Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference
At the national CONVERGE Conference in Lismore organised by First Nations Media, Pat Turner Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO provided an update on the Coalition of Peaks work, and progress on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. You can access a transcript of Pat’s speech here.
NDIS reforms will discriminate against Mob
John Gilroy, ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development, University of Sydney says although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the greatest human services reform in Australia’s history, and holds great promise in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, the federal government’s proposed “independent assessments” aren’t the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.
“I’m a Koori bloke from the Yuin Nation who lives with disability and has a research career spanning nearly 20 years. The biggest problem I have with the proposed framework is that it’s disrespectful and discriminatory towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rather than designing another layer of bureaucracy, I recommend the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) invests more resources into building and up-skilling the current NDIS planning workforce and the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector.”
Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.
The letter says ‘write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government. Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.’ The letter calls on the Australian government to:
Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement
Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit
Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicehave issued a joint media release saying ‘The NT Government’s budget is framed in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of Territorians, hideously expensive and unlikely to be effective. It bolsters resources to allow the policing and surveillance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reduces funding where it is actually needed, in providing effective solutions when dealing with complex issues, like youth justice. The Government is moving to bring damaging and non-evidenced based youth reforms to parliament.
CEO of Danila Dilba Olga Havnen said “More prisons and jailing more people does not work. Even the USA has moved away from locking people up. It is costly and does not work. It is time for the Government and Opposition to listen to the advice at hand and look at alternative options that work.”
CEO of AMSANT John Patterson agreed “the proposed [NT Government] youth reform changes will likely lead to a surge in reoffending and offer nothing more than a path to jail. The complex health needs of our youth need to be taken into consideration. These reforms are not in the best interests of our youth or in the best interests of the Territory.”
“We call on the Government to reconsider the proposed youth reforms and talk to us. Punitive legislation does not rehabilitate young offenders or keep communities safe. We know the tough-on-crime approach only facilitates more crime and disadvantage for our community. It is time the NT government responded humanely and responsibly by addressing the real causes of youth offending and investing in these evidence-based approaches.”
To view the joint AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service media release click here.
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicealso joined CAAC, AMA NT Inc, The Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the AMA in an open letter to the NT Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing outlining concerns over the NT government’s proposed youth justice reforms.
The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has also condemned the NT Government’s youth justice reforms. NTCOSS CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said incarcerating more children will not reduce crime. “This legislation will reduce access to diversion programs and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction. It does not break the cycle of crime. It entrenches it.”
To view the NTCOSS media release in full click here.
Image from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report. Image source: Croakey.
Indigenous workforce needs better support
Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is surveying its members on the impact of COVID-19 on their education, training and professional practice. Its findings to date hold important lessons for educators, employers and governments on how they can better support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and, ultimately, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, particularly in times of disruption and public health emergencies.
Megan McIntosh and Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela and Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service’s offices. Image source: The Inverell Times.
AOD research – treatment, services, prevention
A number of papers and reports relating to alcohol and other drugs have recently been released.
The University of Sydney released a paper Alcohol consumption and dependence is linked to the extent that people experience need satisfaction while drinking alcohol in two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitieswhich argues that due to systematic disadvantage and inter-generational trauma, Indigenous Australians may be less likely to have satisfied basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). When people are need-thwarted, they may engage in compensatory behaviours to feel better in the short-term. Better understanding the functions that alcohol may play for some Indigenous Australian drinkers may aid communities, clinicians, and policy makers in improving programs for reducing drinking-related harms.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: key findings, click here, and Patterns of intensive alcohol and other drug treatment service use in Australia 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, click here.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has also released a report Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, click here.
The Glen Art program participant. Image source: The Glen website.
AMA is urging all Australians to get their seasonal flu vaccination now, with general practices across the country having recently received stock ahead of the upcoming flu season. “Winter is coming, and influenza remains a very serious illness, particularly for the vulnerable members of our community,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“Thousands of Australians are admitted to hospitals with influenza complications each year. Last year we saw record flu vaccinations, which was fantastic. We need to do the same again this year. The message is simple: get your flu vaccine now.
“There were significant social distancing measures in place last year that not only helped keep COVID-19 at bay, they also meant that cases of influenza were down significantly from previous years. Influenza has not gone away and with life now largely returning to normal, we mustn’t become complacent.”
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
WA Young Person of the Year, AHCWA employee
A Nollamara resident’s dedication to strengthen young people’s connections to Aboriginal culture has been recognised. Whadjuk Noongar man Derek Nannup, 23, was named WA’s Young Person of the Year at the 2021 WA Youth Awards last week.
Mr Nannup is working in sexual health education at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA and is on the Mirrabooka Police District Youth Advisory Group and the Youth Educating Peers Reference Group. He also worked as a support worker for children in care at Wungening Aboriginal Corporation and was the Indigenous Cultural Program Coordinator at Wesley College.
Mr Nannup also established the Boorloo Indigenous Youth Yarning Circles, a space for young people to practice traditional healing, discuss culture and community issues. The Nollamara resident said the award was not just about him but a recognition for his people and the Noongar community. “I’m really honoured to have been acknowledged as WA Young Person of the Year … that means a lot,” he said. “A lot of the mob have said ‘you’ve got leadership quality’ but all I’m really doing is listening to my Elders, doing and practicing my responsibility and obligations as a Whadjuk Noongar. It shows how far we’ve come together, we’re still a long way to go but hopeful.”
To read the full article in the Stirling Times click here.
Derek Nannup, 23, WA’s Young Person of the Year. Image source: Stirling Times.
Healthy ageing study for older Aboriginal people
Are you an NSW-based service that works with older Aboriginal people?
Would your service like to be part of research that shows how important community programs are for older Aboriginal people?
The Ironbark Project is a healthy ageing study for older Aboriginal people (45 years+). NSW-based services that work with groups of older Aboriginal people are invited to be part of this study involving Aboriginal-led community programs that improve social and emotional wellbeing, strength, mobility and independence, and prevent falls. Funding and training are provided to run the weekly community program with Elders.
Join an online information session 11 AM – 12 PM Monday 26 April 2021 to find out how you can be involved in the Ironbark Project.
Minister for Indigenous Essential Services Chansey Paech said a $28 million Territory Labor Government investment will help to shore up water security in Aboriginal communities across the NT. Tailored projects in ten remote communities will improve water quality and supply infrastructure, prioritising areas of critical need. The funding, $7 million per year for four years, will support initiatives to manage immediate problems and a long-term plan to tackle complex water supply issues. These include new bores, network upgrades, improved water disinfection systems, and the installation of meters to monitor and reduce water usage. The identified projects, tailored to address community-specific issues, will begin in Laramba, Engawala, Yuendumu, Epenarra, Imanpa, Atitjere, Warruwi and Numbulwar in the first year of the program; with works in Angurugu and Beswick to follow.
Priority Reform One of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is about building and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with governments on Closing the Gap at every level.
We want to see new formal partnerships established across the country at state and territory and regional levels between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and governments on closing the gap which reflect elements consistent with the Partnership Agreement.
Where there are existing partnerships, we want them strengthened to ensure that representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are chosen by those communities and are properly supported to share decision making about closing the gap in their locations.
You can view a new video animation for Priority Reform One here.
Mental health care – like hunting for unicorns
Numerous inquiries have analysed the barriers of cost and access to receiving mental health care, but these problems persist. This is particularly the case for people who experience the ‘missing middle’ – their case is too complex for a GP but not severe enough for hospital admission. One reader told Guardian Australia: ‘Finding a good psychologist or psychiatrist who bulk-bills and has appointments available is like hunting for unicorns while blindfolded.’
To view The Guardian article ‘Like hunting for unicorns’: Australians on the search for adequate, affordable mental healthcareclick here.
Image source: VentureBeat website.
SA – Adelaide – Flinders University
PhD scholarship x 1 (3 years) – Adelaide
Flinders University is seeking an outstanding candidate for a PhD scholarship for an Australian Research Council Project entitled: Contemporary lessons from a history of Aboriginal, women’s and generalist community health services in Australia 1970-2020. This exciting project is a partnership between Flinders University, the University of Sydney, La Trobe University, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), The Sydney Local Health District, Paul Laris and Associates and Tony McBride and Associates.
Any area of study relevant to the project will be considered, including one with a focus on the emergence of Aboriginal Community-Controlled health organisations as part of the broader community health movement. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates are strongly encouraged to apply for this aspect of the project.
For further details about the position, including how to apply click here.
Acceleration of efforts to reduce overincarceration
The Joint Council on Closing the Gap met today and acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and agreed that joined up work between all governments in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is critical to reducing the rate at which Indigenous people are incarcerated, and thereby reduce deaths in custody. Given the urgency and enduring nature of this issue Joint Council agreed to the high priority of accelerating the critical work to establish a Policy Partnership on Justice with the aim of reducing youth and adult incarceration.
Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks said “It’s vital that governments, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, are taking urgent and decisive steps to address the overincarceration of our peoples. For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives will be at the table with Ministers, Attorneys’-General, government officials, corrections, policing, housing and health under a formal shared decision making arrangement.”
To view the Coalition of Peaks media release click here.
Photo: Getty. Image source: BBC News website.
Aboriginal people still dying in custody
Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney prison cell in 2015 after officers restrained him to stop him eating biscuits. During the struggle, he was pinned face-down by guards and jabbed with a sedative. Video later shown at his inquest captured his final moments: his laboured breathing and muffled screams under the pack of guards. “I can’t breathe,” he yelled repeatedly.
His case has parallels to that of African-American man George Floyd, whose death triggered global protests against racism and policing in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement also threw a spotlight on Australia’s own incarceration of indigenous people and their deaths in custody.
This week marks 30 years since a landmark inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The royal commission made hundreds of recommendations to address the crisis. But three decades on, the situation has worsened. Central to the problem is overrepresentation. Indigenous people are about 12 times more likely to be in custody than non-indigenous Australians.
That reality, a product of systemic problems and disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people, has prompted fresh anger over a lack of action. “The system is continuing to kill us and no one’s doing anything about it,” Paul Silva, the nephew of David Dungay Jr, said at a rally this week.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth spoke with Dan Bourchier, ABC Radio 666 Canberra ‘Afternoons’ yesterday about the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and intergenerational healing.
Fiona Cornforth said “it is an important time to do that reflecting. Though it’s something we carry every day, I think, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unfortunately, we’re at a point now where we’ve lost hope in recommendations being fully implemented, despite all our voices being in these reports over time and people being generous and courageous to put forward their stories, time and time again. Where the solutions are in community, the solutions are given up as important by those with lived experience. But the powers that be and the complex system, the incarceration system, and all the service providers, the big web just can’t seem to get these recommendations out of the too hard basket.”
The Morrison government has decided to delay introducing mandatory independent assessments (IAs) for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in a move strongly welcomed by disability groups.
New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said earlier this week that she would not be making any decisions around in IAs legislation until an IA trial was finished and the government could examine the feedback. While people currently need to get reports from multiple health providers of their choosing to assess their NDIS eligibility, the new mandatory assessments will be conducted by NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals using standardised tools.
The decision to introduce IAs has been met with overwhelming opposition from disability advocates, who say the process does not adequately capture the complexity of a person’s support needs and will lead to unfair outcomes for people with disability. Reynolds acknowledged the “significant feedback” IAs have already received, and said she would be consulting across the country with as many stakeholders as she could. Disability groups – who feared people would disengage from the scheme entirely because of their unwillingness to engage with IAs – strongly welcomed the minister’s comments.
To view the Pro Bono Australia article in full click here.
Image source: Pro Bono Australia News website.
The more that have the vaccine, the safer we’ll be
NACCHO CEO and lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner and NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey received their first AstraZeneca vaccines at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services last week. “The more people have the vaccinations, the safer we will be,” said Pat. “We’ve managed to keep our community free of any deaths from COVID-19 to date and we want to continue that outstanding record.”
Contact your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or GP to find out when you can receive your vaccine and to ask any questions you may have. To view the Pat Turner’s video click here.
Review of kidney transplant wait-listing
Research has confirmed poor access to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from the NT. The study found causes of delays to wait-listing included: failure to attend appointments due to competing priorities and communication barriers, access and navigating complex pathways to specialist services, transport, co-morbidities requiring multiple tests and multiple specialty services, and pressures on dialysis and hospital bed capacity.
The study concluded that barriers to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are complex and can be addressed by redesigning healthcare provision, including increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to provide education and patient navigation of the healthcare system and improve communication, streamlining investigations and coordinating specialist services.
A study has been undertaken to determine what lessons can be learned from the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacles Subsidy Scheme (VASSS). The VASSS, which started in July 2010 and has operated continually since, aims to improve access to visual aids and eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.
An estimated 10,853 VASSS cofunded visual aids were delivered over the first 6 years of the scheme. During that time the mean annual number of comprehensive eye examinations provided within services using VASSS grew 4.6-fold faster compared with the 4 years preceding the VASSS. VASSS achievements were attained through collaborations, flexibility, trust and communication between organisations, all facilitated by funding resulting from evidence-based advocacy.
Access to visual aids and eye examinations by Aboriginal Victorians has improved during the operation of the VASSS, with associated direct and indirect benefits to Aboriginal health, productivity and quality of life. The success of the VASSS may be replicable in other jurisdictions and provides lessons that may be applicable in other fields.
NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding grant applications OPEN!
Attention NACCHO members! NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant applications are NOW OPEN!
IBSF offers funding to eligible Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) to help address:
basic establishment costs, and/or
business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS
Grants of $20,000 are available for up to 100 member ACCHOS.
ACCHOs have been contacted via email with information about the grants and how to apply.
Applications close on the 14 May 2021. Please contact the NDIS Ready team email@example.com if you have any questions.
Australia made a plan to protect Indigenous elders from COVID-19. It worked
Washington Post story is all praise for us on how effectively we have managed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities!
From Alaska to the Amazon, Indigenous people are more likely to get sick with or die of covid-19, as the pandemic magnifies deep-rooted health and socioeconomic inequities.
Not only have Indigenous Australians recorded far fewer infections per capita than their global counterparts, they are six times less likely than the wider Australian population to contract the coronavirus, government data shows.
There have been no cases in remote communities, and not a single Aboriginal elder has died. Of the 149 cases involving Indigenous people since the start of the pandemic nationwide, few were serious enough to require hospitalization. By contrast, covid-19 is killing Native Americans at a faster rate than any other group in the United States.
Dawn Casey, who co-chairs a government task force established to develop a virus plan for Indigenous communities, said Aboriginal doctors expressed alarm during weekly meetings at the number of flights arriving from countries where the virus had taken hold. “We could see what was happening overseas,” she said. “If it got into remote communities, it would wipe them out.”
Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization, wrote to state and federal leaders in March 2020, asking them to use their powers to order the closure of remote communities to stop visitors from entering. Accordingly, the communities were sealed off.
“I think increasingly the Australian government is looking at the Aboriginal-controlled model and seeing they can be really effective,” said Jason Agostino, an epidemiologist and medical adviser on Aboriginal health.
To read the full story in the Washington Post click here.
Join Dementia Australia in calling on Governments to commit to action
Dementia Australia is calling on the Australian Federal Government to act with urgency in response to the Final Report, Care, Dignity and Respect of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
An estimated 472,000 Australians live with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million in 2058. I want dementia to be core business for government #dementia #auspol
Dementia is one of the largest health and social challenges facing Australia and the world. As well as being the chronic condition of the 21st century it is a debilitating, progressive and ultimately terminal disease and the second leading cause of death of Australians annually and the leading cause of death of women. Many Australians living with dementia require care, whether this is in their own home, or in an aged care setting – 68 per cent of people living in care have dementia. This of course includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians.
Since September 2018 people living with dementia, their families and carers have entrusted the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety with their views, personal experiences and often traumatic stories. The Royal Commission’s Final Report captures the essence of those issues and demonstrates that the Commissioners have listened.
Dementia Australia’s Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care has been shared with all sides of government in the lead up to the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report and the 2021-22 Federal Budget.
The Roadmap is the product of extensive consultations with people living with dementia and reflects all of the recommendations in relation to dementia made in the Royal Commission’s final report.
We encourage you all to join this plea to the Federal Government to implement this much required Roadmap.
The page features draft social media posts and tiles, letter and email templates, scripts and guides for calls and meetings and many more resources.
Thank you in advance for any support you can provide and should you have any questions please contact Alex Shaw – 03 9816 5731 or Alex.Shaw@dementia.org.au
Joint Council on Closing the Gap will discuss progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap
The Joint Council on Closing the Gap will meet Friday 16 April to discuss the progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that came into effect in July 2020.
The Joint Council will discuss:
the impact of COVID-19 on all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the success of the partnership approach between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and governments in responding to the pandemic.
the release of the Joint Council’s response to the first annual Partnership Health Check report of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap assessing the successes and challenges faced by the Partnership since it came into effect in 2019. The Health Check reflects the commitment of all parties to put in place actions and formal checks over the life of the 10-year Partnership Agreement to make sure that the shared decision-making arrangements strengthen over time, including revisions to the Joint Council Terms of Reference and development of a risk register.
the release of its Joint Communications Strategy to ensure engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to build their awareness and ownership of the National Agreement and to assist them to talk to governments about how to apply the commitments to communities and organisations across the country.
the next stages of the Strategic Plan for Funding the Development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Sector (Strategic Plan) to guide investment from the joint funding pool committed by governments to support Priority Reform Two of the National Agreement, investment priorities for the Health and Disability Sectors.
revised Family Violence target and a new Access to Information target which reflect a commitment in the National Agreement to develop these two targets within three months of the Agreement coming into effect.
allowing more time for the development of Sector Strengthening Plans and Place-Based Partnerships to facilitate community and organisation engagement.
Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Australasian Society for HIV Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (2020) Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Sydney: This national consensus testing guideline for sexually transmitted infections, is for use by primary care clinicians working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Delivering more Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the NT
The Australian Government is investing $8.75 million over four years to provide additional health services in the Northern Territory as part of its commitment to strengthen Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Delivered through the Northern Territory Pathways to Community Control program (NT P2CC), the funding will provide First Nations people with access to effective, high quality, comprehensive and culturally appropriate primary health care services.
This investment builds on the $4 million already committed for transition activities occurring in West Arnhem, demonstrating the strong partnerships that exist between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government and other key members of the NT Aboriginal Health Forum, including the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT). Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said community driven approache s to delivering health services were delivering major benefits for First Nations people.
Have Your Say – Participate in Survey to Contribute to National Evaluation
Indigenous Eye Health at The University of Melbourne is asking people who work in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector to participate in an anonymous survey as part of a national evaluation.
The survey asks questions about your experience working in the sector, what kinds of activities you’ve seen or been involved with at a regional level, what changes have happened over time, what has supported this work and what more is needed to improve eye care and eye health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It takes around 20 minutes to complete the survey.
Those who complete the survey can go into the draw for a ‘Check Today, See Tomorrow’ Diabetes Eye Care T-Shirt or a pair of Deadly Eyewear Sunglasses (there are 20 of each to be won!).
The survey is being run by independent evaluators from ARTD Consultants. If you would prefer to complete the survey over the telephone you can do this by contacting Rachel Aston from ARTD at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deaths in custody: Canberra Aboriginal health leader calls for justice system overhaul on royal commission anniversary
A new royal commission is needed into Canberra’s jail, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, to reset the entire system, says Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs.
“The whole system needs an overhaul. By focusing on the AMC, that then brings in the whole of the justice system,” she said.
“I’m always concerned there’s going to be another death in custody.”
Read the full story released in the Canberra Timeshere.
Winnunga Nimmityjah chief executive Julie Tongs is fearful another Indigenous life will be lost in custody. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
AMA Media statement: Time for Calm and Clear Information on Vaccine Rollout
Australians should trust the advice of the experts when deciding on their COVID-19 vaccination, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.
“The AMA has supported the decisions made by independent scientific experts – the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) – to keep Australians safe throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Khorshid said.
“The Federal Government has also accepted this advice. While the changed advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine may seem confusing, and further delays to the rollout are frustrating, Australia is in the very fortunate position of being able to watch and learn from the experiences overseas.
“Communicating in this rapidly changing environment has been a challenge for the Government but it is critical for Australia’s future that public confidence in the vaccine program is maintained.
“The patient-GP relationship is one of the most trusted and important relationships in every person’s life.
“Your GP will give you the best advice about any medicine or vaccine. They will offer you what they believe to be of medical benefit to you and explain any risks and benefits of having or not having the treatment.
“They will ask you if you need any clarification and answer your questions. You can then decide whether you want the treatment.
“This is the same as for any treatment whether it is an antibiotic, surgery or a vaccine.
“GPs are guided by Government advice about AstraZeneca, and the risks for the under-50 cohort – most of whom would not be eligible for the vaccine until later this year anyway.
“The advice around the incredibly rare but serious thrombotic events associated with AZ vaccination has made decision making more difficult for those under 50 who are currently eligible for the vaccine. The AZ vaccine remains very safe and effective, and access to the alternative, preferred Pfizer vaccine is likely to be delayed.
“Our advice for Australians with questions is to make an appointment with their GP for a full discussion about the possible risks and benefits of having the vaccine, or of not having it, taking into account of their own specific circumstances.
“There has been some talk about doctors being concerned about potential litigation from side-effects of any vaccines. Please be assured that all registered doctors are fully covered – your GP is more concerned with your health.”
Do you think the state of epilepsy care in Australia could be improved?
Do you believe there is enough support, resources and information available?
Epilepsy Smart Australia invites you to participate in an online survey to better understand your needs and the gaps that exist in epilepsy services and supports in Australia. The survey is open from April 1st to May 31stand should only take you 20 minutes.
This research is being conducted as part of the Epilepsy Smart Australia Program Pilot and will be managed in conjunction with independent consultant KPMG. Your responses will remain anonymous.
A training program designed for professionals working in community services, health and education who provide services to children, youth, adults and families who have experienced trauma by Complex Trauma Training WA.
The ‘8 principles of trauma-informed practice’ will be discussed and practical strategies to implement these in various contexts will be explored.
Learning outcomes for this course:
Define complex trauma.
Discuss the immediate and long term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).
Identify the impact of trauma on: brain development, attachment and memory.
Define Trauma-Informed care.
Discuss 8 Principles of trauma-informed care.
Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to create safe environments and build strong relationships with children, youth, adults and families you work with.
Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to support workers, including self-care strategies to manage secondary traumatic stress (vicarious trauma).
Identify resources & further professional development to implement trauma-informed practices in your workplace.
To know more about the training and to register click here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit
NACCHO and the Department of Health (DoH) are excited to share with you, COVID-19 vaccine providers, new resources and materials to roll-out Phase 1b, due to start week commencing 22 March.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit includes a series of templates and materials that both vaccination clinics and non-vaccination clinics will be able to use and adapt for their sites. All resources feature the beautiful work of Aboriginal artist Jordana Angus,“Stand Together For A Healthy Future”.
This kit will help you work through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s regulatory guidelines for advertising COVID-19 vaccinations.
Here is a formal letter providing an approval for your organisation and its members and its members to adapt Government campaign materials as necessary.
The TGA or the Department of Health can look over draft materials or ideas if ACCHOs have concerns.
There are several resources that you may find helpful as you roll-out vaccinations through your clinic/practice – you can find more on the DoH website.
We can’t thank you enough for your support and partnership in helping us keep our communities safe and healthy! #OurJobToProtectOurMob
There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there: newsGP reports
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts speak to newsGP about steps to address misinformation and hesitancy ahead of phase 1b.
As Australia prepares to move into phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are buckling down on tackling vaccine hesitancy.
GP Dr Tanya Schramm is a Palawa woman and Chair of the Expert Committee behind the COVID-19 clinical recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
‘There’s been a huge social media campaign in general with … the anti-vax movement putting a lot of stuff out … and that has obviously just overflowed into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
GP Dr Jason Agostino is the Medical Advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19: ‘There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, [but] I don’t think we have an anti-vax movement.
‘What we have is hesitancy around this vaccine and a lot of misinformation going around to people [who have] reasonable questions that they want answered.
‘We’ve got a specific factsheet about vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about the experiences of other First Nations [people], and really clarifying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t guinea pigs here.
‘The reason that they’re priority populations is because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders have fought hard to make sure that they have access to vaccines early.’
2021 Close the Gap Campaign Report celebrates strengths-based examples
As one of the members driving the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO invites you to read the 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021 titled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe.
Connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the CTG annual reports they often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood.
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap said, “New formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.”
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 quoted in the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021
“ACCHOs know where our mob are and how to get the right message out.”
“I feel proud of the community controlled sector. It’s great that there’s been that recognition of how responsive and how flexible our sector could be. You could see firsthand how, if you work with ACCHOs on the ground they will deliver an effective response that’s appropriate for their setting.”
“You don’t get the same care for our people in mainstream health organisations, you don’t get that recognition of the social determinants of health or of the way colonisation impacts on our health as you do with ACCHOs.”
Indigenous birthing services vital to health of mothers and babies
Charles Darwin University midwifery researchers are calling for Indigenous-led birthing centres to expand across Australia after a seven-year study found a decrease in preterm births and an
improvement in breastfeeding and antenatal care for First Nations families.
The paper “Effect of a Birthing on Country Service redesign on maternal and neonatal health outcomes for First Nations Australians: a prospective, non-randomised interventional trial published today in The Lancet Global Health revealed preterm births were 50 per cent less likely in women accessing a designated Birthing on Country service in Brisbane’s south.
The study reported an almost 40 per cent increase in breastfeeding after discharge from hospital and an 80 per cent increase in women attending more than four antenatal sessions in pregnancy.
Most Australians support raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, according to research commissioned by Amnesty International Australia.
The current minimum age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions is just 10 (the age of a child in year three in primary school), a fact only one in 10 Australians could identify. In 2019 the Committee of the Rights of the child recommended Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 in line with international standards.
Australia also came in for criticism from the international community during the recent Universal Periodic Review where 31 countries recommended Australia address its treatment of Indigenous people and raise the age. “The tough-on-crime rhetoric is a false economy – all the evidence shows that locking kids up doesn’t work,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said.
Before claiming any of the COVID-19 Telehealth items, GPs are reminded that it is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.
Patients are eligible for GP and OMP telehealth services if they have an established clinical relationship with a GP, OMP, or a medical practice. This requirement supports longitudinal and person-centred primary health care that is associated with better health outcomes.
How Australia’s vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities will work
An Indigenous-owned remote dialysis clinic in Alice Springs is working to make COVID-19 vaccine information more accessible to people living in remote communities.
At 71 years old, Barbara Nampitjinpa is the perfect candidate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the next phase of the rollout.
Ms Nampitjinpa, who uses an oxygen tank to help herself breathe, is not only getting the jab for her own health, but to encourage other people in remote communities to do the same.
Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, which begins on 22 March, will focus on vaccinating Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, people over 70, and those who are immunocompromised, as well as some emergency services personnel including the remainder of the health workforce not included in Phase 1a.
Barbara Nampitjinpa wants people in remote communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: SBS News
Wunan to run headspace Kununurra
East Kimberley organisation Wunan has been appointed as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra. headspace Kununurra will bring a much-needed resource to the area, offering young people support with their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs issues, and work and study.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the operator of the Country WA Primary Health Network, awarded the contract to Wunan following an open tender procurement process.
For nearly 20 years Wunan has been successfully delivering services and programs across the East Kimberley, including delivery of clinical services to Kununurra and surrounding communities.
Young people aged 12 to 25 can contact headspace Kununurra directly or be referred by their GP or mental health professional.
Illustration source: Chris Johnston, Eurekastreet.com.au
The outstanding health outcome Indigenous communities have produced
The fact Indigenous communities kept COVID-19 infection rates six times lower than the rest of Australia without a single death is proof that when they have control and autonomy over policies and programs, success follows.
That’s the message from June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the co-chair of the annual Close the Gap campaign.
The pandemic and the bushfires of 2020 reinforced the need for large-scale reform and “a paradigm shift to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, Ms Oscar said.
Chief executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Vicki O’Donnell said avoiding COVID-19 deaths was a triumph.
“Our mob live together, eat together, work together, they kiss and they hug – so the spread was a huge risk for us.
“No Aboriginal person died. Does that not tell you something about what we do?” she said.
In 2019, suicide was the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to 17 years. Suicide rates among adults are at least two to three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
Yet the lack of resources and funding to train Aboriginal people in mental health and suicide prevention was “incredibly frustrating” for Thomas Brideson, the chief executive of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, a newly established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention organisation.
Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar. Source: Australian Human Rights Commission
Close the Gap report says 2020 reinforced need for large-scale systemic reform
Australian governments at all levels must adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and should take strengths-based approaches to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples, according to the Close the Gap Campaign.
The campaignis made up of 54 organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and aims to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In its 2021 Close the Gap report (not to be confused with the federal government’s Closing the Gap initiative), the campaign noted that the events of 2020 have reinforced the need for large-scale systemic reform and a “paradigm shift” in Australia’s approach to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Indigenous leadership in pandemic delivers a blueprint to Close the Gap
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people have been hailedfor their world-leading response to the coronavirus pandemic which left First Nations communities largely unscathed.
As leading Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, Director of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and former Australian of the Year and health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley wrote this week: “Little did anyone know that just a few years after the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian government (and rejected), the First Nations leadership would be able to show just how powerful having a voice could be for their health and wellbeing.”
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
Country and culture are central to the report and the Kimberley is one of the regions highlighted for the leadership shown by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people during the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people six times lower than for other Australians, no cases in remote communities, and not a single death recorded.
As Oscar wrote in the report: Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia.”
The relative safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also ranked as a global success, said Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, the only Aboriginal member of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, who was a panellist at the Close the Gap event, which also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Sir Michael Marmot, former head of the WHO Social Determinants Committee.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
Earlier this week NACCHO CEO Pat Turner spoke to ABC The Drum about COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccines, the Industrial Relations Reform, employment and economy and the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations.
Pat Turner also spoke to Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National Drive about the Closing the Gap report and the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations Apology.
To view the ABC The Drum program featuring Pat Turner as a panellist click here and to listen to Pat Turner being interviewed on ABC Radio National Drive click here.
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM, RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas. 15 February 2021
NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, ABC The Drum, 15 Feb 2021
Danila Dilba to deliver 26,000 vaccines
In the traditional language of the Larrakia people, “Danila Dilba” refers to the dilly bag used to carry bush medicines. It’s also the name of one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal health services, which is about to undertake the biggest challenge it’s ever faced.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented in terms of scale, logistics and, I would say, importance as well,” said Andrew Webster, the head of clinical governance at Danila Dilba. Dr Webster is overseeing the mission to inoculate at least 13,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Darwin. They are among Australia’s most susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19.
To view The Aboriginal health service tasked with delivering at least 26,000 COVID-19 vaccines article click here.
Registered nurse Taylor Matthews says it will be “very tough” to vaccinate all of Danila Dilba’s clients. Image source: ABC News.
COVID-19 vaccines common questions and answers
The Australian Government will shortly begin rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations. While details are still unfolding, you will be able to find the answers to many of your questions in the COVID-19 vaccines common questions factsheet here.
This Q&A document, together with vaccine-related information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, can be accessed via the Australian Government Department of Health’s website.
The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) in collaboration with NACCHO have prepared a community engagement kit that has useful information on what the Government is doing to deliver COVID-19 vaccines.
To support communication with your stakeholders, networks and communities, a suite of resources have been developed, including:
newsletter article content
social media content
a script for videos
an editorial example
radio and social media advertising content.
Here is a guide that will provide you with the list of resources that are available in the COVID-19 vaccination community engagement kit.
To download the entire kit of resourcesclick here.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health
The EarTrain Program is here
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have much higher rates of middle ear infection compared to other children. The EarTrain program is a response to these statistics. It is delivered across Australia by TAFE NSW and is funded by the Australian Federal Government. EarTrain is a Closing the Gap initiative available until June 2022.
This program is delivered through an interactive online training platform with an option to register for practical skills workshops. During the practical skills workshops, you will learn to develop audiometry skills and use equipment appropriately. For further information about the EarTrain program click here.
Program eligibility – if you are a primary health care professional providing care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, you are eligible to participate in the EarTrain program. To register to participate click here.
Remote GPs urged to update AOD skills
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging more rural and remote GPs to update their skills using the latest research to support patients with alcohol and other drug (AOD) use problems in their communities. Under the $7.9 million initiative funded by the Federal Government the RACGP is delivering the Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program, which is tailored to meet the needs of GPs in all corners of Australia. The program encourages participation from rural and remote GPs and includes essential skills training to provide an update for GPs wanting to improve their approach to conversations about alcohol and other drug use.
It has become accepted wisdom that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen trust in government rise across countries. But by how much? And why should it matter?
To answer these questions, a representative online survey was conducted in Australia and NZ, with a separate sample for WA, in July 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey discovered a dramatic increase in trust in government. Indeed, 80% of Australians and 83% of New Zealanders agreed government was generally trustworthy, up from 49% and 53% respectively in 2009.
Moreover, this level of trust is far higher than found in studies carried out in several other countries.
To view The Conversation’s article Trust in government soars in Australia and NZ during pandemic in full click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
24/7 support for remote and rural health workers
Remote and rural health workers make a difference to people’s lives every day, supporting those who may be at their lowest ebb, and keeping the communities in which, they live healthy and safe. But who helps the health workers when the stresses of work, and life, become too much?
The CRANAplus Bush Support Line is a 24/7 telephone service offering free psychological support for this critical workforce, and their families. For decades, the service has been a lifeline for those facing personal or work-related challenges while delivering essential health services beyond Australia’s major cities.
With Australia’s remote and rural communities reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and natural disasters including bushfires, drought and flooding, the provision of easily accessible, meaningful support for health workers has never been more important, says not-for-profit organisation CRANAplus, which provides the Bush Support Line as part of its suite of services for the remote, isolated and rural health workforce.
To view the article 24/7 support service offers a lifeline to remote and rural health workers in full click here.
Grants to develop or grow NDIS services
Not-for-profit organisation, Community Business Bureau (CBB) are offering free consultancy services, for up to five organisations to help them develop a new or grow an existing NDIS service. The grant round is currently open, and applications close at 1:00 PM (ACDT) Friday 26 February 2021.
While applications are open to any organisation that provides or wishes to provide NDIS services – CBB are particularly welcoming applications from:
Organisations operating or wanting to operate in rural and remote communities in SA, WA, the NT and Queensland.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
Dr Peter Sumich, Vice-President of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists and a cataract and refractive surgeon, spoke to newsGP following the release of new research published in JAMA Ophthalmology. Dr Sumich said ‘There is no doubt – and there’s plenty of research to back it up – that people who have cataracts or low vision have more depression, more social isolation, less independence, more falls and fractures and less ability to drive. Those things all work together to play on your mental health.’
Melbourne Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor, the past president of the International Council of Ophthalmology, the Harold Mitchell Professor of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne and previous Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne says GPs should assess visual capability as part of their health checks and that it is a mandatory part of the 715 health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Professor Taylor said it is also imperative that clinicians ensure any patient who has diabetes receives regular eye examinations. ‘For non-Indigenous Australians, that should be an eye exam once every two years, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that needs to be once a year,’ he said.
To view the newsGP article Impaired vision linked to lower mental and physical health in full click here.
Image source: mivision The Ophthalmic Journal website.
Collaboration sought to shape health policy
The University of Sydney’s Sustainability, Climate and Health Collaboration (SCHC) is seeking collaborations with various partners to shape policies and practices that could promote people’s health and wellbeing under changing environment and climate. One of SCHC’s focused research areas is Indigenous health promotion. A current SCHC student member is Matilde Petersen – Research Assistant and MPhil candidate at School of Public Health. Matilde is involved in projects on climate change and health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a glossary project on climate change and health to promote multisectoral collaborations.
You can access the University of Sydney’s website here for further information about how to get involved.
Image source: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation – Russell Ord.
The big issues in outback health provision
In a series of webinars called Outback Conversations, members of The Outback Alliance and key stakeholders from diverse sectors have discussed a range of issues and challenges that have been identified following the first outbreak of COVID-19.
During The Outback Alliance Outback Conversations Webinar #2 – Health Frank Quinlan, Federation Executive, Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance in the NT (AMSANT) explored questions such as: What have been the big issues in health provision? How has the disruption in supply chains, personnel or internet access impacted remote communities? and How do we continue to protect people in the Outback?
A University of Wollongong (UOW) bioethicist is urging people to look to credible sources, not conspiracy theories, with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr Yves Saint James Aquino, a research fellow at the Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values at UOW, said the pandemic had coincided with a rise in the anti-vaxxer movement. However, he said, most Australians were simply “vaccine hesitant” in the face of rapid production of vaccines for COVID-19.
“The rollout of COVID vaccines has been hastened because of the emergency nature of the pandemic, and that’s led to some vaccine hesitancy which is understandable,” Dr Aquino said. “So the Australian government, and pharmaceutical companies need to effectively communicate why these vaccines are safe, and comparable to any vaccine developed outside of the pandemic. “They need to cut through the misinformation from the anti-vaxxer movement to mitigate the growth of that movement. Because the reality is the way these vaccines have been developed for COVID is still scientifically, evidence-based, and they have to go through a stringent regulatory process. Australia is one of the strictest regulators in the world, which is why we haven’t already started rolling out the vaccine like in other countries.”
To view the Illawarra Mercury article It’s vital to combat COVID ‘vaccine hesitancy’, says UOW bioethicist in full click here.
Image source: Illawarra Mercury.
Indigenous Health Research Fund webinars
The Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Indigenous Health Research Fund (IHRF) was announced in February 2019 to provide $160 million for research to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. An Expert Advisory Panel was appointed in September 2019 to provide advice to the Minister for Health on the strategic priorities for research investment through the IHRF. The Expert Advisory Panel provides their advice on priorities for research investment through the IHRF by developing a Roadmap and Implementation Plan.
The Roadmap is a high level strategic document that includes the aim, vision, goal and priorities for investment for the IHRF. To support the Roadmap, the Implementation Plan outlines the priorities for investment (short, medium and long term), evaluation approaches and measures, supporting activities, and collaborative opportunities. The Roadmap and Implementation Plan are used by the Department of Health to design and implement IHRF investments via Grant Opportunities promoted through GrantConnect.
Consultation has now opened on the Roadmap and Implementation Plan for the IHRF. The Expert Advisory Panel will host two Indigenous Health Research Fund webinars on 23 and 30 March 2021 where you can provide your feedback.
Image source: Research Professional News Australia & NZ website.
Collingwood’s challenge is everyone’s challenge
Associate Professor Luke Burchill from the University of Melbourne has written an article where he argues Collingwood Football Club’s challenge to undo systemic racism is everyone’s challenge. Burchill says no-one in this day and age can honestly believe that systemic racism is isolated to Collingwood or for that matter just to the footy clubs across our great nation. He says the truth is systemic racism plays out every day across the places we live, work, play, and learn. Therefore, the journey that Collingwood must now take is the journey we must all take if we are to tackle racism and start building culturally safe spaces that work for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.
As an Aboriginal doctor, cardiologist, and researcher, Burchill said he is often asked for solutions on how to Close the Gap for Aboriginal health outcomes. Since heart disease is one of the major drivers of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, you might think the solution lies in our interventions – heart pills, stents for blocked coronary arteries, pacemakers, and so on. The truth is that we can only close the gap by preventing heart disease in the first place. That begins with us understanding that health starts in the places we share our lives – our homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, clubs and communities.
If we apply this lens to Collingwood it becomes clear that systemic racism isn’t only a threat to the culture of an organisation but also for the health of those working within it.
To view Associate Professor Luke Burchill’s paper in full click here.
Footballer Adam Goodes experienced one of the most malignant national displays of systemic racism. Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.
Location negotiable across Australia – TAFE NSW
Teacher Audiometry – EarTrain Program (PT casual) – (Targeted) x multiple positions
The TAFE NSWDigital Team is looking for individuals with current industry experience and knowledge in Audiometry and Ear Health Prevention to join their team on a part time casual basis.
EarTrain is an online training program for primary health care professionals to identify and manage otitis media and other hearing conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The program is delivered across Australia by TAFE NSW and is funded by the Australian Government. EarTrain is a Closing the Gap initiative available until June 2022.
To view the position description and to apply click here.Applications close 11:59 PM Monday 22 February 2021.
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – February 2021
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is held each year in Australia to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is still the deadliest women’s cancer. Every day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and three will die from the disease. While there is no exact cause for most ovarian cancers, there are factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as increasing age, hereditary and other factors.
The symptoms of Ovarian cancer may include:
increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
abdominal or pelvic (lower stomach) pain
feeling full after eating a small amount
needing to urinate often or urgently
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech at the Ovarian Cancer Australia Teal Ribbon Parliamentary Breakfast at Parliament house yesterday can be accessed here. and the joint Minister Greg Hunt and Senator Marise Payne’s media release announcing a further $1 million to Ovarian Cancer Australia can be read in full here.
Image sources: Ovarian Cancer Australia; Graphic from Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre Yerin News, Edition 13, February 2019.
Thirteen years after then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations and set up the closing the gap targets, what needs to change?
Donnella Mills, Chair of the NACCHO, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander power is a key factor in improving health outcomes. Donnella says change is happening, and that when it comes to closing the gap, optimism is ‘in her DNA’. To listen to the radio interview with Donnella Mills on ABC Saturday Morning with Kate O’Tooleclick here.
rally on 11th anniversary of the National Apology to Stolen Generations in Sydney in 2019. Image source: SBS News website.
Calls for national memorial & healing centre
The Healing Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to establish a National First Nations Memorial and Centre for Healing in Canberra and a doubling of the core Commonwealth Grant that funds the Healing Foundation’s work to support Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants. In ‘Healing the Nation’ – The Healing Foundation Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 – the Foundation is also calling for new funding for a range of initiatives to progress the healing of Stolen Generations survivors – including reparations, tailored trauma-aware and healing-informed support for ageing and ailing Stolen Generations survivors, and better access to historical records for survivors; and a National Healing Strategy to address the impact of intergenerational trauma.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said a National Memorial for First Nations people in the nation’s capital is long overdue, “A National First Nations Memorial, which incorporates a Healing Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, would send a strong message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and all Australians – that the Federal Government is serious about reconciliation and righting past wrongs.”
You can access the Healing Foundation’s Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 here and view their media release in full here,
Image from the Healing Foundation’s Intergenerational Trauma Animation.
Still telling stories 13 years on from the Apology
February 13 each year marks the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who suffered trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal. Many of these removals occurred as the result of laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the predominately white community. Stolen Generations survivors are some of Australia’s most vulnerable people and many have kept their stories and experiences secret for many years, even decades.
One such story comes from Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black, a 64-year-old Barkindji woman, who was taken from her mother shortly after birth. Aunty Julie’s story is heart breaking and courageous and reminds us that behind the Stolen Generations policies there were people, and children, who are still alive and in need of support. To acknowledge the Apology Anniversary, you can watch Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black’s story here.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said it is important to commemorate this significant moment in national healing, acknowledging the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to address the impacts of unresolved trauma, “It’s important that we as a nation provide a safe environment for Stolen Generations survivors and their families to speak for themselves, tell their own stories, and be in charge of their own healing. Assimilation policies that led to the Stolen Generations continued right up until the 1970s and many of those affected by the trauma are still alive today.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release The Healing Foundation continues telling the stories of Stolen Generations survivors 13 years on from the Apologyclick here.
Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born. Image source: Healing Foundation.
A long way from the Stolen Generations
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a media release on Saturday 13 February 2021, a day marking the 13th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. Minister Wyatt met with Wiradjuri Elder Isabel Reid, one of the oldest living survivors of the Stolen Generation in January 2021, “Isabel’s story is just one of tens of thousands of children who were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 by Australian governments. This is undoubtedly one of the darker chapters in our nation’s story. On this day I reflect upon the words of the Apology – because they serve as an important reminder of the journey we have all walked – a significant moment on the path to reconciliation – an acknowledgment of our shared history – the importance of our contribution to this national story. It is a story that in parts is raw and painful – and it is a story that in other parts shows that our resilience and determination, built up over 65,000 years, lives and grows in strength today.”
To view the Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.
SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle says the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February is an historic day for Australia in acknowledging the wrongs of the past, but the impact of child removal on First Nations children and families continues decades on, “In 2008, the Australian government finally said sorry for unjustly removing generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families – breaking up families and communities and leaving a legacy of intergenerational trauma for our peoples. We feel for our families on this day. The stories of the Stolen Generations are something that we all carry with us. They are our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents and our brothers and sisters. The Apology was only the first step in truth telling for our nation. Failures to adequately incorporate First Nations perspectives into policy and to support healing for families continue to impact our communities.”
To view SNAICC’s media release SNAICC Calls on Governments to Commit to Supporting First Nations Children and Familiesclick here.
Image source: Meanjin Quarterly.
Improving social media health information survey
A research project is being conducted by researchers at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. The aim of the project is to develop Principles for Health Information on Social Media (PRHISM) to assess and help improve the quality of health-related information provided on social media. The PRHISM team are looking for individuals with experience in media, communications and/or social media who currently work for a health-related organisation to take part. Participation involves completion of three 20 minute online surveys. There will be a two to three week gap between each survey and the total time commitment will be approximately 60 minutes over six to nine weeks.
If you are interested in taking part or would like more information you can register your interest and read more about the study via the following link.
Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs has teamed up with Illustrator Molly Hunt to create Covid-19 health messaging for First Nations communities. Image source: NITV website.
Closing the Gap reporting
Historically, the Australian Government has released a Closing the Gap report in February to coincide with the anniversary of the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, together with a statement to Parliament. This will change under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came into effect in July 2020. Under the new Agreement, all parties including the Australian Government must deliver an Implementation Plan on Closing the Gap within 12 months, and report annually on the actions they are taking to achieve the targets. Consistent with the new National Agreement, the Australian Government will release its Closing the Gap Implementation Plan in July 2021 and report annually in the Spring sitting period thereafter.
To view the Minister for Indigenous Australians’ Closing the Gap media release click here.
Image source: Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris blog.
Close the Gap Campaign refuses to be left wanting
The Close the Gap Campaign looks forward to seeing a comprehensive report on the refreshed targets for Closing the Gap by July 2021. The campaign notes the announcement that the release of the Closing the Gap data has been pushed back to July in order to allow a full reporting year since the signing of the new National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap. The Close the Gap Campaign expects to see the PM and Minister Wyatt release the data in July, including a full analysis of what governments plan to do to reform and address the ongoing inequality. “While we understand the need for a change in timeframe to allow a year since the signing of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, this cannot be used as an excuse to kick the can down the road,” said Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners CEO Karl Briscoe.
To view the Close the Gap Campaign media statement click here.
Kathy Freeman. Image source: ANTaR website.
Speaking from the Heart podcast
Why is a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament critical to Australia’s journey towards reconciliation? Will Australia accept the ‘gift’ that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart? And is acknowledging history (and learning from it) an opportunity to build a more inclusive, more truly Australian national identity? On the second episode in a Policy Forum Pod mini-series on Indigenous wellbeing, co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council Pat Anderson AO joins hosts Professor Sharon Bessell and Dr Arnagretta Hunter for a remarkable conversation about healing, history, and having the courage to call for change. Listen here.
Ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework
Minister for Correctional Services of SA, Vincent Tarzia said in an Australian first, the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has released a ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework (ASF) 2020-2025. The ASF is the first of its kind in the nation to encompass the needs of prisoners, offenders, staff and community. It provides a culturally informed and tailored approach to address the needs of Aboriginal prisoners and offenders and ensures that DCS programs, policies and supports are culturally safe. The framework was informed through consultation with prisoners, staff and the community and outlines three components to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people: 1. Ensure access to programs and services that are responsive to the unique cultural and gendered need of Aboriginal prisoners. 2. Build a culturally competent and responsive workforce. 3. Increase Aboriginal economic participation and strengthen partnerships with organisations, businesses and Aboriginal communities.
NT Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy, Gerard Maley, says the Gunner Government’s own study shows that total alcohol consumption only dropped in regions where Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) were stationed at bottle shops, and saw no decline in areas PALIs don’t man takeaway liquor outlets, “This data does not support a minimum floor price – this data supports the use of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors. The government’s own report shows areas with Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors had lower total alcohol consumption, and where there were no PALIs there was no drop in consumption. Yet the report states that this success was due to the minimum floor price.”
Noi.heen.ner is an event focused on bridging the gap between the Tasmanian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. The event’s name means ‘in good spirits’. Reconciliation Council Tasmania co-chair Bill Lawson AM said the event was about building curiosity and a warm dialogue about Aboriginal culture in the Tasmanian community, “I think a lot of Tasmanians have been curious for a long time but have been cautious to get involved as they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. I think things, festivals like this, they’re a safe place for people to come and hear a Welcome to Country, be involved in a smoking ceremony, and realise it’s not all as we think, and that we have things to learn.
To view the Noi.heen.ner marks a ‘good spirited’ connection of cultures article published in The Advocate click here.
Cruze Smart-Pitchford, 12, painting mother Karen Smart-Pitchford with ochre before a welcome to country ceremony at the Noi.heen.ner event. Image source: The Advocate.
Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021
Brisbane Broncos CEO Paul White and players Kotoni Staggs and Patrick Carrigan, plus club legends and Deadly Choices Ambassadors Steve Renouf and Petero Civoniceva have announced the Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021.
Equipped with the most comprehensive suite of Brisbane Broncos Deadly Choices Health Check shirts ever produced in the 10-year history of its partnership with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service providers from throughout Queensland will be able to maintain strong and essential connections with the people that matter most.
The 2021 Broncos Deadly Choices preventative health campaign, instigated by IUIH, represents a calculated response to the global, COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the empowerment of individuals and families to take control of their own health through the maintenance of regular health checks remains a top priority. “Our Deadly Choices partnership with the Brisbane Broncos has netted some amazing health successes over the last decade and we see the club’s role in the anticipated delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination as an evolutionary shift forward,” said IUIH CEO Adrian Carson.
Indicative of the direct impact Deadly Choices is having in communities, Queensland has the highest number and the highest rate of use (40%) of 715 heath checks of any State or Territory in Australia. This statistic isn’t lost on the CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane, Jody Currie who is already excited by the New Year acquisitions, “The Broncos-Deadly Choices partnership provides a very strong community engagement tool to enhance positive health messaging and continue to encourage health checks among Indigenous communities right from right across South East Queensland”.
Gunggari and Gubbi Gubbi man Steve Renouf holds the record for the most tries for the Broncos. Image source: Deadly Choices website.
Sexual Health Week
Sexual Health Week, 4–21 February 2021, is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss sexual health in all of its facets, and during this week the WA AIDS Council (WAAC) has shared some advice on how you can make sure you’re looking after your sexual health.
Size is an issue – did you know that 70% of men who do not like wearing condoms are wearing the wrong size? Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not one-size-fits-all. And this small misconception is one of many that get in the way of people being able to have the most fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable sexual life possible. For many people, young and old, they got more of a sex education watching Sex Education on Netflix than in any sex-ed class in school. There is a pervasive thought that you need to pick between pleasure and safety, protection versus orgasm, as if they are opposites when they are very much not.
WAAC has partnered with the Department of Health to provide small grants of up to $1,000 to organisations and services working in regional and remote parts of WA. The grant enables organisations the opportunity to run sexual health programs that they would not have been able to run without funding.
This year they have been able to provide the grant to four organisations, including NACCHO members Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS), who will run a project to increase sexual health testing with young people and increase their knowledge, and Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) who will travel over 1,200kms around the Mid West to educate young people about sexual health and offer testing services.
To view the full article It’s Sexual Health Week – when did you last check your sexual health?click here.
COVID-19 kept out of communities came as no surprise
The latest issue of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) The Health Advocate magazine includes NACCHO CEO Pat Turner’s oration at the 2020 Sidney Sax Award ceremony. Pat Turner said “the success of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) in keeping COVID-19 out of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has come as a welcome shock to most. Less than 150 Aboriginal people have contracted COVID-19 Australia-wide. Our share of the COVID-19 caseload was 0.5% when our share of the national population is 3.3%. This has been a wonderful achievement.”
“But pandemics are best defeated by community based action and the very ACCHO model itself is fundamentally about community control. It was no surprise to us. And there was too much at stake for us to fail. Look at what happened to the Navajo. They have the highest death rate of any ethnic group in the USA. If the virus had got into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the consequences would have been catastrophic with our levels of comorbidity and social disadvantage. While the press has been calling the pandemic and the measures to combat it ‘unprecedented’, the virus for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is, sadly, a familiar tale. Aboriginal people have been battling pandemics since 1788. The success of the measures put in place by our ACCHOs is well documented.”
To view Pat Turner’s speech published in The Health Advocate February 2021 in full click here.
Image source: The Guardian.
ACCHO launches new outreach dental clinic
A new outreach dental clinic aimed at providing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is set to open in Woy Woy following an increase in community demand. Local Aboriginal health service provider, Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services, will expand its dental program with the launch of the new clinic on Friday, March 5. The Gulgul Yirra Outreach Dental Clinic will be located in Woy Woy Public Hospital and will operate every second Friday.
Yerin CEO, Belinda Field, said the new clinic is the provider’s second on the Coast, following the opening of a flagship dental clinic in Wyong in 2018. “Since opening our first dental clinic in 2018, we’ve seen firsthand the need and demand for culturally appropriate dental services,” Field said. “Our Gulgul Yirra Dental Clinic in Wyong has grown exponentially and is now open five days per week, supporting almost 2,000 patients and delivering over 15,000 treatments annually. We’re thrilled to be able to expand and offer these services in a new location on the southern end of the Central Coast, making them accessible to even more of our community.”
To view the full article in the Coast Community Newsclick here.
Staff at the Gulgul Yirra Dental Clinic in Wyong. Image source: Coast Community News.
Rough sleeper numbers are back on the up
Australian governments acted to protect homeless people from COVID-19 in 2020 on an even larger scale than previously thought. In the first six months of the pandemic, the four states that launched emergency programs housed more than 40,000 rough sleepers and others. The states were anxious about rough sleepers’ extreme vulnerability to virus infection and the resulting public health risk to the wider community. NSW, Victoria, Queensland and SA acted fast to provide safe temporary housing, mainly in otherwise empty hotels.
To a great extent Australia’s homeless compared to other countries such as England reflects the country’s growing social housing deficit, as well as inadequate rent assistance and other social security benefits. All of these factors are barriers to helping low-income Australians into stable long-term housing. The fundamental flaws in Australia’s housing system have become glaringly exposed by the public health crisis of the pandemic.
Raymond Ward at the Tent City homeless camp in Perth. On any given night the homeless camp has been hosting up to 50 mostly Aboriginal homeless people such at Raymond Ward. Image source: Daily Mail Australia.
Youth perspectives on mental health
Indigenous researcher Cammi Murrup-Stewart has completed a PhD thesis investigating the links between Indigenous culture and Indigenous health. “Within the Aboriginal community, concepts such as mental health are more holistic,” she says. “We have this idea that everything is connected, and to be a well person, you need to have these positive connections with your family and community, with your physical body, and also with the land around you, which I think the Australian community is starting to understand a little bit better.”
“A lot of the research comes from a white perspective, and there’s not that much scientific evidence that has been verified by the scientific community that is based on an Aboriginal perspective,” Murrup-Stewart says. Generally speaking, the research she reviewed “definitely devalued the Aboriginal perspectives, and so missed a lot of important findings, or prioritised things that have not resulted in any positive change”.
To view the full article, Mental health and wellbeing: Listening to young Indigenous people in Narrm, published in the Monash University LENS click here.
Image source: Monash University LENS website.
Visual impairment in Australia
Visual impairment is the partial or full loss of sight in one or both eyes. Visual impairment may be the result of disease or injury, may progress over time, and may be permanent or corrected with visual aids (such as glasses) or with surgery. According to self-reported data from the ABS 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), the prevalence of self-reported eye or sight problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 38%, affecting about 307,000 people—including about 44,100 who live in Remote areas (30% of the remote Indigenous population). According to the National Eye Health Survey (NEHS), an estimated 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and over experienced vision impairment and blindness in 2016. The leading causes of vision impairment were uncorrected refractive error (61%), cataract (20%) and diabetic retinopathy (5.2%).
To view the Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Eye health web report click here.
Image source: The Fred Hollows Foundation website.
ACCHO CEO furious over rejected prison inquiry
Indigenous and social service advocates are angry and disappointed that a proposed investigation into systemic racism at the Canberra Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) will not take place. Instead, Minister for Corrections Mick Gentleman replaced the Canberra Liberals motion – made on behalf of Indigenous Canberrans – with an amendment to continue a review into the ACT’s high Indigenous incarceration rates.
“I’m furious, to be quite honest,” Julie Tongs OAM, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service, said. “But I’m not surprised that the motion was watered down. This Labor-Green Government are progressive on selective issues. Unfortunately, Aboriginal disadvantage isn’t one of them. It reinforces the belief across the Aboriginal community that their issues and concerns are not a priority with this so-called progressive government.” Ms Tongs called the amendment “a cover-up”, and called for Mr Gentleman to resign.
To access the article in full click here and to view a previous Canberra Weekly article regarding the proposed investigation into racism at AMC click here.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs OAM. Image source: ABC News website.
Big boost for Victorian health infrastructure
The Andrews Labor Government is supporting Victorian hospitals, community health services and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) with $320 million in funding to upgrade vital health infrastructure. Minister for Health Martin Foley has announced submissions for the new $200 million Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund (MHIF) and the fifth round of the $120 million Regional Health Infrastructure Fund (RHIF) have opened, ensuring health services across the state can continue to provide world-class healthcare for all Victorians. Established as part of the Victorian Budget 2020–2021, the MHIF will fund construction, remodelling and refurbishment projects, equipment, information and communication technology and other vital upgrade works to meet service demand, and improve safety and infection prevention and control measures at Melbourne’s busiest hospitals and community health services.
To view the Victorian Minister for Health’s media release click here.
Landmark mural by Aboriginal artists, Ray Thomas, Kulan Barney and Ruby Kulla Kulla, in partnership with world famous street artist Adnate, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Victorian Aboriginal and Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), which proclaims its mission of Strong Culture, Thriving Communities. Image source: Croakey.
Minimum alcohol price curbs problem drinking
The “floor price” for alcohol introduced by the NT in 2018 reduced the consumption of cask wine by half, without significantly impacting sales of other types of alcohol, according to a new analysis of the policy’s effectiveness. On October 1, 2018, the NT introduced a minimum price of A$1.30 per unit (equivalent to 10 grams of pure alcohol or one “standard drink”) on alcohol, in a bid to tackle problem drinking. The price was chosen to target cheap wines that have historically been an issue throughout the NT, while not influencing other liquor types.
Alcohol has been ranked as the most harmful drug in Australian communities, and the greatest harm of all comes from heavy drinking. In Australia an estimated three-quarters of all alcohol is consumed by the top 20% of its heaviest drinkers, a group that the alcohol industry depends on and actively targets, labelling them as super consumers. Nowhere in Australia are the harms of alcohol more stark than in the NT where alcohol-attributable harm costs the community an estimated A$1.4 billion a year. Alcohol-related deaths in the territory are 2–10 times higher than the national average.
Considering the effectiveness with which this policy has reduced consumption of cask wine in the NT, it is time for other state and territory governments to consider following suit.
Cask wine consumption decreased by half in the year following the NT’s introduction of minimum pricing. Image source: Croakey.
Remote training scheme vacancies
The Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS) is a unique Commonwealth-funded Fellowship program offering distance education and training to allow registrars to stay in their rural or remote community and continue to provide vital healthcare services while progressing to Fellowship. It’s not too late to secure a training position with the RVTS for the 2021 intake. Round 4 Applications are now open, with training to commence in April 2021.
Positions are available nationally, for training in the AMS and Remote training streams. In addition, there are Targeted Recruitment positions available in selected areas of high workforce need across Australia, offering exciting opportunities for GP training and employment.
For more information about the RVTS and to check your eligibility and apply click here. Applications close Sunday 21 February 2021.
NSW bush’s health battles substantial
A parliamentary inquiry into regional and rural healthcare has received over 700 submissions, highlighting issues such as chronic doctor shortages, a lack of resources and a system that is overstretched. The submissions have revealed harrowing stories, such as a hospital requesting patients bring their own bandages and doctors allegedly trying to mend broken bones over videolink. Wee Waa Chamber of Commerce wrote that a lack of healthcare is “literally killing the town”, and Gunnedah Shire Council said doctors are so overstretched they are essentially “running a crisis medical service.”
A submission by the Riverina Murray Regional Alliance (RMRA), which incorporates the communities of Tumut and Wagga Wagga among others, said it was founded in 2015 in response to the reduction of government services in the area. RMRA held a Healing Forum in 2017 which identified intergenerational trauma as a key issue, with one impact of this being drug and alcohol addiction and its effect on local communities, such as poor physical and mental health, family violence and poor education outcomes. “A need was identified for services to be provided by Aboriginal people to Aboriginal people, to ensure that our communities are connected to them,” the submission reads. “This includes the involvement in Aboriginal people in the design and delivery of services they received.”
To view the full article in the Tumut and Adelong Timesclick here.
Riverina Murray Regional Alliance made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into regional and rural health care.
NSW – Narooma – Katungul ACRH&CS
Dentist x 1 FT or PT – Narooma – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services (KACRHCS) is seeking applications for the role of Dentist to work either Part Time or Full Time. KACRHCS is a not for profit organisation providing culturally attuned, integrated health and community services on the Far South Coast of NSW. Katungul is managed by a CEO reporting to an elected Board of Directors.
The Dentist performs preventative and restorative oral procedures to ensure the highest standards of dental health and dental care for Aboriginal clients. This role includes the provision of culturally appropriate clinical dental care, oversight of laboratory conditions and requirements, and community health promotion and health education activities to improve oral health status.
You can view the job advert here and access the position description here.Applications close 5:00 PM Monday 1 March 2021.
National Condom Day – Sunday 14 February 2021
A day that began with an American AIDS support group in the late 1980s, as a way of promoting condom use and safer sex practices, National Condom Day has now become an annual highlight on the Australian sexual health calendar. National Condom Day is an Australia state-wide event and takes place on the 14 February ‘Valentine’s Day’ each year.
It’s is a day where we are reminded that condoms are still the best way to stop the transmission of STI’s and HIV, and also help prevent unplanned pregnancy.
A recent Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) and Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) paper that retrospectively analysed 91 perinatal mental health assessments from the Kimberley region found that almost all of the women had protective factors and these appeared to contribute to them not having anxiety or depression even if they had significant risk factors. The most prominent protective factor was positive relationships with family members.
The study found that for Aboriginal women, it is important that the health professional explores a woman’s whole context; that is, the way she experiences stress and risk and how her protective factors support her. This will help the woman and her health professional best understand and support her mental health and wellbeing. Assessing Aboriginal women’s perinatal mental health by only looking at risk is not enough.
Plain language reports and a link to the paper are available on the KAMS research website which can be accessed by clicking here.
Image source: Centre of Perinatal Excellence website.
AHCWA launches Mappa platform
The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), in conjunction with its 23 member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) and associated communities have initiated the development and launch of the Mappa platform live to all Western Australians.
Mappa is a free-to-use online mapping platform developed to address the lack of clarity at all levels in regards to healthcare services being delivered across rural, remote and metropolitan regions throughout WA. Mappa provided comprehensive, culturally appropriate and reliable information for health services, health professionals, patients, clients and their communities.
Mappa brings three worlds together: the patient/client journey world; the healthcare world; and the technology world. In doing this, the mapping platform seeks to help those who are not technology savvy and/or have English as a second or third language, busy healthcare providers, clinicians, GPs, allied healthcare providers and those who want an easy way to find a place, a community or a healthcare service and to know how long it will take to get there.
Mappa is about ‘getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time‘, while being with family, at home and on country.
To view the article about the Mappa platform in The West Australian – New Directions in Telehealth liftout (page 3) click here.
NACCHO supports the World Aids Day 2020 theme ‘now, more than ever’ saying it is time to close the gap on rates of HIV notifications amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities in Australia. NACCHO believes as per the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that there is a real opportunity to take Aboriginal-led approaches and partnerships to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.
NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey said, “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face unique issues and social determinants that affect health outcomes, including overcrowded housing. We have demonstrated that a partnership and commitment from the Australian Government’s Departments of Health with NACCHO and direct funding for ACCHOs to address the syphilis outbreak has produced some positive outcomes.”
Katherine’s only general practice closed its doors last month, leaving the 8,000 patients on its books with no other option but to travel three hours to Darwin for a GP consultation. The decision to close was not an easy one for GP and practice owner Dr Peter Spafford – who has been a resident of the NT town for 19 years and owner of Gorge Health for 10 – but he felt he had no other option.
A 2018 workforce assessment conducted by the NT Primary Health Network (PHN) recommended the town, with a population of almost 10,000, needed nine GPs to provide a service equal to elsewhere in Australia. The reality on the ground, however, has been just two GPs, four at best. Constant waitlists have meant there’s always been a difficulty in providing full GP services to the community.
The solution, according to RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements, is multifaceted and requires a whole-of-system approach that considers everything from housing security and spousal employment to children’s education and the training environment.
After more than 12 months of hard work, consultation and collaboration, the RACGP has launched a reconciliation action plan (RAP) as part of its vision of a healthcare system free of racism.
Designed to help establish a culturally safe organisation that supports continuous education and learning for staff and members, the RAP has been praised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within and outside of the college. The plan involves a commitment to improving the knowledge, skills and abilities required to deliver culturally responsive health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which relies on a culturally inclusive and safe environment with strong relationships based on mutual respect.
To view The RACGP Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan October 2020 – September 2022click here.
To view the related article published in newsGPclick here.
Image source: newsGP.
World Scabies Program launched
The recently launched World Scabies Program (WSP), headed by Professor Andrew Steer, based on key research by Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute (MCRI), conducted in partnership with the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the Kirby Institute of UNSW Sydney, has shown that scabies prevalence can be reduced by more than 90% with a single community wide treatment.
Scabies is a parasitic infestation of the skin with the parasitic ‘itch mite’ Sarcoptes scabiei. The tiny mite burrows into the upper layers of the skin causing intensely itchy lesions which commonly become infected with bacteria and can lead to more serious conditions such and kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease. In humans, scabies is a particularly significant disease in children, but occurs in both sexes, at all ages, in all ethnic groups, and at all socioeconomic levels. Transmission of the mites from one person to the next is by direct skin to skin contact. Scabies is a significant disease worldwide in humans, wildlife, livestock and domestic animals and is a particularly serious problem in many remote Australia Indigenous communities, where overcrowded living conditions are a major factor contributing to high rates of transmission.
Fiji will be one of the first countries in the world to roll out a nationwide scabies elimination program and will be a model for other countries. Approximately one in every five Fijians is at risk of having scabies at any given time, with children at a higher risk. WSP will scale up this approach to the whole population of Fiji, with an aim to essentially eliminate scabies as a public health problem.
To learn more about the World Scabies Programclick here.
The scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. Image source: SBS NITV website.
2021 Eye Health Conference abstracts open
Abstract submissions are now open for the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC): The Gap and Beyond. The conference will bring elements from the postponed Close the Gap for Vision National Conference 2020 and, in 2021, will be delivered fully online.
The conference will be held virtually from 20–22 April 2021 with abstracts welcome from all working in, or interested in, improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. Topics should be relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and efforts to close the gap for vision and ultimately eliminate avoidable vision loss and blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. This could include eye care in primary care; eye care stakeholder collaborations; community-led and cultural engagement approaches and initiatives; workforce development; challenges in coordination and case management; improving outcomes and access to services; health system changes and reform.
For more information about abstract submissions click here. The closing date for abstract submissions is Monday 18 January 2021.
First signs of ear disease at 8 weeks
Telethon Kids Institute researchers have found close to 40% of Aboriginal babies begin to develop middle ear infections between 2–4 months of age in a first of its kind study in metropolitan Perth. By 6–8 months this increased to over 50% of kids according to results published in Deafness and Educational International, clearly demonstrating the urgent need to prioritise early testing and treatment for Aboriginal children suffering debilitating ear infections, also known as otitis media (OM).
Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann AO, Honorary Emeritus Fellow at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, said 650,000 Australian children are affected by OM each year and Aboriginal children have some of the highest rates in the world. “While our previous research has already shown Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by chronic ear disease, most studies have focused on kids in regional and remote areas and information about the true burden of OM in urban areas was very limited,” Professor Lehmann said.
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner has made the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend’s second annual 40 Australians Who Mattered list for her contribution to social justice. Pat’s citation says ‘For decades Pat Turner has being a passionate voice for Aboriginal equality and self-determination, inside and outside governments, particularly in the field of Indigenous health. Her strong leadership was highlighted this year in her role as the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together more than 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In July, Turner stood beside Prime Minister Scott Morrison to launch a new national agreement on Closing the Gap, which is supposed to make Indigenous-run organisations central to programs to reduce disadvantage in communities.
“She’s one of the most experienced public servants in Australia,” says federal Labor frontbencher and Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney. “She’s had an incredibly distinguished career spanning both community and government. She shows a willingness to speak truth to power, she understands how governments work and is absolutely committed to driving a proper partnership with Aboriginal people in relation to Closing the Gap.”
Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.
Activism against gender-based violence video
Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-op has contributed to a video telling the story of what a gender equitable future looks like and the need to call out disrespect, sexism and discrimination. The video, produced with funding from Respect Victoria and the City of Ballarat, is part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence global campaign to end gender-based violence. The campaign is book-ended by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November and International Human Rights Day on 10 December. These days were chosen in order to emphasise that violence against women is a human rights violation.
Bluey Roberts had been undergoing dialysis treatment in Adelaide’s major hospitals for the past three years. This year, however, he said things have changed for the better. “It’s more like home here,” Mr Roberts said while overlooking a smoking fireplace at Kanggawodli, a short-term accommodation facility in Adelaide’s north-west for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Australia.
Until recently, the site didn’t provide dialysis treatment options — but a trial of on-site facilities has seen immediate results, boosting attendance for vital services. For Bluey, a Ngarrindjeri elder and revered artist whose work features at institutions including the Art Gallery of SA, home is several hours’ drive away. But health difficulties linked to his dialysis needs left him in a challenging spot. “I wasn’t too good when I first came but I’m not too bad now, sort of settled down and got a lot better with my dialysis,” he says.
The six-month SA Health pilot of stationing dialysis machines at Kanggawodli makes it the only treatment location outside of a hospital in a metropolitan setting. Kanggawodli Manager Wade Allan said traditional owners often find hospitals overwhelming and alienating, which results in patients not committing to ongoing treatment.
The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) has partnered with The National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) and other Aboriginal organisations to launch #swab4mob; a campaign aimed at urging Aboriginal communities to protect their families by getting COVID-19 testing if they feel unwell. While there is currently no available COVID-19 vaccine or cure, it is essential that continued testing rates are maintained to help with community control of the virus and assist with contact tracing.
AH&MRC CEO Robert Skeen stated: “The collective voice of Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal health organisations play an important role to help people maintain COVID-19-safe behaviours and high testing rates while there is no cure or vaccine available for COVID-19. Wash your hands, wear a mask in crowded areas, and if you are feeling unwell, even just a slightly, play your part to protect your Community and get a COVID-19 test.”
To view AH&MRC’s press release about the #swab4mob launch click here and to view the #swab4mob video click here.