Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 78 : June 5 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Top 10 #COVID19 News Alerts including download the NACCHO AHCWA submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response : And #BlackLivesMatter Support

1.Download the NACCHO submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response.

2.The “Unsung” Impacts of COVID-19 on the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Western Australia. Download

3.Full transcript this weeks Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 – Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous health.

4.Updated list of operational ACCHO GPRC’s as at June 4

5.Minister Ken Wyatt opens Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service’s Respiratory Clinic in Perth .

6. KAMS ACCHO rolls out first COVID-19 point of care testing site in Kimberley.

7.WA Journey to health and healing video.

8. Summary of national easing of restrictions plus roadmap to easing restrictions in Queensland remote communities.

9.Download the COVIDSafe app : What you need to know about the #COVIDSafe app and how the app will help protect our communities.

10. ACCHO’s support Black Lives Matter marches in Brisbane and Melbourne by providing masks and hand sanitiser

1.Download the NACCHO submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response.

The COVID-19 virus has exposed the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pandemics.

Generations of systemic and ongoing provision of inadequate housing and infrastructure, overcrowding, and social disadvantage, and the high prevalence of comorbidities among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people contribute to higher mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Over 50% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have one or more chronic diseases which places them at high risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these factors make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people one of the most vulnerable populations to the COVID-19 virus.

If COVID-19 gets into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Download the full submission and all recommendations HERE

The Australian Government, along with its counterparts in the States and Territories, has recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are highly vulnerable and that it would be catastrophic if the COVID-19 virus was to spread to communities. This same recognition did not occur with the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic, during which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffered a death rate of more than four times higher than non-indigenous Australians1,2.

The high level of collaboration by the National Cabinet has been instrumental in achieving the low number of COVID-19 cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, together with the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our health sector and Ms Pat Turner’s leadership on negotiating a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

2.The “Unsung” Impacts of COVID-19 on the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Western Australia. Download

Download full AHCWA COVID-19 submission HERE

COVID-19 AHCWA & WA ACCHS summary

3.Full transcript this weeks Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 – Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous health.

Senator McCARTHY: Could I go to funding for mental health. The government has allocated $3 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people for mental health through PHNs. I want to understand the process in which the government provided funding for mental health and why it’s gone to PHNs.

Mr Matthews: First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Health, Department of Health

We don’t have anyone here from our mental health area, but I think you’re referring to the recent announcement around mental health, which did include $3½ million for Indigenous mental health, which will flow through the Primary Health Networks. So that will be injected into there. A significant amount of the Indigenous mental health funding does run through the PHNs, so that is a strengthening of an existing framework; it injects further funding into that system. The details will be worked through with the PHNs for the PHNs to use flexibly in providing mental health support in the regions.

Senator McCARTHY: It’s going through the PHNs. Why is it that it didn’t it go through the ACCHOs?

Mr Matthews: As I said, that one is a decision—it’s just the way the funding has worked. A lot of the mental health funding does run through the PHNs currently. The mental health work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people does work through PHNs now, so it is an additional injection into that existing process, noting that, obviously, a lot of what the PHNs do is to make arrangements with ACCHOs and Aboriginal community controlled health services locally. Quite a reasonable proportion of the funding does go to ACCHOs. Obviously, the sector has—for some time, I think—been looking to ask questions around those arrangements. That discussion is ongoing with government. But, at the moment, that is an additional injection into the existing funding.

Senator McCARTHY: Did funding for mental health in response to the bushfires go to the ACCHOs or to NACCHO?

Mr Matthews: There was funding, in the bushfire context, that did go directly to the Aboriginal community controlled sector. That was to support a limited number of areas that were directly affected by the bushfires. At the time, going through those Aboriginal community controlled health services was seen as the fastest way to provide support into those areas.

Senator McCARTHY: So you’re saying that, on one hand, you’re strengthening the system by going through PHNs when, in actual fact, you already had a precedent set by sending the mental health funding directly to the ACCHOs, yet you’re not doing it in this situation where it’s even faster for ACCHOs to be dealing directly with First Nations people as opposed to PHNs.

Mr Matthews: I think that, obviously, the majority of the mental health funding does run through the PHN system at the moment. There was some funding, in the bushfire context, provided directly through to the ACCHOs, but, as I said, it was a decision of government for the $3½ million to go into and through the PHN network, noting that a large amount of the money does find a way through to the Aboriginal community controlled sector through the PHNs. As I said, there is an ongoing discussion where the community controlled sector is seeking to discuss those arrangements more broadly. I’m sure that discussion will continue with government.

Download the full 3 hour transcript 

Senate Hearing COVID19 and Indigenous Health

4.Updated list of operational ACCHO GPRC’s as at June 4

5. Minister Ken Wyatt opens Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service’s Respiratory Clinic in Perth .

The first Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Respiratory Clinic opened Tuesday in the Derbarl Maddington Clinic, as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Derbarl provides holistic and culturally responsive health care to more than 10,000 active Aboriginal patients in the Perth metropolitan area.

Respiratory disease accounts for 8% of the burden of disease, and is the third leading cause of death for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people are more than five times more likely to be hospitalised for influenza-related illnesses than non-Aboriginal people, with the highest rate of hospitalisation in children less than five years of age. Derbarl treats more than 1,500 patients each year with chronic respiratory illnesses alone.

The opening of the respiratory clinic is therefore fundamental to meeting the health needs of Aboriginal people.

Chairperson of Derbarl Yerrigan, Ms Francine Eades said “Considering these alarming statistics, I am pleased that Derbarl responded to the opportunity to provide this vital service to our patients and the wider community.

We have joined the growing number of Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services delivering GP-led respiratory clinics to our people.”

Download read full press release

DYHS Media Release – Maddington Respiratory Clinic Opening (1)

6.KAMS rolls out first COVID-19 point of care testing site in Kimberley.

KAMS CEO, Vicki O’Donnell, is excited to be the first service in the country to offer this testing capability.

“This will be a game changer for our communities. The fact that we will have an immediate test result will save us having to transport people to Broome, where they are separated from family and friends while they await their test result,” O’Donnell said.

“The new point of care tests will allow us to undertake contact tracing with that individual while they wait the 45 minutes for their test outcome.”

“If their result returns negative, they can be treated for the condition they presented at the clinic with and return home. If their result returns positive, we can make an immediate start on contacting anybody they have been in contact with.”

O’Donnell thanked the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Commonwealth Indigenous Health Division, with particular regard to Dr Lucas De Toca and his team. She also extended thanks to the Kirby Institute, whose support enabled the roll out of the point of care testing GeneXpert machines.

Read full article here 

7.WA Journey to health and wellbeing video.

8. Summary of national easing of restrictions plus roadmap to easing restrictions in Queensland remote communities.

Updated June 5 Western Australia will join the Northern Territory in lifting travel restrictions across remote communities on Friday, 5 June 2020.

The Australian Government has taken this action in response to a request by the Deputy
Premier and Minister for Health and Mental Health of Western Australia, The Hon. Roger
Cook MLA, to lift the restrictions currently in place through the Emergency Determination
under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

See Minister Ken Wyatt press release

WA

9.Download the COVIDSafe app : What you need to know about the #COVIDSafe app and how the app will help protect our communities.

10. ACCHO’s support Black Lives Matter marches in Brisbane and Melbourne by providing masks and hand sanitiser

Thanks to the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service -VAHS Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health they able to support the BlacK Lives Matter march in  Melbourne and Brisbane by providing masks and hand sanitiser.
For all the mob in Melbourne VAHS will be present for tomorrow’s Black Lives Matter rally to hand out face masks and hand sanitisers to make sure we take a harm minimisation approach.

For the Melbourne mob : Come see VAHS Staff between 12pm to 2pm, next to Sir Doug Nicholls and Lady Nicholls statue in Parliament Gardens to receive free face masks

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 77 : June 4 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : What you need to know about the #COVIDSafe app and how the app will help protect our communities.

1. Here’s what you need to know about the COVIDSafe app.

2.What is the COVIDSafe app?

3.How do I set up the app?

4.How does COVIDSafe help protect the community?

5.Who will use the information?

6.More information about COVID-19

 ” An app has been developed to help protect everyone in Australia from the spread of coronavirus.  It speeds up the current manual process used by public health officers to find contacts of someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

Finding you quickly means you can better protect your families and friends from being infected and get help to support your health.

If you have a mobile phone, download the app to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

We understand the easing of restrictions is only temporary if COVID-19 cases are kept out of our communities , so we still need retain the formula, washing hands, social distancing, and following the rules with a healthy dose of common sense, if we keep this up, our cases will stay down ” 

2.What is the COVIDSafe app?

The app operates in the background on your phone as you go about your day. It uses a ‘Bluetooth’ signal to communicate with other phones that are close by which also have the app. It only records the date, time, distance and duration of contact.

The app does not record your location or movement.  Public health officers can only access the information to find people exposed to the virus.   It is about coronavirus – and only coronavirus.

The information is stored for 21 days and then automatically deleted. This information is encrypted and stored in the app on your phone. No-one, not even you, can access it. And special laws have been put in place to protect your privacy.

3.How do I set up the app?

You can download it from app stores on Android and iOS. The app is free and downloading it is voluntary.

After downloading, you register by entering a name, phone number, postcode and age range.

You will be prompted to delete the app from your phone when coronavirus is no longer a risk in Australia. This will delete all information stored in the app.

4.How does COVIDSafe help protect the community?

If you are diagnosed with coronavirus, a public health officer will ask you  about everyone you have been close to recently. This means that you need to try and remember everyone who was no more than two big steps away from you for at least 15 minutes in the last two weeks. This can be hard – and, by using technology, the app makes it so much easier.

If you have downloaded the app, you can choose to give the health officers access to the information on the app (which would have recorded who you had been in close contact with).

This will enable the health officers to quickly identify and contact the right people and prevent the virus spreading.

5.Who will use the information?

The public health officers in your state or territory will only have access to this information so they can contact and let you know:

  • what to look out for
  • if you need to quarantine
  • how, when and where to get tested, and
  • how you can protect yourself, your family, your friends, Elders and the community.

6.More information about COVID-19

It is important to stay informed through official sources. For more information about coronavirus, visit australia.gov.au or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 76 : June 2 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob :The Queensland Government launches 3 stage “Roadmap”  easing access restrictions for Queensland’s Indigenous #remote communities

 

The Roadmap would enable remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community residents more freedom to go fishing, grocery shopping and attend appointments while maintaining necessary restrictions to keep communities safe.

The Queensland Government has listened to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils and leadership, particularly with respect to economic recovery and social and emotional wellbeing.

The three-stage Roadmap is a considered, responsible approach to progressively easing access, in line with the National Cabinet Framework and Queensland’s COVID-19 Roadmap.

Stage 1 of the Roadmap is effective immediately and enables people, to enter a designated community to self-quarantine within that community under approved arrangements, removing a requirement to quarantine for 14 days before entering.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles yesterday launched the Roadmap to easing access restrictions for Queensland’s remote communities, enabling designated communities to transition from the current federal emergency biosecurity restrictions to state-based arrangements under Chief Health Officer public health directions.

“We’ve been restricted for the last 10 weeks and we need to try and support some of our community members.

People here have commuted for many years to and from Cairns, Gordonvale and Edmonton to do their shopping and banking and daily business, and we’ve got kids that go to school in Gordonvale as well.

The council was considering what exemptions it would seek, while remaining aware of the effect coronavirus could have if it made it into the community.

It’s a challenge for us to find a balance between public health and the best health advice while trying to accommodate some form of relief for community residents,”

Yarrabah Mayor Ross Andrews said the inability to maintain economic and family ties to Cairns had exacerbated community frustration during the lockdown.

Read full story HERE

Picture above A group of protesters gathered at the police checkpoint into Yarrabah, calling for an exemption from Federal biosecurity laws.(Supplied: Brian Cassey)

 “The residents just want a bit of relief and be included in the whole Queensland plan.

The whole biosecurity determination was about protecting, but it has caused a lot of confusion.

Residents wanted the freedom to carry out essential business in Townsville, including shopping, banking, and car services.”

Palm Island mayor Mislam Sam said the council had submitted a plan to the State Government pushing for travel to the mainland to be allowed from June 12.

Read full story HERE

Press release

Stage 1 enables people entering or re-entering a designated community to self-quarantine within that community, where safe to do so. Under Stage 1, quarantine exemptions will remain in place for essential workers, those travelling through communities without stopping and those granted an exemption by the Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in the designated area.

Under Stage 2, the Chief Health Officer will publish a direction that enables communities to become part of ’safe travel zones’ residents can easily travel within based on public health advice. A ‘Safe Travel Zone’ can be made up of a single community, or several local government areas, depending on the risk profile of the area. Stage 2 can commence following the Commonwealth removal of communities from the Biosecurity Determination.

Stage 3 of the Roadmap removes entry and quarantine restrictions, with remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities — plus the Burke and Cook shires — subject to the same provisions as other areas of Queensland under the Roadmap to Easing Restrictions

The Queensland Government has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in remote communities to agree on a three-stage plan to safely ease restrictions in Federal Government-designated biosecurity areas.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer will issue public health directions to manage ongoing risk, account for different health risk profiles throughout the State, and reflect the views and needs of Queensland’s First Nations communities.

Deputy Premier Miles said the timeframe and restrictions would likely vary between communities.

“Some areas could move through the stages at different times, depending on the advice of the Local Disaster Management Group, assessment of the public health risk, appropriate enforceability and community consultation,” Deputy Premier Miles said.

“We are working with mayors through the Local Disaster Management Groups on local priorities and requirements for access restrictions, to take into account the different situations in each area and community, including to ensure there is local capacity and capability to address public health risks.”

“The Commonwealth’s Biosecurity restrictions were implemented with the support of the National Cabinet and have resulted in there being no cases of COVID-19 in our remote First Nations communities. This is a testament to the tireless work of the local leadership of mayors in partnership with the Queensland Government.”

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said while the Federal Government’s emergency provisions of the Biosecurity Act will remain in place u ntil 17 September 2020 this will not impact on the transition of Queensland’s remote and discrete communities from the National Biosecurity Declaration.

“The Queensland Government will ask the Federal Government to remove Queensland’s remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination from 12 June 2020  to enable Stage Two state-based arrangements to commence,” Minister Crawford said.

“We will continue to work local leaders so that they can make decisions for their communities’ safety and well-being.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young will write to the Federal government this week with Queensland’s plans to assume responsibility for easing of rules and regulations aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of these communities.

“We want to allow people who’ve been outside of these communities during the lockdown to start returning but we have to be sensible and that means quarantining in their homes community for two weeks once they’re home.”

Currently the majority of the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities are locked down under the Federal Government’s tight Bio-security act, aimed at protecting any vulnerable people from COVID-19.

“We know our First Nations people are at real risk if COVID-19 made its way into their communities, protecting them was a priority and I want to thank them for the co-operation we’ve experienced through this arduous period,” Dr Young said.

Queensland’s Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer, Haylene Grogan said it’s been tough for a lot of people but the good news is the restrictions have worked, that is the most important thing to remember, but it’s time for some people   to come home and reunite albeit after home quarantining.

The current national Commonwealth Biosecurity Act gives police powers to enforce movement restrictions and issue penalties to anyone deliberately breaching these laws and putting these communities in danger.

The Queensland Government has finalised its’ plans by working alongside communities to enable a staged replacement of remote area biosecurity restrictions in a safe and measured way.

“It’s all about risk management, careful planning and working with locals, we know we have vulnerable people in these Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities and protecting them has to be a priority, it’s just so important,” Ms Grogan said.

“I would also like to pay tribute to our wonderful Queensland Health staff who’ve been working to keep our communities healthy during this period, they do an amazing and very important job” said Dr Young.

“Of course we understand the easing of restrictions is only temporary if COVID-19 cases are kept out of these areas, we need retain the formula, washing hands, social distancing, and following the rules with a healthy dose of common sense, if we keep this up, our cases will stay down” Dr Young said.

More information about remote travel restrictions is available at  ( http://www.datsip.qld.gov.au/travel )

For the most up-to-date information on Queensland’s roadmap to a COVID-safe recovery visit c ovid19.qld.gov.au ( https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/ ).

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus and #WorldNoTobaccoDay News Alert No 75 : May 31 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob @NACCHOChair press release : ” There is light at the end of the tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette ” Plus @TISprogramme What is the link between #smoking and #COVID19 ?

“There is no better time to think about how smoking affects your health, your loved ones and your financial position during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Smoking can mean you are more susceptible to developing lung disease. I want to remind everyone that there is light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette.

Chronic diseases such as respiratory diseases (including asthma), heart and circulatory diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney diseases and some cancers are more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and tend to occur at younger ages, than among other Australians.

I would like to remind everyone especially during these times of COVID-19, stop sharing cigarettes with others or smoking used cigarette butts. Every step counts to ensuring the wellbeing of yourself and those close to you.”

Donnella Mills Chair of NACCHO

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is spreading the message to all Australians that ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette’ on World No Tobacco Day.

For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, NACCHO’s message is particularly timely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read download this full press release HERE

” People who smoke have a higher risk of catching respiratory infections like colds and flu than non-smokers.

They are also more likely to experience complications that lead to more severe illness such as pneumonia.

Because (coronavirus) COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, we expect smokers to be more susceptible.

As COVID-19 is caused by a new virus, we are still learning about its effects on the body, what factors might increase the risk of infection, and who might experience more severe symptoms. Here we summarise what we know from the emerging evidence specifically in relation to smoking as a risk factor

See part 3 below

Download NACCHO COVID-19 Resources HERE

Part 2

 

“Being more stressed or depressed could be seen as a reason to advise a smoker to quit rather than to put it off.

This is very important in these stressful times, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience more stressful events.

Quitting smoking is always a good first step in improving your health and can increase your confidence to take on bigger problems.

Study leader, Menzies’ Professor David Thomas says health staff can emphasise the research evidence of the benefits to stress management, mental health and well-being that come with successfully quitting smoking.

The study was conducted in partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, its affiliates, 34 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Torres Shire Council. Download Press Release with access to study

Stress may not be a major long-term obstacle to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people quitting smoking, as previously believed, according to new research released by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) today.

The study found that more smokers who reported being stressed at baseline made quit attempts and stayed quit for longer in the next year, contrary to past research that mainly reported smokers’ perceptions that stress caused them to go back to smoking. 

Forming part of the national Talking About The Smokes study led by Menzies in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, the 759 study participants completed baseline surveys and follow-up surveys a year later.

Many health professionals and smokers believe that smoking relieves stress. But this relief may be merely because smoking a cigarette relieves the recurring symptoms of nicotine withdrawal caused by the time elapsed since their previous cigarette.

Download full press release

200528 Menzies Media Release – Stress not stopping Aboriginal smokers quitting

Are people who smoke at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?

It is not certain that smokers are more likely to be infected with COVID-19. At the moment the evidence is mixed on whether or not smokers have an increased risk of infection. This may be for several reasons:

  • The evidence we have at the moment is mostly based on hospital admissions, so only really tells us about those people who seek help for their symptoms. Smokers might not recognise mild symptoms, such as increased cough. A large population study in the UK supports this possibility.
  • The study (which is ongoing) uses a smartphone app where people record their health, including any symptoms like coughing, sneezing or fever. Data from 1.5 million users showed smokers were more likely to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19 than non-smokers. At the moment we don’t know if those smokers with symptoms went on to be confirmed cases of COVID-19, but this information may become available as the project continues.
  • Information about smoking in these studies is usually based on self-report. It might be that people are not reporting their smoking status because they want to be seen to be doing the right thing.
  • There is evidence people are quitting because of COVID-19. These people might be classed as former smokers, however if they only quit recently, perhaps they remained at risk of infection.
  • It is possible that because smokers are aware of their increased risk to lung and chest infections, they are being ultra-cautious to avoid catching COVID-19.

What we do know is that the behaviours that smokers engage in put them at greater risk of infection. This includes:

  • frequent hand to mouth action when smoking;
  • sharing cigarettes;
  • collecting and smoking discarded butts;
  • limited physical distancing in designated smoking areas.

 Are people who smoke more likely to have severe complications if they do get COVID-19?

Smokers are likely to be more severely impacted by COVID-19 because smoking:

  • damages your lungs, so they simply don’t work as well;
  • weakens your immune system. This means the body has more trouble fighting the COVID-19 infection;
  • increases the risk of getting a secondary infection such as pneumonia. Lungs naturally produce mucus, but people who smoke have more and thicker mucus that is hard to clean out of the lungs. This mucus clogs the lungs and is prone to becoming infected with bacteria.

The most recent evidence shows that if smokers get COVID-19 and are admitted to hospital then they are more likely to have severe symptoms and die than former or non-smokers. A study published in May 2020 combined hospital data from Asia, Europe and North America. The researchers found that active smokers were almost twice as likely to die than former or never smokers.

What about former smokers, or people who recently quit – are they still at more risk of COVID-19?

We don’t known if people who have quit smoking have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 or are more likely to get severe disease compared to people who have never smoked. What we do know is that:

  • People who have been quit for a while and have normal lung function are less prone to respiratory infection than active smokers, so this is probably true for CVID-19 as well.
  • It is also likely you’ll have a lower risk of severe complications if you become infected than if you were still smoking.

We don’t know how long you need to be smoke free to reduce any potential risk,  but we do know that stopping smoking improves lung health within a few weeks. Risk of lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia also decrease in about 4-6 weeks after quitting. This is particularly important as Australia heads into flu season. Being smoke free improves your health and reduces your risk of getting respiratory viruses.  And it improves your ability to fight off any illness.

Is it still safe to start, or continue to use, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and other stop smoking medications?

For people who smoke, stop smoking medications or NRT (can help to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. Combined with tailored support (for example from Quitline or your local Aboriginal Medical Service), these medications give people the best chance of successfully quitting. There is no evidence or reason to believe that COVID-19 has an impact on the safety and effectiveness of these medications.

  • Anyone already using these medications can be reassured that it is safe to continue.
  • Anyone thinking about starting these medications, should be see a qualified practitioner as usual.

There is also no evidence that stop smoking medications change the risk of contracting the virus. They are also unlikely to increase or reduce symptom severity. You may have read media stories suggesting nicotine could protect against COVID-19. This is not true. This is not a reason for anyone to smoke, smoking carries many risks to our health and wellbeing. It is also not sensible for non-smokers to start using NRT as it will not protect them from COVID-19. Hand hygiene and physical distancing are much more effective ways to stay safe.

How can you tell the difference between nicotine withdrawal symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms?

People who have recently stopped smoking may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms are usually temporary and disappear after about 2 to 4 weeks.

Quitters might also experience a cough and sore throat. These withdrawal symptoms may be confused with some of the symptoms of COVID-19. However they are usually temporary and not accompanied by other COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever. Fever is not a symptom of nicotine withdrawal.

Anyone concerned about COVID-19 should visit www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details, call the National COVID-19 Helpline on 1800 020 080, or speak to their doctor or AMS.

What are the risks of e-cigarettes and COVID-19?

As with traditional tobacco products, the evidence around COVID-19 and e-cigarette use (or “vaping”) is still emerging. However the evidence does show a higher number of severe respiratory infections in people who use e-cigarettes, so the risks may well be similar for vapers as they are for smokers. This is because using e-cigarettes has some similar effects to tobacco smoking on your body, including:

  • increased inflammation in the lung;
  • increased coughing and wheezing, probably indicating lung damage;
  • lowered immunity and ability to fight off infection.

Vapers also engage in some of the behaviours that increase risk for smokers (such as frequent hand to mouth action). Vapers should follow good hygiene rules, washing their hands before and after vaping. It is also important not share devices with another person. Vapers should be reminded not to use e-cigarettes near others or in an enclosed space because the aerosol (vapor) produced might carry the virus if the vaper is infected. If someone touches a surface on which aerosol might have settled, they should wash their hands immediately with soap and water.

Is this a good time to quit?

It is always a good time to stop smoking. For some people, concerns about COVID-19 can act as a motivator to quit. Evidence from the UK and the USA supports this:

  • In a UK survey of over 1,000 people, 2% said they had quit because of fears around COVID-19.
  • In addition, a quarter of former smokers in the survey said they were less likely to resume smoking.
  • In the USA survey of smokers, 20% of respondents had made a quit attempt because of COVID19.

Anyone who wants to quit should be encouraged to quit. As described, NRT and other stop smoking medicines are still safe to use.

However it is also important to recognise that for some people this will not be a good time to quit. Additional stress from being in lockdown, or being out of work can be a trigger to smoking. In a UK survey, 4% of former smokers reported that the pandemic had made them more likely to relapse. In a USA survey, 30% of smokers said they were smoking more. For people continuing to smoke, advice around harm reduction for themselves and others is important. Smokers should be reminded to:

  • pay extra attention to the existing hygiene advice: wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, particularly before and after smoking, cough into your elbow, try to avoid touching your face, and maintain a physical distance from others;
  • do not share cigarettes or roll a cigarette for someone else;
  • smoke outside, not in the house, to reduce the impact of second hand smoke.

Smokers should also be reminded to get a flu shot, because they are at increased risk of becoming infected with the influenza virus. As we head into flu season with COVID-19 also around, the risk of catching a respiratory illness is higher than usual.

In summary

Smoking might put you at greater risk for contracting  COVID19, but we don’t know for sure. Emerging evidence suggests smokers are more likely to have severe illness if they are infected. We should encourage smokers to:

  • stay safe by following hygiene and physical distancing rules, not sharing cigarettes or vaping devices;
  • protect others from second and third hand smoke by maintaining a smoke free home;
  • quit if they can.

The dangers of smoking and exposure to second hand smoke have not changed. Stopping smoking has many health benefits beyond a link with COVID-19, and it saves a lot of money. It is always a good time to quit. As we head into flu season, quitting has never been more important – quit for life, not just for COVID-19.

Resources
You can find more information about COVID-19 on HealthInfoNethttps://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/health-topics/infectious-conditions/covid-19-updates-and-information/
HealthDirect

Australian Government of Health

National COVID-19 Helpline: 1800 020 080

Quitline 13 78 48 -this includes access to Aboriginal Quitline counsellors – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who are trained to support our community in quitting.

With thanks to Cancer Council’s Tobacco Issues Committee and Quit Victoria for their contribution to this article.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 74 : May 28 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Watch @AFL champion Adam Goodes play a starring role alongside @MickOLoughlin and @Briggs in a fun video take on an important COVID-19 message

 AFL champion Adam Goodes plays a starring role alongside premiership teammate Michael O’Loughlin and renowned Australian rapper Senator Briggs in a fun take on an important COVID-19 message that has premiered this week on NITV

Making a rare appearance in the AFL spotlight following his retirement from the game in 2015, Goodes joins fellow Indigenous football stars like Andrew McLeod, Michael Walters, Tim Kelly and Bradley Hill in the advert ‘Old Style, COVID style’.

Premiered on Yokayi Footy, the two-minute clip talks about social distancing, isolation measures and dealing with the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic with clever football references weaved throughout.

VIEW both videos here or in this Link

Goodes, a 372-game AFL champion who won two Brownlow Medals and two premierships during his stellar playing career, plays a surprise starring role in joining O’Loughlin and Briggs to ram home the importance of social distancing within the community.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 73 : May 28 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : @Change_Record launches 10 Recommendations for ” The impact of Covid-19 policies, policing and prisons on our First Nations communities

 

As restrictions ease for some of us in the community, we must not forget that the risk of Covid-19 and human rights abuses within prisons remains extremely high.

We have heard reports of people in prisons being denied soap, having to spend their own money to make phone calls to family after visits were banned, not being able to speak confidentially with their lawyers and being stuck on remand because with the current restrictions it has been impossible for lawyers to prepare adequately for a hearing.

This means once again our people are spending longer in prison in potentially dangerous conditions.

The report also documents the devastating challenges our families are facing staying connected with their children. Our children are still being taken from their families and communities at far higher rates than the rest of the population.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous stress on everyone, but for Aboriginal families the burden is even greater. We’ve heard stories of babies being removed at birth and families having to fight to see a photograph, mothers being denied visits with their young children and the fear that this will impact on their future ability to be reunified as a family.

When we reflect on Sorry Day this week, and the fact that children are still being taken from our families at unacceptable and disproportionate rates, we are calling on the Federal Government to not allow Covid-19 to be yet another excuse to tear our families apart.”

Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record

Download report HERE

CRITICAL CONDITION – the impact of Covid-19 policies, policing and prisons on First Nations communities (2)

Includes editorial from the Guardian

Aboriginal people in prisons are going without soap, and children in out-of-home care are being refused contact with their families under “punitive” restrictions enforced due to Covid-19, a report released on Wednesday has said.

Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 policy responses at a state, territory and commonwealth level, the report by the Change the Record coalition, said.

Change the Record is the Aboriginal-led justice coalition including Amnesty International, the Law Council of Australia, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (Natsils) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (Naccho), representing hundreds of services across Australia.

The report said there have been increased use of lockdowns and isolation within correctional facilities, and a reduced access to education, family and legal visits.

It cites the case of Daniel*, remanded in prison in Tasmania since early 2020 on his first time in custody.

“His matter was heard by telephone in April but he was refused bail. His lawyer sought an adjournment of his matter because they were unable to prepare a defence without being able to see him, properly take his instructions or go through the material with him.

“Daniel is not allowed any visits with his family or his lawyer because of Covid-19 restrictions. He also has health issues, asthma and has extreme anxiety about the virus getting into the prison.

“He reports having no access to any type of sanitiser in prison and was frequently without soap.”

The report calls on governments to release low-risk prisoners from prisons and youth detention centres, but says it has been “difficult” to get up-to-date information about conditions due to “the withdrawal of independent oversight bodies and external scrutiny in many states and territories”.

Recommendations

We urgently call on state, territory and federal governments to:

  1. Release Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners who are low-risk, have chronic health conditions, are on remand, are elderly, children or are for whatever reason at increased risk of Covid-19
  2. Protect the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison by ensuring access to oversight and monitoring agencies, family, legal services, mental health care, education and programs
  3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old and urgently release children and young people from youth detention centres during Covid-19
  4. Enact a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection notification and referral scheme to reduce family violence driven child removal through proactive, culturally safe and holistic legal
  5. Connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who experience family violence, and who are engaged with the child protection system, with culturally appropriate services through their nearest Family Violence Prevention Legal
  6. Increase support and access to safe accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families fleeing family violence to stop further removals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  7. Implement immediate short-term changes in legislation, where applicable, in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care to ensure parents don’t lose their children to permanent care during Covid-19.
  8. Resist punitive policy responses to Covid-19 and the over-policing of already targeted communities, and require transparency and oversight in policing;
  9. Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those with disability, are given equal access to high quality and culturally-appropriate health care during Covid-19; and
  10. Rebuild our justice system after Covid-19 to focus on investing in community, not prisons, to increase community safety and prevent black deaths in

“As restrictions ease for some of us in the community, we must not forget that the risk of Covid-19 and human rights abuses within prisons remains extremely high,” the Change the Record co-chair, Cheryl Axleby, said.

The report also highlights the “distress and anxiety” about Covid-19 restrictions felt by Aboriginal children and parents in the out-of-home care system.

It cited the case of Benjamin*, born in the Northern Territory in February and removed immediately.

In Tasmania, one Aboriginal legal service reported that “child safety will not facilitate face-to-face contact with children in out-of-home care and their Aboriginal parent”.

Julia* had been having multiple visits with her child every week but due to Covid-19 her contact has been reduced to one phone/video call a week.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous stress on everyone, but for Aboriginal families the burden is even greater,” Axleby said.

The report is one of two released to coincide with national reconciliation week. Amnesty International has renewed calls for state and territory governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. Currently, the minimum age is 10, which Amnesty and Change the Record said is well below international standards.

“The medical evidence is clear – kids are still developing at 10, 11, 12 years old and need to be in school, at home and with their peers, not behind bars,” Axleby said.

The report also details allegations of police surveillance of Aboriginal communities, under the guise of Covid-19 restriction enforcement.

It quotes a witness to an incident in inner Sydney: “Two police vehicles were coming in the opposite direction. The second vehicle stopped to talk to an Aboriginal man who was walking slightly ahead of me in the same direction. I stopped in case he needed help or a witness.

“He was agitated and told the police he’d already been stopped twice in the preceding 10 minutes and that he was on his way to the Glebe police station to lodge a complaint about racial profiling.

“He had been stopped 37 times in the past month. He had lived in the area for more than 30 years.”

*Names have been changed

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Coronavirus and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : Read full speech from our CEO Pat Turner launching #NRW2020 #InthisTogether and new @coalition_peaks website #COP #ClosetheGap

” I truly believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation in every aspect of our lives.

But what also continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face.

When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

Accordingly, today I would like to talk about the topic of ‘In This Together’.

I would like to focus on four aspects of what togetherness looks like currently for our people — aspects that we can and must build upon.

First, I want you all to know about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together from across the nation to form the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations.

Second, I want to discuss the unprecedented opportunity we have for genuine shared decision-making in the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.

Third, I want to alert you to the negotiations now underway to finalise a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came out of the Partnership Agreement that also advances this idea of ‘In this Together’.

Fourth, without engaging in any premature celebrations whatsoever, as we still have a long way to go, I will talk about the strong, coordinated work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations that have come together from across Australia to successfully protect our people from to COVID-19.

I will then bring together the four — how the work of the Coalition of Peaks can help in optimising the health and wellbeing of our people and communities amidst the impacts of the pandemic.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner opening Reconciliation SA’s Reconciliation Week Breakfast May 27 see full speech Part 1 below

Download full event PowerPoint

Combined Power Point NRW MAY 2020 event (1)

In addition to the website, the Coalition of Peaks is also launching social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Coalition of Peaks new website : 

Facebook: 

Instagram:

Twitter

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations are encouraged to engage with and share the work of the Coalition of Peaks

Download full press release HERE

20.05.27 – Final – Media Release – Coalition of Peaks Website and Social Media Launch

Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today.

My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.

I am also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations.

Before we start, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands that we are meeting upon today.

I am speaking to you from Canberra, which is Ngunnawal country.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Reconciliation South Australia for the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for your annual breakfast, in this case I assume the first ever virtual one.

Peter Buckskin, a co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia, and I worked together in ATSIC and he has made a great contribution to improving life outcomes for our people. Meanwhile, Shona Reid is Eastern Arrente, and like me we can both trace our ancestry back to Central Australia with pride.

Number one – Coalition of Peaks

Read all NACCHO Coalition of Peaks Articles 

Our people have lived in a climatically harsh country for more than sixty thousand years, which has required great knowledge and custodianship of the environment and close cooperation between our people to succeed.

This cooperation continues to be evident in our recent collaboration in forming the Coalition of Peaks to make sure that we share decision making in relation to Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks comprises nearly 50 national, State and Territory community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.

This is every community-controlled peak organisation in Australia.  They include NACCHO, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, First Peoples Disability Network and First Nations Media Australia.

The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has led South Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of Peaks.  To its credit, it has facilitated the establishment of the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network that has brought together other Aboriginal peaks in South Australia to work together at the state level.

Never have community controlled peak bodies and organisations come together in this way – to develop policy and negotiate with governments.

Number two – The Partnership Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG

The historic Partnership Agreement, which commenced in March 2019 and is a public document, was also an initiative of the Coalition of Peaks.  Of most importance is that the signatories are COAG and the Coalition of Peaks – that is, legitimately appointed community representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia.

We proposed the Partnership Agreement after gaining the support of the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to a partnership being formed with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to underpin the next phase of Closing the Gap.

Prior to this, COAG had decided on its own to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy that was originally agreed to in 2008 and given effect to by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.

To do this refresh, in 2018 COAG undertook a series of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia — which were inadequate and lacked transparency.

While the rhetoric was about partnership, there was no real commitment to it and the refresh was proceeding on the basis that COAG would make all the decisions.

To be frank, at this point in time, we did not consider we were ‘In This Together’ with them.
NACCHO and other community-controlled peaks decided that this could not continue and took a risk in publicly insisting that we be able to share decisions about the Closing the Gap strategy instead of COAG making decisions on its own.

We wrote to all First Ministers to put forward three (3) main propositions—

When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy; the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and

COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from decision making.

Under the Partnership Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks are already sharing decision making on developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy for the next ten years.

A new COAG Council, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, is also established under the Partnership Agreement.

For the first time, this COAG Council has members from outside Governments.  In fact, it has 12 members elected from the Coalition of Peaks including a representative from each jurisdiction.  Ruth Miller is the representative for South Australia.

In addition, each jurisdiction nominates a Minister with responsibilities for Closing the Gap.  It is co-chaired by the Federal Minister, Minister Wyatt, and me.

Number 3 – the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Following a review of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap agreed that it should be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Joint Council also agreed that the new Agreement should not only be signed by First Ministers but also the Coalition of Peaks on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.   That is incredibly significant for our people and for Australia.

Once in place, the National Agreement will be a platform to address the structural inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face arising from years of unmet need.

Instead of targets being the focus, which was the case with the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks have also gained support from the Joint Council and all Governments that four priority reforms will underpin the new National Agreement.  These are:

  • establishing formal partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives across the country on closing the gap
  • building and strengthening our community-controlled organisations to deliver the services we need
  • transforming mainstream agencies and institutions of governments, such as the police and universities, to make a much bigger contribution to Closing the Gap; and
  • ensuring government data and information is shared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to support us being able to make good decisions about our lives.

Finally, Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to see what they thought about the priority reforms and what else should be included in the new National Agreement.

Those engagements took place between September and December last year including in South Australia and included an online survey and over 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a say.

We have published the outcomes of those engagements and are making sure that what people said is reflected in the Agreement currently being negotiated with COAG.

Number 4 – Our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response

I would also like to speak on our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response.

Only three months ago the Prime Minister announced to the nation that last year the gap in infant mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians increased.

In the three months since then COVID-19 has been a whole new stark reminder to us all just how vulnerable the health of our people is.

We have been reminded of the significantly greater risk we face of being profoundly impacted due to the pre-existing co-morbidities many of us battle.

The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of disadvantage endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for generations, from health and education to housing.

Overcrowded housing, poverty and other social determinants are the root cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at high risk from pandemics and other communicable diseases.

The pandemic has exposed what we have been advocating for decades – better and less crowded housing for our people.

Overcrowding makes self-isolation and stopping the spread of a virus incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

NACCHO continues to advocate for greater federal, state and territory investment in housing for our people, and for housing initiatives to be developed in genuine partnership with us.

And as we know, there will be long term social, economic, health and cultural costs of the pandemic.

The risk facing our communities is a direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies and programs that have been developed without our input.

But our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and to drive progress towards the longer-term priority of closing of the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector began actively preparing to respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, in advance of the public response by the government. As a result, many of our ACCHOs had a level of preparedness prior to the pandemic which many general practices could not match.

This pandemic has demonstrated the community-controlled health sector collaborates extremely well, and the high level of information sharing and joint decision making must continue into the future.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has been committed to taking the advice of our community controlled health sector, and listening to the recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to implement response plans to keep our mob safe.

Those of our organisations with strong existing partnerships with governments have been able to respond quickly to the threat of COVID-19.

Well-established and properly funded community-controlled organisations across numerous sectors have been able to accelerate measures that support our communities.

One example is the formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal Peaks Organisations in the Northern Territory (APONT) and the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, which has enabled an informed response to the needs of our remote communities impacted by the swift travel restrictions out in place.

Other examples include —

First Nation’s media sector has been able to get health information out quickly in a way that people can understand

The New South Wales Coalition of Peaks has supported our young people to stay engaged in their education and make sure our older people have access to food, and

The Victorian Aboriginal Executive Council is working to make sure our kids continue to have access to safe early childhood services.

What NACCHO and our Affiliates and ACCHOs have been doing

Click on the above map to see full list of all NACCHO Members 

During these past few months ACCHOs have once again proven themselves to be the best in the business at —

  • knowing our people
  • our people feeling safe to access our services
  • being a well-established sector
  • having strong formal relationships with government

Together, collectively and nationally, as a sector we have been able to respond quickly and decisively to protect our people.

This is despite our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations having borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a roller coaster of policy and administration changes.

As soon as it became evident in January just how deadly the COVID-19 virus was, well in advance of the Commonwealth response, NACCHO, our Affiliates and Members initiated awareness campaigns for our communities and planning for prevention and response.

Before the first case of coronavirus in Australia our communities were preparing to close borders, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts were discussing measures needed to protect our mob across the nation.

In January I began sending COVID-19 health messages to all our Affiliates and ACCHOs, with gave me the opportunity to ask them how prepared they felt they were for the impending pandemic.

It was clear there were PPE shortages in many clinics, and concerns around how to prepare a pandemic response — including quarantine measures.

ACCHOs are barely funded for their regular day to day activities, let alone for a pandemic response.

I discussed options with the Department of Health for ways additional funding for ACCHOs and Affiliates to support the preparation of pandemic plans.

The government was receptive of the advice I provided and allocated $6.9 million to NACCHO and Affiliates to prepare a pandemic response and $5 million to assist remote communities prepare for COVID-19.

I also wrote to the Prime Minister on 16 March to propose a range of specific measures which needed to be taken to protect our communities.

The government again responded positively from the outset, and this spirit of collaboration has been crucial to our successful response to the pandemic.

With our Affiliates and ACCHOs in WA, the NT and QLD I strongly argued for the immediate application of travel restrictions and quarantine measures to protect our people and communities, and for urgent additional support to be deployed to Affiliates and ACCHOs to combat the virus.

I continue to pursue funding for quarantine/isolation facilities for remote, urban and regional communities which will be critical if we are going to properly manage an outbreak in our communities.

NACCHO has been sharing important public health messages and culturally appropriate COVID-19 news alerts and posts on our blog and across all social media platforms, and launched a dedicated COVID-19 website page.

And our Affiliates and ACCHOs — they have initiated their own creative and innovative awareness campaigns for our communities in January.

These campaigns have been successful because they were created by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations for Aboriginal people and communities.

ACCHOs are busily facilitating phone consults, home visits to Elders and those self-isolating and seeing some patients at the clinic for flu vaccinations.

All the while, despite staff and equipment shortages and the challenges of working in a restricted environment due to lockdown, our ACCHOs have not wavered from treating those in our communities with chronic conditions as they continue to provide their comprehensive primary health services to their communities.

Up to now, as a sector, together, we have done exceptionally well, keeping infections out of our communities.

As of 3 May 2020, only fifty-five cases (0.8% of all cases tested) have been people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

There have been absolutely no cases in our remote or very remote communities.

But, as stated earlier, there is a long way to go.

NACCHO and our Affiliates will continue to work collaboratively with the different tiers of government throughout this crisis, including pointing out the danger of moving too quickly to relax restrictions without a clear roadmap.

Conclusion

Despite the tireless work of our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, there is a clear absence in this time of crisis of a national policy platform for governments to systemically re-build our communities and address the inequities too many of our people continue to face.

There is also a clear absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body for pooling collective expertise to work in partnership with governments to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.

It is because of this policy and process vacuum that the Coalition of Peaks was formed and why we have been continuing our work, in partnership with Australian governments, to chart a meaningful way forward, across a range of sectors and initiatives for bringing about real, sustained change.

The new National Agreement and the Coalition of Peaks will be crucial to rebuilding our communities post-pandemic.

The federal, state, territory and local governments must continue to work in full partnership with the Coalition of Peaks as a collective and as individual members to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger.

And, I must add, this pandemic cannot and should not be used by anyone as a reason to delay the finalisation of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The pandemic has disrupted governments, but it has disrupted us also.  Community-controlled organisations, including in health, have had to face much bigger workloads.  Nevertheless, we have continued to work to finalise the National Agreement and we expect governments to do the same.

Our response to the pandemic can and must galvanise our collective efforts and sharpen our focus to the task of closing the gap.

The National Agreement must be sorted by mid-July and I am confident this is achievable.  If it isn’t, we risk the Agreement being put on the “never- never” because of upcoming elections in jurisdictions like Queensland and the Northern Territory and because governments will be pre-occupied with their delayed budgets.

I ask  all participants in this virtual Breakfast, and in fact make a call to Australia, that everyone support the leadership of the Coalition of Peaks, made up of our own community controlled organisations, in achieving a new Closing the Gap agreement.

There is no better demonstration or more important priority for being ‘In This Together’.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 71 : May 26 #KeepOurMobSafe : NACCHO in partnership with @RACGP @LowitjaInstitut and @ANUmedia

” The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the Lowitja Institute, and The Australian National University (ANU) are working together to provide practical and timely advice for primary healthcare teams supporting prevention and management of COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

An expert committee guiding the work is providing recommendations for healthcare workers operating in Aboriginal community controlled health services and other primary care settings. “

The first set of recommendations are being released on National Sorry Day 2020, a day to acknowledge and recognise members of the Stolen Generations as part of an ongoing process of healing.

Today is the beginning of National Reconciliation Week where all Australians are encouraged to consider and embrace the theme “in this together”, and to take part in online events as well as use the hashtags #NRW2020 and #InThisTogether2020 to help spread awareness.

The recommendations focus on several vital issues including best practice for transporting patients who do not have confirmed or probable COVID-19 but do have a fever or respiratory symptoms as well as quarantine measures for healthcare workers travelling to remote communities.

The recommendations also zero in on quarantine measures for healthcare workers travelling from higher prevalence areas to low prevalence areas.

Chair of the Expert Committee Dr Tanya Schramm said that the clinical recommendations will be updated on an ongoing basis.

“They will have to be updated as we watch and wait and see what actually happens in the COVID-19 space.

“The recommendations that we’ll be coming up with at the moment are all about obviously preventing it and identifying people who may have COVID-19 and how we’re going to go about it. But things will change and we just need to be ready to adapt as I guess the story of COVID-19 changes in the country and the risk of exposure for us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people changes.

“Thankfully at the moment we’ve sort of flattened the curve and I think that will hopefully leave us in a space where we’re not looking at handling an acute outbreak in a community. But I think we need to be ready to respond to something if that’s to happen.

Dr Schramm says it is vital that GPs and other healthcare workers continue to be mindful of the risk the COVID-19 virus poses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“If someone was to contract that and the issues with regards to being able to isolate that person within a community, within a home that may be overcrowded, and so forth.

“They need to make sure that they are providing the appropriate resources to their patients just in terms of even prevention, that the information they’re getting out to patients is culturally appropriate [and that] it’s in the language in which the patient actually speaks as their first language – don’t assume that English is everybody’s first language when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“Also reading what is actually happening, so keeping an eye out for the recommendations as they’re coming out, and looking at how that may reflect on your practice and the services that you’re providing.”

CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner, said that the COVID-19 virus presented particular challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“It has been recognised that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to higher levels of chronic conditions exacerbated by overcrowded housing.

“Working on the response to this pandemic comes with huge responsibility and requires partnership with the best in the sector to deliver clinically strong and culturally appropriate recommendations for our people.

“It is an honour to partner with the RACGP, Lowitja and ANU to release the COVID-19 Primary Healthcare Guidance to provide quality guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We have been working with our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to develop possible emergency response plans and these resources will help in ensuring accurate and timely information is being shared responsibly.

“This guidance will strengthen their ability to manage the ongoing threat in this environment and the impacts of the pandemic which is rapidly changing.”

CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Janine Mohamed, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations have been leading the way and will continue to do so.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations’ prompt responses have shown outstanding innovation and leadership to mitigate risk and protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from COVID-19.

“This collaboration will further strengthen that work for all our peoples, who face high risk due to historic and ongoing system failures and have been disproportionately affected in past pandemics.

“COVID-19 makes it more important than ever that our people are able to access culturally safe health services that combat racism in our health system because, if they can’t, they will not seek out care or work in and with those services.

“The pandemic also requires us to be quick, informed, innovative and flexible in our clinical and community responses. We are proud to be working with NACCHO, the Royal Australian College of GPs, and ANU on such a critical, evidence-based undertaking.”

The RACGP and NACCHO have previously collaborated on the National Guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – a flagship publication, spearheaded by NACCHO, now in its third edition.

At a ceremony in Darwin last year a new MoU was also signed between the organisations driven by a shared commitment to support the growth of the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and ensure GPs are equipped to provide clinically and culturally appropriate primary healthcare.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 70 : May 26 #KeepOurMobSafe Stan Grant essay : What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

” What do coronavirus, the rise of authoritarianism and the retreat of democracy have to do with Indigenous reconciliation in Australia? Everything.

Now is the time to think bigger about our own history, our unfinished business, and the demands of First Nations for justice.

Australia is in the crosshairs of a global ideological struggle between authoritarianism and liberalism.

We have not faced anything like this since the Cold War; the difference now is that authoritarianism threatens democracy from outside and from within.

The power of China, and the rise of a would-be autocratic populist political movement in the West, has seriously eroded freedom and democracy.

The democracy watchdog Freedom House has called this era a return to the iron fist.

Coronavirus has made this all very real: as China stares down Australia and US President Donald Trump — himself accused of undermining democracy — threatens to tear up the relationship with Beijing.

The historical injustice and the ongoing rights claims of First Nations people form part of these global fault lines. Not nearly enough thought goes into connecting these dots: Indigenous issues suffer from a myopic parochialism.

We cannot continue to ring-fence these questions only within our border. “

Article 1 Originally published HERE

Read in full below Part 1

 Part 2 
The Uluru Statement from the Heart offered a new compact with all Australians that would reset our national identity and enhance our political legitimacy. But its poetic vision and pragmatism proved its death knell.

Trying to reconcile two historically divergent if not hostile ideas – Indigenous sovereignty and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth – asked the nation to embark on a project of rehabilitation: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist

Part 2

Symbolic gestures don’t help

Indigenous affairs appear stuck in a cul-de-sac of tired ideological culture wars, symbolic gestures and failed policy reinforcing intergenerational disadvantage. Only by opening the lens can we see how we might transcend old thinking.

The assault on global democracy has powerful lessons for us.

If Australian politics cannot meet Indigenous demands for justice, what does it say about the strength and legitimacy of our own democracy?

This is the question posed by the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, that proposed a three-pronged program of democratic rehabilitation: Voice, Treaty, Truth.

The cornerstone was a proposed constitutionally enshrined national Indigenous representative body — a Voice.

But this was rejected by the then Turnbull Government, labelling the Voice a “third chamber of Parliament” that would put race in the Constitution.

Those claims didn’t see the pragmatism and liberalism of what Indigenous people were asking for.

Political philosopher Duncan Ivison describes the Uluru Statement as an opportunity for a “possible re-founding of Australia”.

Our liberalism, he argues, needs to confront its own history of colonisation, empire, dispossession, genocide and political domination.

That is the wellspring of Indigenous rights claims. Failure to resolve or reconcile this history impedes Indigenous acceptance of the legitimacy of the state.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart proposed a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds”

History can be a weapon

All around the world we are reminded how history can be a weapon.

Polish Nobel laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz who wrote about the “dark instinct” that drew him to explore Europe’s blood stained 20th century once said: “Crimes against human rights, never confessed and never publicly denounced, are a poison which destroys the possibility of a friendship between nations.”

Historical blood feuds feed toxic identities that Indian philosopher and economist Amartya Sen said savagely challenges our shared humanity. Identity, he said, “can also kill — and kill with abandon”.

A man holds a sign that says 'Always was.. Always will be Aboriginal Land.'
History hangs heavily in our world.(Getty: Don Arnold)

History hangs heavily in our world.

Political leaders stoke a virulent nationalism by perpetuating narratives of grievance: Vladimir Putin laments the end of Soviet empire and accuses the West of humiliating Russia; Hungary’s Viktor Orban sees outsiders as oppressors and pledges to never forget the post World War I Treaty of Trianon which stripped Hungary of territory, and China’s Xi Jinping holds fast to what China calls the “one hundred years of humiliation” by foreign powers.

History can be a breeding ground terrorism and hatred: Islamic State and the extreme right both drink from the same poison well.

Australia is thankfully spared such violence, but history here too is a roadblock to reconciliation.

We need a rejuvenated Australian identity

The Uluru Statement offered a way through this impasse, proposing a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds” — black and white.

Uluru was a triumph of ambition but its rejection was a failure of political vision and courage

Rather than see it as detracting from Australia — creating an “us and them” — we could have seen it as strengthening Australia bringing “us” closer “them”, by meaningfully recognising First Nations people in our nation’s founding document.

Liberalism can be guilty of imposing conformity and homogeneity under the guise of neutrality.

But it can also embrace a liberating pluralism where deep political and social disagreements need not fracture civic unity.

That Indigenous people, for so long excluded from Australian democracy, can pledge a commitment to a shared future seeded in our constitution should have been a highpoint of our liberalism.

The simple power of communication

Ivison says we should look for the glue of liberal democratic belonging, and that belonging will emerge from a practice of democratic citizenship.

Simply: we must be able to speak to each other.

That is increasingly rare. We live in what the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra calls “an age of anger”.

We form our tribes and yell from the margins.

The impact of coronavirus — forced isolation, economic uncertainty and vulnerability — may indeed give us a sense that “we are all in this together”, but it can just as easily lead to more entrenched nationalism, leading to harder borders and economic protectionism, as the thread of globalisation unravels.

The question for our democracy this Reconciliation Week is the question for all democracies: will we emerge from this moment stronger with a greater appreciation of the need to work for our freedoms, or will we be less immune to that other virus: the virus of authoritarianism?

Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #Nutrition News Alert No 69 : May 22 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : The #COVID19 pandemic has a silver lining with possible solutions to food affordability and availability in remote communities

Part 2 AIG Press Release

Originally published HERE

We know prices are too expensive in Aboriginal community stores around the NT. To prove the point however, we went shopping. The results from our Market Basket survey will shock you.

In April and May, 2020 our shoppers went into 9 stores in the Top End with the same shopping list made up of essential and popular products.

Shopping list:

  • Mi Goreng Fried Noodles 5pk
  • Weetbix 375g
  • Weetbix 575g
  • Deb Instant Potato Plain 115g
  • Bush Oven Bread 700g
  • Bushells tea bags rounds 200 pack
  • San Remo Spirals small No 15 500g
  • Palmolive soap gold 4pack
  • Colgate Toothpaste Maximum Floride Cool Mint 110g
  • Hazedenes Chicken Cuts 2kg Bag
  • Eggs Large Dozen 600g

And the results…..

Our key finding was the store managed by AIG has the cheapest prices for all products on the list – blue ribbon for us! For all the market basket results click here.

More importantly though, how is it possible that one store can charge almost $25 more for the same basket of products? Obviously, it’s because the prices are higher. The trickier and more important question to answer is why?

Lets just break it down a little, and look at chicken prices as an example of how prices influence food security.

Barunga store charges $9.40 for 2kg of Hazledene chicken cuts and Beswick store (which is run by the Commonwealth entity Outback Stores) charges $16.80. Its only 25km down the road! Another community store charges $24.60 for the same product.

Why the price difference?

There are three reasons why the prices are different between stores: rebates, ethics and freight.

Rebates

A rebate is money paid by the supplier to store management stock their products. Our research shows rebates can range between 1.5 and 25%. Rebates are calculated on each product and the higher the rebate, the more expensive the product becomes. Coke and tobacco reap the highest rebates in community stores. Rebates are given to the store management groups, and not the stores themselves.

Rebate revenue is worth millions of dollars in the Northern Territory alone. Look for example at the Commonwealth owned Outback Stores which last year made more than $2.6 million in rebates https://outbackstores.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/OS-Annual-Report-19-web-spread.pdf through raising the cost of products in store. That is a lot of tobacco and Coke!

AIG does not accept rebates because we believe it is unethical and drives up prices in the store which further disadvantages the vulnerable and threatens food security.

Freight

Usually listed as the primary reason for high prices in community stores, but in reality, has a far lesser impact on the actual prices of products in the store.

Freight is the cost of getting the products from the supplier to the store. If a store is very remote, then the freight is obviously going to be more expensive. Freight should be cheaper for the larger management groups because they order in bulk which reduces the actual freight costs further.

AIG is a small store management group and if we can have low prices while paying freight, it is proof that freight is not as expensive as people are led to believe.

Keep comparing food prices

We want to disrupt how community stores are managed in the NT through creating transparency about prices in stores. Its hard for people in remote communities to understand the situation they are in if they can’t compare prices in their stores to other communities.

AIG has created online shopping for the Barunga and Timber Creek communities which is a great service, but equally important is being able to provide transparency the prices we charge so others can compare to the prices in their stores. We don’t accept rebates from suppliers, and we don’t make a profit on fruit and vegetables. This is how our prices are low. If we can do it, other stores can do the same.

Check out the store and the prices https://barunga-store.myshopify.com or https://wirib-store.myshopify.com/