contributed to this gap and have severely disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including those in urban areas. Difficulties accessing culturally safe health and aged care compound the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Solutions to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait people to live with autonomy and safety on Country are needed.
The CSIRO’s At home in Quandamooka project is scoping the feasibility of Smarter Safer Homes technology and its cultural appropriateness for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people.
Another CSIRO project is the Hypertension Scoping Study which is investigating the use of a mobile health platform to support people in Indigenous communities either with or at risk of CVD. CVD refers to a host of life-threatening conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, congenital heart disease and stroke and has long been a significant health problem among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Statistics show that the condition remains the leading cause of death for the population, and that Indigenous adults are almost twice as likely as non-Indigenous adults to be hospitalised with CVD. Improved access to culturally appropriate primary healthcare is needed to support patients with and reduce the prevalence of CVD in remote and Indigenous communities.
Further information about both CSIRO projects can be found here.
Image sources: NITV website.
Health Partnership Forums update
The Australian Government Department of Health has issued the March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update covering a wide range of topics including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, the Refreshed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, Indigenous interpreting service and translated resources available via My Aged Care, the Renewal of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy and the Draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan 2021–2031 (National Workforce Plan).
You can view the March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update here.
Place of Knowledge, 2014 by Chris Thorne (acrylic on canvas) community / language group – unknown. Image: Chris Thorne. Image source: The University of Melbourne website.
2021 Close the Gap Report webinar
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday 18 March 2021 to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
The launch of the Close the Gap Campaign report Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe written by the Lowitja Institute was hosted by the Australia Institute on National Close the Gap Day via a public webinar. The webinar features Ken Wyatt AM MP, June Oscar AO, Karl Briscoe, Dr Janine Mohamed and special Guest Sir Michael Marmot and can be viewed here.
First-ever stand-alone SA Aboriginal Housing strategy
A new Head of Aboriginal Housing to lead the rollout of SA’s first-ever stand-alone Aboriginal Housing strategy, with the aim of improving outcomes for Aboriginal people. Kuyani-Arrernte woman Erin Woolford was appointed to the head role in the SA Housing Authority to spearhead the development and implementation of a new Aboriginal Housing Strategy. The new strategy will address the specific housing needs of Aboriginal people and is expected to be released in mid-2021. Minister for Human Services, Michelle Lensink, said Erin has a wealth of experience working with regional and remote South Australian communities. “Erin is an accomplished leader in Aboriginal Affairs and policy development, and as Head of Aboriginal Housing she will play a vital role in improving housing for Aboriginal people across our state,” said Minister Lensink.
You can view Minister Michelle Lensink’s media release click here and a related article in InDaily click here.
The community of Mimili in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, an Aboriginal local government area in NW SA. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen. Image source: The Australian
NSW – Wyong – Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre
Team Leader Yadhaba, Buridjga, Ma-Guway Programs x 1 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Yadhaba, Buridjga, Ma-Guwag Team Leader. The Team Leader will provide high quality supervision and mentorship to Yerin’s Yadhaba, Buridjga and Ma-Guwag program staff and ensure the programs meet objectives and set key performance indicators.
You will work collaboratively with patients, GPs, practice staff and other relevant health service providers, to provide appropriate patient and family centred, multidisciplinary care services for Aboriginal people affected by Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol, and other social issues.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Team Leader Housing Support Worker x 1 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Housing Support Team Leader. The Aboriginal Housing Support Team Leader will provide high quality on the ground support and professional guidance and development whilst providing intensive Case management (small caseload), as well as deliver and coordinate intensive support from other agencies. You will support and lead a team of two whilst working with Aboriginal people who are sleeping rough into stable accommodation linked to wraparound intensive supports, some clients’ needs may be outside of office hours.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Housing Support Workers x 2 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Housing Support Worker. to provide high quality intensive case management as well as deliver and coordinate intensive support from other agencies. You will support Aboriginal people who are sleeping rough into stable accommodation linked to wrap-around intensive supports, some clients’ needs may be outside of office hours.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Applications for all positions close Wednesday 7 April 2021.
While Liverpool became a COVID-19 hotspot during the pandemic, not one case was recorded at the Gandangara clinic. Medical adviser to NACCHO, Jason Agostino, said Indigenous leadership was critical in this achievement. “All the ACCHOs across the country have just been really incredible in getting messages out to their communities about how to stay safe in the initial part of the pandemic and in those spots where there have been outbreaks, places in Melbourne, in Brisbane, have just been exceptional in supporting their communities and keeping them safe,” he said. “So it’s been a whole bunch of things all put together but at the heart of it is leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
The second phase of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started today with 33 ACCHOs being the first to administer the jab, including the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council’s health service in Liverpool, in Sydney’s south-west.
But questions remain within the community about the vaccine. “A lot of them are saying yes, a lot of them are just not sure,” said Dunghutti elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Aunty Gail, who’s worked in the health industry for almost 40 years, said despite the community’s low case numbers the pandemic had had a huge impact. “It was a big strain because they couldn’t go out or meet their families, a lot of us come from country areas we couldn’t go there as well,” she said. “I think it’s been tough across the board for everybody… but now we’re slowly getting back to it. I encourage everyone if they could, it’s up to them, [but] if its gonna help our community and our people, why not, because we’re survivors and we want to survive for our next generations as well.”
Dunghutti Elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Image source: ABC News website.
Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance launched
Kimberley-based Aboriginal community-controlled and government health services, research institutes and universities have united to form the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance (KAHRA) with the objective of improving and promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley through the development and application of practical health research. This collaboration combines the power of research to drive evidence-based change, the commitment of regional health services, and the vast cultural knowledge and strength of communities.
The development of collaborative projects utilising the strengths of the Alliance will seek to drive change to health outcomes, policy and services within the Kimberley and ultimately improve health outcomes of Kimberley Aboriginal community members. KAHRA has already seen unprecedented collaboration across health services in the region, with a collective voice advocating for better use of data to inform health service delivery in the region. Work has begun on a project to enable health services and researchers to see the full picture of disease burden in the region.
KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell speaking at the launch of KAHRA.
Rhetoric and action gap needs to close
As communities across Australia mark National Close the Gap Day, leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have come together to call for enduring reforms to support self-determination and tangible outcomes for First Peoples. According to Pastor Mark Kickett, UAICC Interim Chair, “after 13 years of Closing the Gap, it is time to turn rhetoric into real action that genuinely empowers First Peoples and delivers lasting benefits.
Pastor Kickett continued, “the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has the potential to be a gamechanger. But we are yet to see the structural change and funding commitments needed to achieve real reform, and pressure needs to be kept on governments to maintain their commitments and to apply the principles of reform that they signed off in 2020. Real change requires more than words and minor policy tinkering. It requires closing the gap between rhetoric and action. And it requires enduring structural and constitutional reform to empower First Peoples to take leadership in their affairs, in true partnership with government. The response of our communities to COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of community-led action and the enduring resilience, creativity, and decisiveness of First Peoples leaders and governance.”
Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church lamented with First Peoples the ongoing health inequality, lack of self-determination, experiences of racism, high incarceration rates and the tragic prevalence of preventable deaths in custody. Dr Palmer said investing in solutions led by First Peoples was key to Closing the Gap.
Mutitjulu elders at Uluru. Photo by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Image source: BBC News.
Aged care fails remote communities
For the last five years, Mary Dadbalag, aged in her 90s and confined to a wheelchair, has been living in a tent on a verandah in the NT remote community of Jibena. For the last three years, her granddaughter Jacqueline Phillips has been knocking on every government service provider’s door she can think of asking for help to get her grandmother a bedroom built with a toilet attached. She said her grandmother is living in the tent at the edge of what she described as a “chicken house” because she can’t get to the nearest toilet 20 metres away over grass in her wheelchair, but she can shuffle to the edge of the verandah.
“It’s upsetting, not healthy and not hygienic. Like, her tent is just right next to where she does her toilets. She’s a great, great, great-grandmother, one of the last elders of our region and she’s just not being respected.” Ms Phillips is worried her grandmother may continue to fall through the cracks. “There needs to be better aged care services, especially for the people on the homelands,” she said. “We really need the federal government to listen to the very remote communities and provide that service, it’s human rights.”
Mary Dadbalag has been living in a tent on the veranda of a makeshift home. Image source: ABC News.
High youth detention FASD rates acknowledged
Danila Dilba Health Service has welcomed the release of the Senate’s report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (17 March 2021). Danila Dilba provides comprehensive primary health services within the Darwin/Palmerston region, including to many children and families impacted by FASD or other neurodevelopmental impairments. The release of the Senate’s report the day before National Close The Gap Day provides a timely reminder of the tangible ways the government can fulfil its commitment to address the health gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.
The report highlights the need to incorporate FASD prevention, assessment, and management into a comprehensive primary health care model. In particular, the Senate Committee recognises the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) like Danila Dilba in delivering culturally appropriate, holistic care to families affected by FASD.
Danila Dilba’s Head of Clinical Governance, Dr Andrew Webster, gave evidence to the inquiry about the lack of culturally appropriate assessment, therapeutic interventions, and support for children with FASD and their families, “ACCHOs can provide a ‘one-stop shop’ within a trusted service rather than families having to go through the process of diagnosis and therapy with multiple providers. Sadly, due to the barriers to assessment, many children suffering from FASD or other impairments do not get a diagnosis, and so are unable to receive the supports that they need. It is these children that we then unfortunately see coming to the attention of the child protection and justice systems.”
To view Danila Dilba’s media release in full click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Yesterday the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called upon Canberrans to reflect on their personal responsibility in combatting racism. “This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against Racism’, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the power that young people have in shifting narratives and creating change, both online and in person,” said ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racism to the forefront of global conversation. In Australia it drew attention to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system, and reignited conversations about racism and implicit bias more broadly.”
To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.
Diabetes management in Aboriginal communities webinar
The first webcast session of a four-part series of interprofessional webinars focusing on Diabetes management in an Aboriginal community will be held from 12:30–1:30 PM this Thursday 25 March 2021.
The webcast, Prevention and Control of Type-2 Diabetes in Aboriginal Communities: Changing Dietary, Activity and Lifestyle Patterns will explore evidence-based approaches and practical strategies for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behaviour changes to support the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people. Barriers and solutions to improving engagement with Aboriginal communities will also be discussed.
Diabetes is a complex condition that can impact people in different ways. It has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This webcast provides an overview of the prevalence of diabetes in the Aboriginal population, discusses risk factors for early diabetes detection and focuses on the key lifestyle behaviours for the prevention and management of diabetes. Key nutritional considerations relating to the use of whole foods, fibre, carbohydrates and how to shop on a budget will be discussed. Further to this, stress management, importance of sleep, exercise, flexibility and ways to reduce sedentary behaviour will be covered. The presenters will also discuss their local Aboriginal community group programs, including culturally safe practices.
For more information you can download an event flyer here and register here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit
NACCHO and the Department of Health (DoH) are excited to share with you, COVID-19 vaccine providers, new resources and materials to roll-out Phase 1b, due to start week commencing 22 March.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit includes a series of templates and materials that both vaccination clinics and non-vaccination clinics will be able to use and adapt for their sites. All resources feature the beautiful work of Aboriginal artist Jordana Angus,“Stand Together For A Healthy Future”.
This kit will help you work through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s regulatory guidelines for advertising COVID-19 vaccinations.
Here is a formal letter providing an approval for your organisation and its members and its members to adapt Government campaign materials as necessary.
The TGA or the Department of Health can look over draft materials or ideas if ACCHOs have concerns.
There are several resources that you may find helpful as you roll-out vaccinations through your clinic/practice – you can find more on the DoH website.
We can’t thank you enough for your support and partnership in helping us keep our communities safe and healthy! #OurJobToProtectOurMob
There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there: newsGP reports
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts speak to newsGP about steps to address misinformation and hesitancy ahead of phase 1b.
As Australia prepares to move into phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are buckling down on tackling vaccine hesitancy.
GP Dr Tanya Schramm is a Palawa woman and Chair of the Expert Committee behind the COVID-19 clinical recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
‘There’s been a huge social media campaign in general with … the anti-vax movement putting a lot of stuff out … and that has obviously just overflowed into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
GP Dr Jason Agostino is the Medical Advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19: ‘There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, [but] I don’t think we have an anti-vax movement.
‘What we have is hesitancy around this vaccine and a lot of misinformation going around to people [who have] reasonable questions that they want answered.
‘We’ve got a specific factsheet about vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about the experiences of other First Nations [people], and really clarifying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t guinea pigs here.
‘The reason that they’re priority populations is because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders have fought hard to make sure that they have access to vaccines early.’
2021 Close the Gap Campaign Report celebrates strengths-based examples
As one of the members driving the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO invites you to read the 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021 titled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe.
Connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the CTG annual reports they often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood.
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap said, “New formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.”
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 quoted in the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021
“ACCHOs know where our mob are and how to get the right message out.”
“I feel proud of the community controlled sector. It’s great that there’s been that recognition of how responsive and how flexible our sector could be. You could see firsthand how, if you work with ACCHOs on the ground they will deliver an effective response that’s appropriate for their setting.”
“You don’t get the same care for our people in mainstream health organisations, you don’t get that recognition of the social determinants of health or of the way colonisation impacts on our health as you do with ACCHOs.”
Indigenous birthing services vital to health of mothers and babies
Charles Darwin University midwifery researchers are calling for Indigenous-led birthing centres to expand across Australia after a seven-year study found a decrease in preterm births and an
improvement in breastfeeding and antenatal care for First Nations families.
The paper “Effect of a Birthing on Country Service redesign on maternal and neonatal health outcomes for First Nations Australians: a prospective, non-randomised interventional trial published today in The Lancet Global Health revealed preterm births were 50 per cent less likely in women accessing a designated Birthing on Country service in Brisbane’s south.
The study reported an almost 40 per cent increase in breastfeeding after discharge from hospital and an 80 per cent increase in women attending more than four antenatal sessions in pregnancy.
Most Australians support raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, according to research commissioned by Amnesty International Australia.
The current minimum age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions is just 10 (the age of a child in year three in primary school), a fact only one in 10 Australians could identify. In 2019 the Committee of the Rights of the child recommended Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 in line with international standards.
Australia also came in for criticism from the international community during the recent Universal Periodic Review where 31 countries recommended Australia address its treatment of Indigenous people and raise the age. “The tough-on-crime rhetoric is a false economy – all the evidence shows that locking kids up doesn’t work,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said.
Before claiming any of the COVID-19 Telehealth items, GPs are reminded that it is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.
Patients are eligible for GP and OMP telehealth services if they have an established clinical relationship with a GP, OMP, or a medical practice. This requirement supports longitudinal and person-centred primary health care that is associated with better health outcomes.
How Australia’s vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities will work
An Indigenous-owned remote dialysis clinic in Alice Springs is working to make COVID-19 vaccine information more accessible to people living in remote communities.
At 71 years old, Barbara Nampitjinpa is the perfect candidate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the next phase of the rollout.
Ms Nampitjinpa, who uses an oxygen tank to help herself breathe, is not only getting the jab for her own health, but to encourage other people in remote communities to do the same.
Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, which begins on 22 March, will focus on vaccinating Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, people over 70, and those who are immunocompromised, as well as some emergency services personnel including the remainder of the health workforce not included in Phase 1a.
Barbara Nampitjinpa wants people in remote communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: SBS News
Wunan to run headspace Kununurra
East Kimberley organisation Wunan has been appointed as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra. headspace Kununurra will bring a much-needed resource to the area, offering young people support with their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs issues, and work and study.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the operator of the Country WA Primary Health Network, awarded the contract to Wunan following an open tender procurement process.
For nearly 20 years Wunan has been successfully delivering services and programs across the East Kimberley, including delivery of clinical services to Kununurra and surrounding communities.
Young people aged 12 to 25 can contact headspace Kununurra directly or be referred by their GP or mental health professional.
Illustration source: Chris Johnston, Eurekastreet.com.au
The outstanding health outcome Indigenous communities have produced
The fact Indigenous communities kept COVID-19 infection rates six times lower than the rest of Australia without a single death is proof that when they have control and autonomy over policies and programs, success follows.
That’s the message from June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the co-chair of the annual Close the Gap campaign.
The pandemic and the bushfires of 2020 reinforced the need for large-scale reform and “a paradigm shift to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, Ms Oscar said.
Chief executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Vicki O’Donnell said avoiding COVID-19 deaths was a triumph.
“Our mob live together, eat together, work together, they kiss and they hug – so the spread was a huge risk for us.
“No Aboriginal person died. Does that not tell you something about what we do?” she said.
In 2019, suicide was the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to 17 years. Suicide rates among adults are at least two to three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
Yet the lack of resources and funding to train Aboriginal people in mental health and suicide prevention was “incredibly frustrating” for Thomas Brideson, the chief executive of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, a newly established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention organisation.
Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar. Source: Australian Human Rights Commission
Close the Gap report says 2020 reinforced need for large-scale systemic reform
Australian governments at all levels must adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and should take strengths-based approaches to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples, according to the Close the Gap Campaign.
The campaignis made up of 54 organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and aims to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In its 2021 Close the Gap report (not to be confused with the federal government’s Closing the Gap initiative), the campaign noted that the events of 2020 have reinforced the need for large-scale systemic reform and a “paradigm shift” in Australia’s approach to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Indigenous leadership in pandemic delivers a blueprint to Close the Gap
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people have been hailedfor their world-leading response to the coronavirus pandemic which left First Nations communities largely unscathed.
As leading Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, Director of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and former Australian of the Year and health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley wrote this week: “Little did anyone know that just a few years after the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian government (and rejected), the First Nations leadership would be able to show just how powerful having a voice could be for their health and wellbeing.”
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
Country and culture are central to the report and the Kimberley is one of the regions highlighted for the leadership shown by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people during the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people six times lower than for other Australians, no cases in remote communities, and not a single death recorded.
As Oscar wrote in the report: Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia.”
The relative safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also ranked as a global success, said Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, the only Aboriginal member of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, who was a panellist at the Close the Gap event, which also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Sir Michael Marmot, former head of the WHO Social Determinants Committee.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
The 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign report entitled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safeis a wakeup call to Australian Governments that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the solutions to health inequality in their grasp.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, on behalf of the Close the Gap Steering Committee.
The report showcases the resilience, strengths and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020: devastating bushfires and climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the mental health emergency facing First Australians.
The message delivered from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 2020 is loud and clear: Value our cultures. Engage our leadership. Share the power and let us lead decisions about matters that affect us. We will not fail. This is the legacy that will live on through our children.
When it came to COVID-19, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have completely reversed the gap — currently the number of cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is six times lower than the rest of Australia.
Homelands, once threatened with closure by governments, became some of the safest places in Australia due to the quick action and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
2020 showed that strong health outcomes and significant reform can be achieved through strengths-based community-led action when there is matching political will to support it.
The work and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout 2020 is showcased in the 2021 Close the Gap report through case studies from across Australia that focus on:
Culturally empowered solutions to protecting communities from COVID-19: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS), Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC)
Asset-based and Holistic Approaches for addressing climate change and protecting Country: Waminda/Katungul Aboriginal health services, Seed Mob, Aboriginal Carbon Foundation
Resilience and Protective factors for social and emotional wellbeing: Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing research project, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, ALIVE & Kicking Goals! Youth Suicide Prevention Project.
It is the position of the Close the Gap Campaign to focus on strengths-based success. This is not a denial or oversight of the systemic racism, short-term funding cycles and poor infrastructure and other issues that blight the lives of First Nations Peoples. Rather it is a rejection of deficit-based policies and culturally unsafe systems that reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to ‘problems’ or ‘statistics’ rather than solutions.
The events of 2020 also exposed underlying risks and pre-existing systemic inequalities, such as housing overcrowding, food insecurity, an inequitably distributed health workforce that was stretched to capacity, and racism in the health system and emergency responses that puts the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at risk.
Beyond the crises, this past year has seen the signing of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap – a potential gamechanger for how governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and rising public awareness of systemic racial inequality.
In contrast there has also been continued political inaction on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and youth incarceration, reckless destruction of the 46,000-year-old sacred site at Juukan Gorge, the continuation of cashless welfare card trial, and lack of action on the climate crisis.
The 2021 Close the Gap report has 15 recommendations for structural reform and strengths-based, community driven approaches to crisis adaptation and response. They include to:
fully implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart and fully fund the Close the Gap National Agreement
learn the lessons from successful policy and program structures, partnerships and funding arrangements that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and communities lead the way — nationally and globally — in COVID-19 responses and outcomes
raise the age of criminal responsibility immediately and nationally, from 10 years old to 14 years old
establish, fund, monitor and evaluate a National Anti-Racism Strategy to address the systemic racism exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019–20 bushfires response and the Black Lives Matter movement
make health and other services culturally safe and build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce
embed cultural knowledge, land management and conservation practices into national climate change mitigation efforts and address specific issues and implications for Indigenous people, including housing and water and food security.
Quotes and grabs from the 2021 Close the Gap report.
“Value our cultures. Engage our leadership. Share your power and let us lead decisions about matters that affect us. We will not fail. This is the legacy that will live on through our children.”
“The rapid response to COVID-19 shows what can be achieved when the right level of political will is deployed. This is what is needed to address systemic racism and the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
Climate change presents a unique, and growing, risk to not only the physical health, but also the spiritual and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The people of the Torres Strait Islands are already seeing the effects of a changing climate on the local flora and fauna and feel that their physical and cultural lives are under threat.
“Climate change is suffocatingly real yet our governments’ responses to the hottest of issues, the survival of all Australians and our planet, are tepid at best.”
June Oscar and Karl Briscoe, Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs.
Mainstream services are often not sufficiently equipped and skilled to respond effectively to the complex and unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Racism within the NSW public health service has been identified as a key barrier for Aboriginal people trying to access medical care. A state parliamentary inquiry into remote, rural and regional healthcare has been given examples of Aboriginal residents who say they have been mistreated and disrespected. The submissions state that this is the reason why Aboriginal people do not always trust or feel safe in the public health service.
The CEO of the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS), Jamie Newman and the spokeswoman, Ariane Dozer for the civil rights and legal service, National Justice Project say there are still racist attitudes among some staff, despite the rollout of cultural sensitivity programs, awareness campaigns and training. “What we would like to see is health services dedicated to working with the local Aboriginal communities to develop strong localised models for culturally safe care because not all Aboriginal communities are the same,” said Ms Dozer.
The way Aboriginal health services are funded is also a key issue. “The levels of funding have to change, the length of funding has to change,” said Mr Newman. He said that unlike the public health system, Aboriginal medical services in NSW have a three-year funding cycle. “We can’t recruit GPs, specialists, allied health services when we only guarantee a three-year contract based on the funding arrangements. We’re not going to get health outcomes in the next three years. We’re talking about generational change over 10–15 years and if we don’t have that approach we will fail in the next three years to Close the Gap.”
A related article says the state parliamentary inquiry has been told racist attitudes within the NSW public health system are stopping Indigenous people from seeking medical help. The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council says figures show Indigenous patients are five times more likely to discharge themselves early from hospital. Ariane Dozer from the National Justice Project says First Nations people did not trust the public health service, which they said had provided them with “derogatory” and “degrading” treatment. [They are] essentially dismissed and turned away without proper assessment,” she said. “People’s individual concerns and views of their concerns and their suffering can be ignored.”
Thousands of protesters took to the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” in June last year, exasperated at high incarceration rates and deaths in custody. But this was 10,000 miles from New York, Washington and Los Angeles, on the other side of the globe – in Australia. While conservative PM Scott Morrison claimed the protests Down Under showed there was a risk of “importing the things that are happening overseas,” for Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to the nation’s lower house, the anger was justifiable.
Mirroring the U.S., where the Black imprisonment rate is more than five times than that of Whites, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up just 2% of the population but 29% of all prison inmates in Australia. “The Black Lives Matter movement very seriously resonated here because Australia has had such a denial of its history,” Burney, 63, said in an interview. “It clicked because of the extraordinary large numbers of Aboriginal people incarcerated and the hundreds of deaths in custody.”
Linda Burney during Morrison’s Closing the Gap ministerial statement at Parliament House in Canberra, on 14 February 2019. Photo: Tracey Nearmy. Image source: Bloomberg Equality.
NDIS independent assessments
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has released a joint paper with the Department of Social Services about independent assessments. The paper is the Government’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) inquiry on independent assessments. The NDIA’s submission sets out a picture of the planned reforms and why they are necessary to deliver a simpler, faster, fairer and more flexible NDIS that will benefit all Australians. The paper released provides a summary of the background, the key reasons independent assessments are being introduced and clarifies the intent of independent assessments.
The concerns raised in the recent reforms consultation process indicate that there are misconceptions and misunderstandings about the details of independent assessments and how they will be implemented. The submission paper is the Government’s clear statement of independent assessments and is an opportunity for us to clarify details about the planned reforms.
The NDIA says it is committed to actively seeking feedback on independent assessments and other reform proposals through an ongoing and comprehensive consultation program and encourages you to read the joint submission paper here.
Image source: Disability Insider website.
Second lowest COVID-19 case rate in OECD
The Government will invest more than $1.1 billion to extend its national COVID-19 health response and suppression strategy until 31 December 2021. Australia is leading the world out of the global COVID-19 pandemic and recession. As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the nation, protecting Australians from the ongoing threats of the pandemic remains a priority. This $1.1 billion is in addition to more than $22 billion spent in these areas to date, including more than $6 billion to support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Australia’s suppression strategy has been extremely successful to date, particularly when compared with the devastation caused by the virus in many places overseas. Australia’s remarkable performance in saving lives is evident – we have the second lowest case rate and third lowest mortality rateamongst countries in the OECD.
Vaccine rollout to include more Aboriginal Australians
Just over a week out from the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccinations for the phase 1b priority group, the Australian government has quietly changed the parameters to include more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote residents. The ABC understands the decision has been made to assist the logistics of delivering the vaccines to remote communities.
It would mean vaccination teams who head to remote Aboriginal communities can immunise all adults over the age of 18 who want the vaccine, rather than just people over 55 or those who met the previous criteria for phase 1b. The changes would not be targeting, for instance, young Aboriginal people living in urban areas.
The federal Department of Health website has changed its phase 1b category to say, “beginning to vaccinate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. A spokeswoman from the department confirmed the change would also include non-Indigenous remote residents. “All remote and very remote residents [inclusive of both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and the non-Indigenous population] over the age of 18 will be considered a priority group, due to logistical requirements,” she said. “This will limit the need to transfer workforce and relevant materials and will assist with issues associated with distribution and access.”
Previously it was “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55” or who met other phase 1b criteria, like having an underlying medical condition, being a healthcare worker, critical or high-risk worker. There was no change to this for people living in urban and regional locations.
The Australian Government is ramping up its campaign against misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccines, as the vaccination program ramps up moving into Phase 1B. Australians can get all their questions answered on the health website to find out what they want – and need – to know about the COVID-19 vaccines. The new material on the website, called Is it true? will help answer questions people may have about the vaccine, and respond to vaccine misinformation they may have heard. This new function will provide trusted, credible information on COVID-19 vaccinesfor everyone in Australia. It will sort the fact from the fiction. The information on the website will be clear, accurate and timely. This will help reassure Australians about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and answer commonly asked questions and misinformation relating to the COVID-19 Vaccination program.
The AMA has received advice from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Advisory Group that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking vaccination in the 1b and 2a rollout, self-identification is sufficient proof of Indigenous status – no other documentation in required. The advisory group re-affirmed that no proof beyond self-identification is required and this is consistent with the RACGP standards. While there is the potential for non-indigenous people to take advantage of this system, it was thought the greater harm was in potential racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking vaccination and of having to prove one’s identity.
Are you interested in contributing to cancer in primary care research?
PC4, the Primary Care Collaborative Cancer Clinical Trials Group, is undertaking a prioritisation study that aims to explore the views of different stakeholders to identify their perspective on what the top research priorities should be in the field of cancer in primary care research. PC4 is funded by Cancer Australia to support the development of cancer in primary care trials.
The surveyshould take less than 10 minutes to complete and will give you an opportunity to advocate for the areas of cancer in primary care research you feel should be addressed most urgently.
You can access the link to survey for health care professionals, researchers etc. here and the link to the consumer surveyhere.
This survey is being distributed nationally and is set to close on Friday 16 April 2021.
National Bowel Cancer Screening Program promotion
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. If found early, up to 90% of cases can be treated successfully. Bowel cancer often has no obvious early warning signs. The good news is, a bowel screening test can detect changes in the bowel long before your patient notices any problems.
The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides free bowel screening kits for eligible people aged 50–74. So, have the bowel screening chat with your patients. An A4-sized poster (for display in staff only access areas) encouraging health professionals to talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about bowel screening as well as other resources can be accessed here.
JobSeeker cuts will widen health gaps
The Federal Government’s failure to provide a liveable income through JobSeeker payments will harm the health of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and contribute to widespread distress as people and families struggle to afford healthy food and housing. Health groups have also warned that the new base rate for JobSeeker will contribute to growing health inequalities and have consistently highlighted evidence of the link between poverty and sickness.
More than 500 submissions were made to the Senate inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021, with many testimonials of hardship from families and individuals choosing between food and medications, and forced into homelessness. Economic modelling by The Grattan Institute predicts that 40,000 more jobs will be lost when the Government axes the Coronavirus Supplement (currently $75 a week) at the end of March and replaces it with a $25 a week increase to JobSeeker payments.
Demand soared for fresh fruit and vegetables when Aboriginal communities received the Coronavirus Supplement. Photo by k15 on Unsplash. Image source: Croakey.
Innovative post suicide support program
An innovative trial will give children and young people access to community-based, non-clinical support following an attempted suicide, thanks to a $3.8 million investment from the NSW Government. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the service will be designed by young people with lived experience of suicide alongside families and carers, youth mental health and suicide prevention experts. “Growing evidence tells us that following up and increasing community support for people after a suicide attempt can reduce the likelihood of a further attempt,” Mrs Taylor said. “We know that young people are often reluctant to reach out for help and don’t always engage well with clinical services – what works well for adults often doesn’t work well for young people.
To view the NSW Government media release in full click here.
Image source: Amnesty International website.
Close The Gap Report Launch 2021
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.
The Australian Institute is delighted to invite you to the launch of the 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report “Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe”, written by the Lowitja Institute.
The report will be launched via webinar, on National Close the Gap Dayfrom 12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 18 March 2021 – hosted by the Australia Institute in support of the Close the Gap Campaign.
The webinar is free, but registration is essential. To book click here.
You can also view an invite to the Close the Gap & Mental Health Awareness Eventhere.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety made several recommendations aimed at improving access to culturally safe aged care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Radical change is needed to provide appropriate aged care which draws on Aboriginal culture, says the National Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care (NAGATSIAC). NAGATSIAC chair and CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Jill Gallagher AO has urged the Federal Government to swiftly adopt all recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report.
“The Royal Commission’s recommendations call for radical change and acknowledge that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and organisations are best placed to serve Aboriginal Elders. Ms Gallagher said the aged care system had “profoundly failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and these long overdue changes would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to access aged care that meets their needs. Elders are the keepers of Culture and the heart of our Communities.”
A new health awareness video has been produced by registered Australian health charity Dragon Claw, with funding from the Federal Government, in response to research showing that our First Australians suffer disproportionately from musculoskeletal conditions. The video was developed in conjunction with the Dubbo and Coonamble Aboriginal Health Services and is focused on raising the awareness in the community of the support and treatment that is available for the debilitating impacts of musculoskeletal conditions in Aboriginal communities across Western NSW.
Unaware that seeking help for what, in many cases are treatable ailments, a significant number of our fellow Australians continue to accept their symptoms as the unavoidable ‘aches and pains’ of life – leading to needless suffering and physical impairment. The video features local Aboriginal people, in their own words, encouraging everyone, irrespective of age, to seek the help of their local healthcare providers and then to follow their treatment plan with the prescribed medications.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Report was tabled in Parliament this week. The final report, titled Care, Dignity and Respect, made 148 recommendations following a two-year investigation into the structural issues in governance and funding in the aged care sector. Commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Tony Pagone said the sector needs a significant boost in funding, a levy similar but separate to the Medicare levy and to bolster the role of an independent pricing authority for the sector. The commissioners recommended a new Aged Care Act be put in place by July 2023, recommending a system based on a “universal right to high quality, safe and timely support and care”.
Adrian Carson CEO of Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) said it was clear that the commissioners listened to Indigenous Elders and Indigenous community-controlled providers of aged care services and their experiences. “Our Elders experience challenges attempting to navigate and access their entitlement to aged care,” he said. “The series of significant recommendations reflect what the sector has been saying for some time, the report called the system out on a few big things, including the complete silence around the new national Closing the Gap agreement, it didn’t pay attention to the needs of our Elders, it didn’t set targets or have health commitments for our Elders. It was a huge oversight and I commend the Royal Commission for calling that system out, we’re keen to ensure that not only the recommendations happen, but that the needs of our Elders are reflected in the broader conversation when talking about how we close the gap.”
Matthew Moore General Manager of Aged and Disability Services at the IUIH said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are “underrepresented in a system where they should be overrepresented. Only 17% of Aboriginal eligible Elders that are over 50 access a part of the aged care system compared to the mainstream engagement that sits [at] over 27%.”
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.
Germanus Kent House resident Bertha Linty and care worker Victoria Gardener. Image source: Aged Care Guide website.
Vision 2020 Australia welcome Royal Commission recommendations
Vision 2020 Australia has welcomed the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and is strongly supportive of recommendations that would address some of the major issues the sector has raised around current arrangements for older Australians living with blindness and vision loss.
A key recommendation contained in the final report was establishing tailored pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need aged care support, an important part of the broader work done to ensure that all Australians can access culturally safe care and support.
In its recent submission to the 2020–21 Federal Budget Vision 2020 Australia is calling for $37.38 million over 4 years for enhancements to the current aged care system to make it simpler, quicker and more affordable for older Australians who develop or live with permanent vision loss to get the technology and supports they need.
To view the Vision 2020 Australia media release click here and to access their recent submission to the 2020–21 Federal Budget click here.
Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.
Aboriginal healthy ageing – the Ironbark Project
Would your service like to be part of research that shows how important community programs are for older Aboriginal people?
The Ironbark Project compares the health impacts of two programs: Standing Strong and Tall program (a weekly exercise and yarning circle) and Healthy Community program (a weekly social program) among groups of Aboriginal people aged 45 years and older.
Services that work with groups of older Aboriginal people (45 years and older) are invited to participate in the study. Services will be funded and trained to run one of these programs weekly for 12 months
For more details about the Ironbark Project click here and to view a flyer for the project click here.
Interested NSW services can register for the 30 minute webinar being held from 2:00– 2.30 PM on Thursday 18 March 2021 by clickinghere.
Mental health report a template for the nation
The report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System aligns in many ways with the recent report of the Productivity Commission, strengthening the impetus for more effective and equitable care and support Australia-wide, the Consumers Health Forum of Australia says. “The Victorian report shares with the Productivity Commission’s mental health report a blueprint for a fresh standard of support and access to care for mental health. The direction of both reports conquers the habitual barriers that have previously consigned mental health care to second class status compared to what’s routinely available for people with physical illness,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said.
Image source: Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative Limited website.
Only 10% of remote NT kids have healthy ears
In remote communities across the NT, only one in 10 Aboriginal children younger than three years have healthy ears, a new report in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has found. Five have otitis media (OM) with effusion (OME) or ‘glue ear’, and four have suppurative OM – acute OM (AOM) with or without perforation, or chronic suppurative OM (CSOM) ‘The level of ear disease in Aboriginal [and Torres Strait Islander] children is defined by the World Health Organization [WHO] as meeting a public health emergency,’ the study’s lead author Professor Amanda Leach told newsGP.
According to Professor Leach, leader of the Ear Health Research Program at the Child Health Division of Menzies School of Health Research, any rate of OM above 4% is considered a public health emergency. The rate of chronic suppurative OM in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NT currently sits between 12–15%. ‘We started off here with around 24%, so it’s definitely come down,’ she said. ‘But we’re a long way away from that target.’
NT Minister for Education, Lauren Moss, says the Territory Labor Government is investing $1.65 million in acoustic upgrades in Territory schools to support high-quality and inclusive education for students. “Improving the acoustic quality of the classrooms makes it easier for our children to learn and hear. 75 classrooms across the Territory are set to receive these works. This funding comes in addition to the $5.2 million Building for Inclusion funding announced in January 2020, where 21 urban classrooms were fitted with specialist amplification systems, designed to support students with hearing difficulties and those who need additional support to focus in class.
To view the full article in newsGPclick here and to view Minister Moss’ media release about the acoustic infrastructure upgrades for NT schools click here.
Image source: newsGP.
Yarning towards life after stroke
Two new studies, focused on speaking and listening from the heart, will seek to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with stroke to self-manage their stroke recovery. Dr Heidi Janssen and Dr Di Marsden from the Hunter New England Local Health District each received $50,000 grants to kick-start their projects as part of the 2021 Stroke Foundation Research Grants round..
Stroke Foundation Research Advisory Committee Chair Professor Amanda Thrift said Dr Janssen and Dr Marsden will partner with the community to gain knowledge and develop new supports to help survivors of stroke live well. “Sadly, too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being affected by stroke,” Professor Thrift said. “Due to recognised disadvantage, the average age of onset of first-ever stroke is 54, 17 years younger than the non-indigenous population and the burden of stroke is 2.3 times as high.
To view the Stroke Foundation article in full click here.
Coral Toomey cares for her husband Bill Toomey who suffered a stroke. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.
CARE for Rural Australia comes to Queensland
OzHelp Foundation (OzHelp) with the support of Perpetual Trustees, has partnered with Dr Meg Perceval, Be Health, and the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) through Griffith University to deliver CARE for Rural Australia. With the initial goal of reaching 300 people across Queensland’s rural and farming communities, a total of 18 CARE for Rural Australia workshops are available free of charge, through both face-to-face and online workshops during March.
Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation employees harvest spinifex grass on the outskirts of Camooweal, Qld. Image source: The University of Queensland website.
COVID-19 vaccine for people affected by cancer
Following from the COVID-19 Vaccines and Cancer virtual roundtable in Mid-February, Cancer Australia has released a new webpage with dedicated information on the COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer. This information will supplement the broader information provided to clinicians and the community as part of the Australian Government’s national COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy.
The information is available to view here and the FAQs can be viewed here.
Over the coming weeks, Cancer Australia will release, in collaboration with our Indigenous colleagues, tailored information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer. Cancer Australia will also be translating the FAQs into different languages to support culturally and linguistically diverse populations affected by cancer. In order to address the ongoing information needs of people affected by cancer, Cancer Australia will be regularly updating the FAQs as new information emerges about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer. Cancer Australia would also appreciate any further information or feedback you may have on the FAQs.
Image source: The Guardian.
Legal challenge launched over proposed Dan Murphy’s store
Danila Dilba Health Service has launched legal proceedings over the decision to approve a large Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin. In the legal action filed in the NT Supreme Court, the Darwin-based Aboriginal community organisation is asking for the liquor licence approval to be set aside. The court document names the Director of Liquor Licensing and Woolworths Group – which owns Dan Murphy’s – as the defendants to the action. Maurice Blackburn’s Social Justice Practice is running the case. Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen said the decision to approve the liquor licence failed to properly weigh up the risks and benefits of the new store.
Someone else who is opposed to the Dan Murphy’s store is psychologist Dr Damien Howard. Dr Howard has provided counselling services at Bagot Community in Darwin for over 10 years. He has seen the attempts of the dry community to keep thee damaging effects of alcohol out of the community. He has seen the havoc alcohol causes in family life and is dismayed that Woolworths wants to place a Dan Murphy’s alcohol megastore nearby the community, against the strong wishes of the Bagot community. The Dan Murphy grog megastore in Darwin is being pursued by Woolworths and is opposed by local dry Aboriginal communities as it will cause more:
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
alcohol related violence, including family violence
Dr Howard says while espousing reconciliation Woolworth’s actions are carving a place for themselves in corporate infamy.
Hearing loss and dementia research
In December 2020, the Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA) commissioned Mark Laureyns of the Thomas More University College in Antwerp, to write a paper examining the rapidly evolving research linking the treatment of midlife hearing loss and the prevention of dementia in later life. In doing this, Mark had the brief to only utilise research that had appeared in peer reviewed journals over the past 4 years.
Dementia, Hearing Loss and Hearing Care: Saving Australia’s Minds provides compelling, peer-reviewed evidence for early hearing care intervention to prevent dementia. A key finding of the latest research finds that hearing loss in mid-life is the largest modifiable risk factor for age-related dementia.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death amongst Australians and the leading cause of death amongst Australian women. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, whose report was recently released, made 148 recommendations. Of those, 14 related to dementia. With an ageing population and increasing costs of providing aged care, now is the time to seize the opportunity for a preventative hearing health strategy that will address the link between age-related hearing loss and dementia.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation is seeking a dynamic, forward-thinking CEO to lead the delivery of health and wellbeing services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in southern NSW.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services works in partnership with local health services to ensure that their clients receive culturally appropriate medical, dental, social and emotional wellbeing services. Their vision is “for Aboriginal people to live healthy lives enriched by a strong living culture, dignity and justice and for Katungul’s work to be recognised as a driving force in achieving this.
The CEO is accountable to the Board and is responsible for the delivery of the objectives outlined in the strategic plan.
You will be responsible for strengthening partnerships with local health providers, expansion of the current operating areas and development of a community engagement strategy to ensure that services on offer remain relevant and in line with their client’s needs.
The CEO has the support of an Executive Officer and leads the four main organisational areas of Community Services, Health Services, Business Services and Governance, and Finance.
The role is based in Narooma, with additional offices and clinics in Bega and Batemans Bay. Katungul covers a wide operational base, and travel throughout the region is essential.
We are looking for a person who is decisive, proactive and results-oriented who likes to achieve excellence, is innovative and can communicate to customers and team members with flair and style. A natural leader who is enthusiastic and good at seeing the big picture whilst focusing on results.
This is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identified position. Applicants must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (pursuant to Section 14 (d) of the Anti-discrimination Act and Confirmation of Aboriginality will be required.
For full details of the requirements of the role and the selection criteria, please refer to the position description attached below or contact Natalie on 0439 626 393 or email@example.com for a confidential discussion.
Post Doctoral Research Fellow x 1 FT (fixed term for 2 years) – Newcastle
The School of Medicine and Public Health College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing, The University of Newcastle has a vacancy for a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. In the position you will collaborate with influential Professors and research leaders within Aboriginal health research to lead Aboriginal health ethics projects nationally.
Research Assistant x 1 FT (fixed term) – Sydney – The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
The University of Sydney’s Centre for Kidney Research is seeking a Research Assistant to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to undertake research and develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
During Hearing Awareness Week, it is important to remember that Aboriginal Australian children have one of the highest rates of chronic otitis media (middle ear infection) in the world. They are three times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to experience permanent hearing loss associated with ear disease.
Children living in regional and remote communities are particularly at risk of long-term hearing problems due to environmental determinants such as poor housing and infrastructure, overcrowding, and exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke.
In Australia, some Aboriginal communities report that up to 40% of their children suffer from chronic otitis media. Early diagnosis and management of otitis media, as well as measures aimed at improving environmental health conditions, are key elements in avoiding hearing loss, and the consequent effect on a child’s language, education and psychosocial development.
The Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) model of holistic, comprehensive primary care is best suited to provide this early intervention and to address environmental determinants of poor ear health. ACCHOs are embedded within communities and can provide regular education, screening and treatment for children in a culturally secure, family-oriented environment.
To view the Aboriginal Health Council of WA’s We’re all Ears for Hearing Awareness Week media release click here.
2021 Close the Gap Campaign report launch
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.
The Australia Institute is delighted to invite you to the launch of the 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report “Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe”, written by the Lowitja Institute. Speakers include:
June Oscar AO
Co-Chair, Close the Gap Campaign
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
Co-Chair, Close the Gap Campaign
CEO of National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners
Dr Janine Mohamed
CEO, Lowitja Institute
and special guest
Sir Michael Marmot
Chair, WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health
The report will be launched via webinar, on National Close the Gap Day – Thursday 18 March – hosted by the Australia Institute in support of the Close the Gap Campaign.
Noon AEDT (ACT, VIC, NSW, TAS)
11:30 AM ACDT (SA) / 11 AM AEST (QLD)
10:30 AM ACST (NT) / 9.00 AM AWST (WA)
The webinar is free, but registration is essential – to register click here.
Thirteen years after then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations and set up the closing the gap targets, what needs to change?
Donnella Mills, Chair of the NACCHO, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander power is a key factor in improving health outcomes. Donnella says change is happening, and that when it comes to closing the gap, optimism is ‘in her DNA’. To listen to the radio interview with Donnella Mills on ABC Saturday Morning with Kate O’Tooleclick here.
rally on 11th anniversary of the National Apology to Stolen Generations in Sydney in 2019. Image source: SBS News website.
Calls for national memorial & healing centre
The Healing Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to establish a National First Nations Memorial and Centre for Healing in Canberra and a doubling of the core Commonwealth Grant that funds the Healing Foundation’s work to support Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants. In ‘Healing the Nation’ – The Healing Foundation Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 – the Foundation is also calling for new funding for a range of initiatives to progress the healing of Stolen Generations survivors – including reparations, tailored trauma-aware and healing-informed support for ageing and ailing Stolen Generations survivors, and better access to historical records for survivors; and a National Healing Strategy to address the impact of intergenerational trauma.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said a National Memorial for First Nations people in the nation’s capital is long overdue, “A National First Nations Memorial, which incorporates a Healing Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, would send a strong message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and all Australians – that the Federal Government is serious about reconciliation and righting past wrongs.”
You can access the Healing Foundation’s Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 here and view their media release in full here,
Image from the Healing Foundation’s Intergenerational Trauma Animation.
Still telling stories 13 years on from the Apology
February 13 each year marks the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who suffered trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal. Many of these removals occurred as the result of laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the predominately white community. Stolen Generations survivors are some of Australia’s most vulnerable people and many have kept their stories and experiences secret for many years, even decades.
One such story comes from Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black, a 64-year-old Barkindji woman, who was taken from her mother shortly after birth. Aunty Julie’s story is heart breaking and courageous and reminds us that behind the Stolen Generations policies there were people, and children, who are still alive and in need of support. To acknowledge the Apology Anniversary, you can watch Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black’s story here.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said it is important to commemorate this significant moment in national healing, acknowledging the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to address the impacts of unresolved trauma, “It’s important that we as a nation provide a safe environment for Stolen Generations survivors and their families to speak for themselves, tell their own stories, and be in charge of their own healing. Assimilation policies that led to the Stolen Generations continued right up until the 1970s and many of those affected by the trauma are still alive today.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release The Healing Foundation continues telling the stories of Stolen Generations survivors 13 years on from the Apologyclick here.
Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born. Image source: Healing Foundation.
A long way from the Stolen Generations
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a media release on Saturday 13 February 2021, a day marking the 13th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. Minister Wyatt met with Wiradjuri Elder Isabel Reid, one of the oldest living survivors of the Stolen Generation in January 2021, “Isabel’s story is just one of tens of thousands of children who were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 by Australian governments. This is undoubtedly one of the darker chapters in our nation’s story. On this day I reflect upon the words of the Apology – because they serve as an important reminder of the journey we have all walked – a significant moment on the path to reconciliation – an acknowledgment of our shared history – the importance of our contribution to this national story. It is a story that in parts is raw and painful – and it is a story that in other parts shows that our resilience and determination, built up over 65,000 years, lives and grows in strength today.”
To view the Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.
SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle says the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February is an historic day for Australia in acknowledging the wrongs of the past, but the impact of child removal on First Nations children and families continues decades on, “In 2008, the Australian government finally said sorry for unjustly removing generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families – breaking up families and communities and leaving a legacy of intergenerational trauma for our peoples. We feel for our families on this day. The stories of the Stolen Generations are something that we all carry with us. They are our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents and our brothers and sisters. The Apology was only the first step in truth telling for our nation. Failures to adequately incorporate First Nations perspectives into policy and to support healing for families continue to impact our communities.”
To view SNAICC’s media release SNAICC Calls on Governments to Commit to Supporting First Nations Children and Familiesclick here.
Image source: Meanjin Quarterly.
Improving social media health information survey
A research project is being conducted by researchers at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. The aim of the project is to develop Principles for Health Information on Social Media (PRHISM) to assess and help improve the quality of health-related information provided on social media. The PRHISM team are looking for individuals with experience in media, communications and/or social media who currently work for a health-related organisation to take part. Participation involves completion of three 20 minute online surveys. There will be a two to three week gap between each survey and the total time commitment will be approximately 60 minutes over six to nine weeks.
If you are interested in taking part or would like more information you can register your interest and read more about the study via the following link.
Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs has teamed up with Illustrator Molly Hunt to create Covid-19 health messaging for First Nations communities. Image source: NITV website.
Closing the Gap reporting
Historically, the Australian Government has released a Closing the Gap report in February to coincide with the anniversary of the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, together with a statement to Parliament. This will change under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came into effect in July 2020. Under the new Agreement, all parties including the Australian Government must deliver an Implementation Plan on Closing the Gap within 12 months, and report annually on the actions they are taking to achieve the targets. Consistent with the new National Agreement, the Australian Government will release its Closing the Gap Implementation Plan in July 2021 and report annually in the Spring sitting period thereafter.
To view the Minister for Indigenous Australians’ Closing the Gap media release click here.
Image source: Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris blog.
Close the Gap Campaign refuses to be left wanting
The Close the Gap Campaign looks forward to seeing a comprehensive report on the refreshed targets for Closing the Gap by July 2021. The campaign notes the announcement that the release of the Closing the Gap data has been pushed back to July in order to allow a full reporting year since the signing of the new National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap. The Close the Gap Campaign expects to see the PM and Minister Wyatt release the data in July, including a full analysis of what governments plan to do to reform and address the ongoing inequality. “While we understand the need for a change in timeframe to allow a year since the signing of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, this cannot be used as an excuse to kick the can down the road,” said Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners CEO Karl Briscoe.
To view the Close the Gap Campaign media statement click here.
Kathy Freeman. Image source: ANTaR website.
Speaking from the Heart podcast
Why is a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament critical to Australia’s journey towards reconciliation? Will Australia accept the ‘gift’ that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart? And is acknowledging history (and learning from it) an opportunity to build a more inclusive, more truly Australian national identity? On the second episode in a Policy Forum Pod mini-series on Indigenous wellbeing, co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council Pat Anderson AO joins hosts Professor Sharon Bessell and Dr Arnagretta Hunter for a remarkable conversation about healing, history, and having the courage to call for change. Listen here.
Ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework
Minister for Correctional Services of SA, Vincent Tarzia said in an Australian first, the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has released a ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework (ASF) 2020-2025. The ASF is the first of its kind in the nation to encompass the needs of prisoners, offenders, staff and community. It provides a culturally informed and tailored approach to address the needs of Aboriginal prisoners and offenders and ensures that DCS programs, policies and supports are culturally safe. The framework was informed through consultation with prisoners, staff and the community and outlines three components to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people: 1. Ensure access to programs and services that are responsive to the unique cultural and gendered need of Aboriginal prisoners. 2. Build a culturally competent and responsive workforce. 3. Increase Aboriginal economic participation and strengthen partnerships with organisations, businesses and Aboriginal communities.
NT Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy, Gerard Maley, says the Gunner Government’s own study shows that total alcohol consumption only dropped in regions where Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) were stationed at bottle shops, and saw no decline in areas PALIs don’t man takeaway liquor outlets, “This data does not support a minimum floor price – this data supports the use of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors. The government’s own report shows areas with Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors had lower total alcohol consumption, and where there were no PALIs there was no drop in consumption. Yet the report states that this success was due to the minimum floor price.”
Noi.heen.ner is an event focused on bridging the gap between the Tasmanian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. The event’s name means ‘in good spirits’. Reconciliation Council Tasmania co-chair Bill Lawson AM said the event was about building curiosity and a warm dialogue about Aboriginal culture in the Tasmanian community, “I think a lot of Tasmanians have been curious for a long time but have been cautious to get involved as they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. I think things, festivals like this, they’re a safe place for people to come and hear a Welcome to Country, be involved in a smoking ceremony, and realise it’s not all as we think, and that we have things to learn.
To view the Noi.heen.ner marks a ‘good spirited’ connection of cultures article published in The Advocate click here.
Cruze Smart-Pitchford, 12, painting mother Karen Smart-Pitchford with ochre before a welcome to country ceremony at the Noi.heen.ner event. Image source: The Advocate.
Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021
Brisbane Broncos CEO Paul White and players Kotoni Staggs and Patrick Carrigan, plus club legends and Deadly Choices Ambassadors Steve Renouf and Petero Civoniceva have announced the Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021.
Equipped with the most comprehensive suite of Brisbane Broncos Deadly Choices Health Check shirts ever produced in the 10-year history of its partnership with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service providers from throughout Queensland will be able to maintain strong and essential connections with the people that matter most.
The 2021 Broncos Deadly Choices preventative health campaign, instigated by IUIH, represents a calculated response to the global, COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the empowerment of individuals and families to take control of their own health through the maintenance of regular health checks remains a top priority. “Our Deadly Choices partnership with the Brisbane Broncos has netted some amazing health successes over the last decade and we see the club’s role in the anticipated delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination as an evolutionary shift forward,” said IUIH CEO Adrian Carson.
Indicative of the direct impact Deadly Choices is having in communities, Queensland has the highest number and the highest rate of use (40%) of 715 heath checks of any State or Territory in Australia. This statistic isn’t lost on the CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane, Jody Currie who is already excited by the New Year acquisitions, “The Broncos-Deadly Choices partnership provides a very strong community engagement tool to enhance positive health messaging and continue to encourage health checks among Indigenous communities right from right across South East Queensland”.
Gunggari and Gubbi Gubbi man Steve Renouf holds the record for the most tries for the Broncos. Image source: Deadly Choices website.
Sexual Health Week
Sexual Health Week, 4–21 February 2021, is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss sexual health in all of its facets, and during this week the WA AIDS Council (WAAC) has shared some advice on how you can make sure you’re looking after your sexual health.
Size is an issue – did you know that 70% of men who do not like wearing condoms are wearing the wrong size? Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not one-size-fits-all. And this small misconception is one of many that get in the way of people being able to have the most fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable sexual life possible. For many people, young and old, they got more of a sex education watching Sex Education on Netflix than in any sex-ed class in school. There is a pervasive thought that you need to pick between pleasure and safety, protection versus orgasm, as if they are opposites when they are very much not.
WAAC has partnered with the Department of Health to provide small grants of up to $1,000 to organisations and services working in regional and remote parts of WA. The grant enables organisations the opportunity to run sexual health programs that they would not have been able to run without funding.
This year they have been able to provide the grant to four organisations, including NACCHO members Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS), who will run a project to increase sexual health testing with young people and increase their knowledge, and Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) who will travel over 1,200kms around the Mid West to educate young people about sexual health and offer testing services.
To view the full article It’s Sexual Health Week – when did you last check your sexual health?click here.
Keep Your Spirit Strong – Social and Emotional Wellbeing campaign for our mob
The “Keep Your Spirit Strong” communications project by the Australian Government Department of Health aims to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to prioritise their social and emotional wellbeing.
The project focuses on encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to:
recognise the importance of social and emotional wellbeing
look after each other and check in with their family, friends and community
share their thoughts and feelings when they are not feeling well
seek information and help when they need it
connect with the support services that are available.
There are 3 video animation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that has been developed to support a new national social and emotional wellbeing and mental health awareness project: Keep Your Spirit Strong.
This stakeholder kit includes resources such as videos, social media content and images, case studies, and key messages.
Hereyou will find suggested social media content for the Keep Your Spirit Strong project. This includes social tiles, GIFs and video animations.
Information services that can assist you in finding the right support for you or a loved one include Head to Health and WellMob. These are digital hubs which provide options depending on your needs and preferences. Here you can find phone numbers, websites, apps, forums and online learning options to help you through difficult times. Gayaa Dhuwialso has a range of resources.
Please share this content with your networks to support the project and raise the awareness around social and emotional wellbeing and mental health support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Woolworths: a case study of the commercial determinants of health – and how communities can fight back
Croakey has published an article on the Woolworths Dan Murphy alcohol store in Darwin.
Introduction by Croakey: Woolworths is drawing widespread fire over its plans for a huge Dan Murphy’s alcohol outlet in Darwin, with more than 138,000 signatories to an online petition opposing the development, and luminaries such as Lowitja Institute chairperson Pat Anderson AO and journalist Jeff McMullen adding to the public opprobrium.
However, this corporate assault on public health is just one example of how the commercial determinants of health undermine community wellbeing, according to the article below by Dr Aletha Ward from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Centre of Health Research at the University of Southern Queensland.
And it is also an example of how effective community campaigning can tackle these commercial determinants of health – as well as how corporates can do so much damage to their own brands in such cases (for example, see the Australian Financial Review article, ‘Woolworths’ reputation on the line over Darwin liquor plans’).
ACT – Two Senior Policy Officer positions at NACCHO
Senior Policy Officer: This role provides evidence-based policy expertise to support the community-controlled sector on contemporary health and SEWB policies. For further information and to apply for this position click here.
Senior Policy Officer: This role provides evidence-based policy expertise to support the community-controlled sector on contemporary mental health and SEWB policies. For further information and to apply for this position click here.
The closing date for the applications for these two positions is on 14 January 2021.