NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The image in the feature tile is from an RACGP newsGP article ‘Very disappointing’: UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot extended indefinitely published on 4 July 2022.

RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the Queensland Government to come clean on the North Queensland Retail Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot. It comes following the RACGP lodging a Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) request to the Queensland Health Department on 28 March this year – 256 days ago. So far, no information has been forthcoming. The application sought access to meeting agendas, meeting papers (including notes and briefing papers), minutes, correspondence, budget documents and briefings relating to the pilot.

The college has previously cautioned that the pilot will fragment care and put patient safety and wellbeing at risk. In October this year, the RACGP doubled down on warnings that the experiment will result in poorer health outcomes for patients and much higher healthcare costs. Since then, several jurisdictions including Victoria and NSW, have forged ahead with their own pharmacy prescribing plans.

RACGP President and Mackay-based GP Dr Nicole Higgins said that scrutiny of the pilot was needed more than ever. “This is not rocket science, if due process has been followed then these documents exist, and it is in the public’s interest to know what they contain, especially as this pilot is the product of an election promise rather than responding to a demonstrable public need,” she said.

To view the RACGP media release What is the Queensland Government hiding on the controversial pharmacy prescribing pilot? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Concerns mob missing out on eating disorder treatment

To view the ABC News article Concerns Indigenous Australians missing out on eating disorder treatment in full click here.

Wiradjuri and Wotjobulak man AJ Williams battled bulimia for three years. Image source: ABC News.

Remote housing: holding government to account

Royal Darwin Hospital’s Dr Nerida Moore and paediatric registrar Dr Tasmyn Soller have co-authored an article about how overcrowding and poor-quality housing are significant driving forces of death and disease in remote communities of the NT, saying “As health care workers, we bear witness to the devastating impact that overcrowding and grossly substandard infrastructure brings. We see mothers who are desperate to find solutions to enable them to wash their children’s clothes, limited by access to washing machines, power and water. Likewise, we see families advocating to reduce overcrowding in their community who are told to wait patiently for nearly a decade for a new house to be built.”

Inadequate housing and overcrowding are at crisis level in many parts of the NT – a fact that has been established over many decades. In Australia, the highest levels of overcrowding occur in very remote communities. In 2019, it was estimated that 51% of Indigenous Australians living in very remote communities resided in overcrowded homes. Estimates suggest an extra 5,000 homes are needed by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding to an acceptable level.

It is therefore unsurprising that remote communities experience some of the highest rates of devastating and preventable diseases such as acute rheumatic fever (ARF), rheumatic heart disease (RHD), acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic suppurative lung disease, skin infections and otitis media. These diseases, even though they have different pathophysiology, all have common links to the social determinants of health. This is further highlighted by the steep decline of these diseases globally as living conditions have gradually improved across the world.

To view the InSight article Remote community housing: holding government to account in full click here.

Gloria Chula lives in a three-bedroom house of 16 people in Wadeye, one of the Northern Territory’s poorest and most troubled Indigenous communities. Image source: The Islander.

Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate

A group of primary school-aged “doctors” are set to graduate in Melbourne’s north and become life-long health ambassadors for themselves and their communities. The 30-odd students in grades three and four at Reservoir East Primary School are graduating from the 15-week Malpa Young Doctors for Life program this week.

The program is culturally derived and teaches both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children traditional ways of healing, along with modern ways of keeping communities healthy. Interstate, nine South Australian schools signed up in 2022, and three schools are also part of the program in NSW in Dubbo South, and in Smithtown and Kempsey West in the Mid North Coast region.

The program “equips them with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge which they end up sharing with others – I believe they are closing the gap for themselves,” Malpa leader Mel Harrison said. “At Reservoir, one of the main benefits is that it has dramatically improved school attendance. “The way the program is designed means that every child feels some form of success in Malpa.”

To view the Milton Ulladulla Times article Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate in full click here.

Students from a primary school in Melbourne took part in the Malpa Young Doctors for Life program. Image source: Milton Ulladulla Times.

NT facing COVID-19 spike

COVID-19 cases have doubled in the NT in the past week, rising faster than anywhere else in the country. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says the NT has moved out of the COVID-19 emergency phase but Aboriginal health care providers say that call is premature. Angus Randall reports that health services are very worried about a Christmas peak. The NT recently recorded a worrying COVID milestone, 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Experts say that is likely an undercount, but the trend in the official numbers shows a steeper rise in the NT right now than anywhere else in Australia.

John Paterson the CEO, of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said “Up until this year we’ve had 40 Aboriginal deaths in the NT, it’s killing Aboriginal people at younger ages, with the highest numbers of deaths in the 60-69 age group then the 50-59 age group compared to over 80 for the non-Aboriginal population, so you can see the Aboriginal population is at most risk.”

Mr Paterson is concerned about what will happen over the coming weeks as those in remote communities travel to the more populated centres during the Christmas season. “It is unfortunate and I think premature that governments are taking their foot off the pedal and not giving this issue the attention it deserves given we are now seeing a rise in COVID-19 numbers again. Our advice would have been to wait until after the Christmas New Year period to see what the numbers are like and reconsider any other public measures we might need to take during that period.”

You can listen to The World Today ABC broadcast NT facing COVID-19 spike in full here.

Photo: Steven Schubert, ABC News. Image source: ABC News – The World Today.

Australia’s annual sexual health check up

New data released last week by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted testing and diagnoses of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in Australia. The report titled HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report shows that in 2021 there were 86,916 diagnoses* of chlamydia, 26,577 of gonorrhoea and 5,570 of infectious syphilis in Australia.

“Prior to the pandemic we were seeing increases in chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but in 2021 we recorded a small decline. We believe this reduction is a consequence of both reduced testing and reduced sexual activity with new or casual partners, due to social restrictions and lockdowns during 2020 and 2021,” says Dr Skye McGregor from the Kirby Institute, one of the report’s authors. “On the other hand, syphilis has been steadily increasing among women of reproductive age, gay and bisexual men and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This reflects sustained and ongoing transmission across Australia, which is extremely concerning.”

To view the scimex article Australia’s Annual Sexual Health Check Up: STIs are mostly down, but reductions in testing could be the cause in full click here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) webpage of 1800 My Options website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: ACCHOs exemplars of comprehensive primary healthcare

The image in the feature tile is of Uncle Patrick Dodson receiving a COVID-19 vaccination at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAH&CS) Canberra, ACT. Image source: WNAH&CS Facebook page, 6 August 2021.

ACCHOs exemplars of comprehensive primary healthcare

System-wide and comprehensive primary healthcare reform is “needed to bring together an increasingly fragmented system, where the most disadvantaged struggle to get the care they need, when they need it”, according to public health practitioner and Masters of Global Health student Lauren Richardson. In a submission to the Public Health Association of Australia’s Student Think Tank competition, Richardson calls on governments to show strong political commitment and leadership to reduce inequalities in accessing healthcare.

Richardson said Health Ministers face many demands from many competing interests, and this has led to health policy being driven in ways that often are not in the best interests of the community, patients’ and taxpayers. The election of a new Federal Government with a commitment to policy development and implementation brings an opportunity to rewrite the history of health reform and prioritise efforts to increase Australians’ access to comprehensive Primary Health Care (PHC).

So often, Richardson said, reform and public debate is focused on general practice rather than the multi-disciplinary PHC model required to deliver good health care. Whilst GPs deliver the majority of PHC in Australia, comprehensive PHC involves much more than this. According to Richardson the ACCHO sector provides exemplars of good, comprehensive PHC, with Aboriginal communities  successfully initiating and  leading the delivery of holistic, and culturally appropriate PHC through a team-based workforce model. Richardson argues we must focus our attention to good PHC models of care like this and scale up what works.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Seize the opportunity: prioritise comprehensive primary healthcare reform in full click here.

Umoona Tjutagku Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (UTHS), Coober Pedy, SA. Image source: UTHS.

Australia’s oldest AMS celebrates 50 years

800 guests joined the Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative (AMS Redfern) to celebrate 50 years (+1 for Covid) of outstanding achievements at a gala dinner at the International Convention & Exhibition Centre (ICC) Darling Harbour on 26 November 2022. The night of celebration was emceed by Walkley Award winning journalist Karla Grant and featured several live acts including, The Donovan Band, Jarrod Hicling, Kebi Kub Dancers ad The Brolga Dance Academy.

Welcome to Country by Gadigal Elder Allen Madden, speeches by the Honourable Linda Burney MP, Aunty Gracelyn Smallwood, Professor Kelvin Kong (Worimi man and the first Aboriginal surgeon in Australia), Aunty Dulcie Flower and also from AMS Redfern Chair Edie Coe, CEO LaVerne Bellear and Director Ricky Lyons traced the organisation’s history and impact.

AMS Redfern pioneered the concept of Aboriginal Community Controlled Healthcare and was founded to provide healthcare services to the local Aboriginal community. AMS Redfern is underpinned by the principles of self-determination and worked hard to overcome the neglect and racism Aboriginal people were experiencing in mainstream health services.

To view The South Sydney Herald article Australia’s oldest Aboriginal medical service celebrates 50th anniversary in full click here.

A gala dinner at the ICC Darling Harbour in November paid tribute to the Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative for 50 years of outstanding achievement. Photo: AMS Redfern. Image source: The South Sydney Herald.

Thrive by Five welcomes $335m investment

Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five initiative has welcomed the Federal Government’s $334 million investment into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders early childhood education and care (ECEC). The Federal Government says the new programs and extension of existing funding will help 100,000 children across the country.

The investment, which will supplement current Commonwealth and State and Territory funding, will include a range of activities including facilitated playgroups in Alice Springs and SA’s Far West Coast and early childhood education programs in WA’s East Kimberley region. The Federal Government’s $334 million investment will continue until 2025 and is part of a broader commitment to the National Agreement for Closing the Gap.

To view the Minderoo Foundation’s media release Thrive by Five welcomes Federal Government’s $334 million investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Early Education click here.

Image source: University of Melbourne.

WA Cultural Treasures Award recipients

The WA Clutural Treasures Awards (previously known as the State Living Treasures Awards) were inaugurated in 1998 to honour senior WA artists who have made a lifelong contribution to their art form and their community. The awards acknowledge the ability of recipients to engage, move, involve and entertain audiences and honour the skill, imagination and originality of the artist.

The WA awards were again presented in 2004 and 2015 to honour and celebrate the diversity, talent and richness of a new group of individual artists. A distinguished panel selected recipients based on their exceptional level of artistic skill and dedication to developing their particular art form, their contribution in teaching and collaborating with other artists, as well as a demonstrated long- term involvement in the arts in WA.

The 2022 State Cultural Treasures Awards have seen a new category of community impact being introduced, acknowledging the impact community arts organisations have within their communities and on WA as a whole. Below is a video of one of the eight State Cultural Treasures 2022 award recipients, Jabbir Jabirr and Djugan Kimberley Lawman, Wayne Jowandi Barker, in the Community Impact – Individual category.

To view the Government of WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries article State Cultural Treasures 2022 in full click here.

55 days left for wellbeing budget consultation

The health sector, and particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector with its holistic approach to addressing the cultural and social determinants of health and wellbeing, has much to contribute to Treasury’s consultation on developing Wellbeing Budgets. As of 7 December 2022 Treasury’s website says there are only “56 days left to have your say” on the “Measuring what Matters” framework, outlined in the recent Federal Budget.

The framework is an opportunity to address climate concerns and the social determinants of health, a Consumers Health Forum (CHF) of Australia event was told recently. Melissa Le Mesurier, who MC-d the event, reports below. More than 30 members of CHF recently examined the opportunities and risks posed by the Australian Government’s proposed Wellbeing Budget.

“The forum was designed to help organisations, particularly in the health and social service sectors, shape their submissions to Treasury on how Australia might better measure what matters,” CHF CEO Dr Elizabeth Deveny said.“For those countries that already have wellbeing frameworks, the policy areas covered include income, employment, education, environment, personal safety and health. These are all social determinants of health and CHF has been actively involved in policy discussions around each of these issues. Submissions to Treasury close on Thursday 31 January 2023 so there is limited time to consider this important and broad-reaching topic,” Deveny said.

To read the Croakey Health Media article With just 56 days left on wellbeing budget consultation, putting some issues and questions on the radar in full click here.

Image designed by Mitchel Ward, reflecting cultural and social determinants of health and wellbeing. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Amazing race to walk away from smoking

A swarm of people in white shirts could be seen running around Coonamble last Wednesday 30 November 2022, twelve teams took on the Amazing Race challenge as a part of Quit B Fit’s ‘Walking away from Smoking and Vaping’ day. Quit B Fit works in partnership with the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS) to reach Close the Gap targets.

More specifically, Quit B Fit focuses on ‘Tackling Indigenous Smoking’, through a series of community health promotion days like the Amazing Race challenge. Australia has been fighting the smoking habit for decades now, and while there is still progress to be made, it’s a battle we’re slowly winning.

In 2021, the Cancer Council found that 38% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are daily smokers, compared to the national average of 11.6%. As concerning as this statistic may seem, it is still a far cry from the 53.1% of Indigenous Australians that smoked in 2002 – that’s a 15% reduction over twenty years! Smoking in Coonamble is also significantly higher than the national average; a study from the University of NSW in 2015 found that 24.5% of Coonamble smoked daily – compared to a national average of 15%.

To view the Western Plains App article Amazing Race to walk away from smoking in full click here.

Kym Lees, Jyo Raman, Elsie Manson and Jess Blattman participated in the Amazing Race. Image source: Coonamble Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: ‘Mixed progress’ calls for better collaboration

The image in the feature tile is Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, yesterday Tuesday 29 November 2022. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP Image. The image is from the SBS NITV article Closing the Gap targets widening in serious areas including incarceration and children in out-of-home care published today.

‘Mixed progress’ calls for better collaboration

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney will present the findings of the 2022 Closing the Gap report to parliament today. The report shows signs of mixed progress on Closing the Gap targets, with the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians widening in some of the most serious areas:

While some targets are improving or “on track”:

  • Babies born with a healthy birthweight (89.5%)
  • Children enrolled in preschool (96.7%)

other targets are worsening or “not on track”:

  • Children being school ready (34.3%)
  • Adults in prison (2,222 per 100,000)
  • Children in out-of-home care (57.6 per 1,000)

This is the first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Annual Report since the launch of the 2020 National Agreement and Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan released in August 2021. In 2020, an agreement between the federal government, the Coalition of Peaks, all state and territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) was struck, aiming to renew ways of working together to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The groups agreed to improve 18 socio-economic outcomes across health, education, employment, housing, justice, safety, land and waters, culture, language and connectivity.

Minister Burney said the latest annual report told a story of mixed progress, and that it is disappointing to see a lack of progress in a number of areas. “The Closing the Gap architecture can only work when all parties are invested and there is a coordinated effort from all jurisdictions in partnership with First Nations peoples,” she said. “We have to work more closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make real and much-needed progress.”

To view the SBS NITV article Closing the Gap targets widening in serious areas including incarceration and children in out-of-home care in full click here. You can access the report here and also view the Minister Burney and Senator McCarthy joint media release 2022 Closing the Gap Annual Report here.

Churchill Fellows offer policy insights

NACCHO representatives were in attendance earlier today at Australian Parliament House for the launch Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda. This is the flagship publication of the Policy Impact Program, a partnership between The University of Queensland and The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

The publication includes articles from ten Policy Impact Program Fellows 2022, including the below four with specific relevance to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector:

  • Belinda Cook: First Nations First: Targeted investment to grow a dynamic and sustainable First Nations fashion sector
  • Dr Niroshini Kenney: Safe, Healthy & Thriving: How culturally safe health care can close the gap for Aboriginal children in care
  • Clement Ng: It’s Time to Treat Sick Kids, Not Punish Them
  • Maida Stewart: Healthy Housing Programs: For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with high rates of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

To more information about the launch you can access the Winston Churchill Trust website here.

Clockwise: Belinda Cook, Dr Niroshini Kennedy, Clement Ng and Maida Stewart. Image source: Winston Churchill Trust website.

Holistic approach to child health and education

A community-based preschool in regional NSW is now a hub for the health of its community. Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre, in Casino, NSW, is now an inclusive, holistic environment where families can access support and therapy for children with additional needs, along with accessing a preschool program. Jumbunna’s growth is proof of how needed its services have been in the regional community of Casino.

It became an early intervention centre in 1992 after originally starting as a community-based preschool. Jumbunna provides early intervention for around 130 children each year, including children with disabilities, delays in development or those who are at risk of delays for environmental or biological reasons. It serves many families from vulnerable backgrounds.

Jumbunna has now grown to include supported playgroups, mobile preschools that visit nearby remote communities, and parenting support. The centre is also an NDIS provider. Some service providers travel to attend the centre and hold clinics, including a paediatrician who comes over from Lismore. This is useful for families that aren’t able to access paediatricians, whether for financial reasons, difficulty accessing transport, or inability to get a referral.

Staff at Jumbunna have embedded themselves in the community to learn more about what services are needed, and its commitment to the health and wellbeing of children has travelled by word of mouth to more families. They’ve also developed relationships with local health services and the Aboriginal Medical Service. To better support local First Nations children, Jumbunna hosts the Happy Program which checks hearing and vision.

To read the Australia ProBono News article Jumbunna grows with community in full click here.

Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre staff. Image source: Pro Bono News.

Arthritis, one of the most prevalent, costly diseases

Despite arthritis being one of our most prevalent and expensive diseases, impacting over 3.6m Australians (or 1 in 7) and costing $14b per year, a new report has identified major gaps in research, and confirmed the condition has one of the lowest levels of research funding of all chronic health conditions – keeping Australia dangerously ‘in the dark’ on this health priority.

The Arthritis Australia Impactful Arthritis Research report calls for an urgent focus on arthritis research. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions account for 13% of the country’s total disease burden, on par with cardiovascular disease (13%), mental health (13%) and cancer (18%). But just 1% of the Medical Research Future Fund has been on arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in Australia, affecting people of all ages with the number diagnosed with arthritis set to rise to 5.4m by 2030. Yet it remains poorly understood by the community, often trivialised and firmly focussed on the bones and joints, ignoring the significant broader health and life impacts on those living with the condition. The costs are extraordinary with over $2.3b a year spent currently on hip and knee replacements for osteoarthritis. This is anticipated to more than double to $5.3 billion per year by 2030.

The report outlines urgent research priorities with an emphasis on improved care, research across the multiple types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and the needs of communities and priority populations – including children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those living in rural and remote areas, and people with disabilities.

To read the Mirage article Australians ‘in dark’ with arthritis: one of our most prevalent and costly diseases in full click here.

Image source: Tristate Arthritis & Rheumatology website.

Crucial turning points for CTG intervention

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers will use more than 40 years of data to pinpoint crucial areas that could be “turning points” in development where intervention could contribute to closing the gap in Aboriginal health in Australia. The team, led by Telethon Kids Institute and The University of WA researcher, Associate Professor Francis Mitrou, has been awarded a prestigious Synergy Grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The five-year study, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, will use data from the West Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) of more than 5,000 Aboriginal children and their families collected between 2000 and 2002, and which has been linked to administrative datasets from WA Government, some stretching back more than 40 years.

The milestone study is one of the most significant studies of its kind examining the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children, conducted under the principles of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

To view The University of WA article Rich data to highlight crucial turning points for intervention to close the gap in Aboriginal health in full click here.

ACT prison an overcrowded powderkeg

The ACT’s prison is no longer able to cope with the rising number of detainees and conditions inside the wire continue to deteriorate, with boredom and lack of education and training opportunities chronic issues feeding unrest, a new report says. The ACT Inspector of Correctional Services’ latest health check of the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) paints a damning picture of an overcrowded facility where women detainees feel unsafe, Indigenous detainees are subject to harsher discipline and cut off from family and culture, and a lack of meaningful activity generally leads to outbreaks of violence.

The Healthy Prison Review is only the second report since the first in 2019 and says the past three years have been challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted AMC operations with fewer staff due to illness, detainees spending more time in their cells and a reduction in programs and visits but it alone cannot account for the deteriorating situation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees are overrepresented in higher security classifications, uses of force, strip searches and as subjects of segregation orders, and feel their cultural and health needs are not being met. “Not being able to see family, attend Sorry Business, or practice cultural responsibilities causes significant harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and compounds dislocation from community,” the report says. “Disconnection from culture/family also increases the difficulty in re-engaging with community upon release.”

Aboriginal community controlled health service Winnunga Nimmityjah is making a difference at the AMC providing primary care but only about 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees are able to access this service at any one time. The report makes 29 recommendations including expanding the health centre and other facilities, increasing women’s accommodation, exploring the feasibility of a multi-purpose industries building, and creating a senior Aboriginal-identified position to find ways to reduce the disadvantages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

To view the Riotact article ACT’s prison an overcrowded powderkeg past its use by date, says report in full click here. You can also access a related statement Review of ACT Prison Reveals Serious Concerns by from ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) here.

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Ian Cutmore, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

The image in the feature tile is of Dr David Scrimgeour who has published a book about his experiences working in the Western Desert. Photo: Giulia Bertoglio, ABC Goldfields. Image source: ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement published on Sunday 27 November 2022.

Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

When Australia’s last groups of nomads walked out of the desert, David Scrimgeour was the first doctor to examine them. Dr Scrimgeour recounts this experience as well as two defining moments in Aboriginal history: the homelands movement and the push for Aboriginal-controlled health care in his book Remote As Ever: The Aboriginal struggle for autonomy in the Western Desert.

Dr Scrimgeour is a big believer in the Aboriginal community-controlled model of health care and hopes his book will show how important autonomy is for Aboriginal communities — particularly, he said, as government policies have ebbed away at the pride people felt when the communities were first established. “I think it’s important that that the Australian public generally are aware of how people did get out here to these communities,” he said. “And how important taking control of your own life is for people’s health.”

Dr Scrimgeour said there was now another social movement taking place in remote Aboriginal communities that gave him hope for the future. He described it as the “caring for country movement”, which was underpinned by ranger programs. He believes funding local people to undertake ecological and cultural work on country not only helps the environment but also people’s physical and spiritual health. “Caring for country is good for the health of the people,” he said. “It’s good for the health of the country. It’s good for the health of the whole country of Australia.”

To read the ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement in full click here.

Aboriginal health practitioner Tyson Stevens, remote area nurse Simon Gabrynowicz, Dr Scrimgeour and Aboriginal health worker Winmati Roberts all worked at the Spinifex Health Service. Photo: Paul Bulley. Image source: ABC News.

Researchers need to invest time to build trust

Historically in Australia, research has been a dirty word among First Nations communities, some of the most ‘researched on’ people in the country. They got no ownership of the data obtained from their participation, no recognition of their sovereignty and no help in building their own research capacity. But there’s been a national push to try to ensure that research is driven, and co-designed, by Indigenous Australians themselves. Increasingly, national funders, including the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), require grant applicants to provide evidence of Indigenous partnerships, including Indigenous leadership.

As part of short series of articles about decolonizing the biosciences, paediatric lung researcher Pamela Laird has outlined the steps that clinical researchers must take to establish and maintain trusting relationships with Indigenous communities that they serve. Based at the University of WA and at Telethon Kids Institute, both in Perth, Laird’s team has spent years laying the foundation to study respiratory disease in Indigenous Australian children.

To view the nature article Invest the time to build trust among marginalized research participants in full click here.

Pamela Laird (right) and her team have spent years earning the trust of Indigenous Australian mothers whose children participate in respiratory research. Image source: nature.

NT set to raise age of criminal responsibility

The NT is this week set to become the first Australian jurisdiction to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years old. The move has been praised by health organisations and Indigenous groups, who say it will prevent children from becoming trapped in the criminal justice system. But the plan has also come under fire from the territory’s opposition, who say it risks encouraging youth offenders, and from paediatricians who say the age should be raised even higher.

In all Australian states and territories, the current minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 — much younger than most other developed nations. Governments on both sides of politics have been under growing pressure to radically overhaul how they deal with youth offending since a Four Corners investigation into youth detention made global headlines in 2016.

At the centre of the investigation was the treatment of detainees inside Don Dale Youth Detention Centre near Darwin. The shocking vision included in the episode led to a royal commission which, among other things, recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12. This is below the United Nations’ recommended minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was set at 14 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019.  Last year, in an escalation of international pressure, 31 UN member states called on Australia to raise the age as part of the Universal Periodic Review. But so far, only the NT and the ACT have announced plans to legislate the change.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory set to become first Australian jurisdiction to raise age of criminal responsibility. Here’s what that means in full click here.

The NT’s minimum age of criminal responsibility is set to to be raised from 10 to 12. Photo: Tristan Hooft, ABC News.

WA Premier needs to “take notice” of evidence

Mark McGowan says “activists” like former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley, who are campaigning for major reform of WA’s youth justice system, are not “dealing with the real world”. Professor Stanley, at the weekend described WA as the “worst” State for the development health of children. She called for the age of criminality to increase from 10 to 14, for the juvenile Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison to close by Christmas and for the McGowan Government to adopt Aboriginal service-led solutions.

The highly-respected child health advocate also publicly urged Mr McGowan to “take notice” of research and evidence that showed early intervention could prevent children from being locked-up. “We know from our studies, in our Telethon Kids Institute, that nearly 90 per cent of the children who have gone into Banksia and have been transferred into Casuarina have a major developmental disorder, either FASD (fetal alcohol syndrome) or ADHD or an intellectual disability. It’s not just FASD — it’s early life trauma, it’s actually intergenerational trauma.” Prof Stanley said. “Now, if you know that and understand it — and we have briefed every minister about that — how could you then do what’s happening to children in Banksia and Casuarina … it beggars belief.”

Former Labor premier Dr Carmen Lawrence joined forces with Prof Stanley to criticise the current Labor Government’s approach to youth detention, saying “it was a “disgrace” that so many young people were still being incarcerated in WA and that it was a “breach of any decent standards” to detain children at an adult prison. If you think of your own children or grandchildren, you’ll know that if they were kept in solitary confinement, even for an hour, they would start to climb up the walls. It’s inevitable that children will not behave well in those circumstances, so those practices have to stop,” she said.

To read the Kalgoolie Miner article Banksia Hill: Premier Mark McGowan slams activists’ ‘fanciful’ ideas regarding WA’s youth justice system in full click here.

On Sunday, Professor Stanley endorsed a suggestion that because 80% of the children in detention were Aboriginal, the aim should be for 80% of the facility’s staff to be Aboriginal. Photo: Andrew Ritchie, The West Australian.

AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive

The Australian Electoral Commission has launched a month-long advertising and communication campaign aimed at empowering First Nations Australians to have their say at electoral events. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says the campaign is aimed at the estimated 101,000 Indigenous Australians who are not enrolled to vote.

“Australia’s estimated Indigenous enrolment rate of 81.7% is the highest it’s ever been, but we’re not going to be satisfied until we’ve closed the gap with the broader national enrolment rate,” Mr Rogers said. “There is clearly the likelihood of a referendum soon with a topic specific to First Nations Australians, making high levels of enrolment and engagement even more important.”

To read the AEC media release Vote Loud. Vote Proud. AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive in full here.

CSIRO postgraduate scholarships available

The CSIRO has Master and PhD scholarships available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled in an Australian university and wish to undertake a postgraduate research degree.

If you have studied in any of the following disciplines, the CSIRO is especially keen to hear from you:

  • science
  • technology
  • engineering
  • maths.

The CSIRO postgraduate scholarships provide additional funding to a research training program (RTP) Scholarship, Centrelink education scheme payment or equivalent scholarship. Applicants must be of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and enrolled in an Australian university.

Students can apply at any time of the year!!

You can find more information about the CSIRO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Scholarships by clicking here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NAAJA responds to 4 Corners Locking Up Kids episode

The image in the feature tile is from an article Locking up kids damages their mental health and leads to more disadvantage. Is this what we want? published on the UNSW Sydney Newsroom webpage on 21 June 2019.

NAAJA responds to 4 Corners Locking Up Kids episode

As one of the leading legal services representing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) community in the NT, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has been witnessing the steady decline of the youth justice system failing our kids and families. NAAJA supports Acting Children’s Commissioner Nicole Hucks concerns raised on Monday night’s 4 Corner’s and calls on the NT Government to do more to protect the safety of our vulnerable young people.

NAAJA CEO, Priscilla Atkins “welcomes the steps Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Chansey Paech has taken towards tackling some of our concerns by introducing raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and other important legislative reform but there is still more we can be doing.” Five years since the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT we still have children as young as 10 detained in a condemned facility.

To view the NAAJA media release Youth Detention in Australia is an abuse of human rights in full click here.

The Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of WA are deeply concerned by the revelations in last night’s Four Corners report of the excessive use of force and restraints directed at children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. “These events further demonstrate the urgent need for all governments to take meaningful and urgent actions to ensure youth detention facilities are managed in accordance with Australia’s international obligations,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Tass Liveris said. “It also highlights once more the need to address the alarming overrepresentation of First Nations children in the youth justice system. Recent figures suggest that First Nations children make-up around half of young people in detention and just 6% of the population.”

You can read the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of WA’s joint media release Excessive use of force on children unconscionable in full here.

You can watch the ABC Four Corners episode Locking Up Kids: Australia’s failure to protect children in detention in full by clicking this link.

Aspiring health workers’ Kimberley immersion

Liesl Dowling, an experienced nurse and midwife is a clinical facilitator at the Majarlin Kimberley Centre for Remote Health, one of 16 Commonwealth-funded university departments nationwide that gives aspiring health workers a taste of working in a rural or remote location.

Ms Dowling said on-the-ground experience was crucial for the students’ development. “When you come into a remote region and can actually see that there is poverty, it becomes a part of your lived experience and it becomes a concern to you,” she said. “It’s okay to read about the barriers to uptake in health care and the gap in outcomes between Aboriginal and mainstream Australians, but it’s all really words on paper until you really see it.”

Research published earlier this year found doctors who spent extended time in a rural placement were more likely to work there into the future. The Kimberley especially has long cried out for more permanent health workers and has suffered crippling staff shortages in recent years, especially for nurses. In its most recent annual report, the WA Country Health Service said an increasing reliance on expensive, transient locum and agency staff was partly to blame for higher health care costs.

Ms Dowling said the “immersion” of young health workers in a remote setting would help address the issue. “Transience is problematic. It poses barriers and some risks in delivering health care, because you don’t have that knowledge at the ground level,” she said.

To view the ABC News article Aspiring health workers get taste of outback in ‘eye-opening’ Kimberley immersion in full click here.

Sahar Abbasi said she enjoyed visiting Kalumburu to provide renal disease education. Photo: Liesl Dowling. Image source: ABC News.

PIP Indigenous Health Incentive guidelines updated

The Practice Incentives Program – Indigenous Health Incentive (PIP IHI) guidelines have been updated.

Important changes, including those below, will become effective on 1 January 2023.

  • People with mental health conditions are eligible for registration payments and completing GP Mental Health Treatment Plans and reviews will trigger Tier 1 outcome payments.
  • Children under 15 with chronic disease can be registered and are eligible for outcome payments.

Registering patients from November will mean they are eligible for these new payments in 2023.

You can access the PIP IHI guidelines here.

Water undrinkable in 500 remote communities

Tap water in more than 500 remote Indigenous communities isn’t regularly tested and often isn’t safe to drink, according to a water industry report released last week. In some communities, drinking water contained unacceptable levels of uranium, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate.

While these findings are dire, they aren’t news to us. There have been myriad reports over the years on the poor status of safe drinking water in Australia’s remote communities all pointing to inequity of essential services with implications for health. But little has been done to rectify this.

Safe drinking water is a basic human right, no matter where people live. First Nations communities have campaigned for decades for clean water on their Country. As Alyawarre Elders, Jackie Mahoney and Pam Corbett, from Alpurrurulam community in the NT explained during the report’s launch: “That’s why we’re fighting for this water. It’s not only for us, it’s for them too […] For our old people who fought before us and our kids’ future.”

Importantly, all remote essential service delivery and management actions, including water, need to be undertaken collaboratively. They should be led and authored by First Nations researchers, and draw from community strengths and knowledge wherever possible. This shifts water service efforts being for communities, to being with communities. Indeed, cultural sensitivity ad guidance is essential to ensure mutual respect and learning forms the basis of all supply delivery.

To view The Conversation article Countless reports show water is undrinkable in many Indigenous communities. Why has nothing changed? in full click here.

A related article Total restructure needed to tackle “immeasurable” water crisis in Indigenous communities published in the National Indigenous Times can be accessed here.

Beswick’s water is very high in calcium. Photo: Isaac Nowroozi, ABC News.

Mentoring workforce must be for right reasons

Candace Angelo’s thesis The lived experience of mentoring in the health and wellbeing workforce in NSW explores the experiences of mentoring in the working lives of a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing professionals. Ms Angelo’a work seeks to understand the barriers and enablers of developing a sustainable skilled health workforce, and examines what impact mentoring has on both mentors and mentees.

Ms Angelo has identified three main themes, the being that mentoring works when done for the right reasons and in the right way, with an authentic workplace commitment. It is important to select the ‘right’ people as mentors, with the ‘right reasons’, ‘right way’, and ‘right people’ defined as being culturally safe, appropriate and accessible. Achieving this status must start with recruitment policies, strategies and practices. Her findings indicate that these practises need a fundamental shift.

Angelo’s second emerging theme centres on what mentoring can achieve.  With increased cultural safety and job satisfaction, a retained workforce can use mentoring to ultimately improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Her final theme considers the challenges in mentoring. These include being able to centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander core values in mainstream health services. To do so requires changing the so-called ‘ideal worker theory’ and importantly, addressing endemic institutional racism.

To view the University of Sydney article Mentoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce in full click here.

Candace Angelo. Image source: The University of Sydney News webpage.

Alarming NSW Central West health inequities

The Charles Sturt University Rural Health and Medical Research Institute (the Institute) has presented alarming statistics on health inequalities across five NSW Central West communities during a workshop yesterday. The workshop aimed to shine the light on health disparities between First Nations and non-First Nations people, along with the rate of disease and chronic health conditions experienced by people within the communities of Orange, Dubbo, Gilgandra, Coonamble, and Wellington.

Executive Director of the Institute Professor Allen Ross and his team visited these regions to consult with local people on the areas of greatest need when it comes to tackling chronic health conditions within First Nations communities. Professor Ross said the Institute’s approach was to remain open to the health needs of the community including their social determinants of health. The Institute is applying a fresh approach to examine and address the health gap between First Nations peoples and the greater Australian population. Partnering with the Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) at the onset will make this possible,” Professor Ross said. “Our researchers bring extensive experience from all over the world, yet we are working with the communities with no pre-determined agenda, and instead partnering with them via a grassroots approach to develop strategies that target their specific needs.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Institute takes a grass roots approach to address the First Nations health gap in full click here.

Executive Director of the Charles Sturt University Rural Health and Medical Research Institute Professor Allen Ross, Mr Taylor Clark and Ms Anne-Marie Mepham from Orange Aboriginal Medical Services, and Ms Cherie Forgione from Gilgandra Local Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: Charles Sturt University Latest News webpage.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Time to treat sick kids, not punish them

The Fairfax Media image in the feature tile is from a WAtoday article One-stop-shop youth prison model a ‘failure’ as MP calls for to Banksia Hill to close published on 2 November 2018.

Time to treat sick kids, not punish them

The Policy Impact Program is a partnership between The Winston Churchill Trust and The University of Queensland (UQ). It aims to help Churchill Fellows draw upon the international knowledge they gain on their Fellowships to best inform policy reform in Australia. Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda is the Program’s flagship publication which combines some of the best of the Churchill Fellows’ insights with the policy and governance expertise of UQ’s Centre for Policy Futures.

Professor Thomas Edwin Calma, AO, co-Patron of The Winston Churchill Trust, said: “Policy Futures second issue includes four Churchill Fellow-developed reform agendas that have the potential to not only transform many Indigenous peoples’ lives for the better, but also support Australian Governments to achieve the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap targets.”

One of the four Fellows, Clement Ng, found almost 95% of children in NT detention are Indigenous. Research suggests that effective strategies that improve the mental health of First Nations young people will reduce their criminalisation and in turn, their over-representation. The Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT found 56% of children who gave evidence about their experience in youth detention had a history of self-harm and/or suicidal ideation. Further, justice-involved children are more likely to receive more than one mental health diagnosis or suffer from a dual diagnosis of mental health and substance misuse. Unfortunately, the current funding the NT receives for mental health services per capita is the lowest in the country and none of the community mental health services at present have capacity to meet demand.

Policy recommendations from Mr Ng’s research include:

  • Pilot a youth mental health diversion list in the NT.
  • Involve ACCHOs to co-design and deliver holistic community mental health services.

To read The Mandarin article Policy futures: A reform agenda in full click here.

Image source: Orygen Youth Mental Health Policy Briefing 2018.

Leading cause of death for mob – cancer

Jacinta Elston was in her 20s and had just had her first child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Queensland mother needed surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to fight the disease, and almost 20 years later is cancer-free. She was working as an assistant professor of Indigenous health at James Cook University, which meant she had a good knowledge of the medical system.

She said other members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community may not be as used to dealing with, or even talking about cancer. “I’ve seen family, friends, mob and community who haven’t had the same sort of outcomes I have, ” Elston said. “Cancer hasn’t really been in our vocabulary in the same way that heart disease and diabetes and renal dialysis has been,” she said. “It’s now our leading cause of death.” First Nations Australians are almost one and a half times more likely to die from cancer compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

The group are more likely to get the disease but less likely to use screening services, like those on offer for bowel or breast cancer, according to Cancer Australia figures from 2015–2019.

To view the 9 News article ‘Cancer hasn’t been in our vocabulary’: Plan to tackle ‘leading cause of death’ for Indigenous Australians in full click here.

Professor Jacinta Elston is working to improve cancer survival in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Image source: 9 NEWS.

Global challenge to find health fixes for Pilbara

The WA government has announced a global challenge in hopes to improve health incomes in remote parts of the Pilbara. Medical Research Minister Stephen Dawson announced the newly titled The Challenge last week. The WA government joined partners with corporate investors for a $5 million reward for applicants who are able to provide the best solution to enhance health care in the Pilbara.

Lead by the WA Department of Health, The Challenge seeks submissions from industry, the private sector, public sector agencies, universities, research institutes or collaborations from international organisations. Mr Dawson said the challenge wanted to find a technology solution to improve health outcomes for Pilbara residents.

“This is about improving the health of Western Australians living in rural and remote areas to reduce disease and injury for the community and particularly for remote Aboriginal communities,” he said. “We’re not calling for improvements, or incremental change. We need real change, we need world-leading innovation. We are looking for an outcome which harnesses new technology, deploys digital health to its full potential, and ensures all Western Australians can access the health services they need, and deserve.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article WA Govt sets mutli-million dollar global challenge to find health fixes for remote Pilbara communities in full click here.

WA’s Pilbara. Photo: Oliver Strewe – Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Better care for people living with eating disorders

The Albanese Government is investing $13 million to help mental health professionals and researchers improve treatment outcomes for Australians living with eating disorders. The InsideOut Institute will receive $13 million to fund the Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, which was officially launched by the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride at the University of Sydney yesterday.

Eating disorders have some of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness and many Australians often go undiagnosed. The new centre will focus on research to prevent and treat eating disorders, translating these developments into frontline services and co-designing treatments with people with lived experience, their family, and carers.

To view the Minister McBride’s media release Better care for people living with eating disorders in full click here. The below Butterfly Foundation Every BODY is Deadly video was developed to bring greater awareness to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about the signs and supports available for people impacted by eating disorders.

Social Work Perspectives on FASD webinar

The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs is hosting a webinar Social Work Perspectives on FASD at 1:00PM (AEDT) Wednesday 16 November 2022.

In this webinar, social work perspectives on FASD will be explored drawing on evidence from research, practitioner and caregiver studies and experiences. Three presenters will focus on the current situation in NZ. Dr Joanna Chu will identify the knowledge and attitude gaps among social work professionals recently surveyed by researchers from the University of Auckland; Karleen Dove will consider the roles and responsibilities and other key issues for social workers when helping families where FASD is identified as a likely disability for a child; and Professor Anita Gibbs will draw on research and lived experience to discuss best practice from social workers that is neuro-informed, culturally safe, system-wide, attuned to what families want and need, and ensures healthy outcomes for all.

To register for the Social Work Perspectives on FASD webinar click here.

National Indigenous Legal & Health Justice Conference

The National Indigenous Legal & Health Justice Conference 2022 kicks off on Sunday 4 December 2022.

Major topics of the conference include: Treaty, Voice, and Truth-Telling; Native Title and Land Rights; Health justice and justice reinvestment; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the over-representation of children and young people in State systems; the failure of Aboriginal heritage and environmental protection laws; intellectual property rights; and the challenges facing legal aid and access to justice.

Confirmed speakers include: Senator Pat Dobson – Chair of Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs; Michael Mansell – activist, lawyer, and author of Treaty and Statehood; Donnella Mills – Chair of NACCHO and spokesperson for Health Justice; Pat O’Shane – former Magistrate and activist; Pat Turner AM – CEO of NACCHO and spokesperson for Coalition of Closing the Gap Peak Bodies; Corey Tutt OAM – founder and CEO of @Deadly Science; Leah Cameron – principal of Marrawah Law and Aboriginal expert on Australian Heritage Council; Patricia Adjei – Australia Council of the Arts; Jamie Lowe, CEO of National Native Title Council along with Native Title Senior Counsel, Aboriginal lawyers, serving and retired Magistrates; experts and law students; and legal aid practitioners.

Tickets for the National Indigenous Legal & Health Justice Conference are now on sale here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Essential ingredients for Wellbeing Budget

The image in the feature tile is from ABC Radio National webpage Talkback: Australia’s first ‘wellbeing’ budget, Wednesday 26 October 2022. Image: marrio31, Getty Images.

Essential ingredients for Wellbeing Budget

As the world faces escalating climate disruption, environmental degradation and geopolitical instability as well as growing inequality and human rights abuses, the development of wellbeing indicators for the Federal Budget presents both opportunities and challenges.  Indigenous health, public health and environmental health experts and community groups will have an opportunity to contribute to the development of a landmark new set of wellbeing indicators that are being prepared for the 2023 Budget.

While Australian governments publish many indicators that support decision-making, including Closing the Gap and the State of the Environment Report, “no national framework or central set of indicators” to track overall progress on wellbeing currently exists. One of the central challenge of progress reporting is bringing attention to the broader factors that underpin community wellbeing and longer-term economic prosperity, in a focused way. Other countries that have frameworks to measure non-economic progress and quality of life include Scotland, Wales, Canada, Germany and Aotearoa/NZ.

The involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, people with disabilities, and people with lived experience of mental illness will be important if future wellbeing budgets are to genuinely address inequities within our society. Speaking at the Indigenous Wellness Conference last week, Bardi woman Professor Pag Dugeon from the School of Indigenous Studies, University of WA, said “The things we bring to the table are for us in the first instance but they will also benefit non-Indigenous people. We can share the social and emotional wellbeing approach to wellness.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article To make a proper Wellbeing Budget, what are the essential ingredients? in full click here.

SWAMS funded for major facility upgrade

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) has received a big boost in the federal budget, with funding allocated for a major facility upgrade. $18.3 million was set aside on Tuesday night’s budget announcement, honouring an election promise from the Labor government made in March. At the time, Federal Labor Senator Sue Lines said SWAMS first approached her office five years ago in the hopes of receiving support. “They’ve been spending $600,000 a year on rent, which is money that should be going into providing services, so this will allow them to do what they need to,” Ms Lines said.

The funding will go a long way towards building a brand new heath hub for SWAMS in Carey Park on land donated to the project by the City of Bunbury. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson said the hub would be a huge step forward for Noongar people.,”The Heath Hub will have an enormous positive impact on the heath and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the south west.”

To view the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article South West Aboriginal Medical Service gets federal funds for new heath hub in full click here.

SWAMS Chairman Ernie Hill, WA Labor candidate for Forrest Bronwen English, Senator Sue Lines, and SWAMS CEO Leslie Nelson with 3-month-old Gregory Abbott. Image source: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

Focus on better programs, services, self-determination

Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy has issued a media release stating the Albanese Labor Government is delivering on its election commitments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by improving programs and services and investing in self-determination, with this week’s Budget including funding:

  •  to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, with funding to:
    • the Australian Electoral Commission to prepare for the referendum
    • commence work on establishing a Makarrata Commission to oversee processes for agreement-making
  • for Indigenous health and education, including funding to:
    • train 500 First Nations health workers and practitioners
    • build modern, high-quality health clinics in areas of large and growing First Nations populations
    • build a Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence
    • allow NACCHO to combat RHD in high-risk communities
    • provide 30 four-chair dialysis units
    • improve the ability of Redfern AMS and Tharawal AC AMS to care for patients with chronic diseases
    • provide dialysis treatment buses for remote NSW
    • employ First Nations educators in 60 primary schools to teach First Nations languages and provide greater cultural understanding
    • increase access to early childhood education and care for Indigenous families
    • help First Nations controlled and Community Sector Organisation maintain quality services in light of rising costs
  • for housing and essential services on NT homelands
  • for First Nations Justice, with funding:
    • for 30 community-led justice reinvestment initiatives
    • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
    • to build capacity of the peak body National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS)
    • to support the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum
    • to deliver crime prevention and community safety programs in Central Australia
    • to extend the Indigenous Protected Areas program
  • for microgrid technology across First Nations communities to increase access to cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy
  • to establish an Ambassador for First Nations Peoples
  • for a trial program to replace the Community Development Program with real jobs, real wages and proper conditions

To read Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release Delivering a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  Australians in full click here.

Senator Malarndirri McCathy. Photo: Matt Roberts, ABC News.

Speeding access to innovative medicines

Yesterday Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler officially announced the appointment of the new independent Chair of the Health Technology Assessment (NTA) Review Committee, as well as extending the review by six months until December 2023. Chair of Medicines Australia, Dr Anna Lavell, said the new Chair Adjunct Professor Picone AO will lead major reforms that will speed up access to innovative medicines for all Australians. Dr Lavell said “Reform of Australia’s HTA system is well overdue, “We must reduce the time it takes for Australian patients to access innovative medicines, treatments and health technologies. Our health system must be modernised with a clear focus on patient needs and listening to patient perspectives.”

NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey PSM is one of the seven members on the HTA Review Reference Committee. The Committee will undertake the first major review and reform of the HTA system in 30 years. “It is a pivotal opporunity to improve this crucial process in accessing innovative medicines” Dr Vavell said.

To view the Healthy Industry Hub article Health Minister formally announces HTA Review independent chair after earlier reveal in full click here.

Image source: Accestra Access Extra.

COVID-19 vax hesitancy study

A study aimed at addressing lower vaccination rates among First Nations expectant mothers and babies will work with Aboriginal medical services around WA following a funding boost. Curtin School of Allied Health senior research fellow, Noongar woman and project lead Anne-Marie Eade said although the current data for mums and bubs is limited a need for greater access to vaccination is needed to ensure their safety due to greater vulnerability. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA,” Ms Eade said.

The research comes after an $800,000 boost from the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund tackling health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. “Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine
rollout,” Ms Eade said.

Ms Eade attributes a mistrust of health systems, misinformation, and a lack of vaccine literacy as factors creating barriers for Indigenous mothers, expectant mothers and women of child-bearing age. The result comes with an increased risk of requiring intensive care, preterm birth and prenatal death. “A pressing concern for pregnant women is about the potential impact of vaccination on their babies. Many prefer to be vaccinated after birth,” Ms Eade said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Study aimed at increasing COVID-vaccination for vulnerable young mums and bubs backed by government funding in full click here.

Photo: Unsplash. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Calls for Netflix ads to prioritise health

More than 50 leading Australian and international health and community organisations have signed an open letter to Netflix, urging the streaming giant to exclude alcohol advertising from its new ad-supported subscription tier. As the world’s biggest streaming platform, Netflix has the chance to set the standard for establishing an ad model that prioritises people’s health and wellbeing, said Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi.

“Netflix has made a really important decision to exclude gambling advertising and they should do the same with alcohol advertising,” Ms Giorgi, a signatory to the joint letter, said. “Alcoholic products cause harm to so many families and communities across the world, causing more than 200 diseases and injuries and more than 3 million deaths each year.” “We know that alcohol advertising contributes to risky drinking particularly among young people, this is why the World Health Organization recommends restricting marketing as a priority area. Netflix can help to prevent harm by excluding alcohol advertising from their platform.”

The joint letter calls attention to research which shows that when young people are exposed to alcohol marketing, they are more likely to start drinking alcohol at a younger age and to drink alcohol at riskier levels. Other signatories to the letter are: NOFASD Australia; Sydney University’s Centre for Research Excellence in Indigenous Health and Alcohol, Addiction Medicine; World Health Organization Less Alcohol Unit; and the World Cancer Research Fund.

To read The National Tribune article Community organisations call on Netflix to set standard with ad model that prioritises health and wellbeing in full click here.

Image source: Candorium.

‘Embassy’ upholds legacy of First Nations protest

Embassy, an installation from the artist Richard Bell, Embassy, has a powerful presence in the forecourt of the Art Gallery of SA (AGSA) last week. A painted sign on the front of the canvas tent read ‘Aboriginal Embassy’ – a nod to the legacy of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a protest camp set up on the lawns of Parliament House on unceded Ngunnawal Country (Canberra) 50 years ago.

Also part of the Adelaide Film Festival, the Embassy tent brought together artists and community organisers for public talks, and featured film screenings between the conversations. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is recognised as “one of the most significant, if not the most significant moment in Aboriginal protest history. It put into action a lot of the philosophies around self-determination and created so much from it, including the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector.

To read the CityMag article ‘Embassy’ upholds legacy of First Nations sovereignty and protest in full click here.

L—R: Nici Cumpston, Richard Bell and Dominic Guerrera. Image source: CityMag.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO’s Youth Conference – it’s started!

NACCHO’s Youth Conference – it’s started!

The National Youth Conference, being held today, Monday 17 October 2022 at the National Convention Centre, Canberra, has brought together almost 100 youth from around Australia to gain experience and exposure to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector on a national level. During the conference the youth will engage in discussion, share their experience and learn from other peers from across the country. The conference will allow the youth to learn about informing policy, influencing change and provide a pathway so their voices are heard and represented by NACCHO throughout the sector.

For further information about the NACCHO Youth Conference click here. Below is a short video of about the 2019 NACCHO Youth Conference.

Health Literacy Strategy Framework

The National Health Literacy Strategy Framework Paper is now open for public consultation, with feedback being sought on the framework’s content and design.

The document is now live on the Australian Governments Department of Health and Aged Care Consultation Hub here and will be available online for comment for a four-week period and will close at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 9 November 2022.

You can access the strategy and online survey below:

Consultation Paper – Development of the National Health Literacy Strategy

National Health Literacy Strategy Framework Consultation Survey Questions

National Health Literacy Strategy Consultation Online Survey, available here.

Image source: Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care.

First care standard on stillbirth

You are invited to join the online launch of the first national Stillbirth Clinical Care Standard, developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. The event will be streamed live from the Annual National Stillbirth Forum being held from 3–4 November 2022.

Stillbirth is a tragic and profound experience that affects more than 2,000 families in Australia every year. Despite being the most common form of perinatal death in Australia, the experience of stillbirth can be hidden due to stigma, taboo and a culture of silence.

At the launch of the Stillbirth Clinical Care Standard from12:30 PM – 1:30 PM AEDT Friday 4 November 2022 you can hear leading experts discuss best practice in preventing stillbirth, investigations after stillbirth and the importance of bereavement care after perinatal loss. This event is relevant to all healthcare professionals involved in providing care during pregnancy, and after stillbirth or other forms of perinatal loss.

Click here to register.

Supporting child health in remote Australia

An article Needs and strengths: supporting child health in remote Australia published in the InSight+ newsletter today begins with words from Ms June Oscar AO, a senior Bunuba woman from the Fitzroy Valley and Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner:

The failure to close the gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality, and other measures of social and economic disadvantage, cannot be justified by more rhetoric or data in another report. For us, the harrowing failure to close the gap is felt through sorry business, the countless funerals of family and friends, the hospital visits and the coronial inquiries that we continue to painfully endure. So many of our losses were and are preventable – that is the failure and pain we carry. A sensible way of doing business is long overdue as, apart from small gains, the attempts to close the gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy, health and education have failed.

The article outlines the poor health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the reasons for such poor health and efforts to date to support child and family health. The authors review strategies to improve health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and what is needed to successfully implement those strategies.

To view the article in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: BBC.

Overcrowding reduced by only 3.2%

The NT government has spent $2.65bn over the past 15 years to improve the quality of housing in remote Indigenous communities, but overcrowding remains a problem and many houses need repairs. Under the national partnership for remote housing NT policy, the government was supposed to improve housing conditions and reduce overcrowding in 73 remote communities and 17 town camps around Alice Springs. But the most recent data on overcrowding in remote communities managed by the national partnership reveals it has only been reduced by 3.2% in five years.

None of this is new to Miriam Charlie. Since 2015, the Yanyuwa Garrwa artist has been capturing the state of housing across all four town camps at Borroloola, with her Polaroid camera. “All them houses, they’re too small, overcrowded,” she says. “So I went around and took photos of everybody’s houses. What part wasn’t fixed and what part was fixed.”

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, said in an interview with The Australian in March this year, the standard of housing in remote communities underpinned several targets in Closing the Gap and outlined that if the targets are not achieved, it would be because governments had not “invested the necessary resources in programs and services to support our people”.

To view The Guardian article ‘Waiting for too long’: Why Miriam Charlie photographs overcrowded Indigenous housing in full click here.

Miriam Charlie photographing her eldest daughter, Jade, and other family at Yanyuwa camp. Image source: The Guardian.

Videos to tackle men’s mental health

In the Central Australian desert, there’s a growing and often silent, crisis of male suicide in Aboriginal town camps. But a group of men is speaking out for change. You can watch a short video about the Tangentyere Men’s Family Safety Group, a group town camp leaders, who are focused on improving safety and wellbeing in their community. They have written, performed and directed a series of videos in English and in language hoping to shatter stigma around mental health and suicide. For these men it has been a deeply personal project.

You can view the short video in full here.

Free tool to measure LGBTQ inclusive care

Pride in Health + Wellbeing runs a national annual index (Health + Wellbeing Equality Index) that is FREE and open to every organisation to measure their LGBTQ inclusive across their service delivery and internal workforce.

This benchmarking index has been designed based on international best practice standards for LGBTQ inclusive care and can assist service providers to baseline their current LGBTQ inclusion work, benchmark across the sector and identify gaps and areas for improvement as well as year-on-year growth. Individualised reports are sent to participating services and participation can be anonymous, and you don’t have to be a member to take part.

The HWEI also has optional staff and service user surveys. These allow services to not only measure what they are doing organisationally but see how well supported staff feel within their workplace, as well as their understanding, tools and comfort levels in providing LGBTQ inclusive care. The service user survey can then also be used to match your inclusion work to experience, to see if the inclusion initiatives are improving the quality of care being received.

For more details visit the Pride in Health + Wellbeing website here. You can register your interest to take part in the HWEI 2023 here.

Image source: Edith Cowan University website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Autonomy key to health outcomes for mob

The image in the feature tile is from the ACCHO Leads Hepatitis C Elimination Effort webpage of the Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation (NSW) website.

Autonomy key to health outcomes for mob

Community-controlled organisations and culturally tailored healthcare are key to better health outcomes for Indigenous Australians, community leaders say. Indigenous researchers, health professionals and national leaders have gathered for the seventh annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference in Shepparton in northern Victoria.

Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative’s Shannon Drake led a successful response to COVID-19 in the region, a result she says depended on a state-wide, collaborative reaction and acceptance that a First Nations perspective was a crucial concept to transform public health. Aboriginal people were identified as having a greater risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, which required an autonomous, inclusive and culturally appropriate response, she said. The Wamba Wamba/Jaara woman highlighted the importance of instilling self-determination and empowerment within Indigenous communities.

To view the Goulburn Post article Autonomy key to Indigenous health outcomes in full click here.

Healthcare responses for Indigenous people need to be culturally appropriate, the conference heard. Photo: Dan Himbrechts. Image source: Goulburn Post.

NT to raise age of criminal responsibility

Yesterday the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) issued a media release APO NT welcomes ‘Smarter Justice for a Safer Territory’ saying recognises the significance of the justice amendments being introduced into NT Parliament today, and congratulates the work of the Attorney General, the Honourable Chansey Paech, and his team in prioritising these reforms. “We at APO NT recognise that the NT needs a new way of working in matters of law and justice, for the benefit of all Territorians”, said Priscilla Atkins, CEO, North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency.

“We welcome the announcement to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years of age”, said Dr John Paterson, CEO of AMSANT. “APO NT commits to working with the government on better, therapeutic options for young offenders, to support our youth, and see the age of criminal responsibility ultimately raised to 14 years of age,” said Dr John Paterson.

To view the APO NT media release in full click here.

In a separate media releases, available here and here, NTCOSS and the Central Land Council, congratulated the NT Government for keeping its promise to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and abolishing some mandatory sentencing laws. In their media release, available here, Amnesty International Australia acknowledged the NT Government’s announcement that it will introduce legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the NT from 10 to 12, but said it must go further to protect children by raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.

Photo: Emilia Terzon, 105.7 ABC Darwin. Image source: ABC News.

Health and wellbeing of urban kids study

Australia’s largest long-term study of the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal Children – the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a unique resource for understanding the causes of ill health in urban Aboriginal children, and for developing and implementing strategies to improve their health. SEARCH is owned and led by Aboriginal people. It functions as a long term, co-creative partnership between the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC), Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) in NSW, the Sax Institute, and leading researchers from across Australia.

To view the Sax Institute’s Children and Young People webpage with details about the SEARCH click here.

Discovery Indigenous research grants announced

On Monday this week the Australian Research Council (ARC) has announced $7.5m for 10 new projects and Discovery Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards (DAATSIAs) under the ARC’s Discovery Indigenous scheme. The scheme reflects the Australian Government’s commitment to strengthening outcomes for Indigenous Australians through funding research projects across a range of disciplines led by an Indigenous Australian researcher, independently or in collaboration with other research colleagues.

Under the scheme, a DAATSIA may be awarded in combination with a Discovery Indigenous project. The award provides salary support for up to five years, for an eligible Indigenous Australian researcher. CEO, Ms Judi Zielke PSM, said that Discovery Indigenous ensures that outstanding researchers have the opportunity to contribute to Australia’s broader research and innovation goals. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers will lead projects that investigate issues impacting their communities and that lead to outcomes that benefit all Australians,” Ms Zielke said.

Some of the research projects to be undertaken in 2023 include:

Heidi Norman: “Governing Aboriginal self-determination in NSW: 1980-2025”(UTS)

Debbie DuthieDonald WhartonKate MurrayLeah East,  Danielle GallegosDeanne Minniecon: “co-designing a Food Sovereignty Model with Indigenous Communities” (QUT)

Helen MilroyCatherine ChamberlainJeneva OhanAlix WoolardSven SilburnTalila MilroyPradeep RaoMarshall Watson, Debra SinghLaurel Sellers: “develop and implement a culturally safe, trauma-informed parenting programme that can interrupt the intergenerational transmission of trauma and help improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing” (UWA)

Karen AdamsVicki-Lea SaundersRoianne WestLinda DeravinLynne Stuart: “co-create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurse and midwife theory and principles for practice” (Monash U)

Bindi BennettJoanna ZubrzyckiSusan YoungAntonia HendrickSera HarrisDonna BainesShayne Walker: “utilising simulation to develop culturally responsive social workers” (Bond U)

To view the Australian Government Australian Research Council media release New Discovery Indigenous projects will enrich Australia’s research landscape in full click here.

Image source: Indigenous researchers webpage of University of Melbourne website.

Family Therapy: First Nations Grad Cert

A Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy: First Nations course being offered by the La Trobe University, Melbourne, will commence in March 2023. This post-graduate course is ideal for workers who would like to enhance their skills in working professionally and respectfully with First Nations families and communities. This National course is renowned for its cultural fit with First Nations wisdoms and knowledge. It offers a grounding in family therapy theory with emphasis on creating respectful relationships and culturally safe, trauma informed ways of working.

There have been 15 deliveries of this course from 2009—2021 with 175 graduates working in First Nations communities across the country.
This course provides the opportunity to participate in cross- cultural learning with respect to the diversity of different communities and workplace settings.

You can access a flyer here for more information about the Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy: First Nations. including details of an online information session on Tuesday 18 October 2022.

Calls for end to mental health stigmatising

With radical action we can end stigma and discrimination against people with mental health conditions and their families globally, says The Lancet Commission on Ending Stigma and Discrimination in Mental Health, which sets out key recommendations to achieve this goal. Recent estimates suggest one in eight people, nearly one billion people globally, are living with a mental health condition; this rises to one in seven 10- to 19-year-olds. These people experience a double threat: the impact of the condition itself and the damaging social consequences of stigma and discrimination.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped to shine a light on the urgent mental health situation globally and there was an estimated 25% rise in the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the first year of the pandemic. However, despite the high incidence of mental health conditions around the world, mental health-related stigma and discrimination is also widespread. This can lead to problems in accessing health care and increased likelihood of health complications leading to early death.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article Experts call for action to end mental health stigmatising in full click here.

Image source: Stigma and Discrimination webpage of National Mental Health Consumers & Care Forum website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Last year the Australian Parliament has officially recognised ‘Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day’, to acknowledge families who have lost a baby through stillbirth, infant death or miscarriage. This year the day will observed on  Saturday 15 October 2022 alongside the international community. The motion was moved by a group of senators including Senator Kristina Keneally, whose daughter Caroline was stillborn in 1999. Her own loss and love for her daughter have been a driving force in advocating for families who have lost a child.

In 2018, the Senator led a Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education which published a report making recommendations in three key areas – namely, prevention of stillbirths, investigation into their causes, and support for families. Important headway was made on the third area at the end of last year, following changes to the Fair Work Act, under which parents of stillborn babies are now guaranteed access to unpaid parental leave for up to twelve months.

The report also recommended a National Stillbirth Action Plan, which has also been implemented by the Government and aims to reduce the rate of stillbirths by 20% over five years. Acknowledging this important day and implementing the recommendations in the Senate’s stillbirth report are important steps in recognising the worth of every child no matter their stage of life, and the very real grief and suffering experienced by families who lose a child through stillbirth, infant death or miscarriage.

The above information was extracted from the Women’s Forum Australia website. Related to this topic is the information included in yesterday’s NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News about the newly launched Miscarriage Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: World Mental Health Day 2022

The image in the feature tile is of woman watching Kevin Rudd’s apology to Indigenous Australian on 13 February 2008. The image appears in an article Rudd’s apology, 10 years on: the elusive hope of a ‘breakthrough moment’ published in The Guardian on 12 February 2018. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams, Getty Images.

World Mental Health Day 2022

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride, says today is World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy. Right now, demand for mental health support has surged to record levels across the country, with the pandemic having a significant impact on all Australians. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020–21, more than two in five Australians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. More than one in five people also experienced a mental health disorder in the previous year, with anxiety being the most common issue.

According to a landmark report titled Report to the Nation commissioned by Mental Health Australia, and released today, one in two Australians have needed mental health support in past three months. Nine in 10 Australians who accessed mental health support said it improved their mental health and nearly all respondents (98%) felt safe and respected in the support they received. The Report to the Nation, which is based on a new national survey that covers every age group from age 0 to 80+, also reveals:

• Australians 18-39 years old self-rate as the least mentally well in age comparisons – 6.2 out of 10, with 10 meaning living with excellent mental health;
• First Nations Peoples (5.2) and LBGTQIA+ (5.7) self-rate even lower;
• 66% of Australians have felt happy in the past three-months;
• of the top-five things important for mental health and wellbeing, 41% of Australians cite family/partner support, love and socialising with friends as being key; and
• when Australians have needed mental health support, 55% reached out to family, friends, colleagues, or teachers, 44% went to a GP, doctor or nurse, and 30% went to a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor.

You can also view a joint media release from Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride World Mental Health Day here. You can also view the Mental Health Australia media release Mental Health Australia reports to the nation on World Mental Health Day in full click here. The below is a video Aboriginal perspectives on wellbeing is from the Australian mental health and wellbeing initiative, Kids Matter.

Support for mob struggling with mental health

New data released today has revealed the mental health of First Nations people is lower than the general population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die of suicide at more than double the rate of the general population. According to 2020 data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 5.5% of First Nations people die of suicide, compared to 1.9% of non-First Nations People.

One woman is trying to change that. Shannay Holmes was consumed by grief at age 11 when her big brother died. That sadness, prolonged and throbbing, triggered her to try and take her own life some years later. It was only when Ms Holmes found herself in an acute mental health ward that the tide shifted on how she would treat her crippling mental health. Leaning on the “great support system” of her mother, teacher and peers, she was able to overcome her battles. And Ms Holmes wants to see more of her community lifted up, with the right support, too.

In a bid to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Shannay has launched the Heal Your Way project, funded by NSW Health’s Zero Suicide initiative. Ms Holmes said Heal Your Way provides resources for friends of First Nations people, both targeted Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to be better allies in the way they support those who are struggling with their mental health. “Let’s stop putting this in a category that we need to be ashamed of having these conversations, but also shining on the light of why people go through this,” she said. “You don’t have to be a psychologist, you don’t have to be a mental health professional. The important thing about this campaign is that it’s for everyone.”

To view the SBS News article Shannay tried to take her life as a teen. She never wants anyone else to suffer in silence in full click here.

Shannay Holmes created the Heal our Way campaign, aimed at assisting First Nations communities with suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Image source: SBS News.

SBS launches Mind Your Health portal

SBS has launched its Mind Your Health online content portal featuring articles, podcasts and videos in multiple languages, aimed at sharing the rich diversity of cultural knowledge and experiences across communities and showing pathways to support improving the mental and physical wellbeing of all Australians. This follows the success of SBS’s multilingual Coronavirus portal launched in March 2020, which has received 11 million unique Australian visits accessing trusted in language information throughout the pandemic, from updates on changing restrictions to the vaccine rollout.

Mind Your Health targets culturally diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences, with key focus on 10 languages, plus bespoke content for specific communities. The Mind Your Health site includes links to stories such as How former NRL star Owen Craigie turned hardship into happiness, available here. Speaking on NITV’s Feeding The Scrum, the former star opens up about his battles with mental health and addictions and how he’s running initiatives that help people who face similar issues.

To view the radioinfo article Mind Your Health, a new multilingual portal aimed at improving health and wellbeing for multicultural and First Nations Australians in full click here.

Image source: SBS About Mind Your Health webpage.

SMS4DeadlyDads comes to the Kimberley

SMS4DeadlyDads sends short texts with tips, info and support to soon-to-be and new First Nations dads.

SMS4DeadlyDads will be officially launched in the Kimberley this week with workshops for health workers and community in Broome tomorrow on Tuesday 11 October 2022 and Fitzroy Crossing on Thursday 13 October 2022. You can access an invitation to the workshops here.

SMS4DeadlyDads was first developed as a research project at the University of Newcastle (SMS4dads.com). The messages have been co-designed in consultation with an Advisory Group of senior First Nations men representing Aboriginal Controlled Health organisations. First Nations dads have also contributed to the messages to ensure they are culturally appropriate and hit the mark with dads.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Dads can join up online at SMS4DeadlyDads.com – it’s easy and FREE!

Three text messages are sent to dads each week from 12 weeks into a pregnancy up until bub turns one.

The messages are brief and to the point and talk about:

  • Bonding and your baby’s development
  • Working as a team with your partner
  • Looking after yourself and getting help if things get stressful

SMS4DeadlyDads is a FREE service available to dads all around Australia.

Make sure dads know about it!  You can access the SMS4DeadlyDads website here.

Image source: SMS4DEADLYDADS website.

Return of Targeting Cancer Fun Run 

The Royal Australian and NZ College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is pleased to announce the return of the Targeting Cancer Fun Run to the 72nd Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Adelaide on the morning of Saturday 29 October after two years’ absence. One in two cancer patients would benefit from radiation therapy, but fewer than one in three patients actually receive radiation therapy. The Fun Run 2022 aims to raise awareness of radiation therapy for cancer treatment with a focus on closing the care gap for Indigenous populations in Australia and NZ.

A breaking study on outcomes for Aboriginal people with cancer in NSW to be presented at RANZCR ASM 2022 is the largest and most comprehensive population-based study of Aboriginal cancer patients in Australia to date. It reports that Aboriginal patients have worse overall and cancer-specific survival rates than non-Aboriginal patients (10-year survival rate: 53% vs. 66%; 5-year survival rate: 60% vs. 64%). After adjusting for many factors (such as sex, age, degree of spread, socioeconomic status, accessibility to cancer service, receiving radiotherapy), the risk of dying from cancer was higher for Aboriginal patients than for non-Aboriginal patients. Aboriginal people have a higher utilisation rate of radiation therapy than non-Aboriginal patients (30% vs. 25.7%) likely due to adverse factors such as presenting with more advanced cancer and inability to afford surgery.

To view the RANZCR media release Targeting Cancer Fun Run Returns to Call for Closing the Care Gap in full click here.

Image source: RANZER, Faculty of Radiation Oncology, Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer website.

New housing for Alice Springs town camps

Aboriginal construction workers and apprentices have been working on remote housing programs across Mparntwe (Alice Springs) town camps. Rolling out across 11 town camps, the developments will see the construction of 64 dwellings, increasing the combined number of bedrooms across the various communities by 242. Local decision making has been applied to the builds, with the Aboriginal community informing housing compositions which include three, four and five bedroom homes as well as duplex facilities.

Five territory construction companies including Aboriginal Business Enterprises Blueprint Construction and Tangentyere Constructions are carrying out the works, with a combined Indigenous employment rate of 46.4% across the entire project. The $40 million investment by the NT Government has seen 39 of the 64 homes currently in various stages of completion with some houses delivered to residents in September, nine weeks after on-site construction commenced. It is anticipated that at least 35 buildings will be completed by year’s end across town camps including Charles Creek, Hoppy’s, Hidden Valley, Ilpeye Ilpeye, Warlpiri, Karnte, Larapinta Valley, Little Sisters, Mount Nancy, Morris Soak, and Trucking Yards.

NT Housing and Homelands Minister Selena Uibo said the project improves the welfare of town camp residents. “The Territory Labor Government’s investment means residents of Alice Springs will have much-needed, better, safer homes,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article First Nations apprentices contribute to housing developments across Alice Springs town camps in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Animation to combat deadly disease

In response to a call-out from the council’s environmental health team for Hendra virus educational resources, Charles Sturt University student Bernard Higgins created a high-tech animated video as part of his creative arts studies. The Indigenous creative says he’s determined to utilise his talents to help others. “As a Wiradjuri man, I wanted to explore how to use my skills and knowledge to help First Nations communities,” Mr Higgins said. “Designing animal health communication is one area where there’s a gap in our knowledge.”

He is hopeful that the animation, created through significant engagement with the community and health bodies, will help make an important health message more relatable. “The layperson can get bogged down with all the jargon. We saw that with COVID — we got bombarded with so much information,” Mr Higgins said. “At a community level, by putting together [a short] animation, which has all the pertinent information, it’s not as intimidating as a government-made brochure.” The animation also features imagery from the Yarrabah community.

To view the ABC News article Creative approach to combat potentially deadly disease in full click here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Homeless Day 2022

World Homeless Day aims to draw attention to homeless people’s needs both locally across Australia and internationally. The concept of ‘World Homeless Day’ emerged from online discussions between people working to respond to homelessness from various parts of the world. The Inaugural World Homeless Day was marked on the 10 October 2010. Since its founding, World Homeless Day has been observed on every continent except Antarctica, in several dozen countries.

The 2016 Census found that Indigenous Australians accounted for one-fifth of the homeless population nationally (20% or 23,440 people); that is, among people whose dwelling is considered inadequate, they have no tenure or their initial tenure is short and not extendable, and they have no control of and access to space for social relations. The 2016 rate was down from 26% in 2011. The 2016 Census found that of the total Indigenous population (649,000) 3.6% or 23,440 were homeless, a rate of 361 per 10,000. This decreased from 4.9% (26,700) or 487 per 10,000 in 2011.

Of homeless Indigenous Australians in 2016, 70% (down from 75% in 2011) were living in severely crowded dwellings (needing four or more extra bedrooms under CNOS), 12% were living in supported accommodation for the homeless, and 9% were living in improvised tents or sleeping out. This compares with non-Indigenous homeless people, of whom in 2016, 42% were living in severely crowded dwellings, 15% were in supported accommodation, and 6% were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out. Of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over, in 2014–15, 4 in 10 (41%) had experienced not having a permanent place to live. Among these, the reasons included problems with family, friends or relationships (40%) and having just moved back into a town or city (22%).

For more information about World Homeless Day 2022 click here and for further information from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and homelessness click here.