Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 87 : #KeepOurMobSafe @VACCHO_org urges Aboriginal people to do the right thing after confirmed cases of #COVID19 detected in Aboriginal Communities Plus @AIDAAustralia calls for public #BlackLivesMatter protest to be postponed

“While news of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ballarat is really concerning, it is an important reminder to remain vigilant in looking after ourselves and our families to stop the slow of the spread of this virus, especially now since it’s entered regional Victoria.

We know communities have been working hard to minimise any infections which has been quite successful to date, but we are entering a very challenging period. We are seeing alarming rates of community transmission – unlike the first lockdown period.

To protect our loved ones and our Elder Aboriginal Communities, people must continue to stay home where they can, wear masks, practice good hygienepractice physical distancing, and follow the limits for public gatherings

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO recognised that seeing triple digit spikes of COVID-19 was an anxiety provoking and uncertain time for many Aboriginal Communities in metropolitan Melbourne and now regional Victoria, but said support was available for those that need it. See Part 1 below

 ” We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.

COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.”

Australian Indigenous Doctors Association press release See Part 2 Below

Part 1 VACCHO Press Release

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has strongly urged Aboriginal people to stay home where they can, to get tested, and to self-isolate at home for 14 days while waiting for test results after two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were detected in Aboriginal Communities in Ballarat.

While face coverings are now mandatory for people living in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when leaving their home, Ms Gallagher said that face covering should also be considered in rural areas, especially in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.

“We can’t force anyone to wear a mask outside of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, but as the peak Aboriginal health and wellbeing organisation we strongly encourage our communities in rural Victoria to wear a face covering if they own one. Particularly when you cannot apply physical distancing.  Face coverings have been shown to reduce the risk of transmission and should be considered earlier rather than later for our mob,” Ms Gallagher said.

If people have symptoms of COVID-19, Ms Gallagher said it was important that they remain home and get tested no matter how mild.

“Symptoms could include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste,” Ms Gallagher said.

“Go home straight after your test and self-isolate while you wait for the results. This usually takes 1-3 days. No heading to the shops or fishing with your mates until you have your results.

“If you are a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate at home for 14 days to stop the virus spreading to other people. That’s really important.”

During this uncertain time, Ms Gallagher said staying connected with family, friends and your community was important.

“Some ways you can do this are calling people for a yarn on the phone, talking about the community and checking if they are OK, talking about the virus and how to stop the spread, connecting with family and friends on social media and sharing your tips on social media #KeepOurMobSafe,” she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at greater risk of coronavirus if they:

A one-off payment of $1,500 is available to workers who are unable to work during their isolation, have no income during this period, and are not entitled to any paid sick leave, special pandemic leave or other income support.

The Victorian Government will now extend the scheme to ensure that as soon as a person is tested, they will be eligible for a $300 support payment from the Victorian Government – as long as they meet the eligibility of the existing scheme.

People should call 1800 675 398 (option 8) to register for support.

There are three main sites in Ballarat where people can get tested:

  • Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative, 108 Armstrong Street Nth Ballarat, 03 5331 5344
  • Ballarat UFS Respiratory clinic, corner Merz St and Eleanor Dr, Lucas (ph. 4311 1571 for an appointment).
  • A pop up testing site is also available at the Ballarat Senior Citizens Centre, 16 Little Bridge Street (ph. 1800 054 172 for an appointment) operated by Ballarat Community Health.

Clinics around the country to assess people with fever, cough, a sore throat, or shortness of breath.

These are being rolled out gradually. If there is not one in your area yet visit your state or territory health department website for more information on fever clinics and other services.

Find out if there is a clinic near you and how to register for an appointment:

Part 2. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) unreservedly supports peoples’ right to protest and acknowledges the historic and ongoing role that protest has played in changing laws and practices that have discriminated against Indigenous peoples.

From the 1938 Day of Mourning and the Freedom Rides to the Wave Hill Walk Off, the AIDA remembers those who stood up for equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We also understand the historic devastation that unchecked viral contagions can bring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

For the sake of our Elders and most vulnerable, AIDA urges people not to attend the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest marches in Sydney until the risks of further spread of COVID-19 can be mitigated.

We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.

COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association recognises the legacy of racism and calls for greater commitment to justice reinvestment strategies, diversion programs and culturally appropriate approaches that address the core issues of injustice raised by the BLM movement.

We do not encourage any action that will increase the risk of COVID-19 entering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We will continue to support the community’s rights to engage in advocacy and encourage people to protest by other means during this health crisis, due to the inherent danger posed by mass gatherings at this time.

 

 

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 86 : #KeepOurMobSafe @VACCHO_org @ahmrc @TheAHCWA #OurJobProtectOurMob Dr @KelvinKongENT says ” If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe “

1.Dr Kelvin Kong introduction ” Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19) “

2.Testing for coronavirus

3.Where can I get tested?

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

6.Help stop the spread

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

8. Download COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location.

Some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” 

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time. Section 9 below for full release

Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19)

2.Testing for coronavirus

Testing lets health workers know if people have coronavirus. This helps control and stop the spread of the virus.

Early diagnosis means you can stop spreading the virus to your friends, family, or community. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or any other symptoms of respiratory illness, it is important you get tested. Even if you only have one of these symptoms, get tested.

Testing is even more important if you are unwell and:

  • You have recently come back to Australia from overseas. All travellers will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival into Australia;
  • You have been outside of your community and want to go back;
  • You have been close to someone who tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days;
  • You are a health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact.

3.Where can I get tested?

You can call your doctor or medical service to make an appointment for a test. If you visit your doctor, it is important to call the clinic first and tell them about your symptoms. This will help them prepare for your arrival and protect other people at the clinic.

You can also go to a free COVID-19 clinic without making an appointment. For Melbourne

COVID-19 GP respiratory clinics are health centres that focus on testing people with acute respiratory illness symptoms.

You can find a respiratory clinic near you here, or visit:  www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#how-to-get-tested

If you get tested for coronavirus, you need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people at least until your symptoms have gone away. It may take a day or two for your test results to come back.

The COVID-19 Point of Care Testing (POCT) Program helps people in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia get tested more easily. The goal of this program is to make sure that health care services are no more than a two to three hour drive from a testing location. This allows people to get their test results much more quickly than they would if the test had to be sent to a laboratory in a bigger town.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, you should call 000 for urgent medical attention.

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at                        http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

As of Wednesday 22 July 11.59pm everyone 12 years old and over, living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will HAVE to wear a face covering (can be a hospital or home made mask or a scarf) when outside their home to protect them from COVID-19.

There will be a $200 fine for those not wearing one.

There is information on making and wearing masks at https://bit.ly/2CafiiI

Info: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-masks-covid-19

There are some reasons not to wear one:

  • those who have a medical reason
  • kids under 12 years of age
  • those who have a professional reason
  • it’s just not practical, like when running

Teachers don’t have to wear a face covering while teaching – but students attending for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will, while everyone will be expected to wear one to and from school.

However you will still be expected to carry your face covering at all times to wear when you can.

Otherwise, if you’re leaving your home for one of the four reasons, you need to cover your face.

Face coverings in regional Victoria are recommended in situations where 1.5 metres distance is not possible – however regional Victorians will have to wear a mask when visiting metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of the permitted reasons.

Wearing a face mask does not apply to:

  • children under 2 years of age
  • people with breathing difficulties
  • people who have physical conditions that make it difficult to wear one.

Remember, if you’re sick you should stay at home unless you need medical care.

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

More info HERE

Batemans Bay Soldiers Club cluster: Six more have COVID-19 | Were you there on July 13, 15, 16 or 17?

6.Help stop the spread

To protect our communities, everyone should continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene. Make sure you stay two big steps away from other people, keep your hands clean, and stay at home and away from other people if you are unwell.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based rub and cough or sneeze into your elbow. We are all part of keeping our mob safe and stopping the spread of coronavirus.

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

You should download the COVIDSafe app to help protect your family, friends and the community. The app helps health officials to quickly let people know if they have been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The information can’t be shared, even with you. The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be and the faster we can get back to the things we love.

Together, we can keep our mob COVIDSafe. Visit: health.gov.au for more details.

8. Download 4 COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

Feeling angry 😡 or frustrated during the #COVID_19 lockdown ? Here are a few tips to help you cope.
If you need someone to yarn to, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or find your local Headspace.

Alternatively, you can contact your local ACCHO / Aboriginal Medical Service or GP.

Deadly artwork by Will Bessen provided Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia

4 Downloads

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time.

Over his career, Dr Kong has gained extensive experience working in rural, urban and remote communities and knows first-hand the challenges some communities face in overcoming barriers to health care.

Dr Kong says it’s now more important than ever to keep up with regular appointments, encouraging members of the community to get tested if they have any concerns about COVID19 symptoms.

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread,” explains Dr Kong.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

“The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location,” says Dr Kong.

Dr Kong acknowledges that some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

“The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” Dr Kong explains.

While we are seeing reduced community spread of COVID-19 cases, it’s important to continue testing patients that are unwell, to quickly detect any positive cases and stop the spread in the community, through self isolating.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you will need to self-isolate, and this can be a really difficult thing for many families. For our mob there can be extra barriers,” says Dr Kong.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard because we don’t have the space to actually self-isolate, but when you can, and if you can, it’s important to be in your own room. If you do have to be in the same room as someone, wear a mask.

“If you’re going to be getting food, make sure that you’re getting it alone. Wipe down surfaces, don’t interact with other people. It’s better if people can place food at your door,” says Dr Kong

While the whole community plays a part in maintaining good hygiene and regular hand washing, health workers also play a key role in helping to stop the spread between patients.

It’s really important for health workers to stay safe while they’re treating patients. The most important thing is to make sure you wear the protective equipment provided. Face shields or goggles and masks are a must,” said Dr Kong.

“Regular hand washing and wearing gloves and a gown whenever you’re in patient contact is important. These are all simple things to do, and if you’re just seeing one or two patients, it’s very easy. But when you start seeing lots of patients, you get very tired, very quickly.”

Dr Kong is urging health workers and the community to look after their own health and wellbeing too.

“It’s important to have a break. It’s a stressful time and we all need to look out for each other.”

“If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, or concerned about someone close to you, call the Coronavirus mental health line 1800 512 348.”

For the latest information, including resources for Aboriginal communities and health care workers visit nsw.gov.au.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert : NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills says rescheduling of #NAIDOCWeek2020 protects what is most precious

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chair Donnella Mills says postponing NAIDOC Week 2020 from July to November this year was a small price to pay for protecting our people and safeguarding our culture.

“What is happening in Brazil amongst their Indigenous populations is devastating to see and it could have happened to our people.

Our COVID-19 sector response, ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are treated as a priority has resulted in remarkably low occurrences of COVID-19,” said Ms Mills.

“This year’s NAIDOC theme – ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, is particularly apt and relevant in this unprecedented time and the rescheduling is aimed at protecting our Elders and those in our communities with chronic health issues from the disastrous impacts of COVID-19.

“We would like to recognise and acknowledge the work of our affiliates and our 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have put in during this pandemic to protect our communities and ensure our culture will live on.”

NACCHO is insisting that we follow social distancing rules to reduce the chances of a ‘second wave’. “We are concerned about the increased COVID-19 infections numbers in Victoria and implore people to be sensible and follow the government’s health advice guidelines.

“We are not only protecting ourselves but are keeping our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture alive,” said Ms Mills.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 85 : June 30 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob COVID-19 puts extra strain on wellbeing of Indigenous Australians : Download A National COVID-19 Pandemic Issues Paper on Mental Health and Wellbeing for our mob

“COVID-19 has put many more Indigenous Australians at risk of severe psychological distress,” Professor Dudgeon said.

Prior to the pandemic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already faced health and mental health disadvantages and inadequate and inequitable access to mental health care.

Now modelling shows that a severe increase in suicide rates could be expected, and Indigenous people are already over-represented in suicide rates in Australia, especially youth.

It is important for the government to respond to the clear findings in the report with equitable investment to support Indigenous-led initiatives to protect health and wellbeing.

Culturally safe, trauma-informed, lived-experience solutions that respond to the health and wellbeing needs have been established, but are under-resourced,” 

The national pandemic response for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and communities must be a priority, led, developed and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people.”

Professor Pat Dudgeon Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing  and from UWA’s School of Indigenous Studies, who led the working group, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were already more than twice as likely as other Australians to die by suicide.

Indigenous communities must be empowered to address the social and emotional wellbeing needs of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, with COVID-19 putting an additional strain on mental health, a national consensus report led by The University of Western Australia has revealed.

The National COVID-19 Pandemic Issues Paper on Mental Health and Wellbeing For Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples summarises the perspectives of a working group of more than 30 Indigenous leaders Australia-wide.

It lists five priorities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the psychological wellbeing of Indigenous people as restrictions ease.

These include the right to self-determination, health and mental health of the workforce, social and cultural determinants of health, digital and telehealth inclusion with immediate attention to an Indigenous helpline and evaluation that includes Indigenous data sovereignty.

Within each key recommendation, several key actions are outlined.

Key Issues.

  • Prior to COVID-19, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples already faced health and mental health disadvantages and inadequate and inequitable access to mental health
  • Globally, Indigenous peoples are disproportionately impacted by The Australian Government’s COVID-19 mental health response must address the existing social inequities that make Indigenous peoples more vulnerable to and heavily impacted by pandemics.
  • Suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are double those of other An increase in suicide rates is now predicted. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and health response on mental health will be devastating if not managed appropriately.
  • In response to COVID-19, the Government has provided extra investment in mental health support. Yet, despite known risks, funding has been largely directed to mainstream services that will not meet the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities alone.
  • Culturally safe, trauma-informed, lived-experience solutions that respond to the health and wellbeing needs and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities have been established, but are chronically under-resourced.
  • The national pandemic response for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities must be a priority and led, developed, and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities, and

Key Recommendations.

1.Self-determination – Support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations to lead the pandemic mental health responses for their peoples and communities. This calls for direct funding to Indigenous organisations to fund Indigenous-led actions which will best meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, families and

2. Health and Mental Health Workforce – Improve the accessibility of culturally safe care that meets the needs of families and communities. It is critical to support and appropriately utilise the existing local workforce, and to create and grow a longer-term, place-based, multidisciplinary Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB)

3.Social and Cultural Determinants – Implement the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 to enable culturally safe and sustainable approaches to improved mental health. Social determinants of health must be addressed and SEWB programs that are designed, delivered and culturally informed by Indigenous peoples must be supported.

4.Digital and Telehealth – Provide accessible and affordable Internet access and ensure digital and tele-health services to Indigenous communities are culturally safe and trauma-informed. An Indigenous-led helpline to be made available immediately.

5.Evaluation – Implement a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative national research and evaluation program that covers urban, regional, and remote communities, promotes accountability of funding models, and enables Indigenous data

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. The responses to this pandemic will shape our future. Government actions taken now will determine the severity of the mental health impacts and subsequent recovery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have already been disadvantaged by historical and intergenerational trauma, economic inequity, and inadequate access to health services and a culturally safe and responsive workforce.

This disadvantage results in higher risk of trauma, mental illness, economic injury, and burnout during the fourth wave of a pandemic (pictured above ).

Structural change is needed. The current pandemic mental health plan and system is not sufficient5,6 to prevent the worst-case scenario for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the predicted new mental health7 and suicide8 epidemic. Immediate action is needed to ensure culturally safe services9 are accessible and sufficiently resourced to support the psychosocial recovery from lockdown, restricted practices, and the inevitable economic recession to follow.

At the time of writing, under 60 cases of COVID-19 have been notified among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, representing 0.8% of all Australian cases.

Our communities have been kept physically safe through a highly successful COVID-19 health response due to the innovation, leadership, and management of the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector (ACCHO), led by National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and peak organisations that:

  • were prepared to respond independently and early in the pandemic,
  • united diverse sectors (health, education, land councils, government agencies),
  • protected and prepared communities for lockdown, and
  • developed effective local communication

These Indigenous-led actions have demonstrated the importance and impact of self-determination in promoting the health and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples in contemporary Australia11.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 84 : June 26 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : ” Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are taking a leading role in COVID‐19 health communication”

ACCHOs, as comprehensive healthcare services whose core business is population‐level health, have the skills, expertise and knowledge to create and execute appropriate COVID‐19 prevention messages.

Part of their success has been the trust that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people place in them primarily because they deliver culturally appropriate service. In a time of crisis, they are best placed to deliver health promotion and crisis communication to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs and their peak bodies, therefore, need to be resourced appropriately to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the best possible information to reduce the risk to themselves, their families and their communities. ” 

Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : Originally published HERE

For research references or Download

ACCHO COVID19 communications

Noting all images and videos below added by NACCHO

Health communication during a health crisis, such as the COVID‐19 pandemic, is vital to reduce the impact on populations. To ensure the communication is effective, audience segmentation is required with specific resources that have been developed for each segment.

In addition, the messages need to be clear, mutual trust between the communicator and the audience needs to be developed and maintained, and resources should focus on cultural values.

The evidence around effective crisis communication indicates that it needs to be timely, clear, concise and appropriate to the target audience. Communication is particularly important for those at higher risk during the crisis, such as people who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk from COVID‐19 due to a range of factors associated with higher rates of non‐communicable diseases and a lack of access to health services in remote communities.

Additionally, there are socio‐cultural factors that put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk, such as high mobility for family or cultural reasons.

Despite the increased risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from COVID‐19, there has been little specific communication tailored for them from governments since the pandemic commenced.

This is despite the overwhelming evidence that health promotion messages need to be tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To fill the gap, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have demonstrated their capacity to deliver scientifically valid, evidence‐based and culturally translated COVID‐19 prevention messages.

The ACCHO sectors’ understanding of population health has led to a strong history of culturally centred health promotion and social marketing materials.

Even before the World Health Assembly declared COVID‐19 a global pandemic (11 March ACCHOs and their peak bodies had developed messages for their communities.

The ACCHO sectors’ communications on COVID‐19 have been produced in addition to their usual service delivery and using existing funding.

NACCHO first communique January 28 : Since then 84 COVID-19 Alerts 

Read over 84 NACCHO COVID-19 News Alert January to June 2020

Effective social marketing campaigns segment a target audience and develop resources that are culturally appropriate. Culturally appropriate resources include target specific language choices, imagery and an understanding of culturally specific behaviour change motivations.

Four examples of ACCHOs that have delivered tailored resources include the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC), Apunipima Cape York Health Council (Apunipima), Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

See NACCHO COVID-19 updates and infomation

Each of the examples provided resources that were tailored specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by including Aboriginal vernacular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and some included Indigenous languages.

Additionally, the material reflected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s kinship structures by promoting self‐isolation and good hygiene as a way of taking care of family and community.

AHMRC Website 

The AH&MRC, the NSW ACCHO peak body, has disseminated existing and new resources promoting COVID‐19 prevention online via their website, Facebook Twitter YouTube and Instagram

Additionally, they created the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service Pandemic Response Tool Kit. The materials were either resources developed by their member services (ACCHOs) or mainstream materials that have been repurposed and contextualised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Apunipima ACCHO Website

Apunipima, a Cape York ACCHO in Queensland has also been communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about how to protect themselves from COVID‐19 via Facebook and TikTok, and by distributing printed resources.

The first Facebook post (6 March 2020) used simple, evidenced‐based prevention messages about handwashing. Subsequently, they produced infographics and short localised video updates.

 

AHCWA Website

AHCWA, the Western Australian ACCHO peak body, has also developed infographics promoting prevention measures such as hand washing and COVID‐19 symptoms.

AHCWA resources and updates have been published on their website.

 

NACCHO, the national ACCHO peak body has been amplifying communications from ACCHOs and the jurisdictional affiliates, such as the AH&MRC and AHCWA.

They have shared these resources via their website, the NACCHO communique, their Facebook page and Twitter.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 83 : June 23 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob A free Digital Health Security Awareness course designed for people who work in our ACCHO’s and variety of healthcare settings and roles. 

“ Now, more than ever, it’s important to ensure people who work in healthcare are equipped to recognise and manage security risks.

Social distancing requirements introduced in response to COVID-19 have resulted in an increased use of digital solutions to deliver healthcare.

At the same time, malicious attackers have launched new attacks, many of which are related to COVID-19 “

The Federal Government Digital Health team  are pleased to announce that a new eLearning course is now available on the Agency’s training platform, training.digitalhealth.gov.au.

This free Digital Health Security Awareness course is designed for people who work in a variety of healthcare settings and roles.

It includes examples that relate cyber security concepts to people’s work in healthcare organisations.

The course has been developed by the Agency’s cyber security team, in consultation with representatives from a range of healthcare settings and disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, practice management and allied health.

The Digital Health Security Awareness eLearning course includes five modules:

  1. Introduction to security awareness
  2. Think before you click
  3. Passwords
  4. Network and device security
  5. Report. Protect Privacy.

After completing the course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe common cyber security risks and recognise that they are continually evolving
  • Adopt positive security behaviours to protect sensitive information
  • Identify ways to reduce the likelihood of being impacted by cyber security threats
  • Outline what to do in the case of a cyber security incident
  • Identify key legislation and data breach reporting requirements

You are invited to complete this free online course to increase your awareness of security.

You may also wish to encourage other people working in healthcare to access this new Digital Health Security Awareness resource.

 

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 82 : June 22 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : John Paterson CEO AMSANT Because we are still seeing major breakouts in places like Victoria and New South Wales, we had hoped the border controls would remain in place

1.Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in remote communities

2.Remote Framework

3.Physical distancing

4.Good hygiene

5.Stay home if you are unwell and get tested

6.Download the COVIDSafe App

7.COVIDSafe Australia

1.Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in remote communities

Coronavirus has spread across the world and made many people sick. The good news is Australia has been very successful in both ‘flattening the curve’ and keeping the virus out of our remote communities.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Australia each day is very low except for Victoria ( see below )

Some areas are now beginning to take careful steps to ease some of the restrictions that have helped stop the spread of the virus.

In other areas we need to keep these measures going a little longer to protect our mob, our Elders and our culture from this virus.

NACCHO Update 22 June 

The peak body for Aboriginal-controlled health services in the Northern Territory says the NT Government’s decision to reopen borders is a “major risk” and it is now “very likely” infected people will be arriving in the NT.

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT) said it was disappointed it had not been consulted about the Government’s decision to end mandatory quarantine for new arrivals in the NT on July 17.

“Because we are still seeing major breakouts in places like Victoria and New South Wales, we had hoped the border controls would remain in place until there was no more coronavirus in Australia or there was a vaccine,” AMSANT chief executive John Paterson said.

Above front page of the Australian June 22

“The borders opening is a major risk, and we are disappointed we weren’t consulted about the decision to open the borders.

“We are concerned that we are very likely to again have infected people coming into the NT.”

Read full story HERE

Watch SkyNews Coverage 

2.Remote Framework : Updated 19 June 

Governments and community leaders were worried about what would happen if there was a coronavirus outbreak in a remote community

Restrictions were put in place on travelling to some remote communities. This meant people couldn’t enter these designated areas without first self-isolating.

This was done to stop people including tourists from bringing the virus into communities, and so far this has worked.

If coronavirus gets into our remote communities, it will be hard to get rid of. It will hurt our people and could make our people very sick.

The government with leaders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health have designed a framework to help governments and communities make decisions about when to lift restrictions in remote areas. The focus is keeping everyone safe.

You can find the remote framework on the health.gov.au website under ‘Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote communities’.

The restrictions will stay in place until 18 September, unless communities and governments agree to lift them earlier. Some communities are working with governments to lift the restrictions while keeping communities safe.

Get the latest updates 

3.Physical distancing

One of the best ways to protect ourselves from coronavirus is to stay at least two big steps away from people whenever and wherever we can. If there are too many people at places like the shops, it makes it very difficult to keep your distance. Come back when it is not as busy or see if you can order the items online.

4.Good hygiene

Good hygiene helps stop the spread of many illness, including the coronavirus. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet and before preparing food. Make sure to wash for 20 seconds at least. Don’t touch your face as this is where the virus enters your body, and remember to cough and sneeze into your elbow instead of your hand.

5.Stay home if you are unwell and get tested

It is important you stay home if you have cold or flu like symptoms. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath, make sure you get tested for coronavirus.

The COVID-19 Point of Care Testing (POCT) program is being put into place in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

This allows people including health care workers, to remain in community while in isolation and waiting for test results. The goal of the program is that health care services are no more than 2-3 hours drive away from a testing location.

6.Download the COVIDSafe App

Make sure you download the COVIDSafe app. The app allows public health workers to know when a person who has the virus has been around other people, and who those people are.

Public health workers can then contact people to let them know they have been close to a person with the virus, and what they need to do next.

The app does not trace your location or movement, or tell police or other officials where you have been or what you are doing.

7.COVIDSafe Australia

Our success depends on us making new behaviours such as physical distancing, extra hand washing and coughing into our elbow, part of our daily lives. Whenever you leave home, think about how you’re going to keep yourself, family and friends safe from coronavirus. Make good choices about what you do and when you do it.

Make sure you stay up to date with the latest information at Australia.gov.au which also has links to state and territory websites.

Visit niaa.gov.au for further information about which remote community biosecurity restrictions are place.

You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 81 : June 19 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Helen Milroy : COVID-19: Equity and ethics in a pandemic: #Indigenous perspectives

” During decades of relative stability and prosperity for Australia as a nation, we could not close the gap in life expectancy, health and mental health outcomes and other markers of disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.

How then, is this going to change over the course of a pandemic, especially if resources become scarce and access to high-quality intensive medical services is limited?

Numerous reports outline the ongoing inequity in health and mental health outcomes as well as the additional burden of disadvantage and discrimination experienced by Indigenous Australians.

In combination, this places Indigenous communities in a state of heightened vulnerability exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, the associated measures such as physical isolation needed to ‘flatten the curve’ will also increase the risk for negative outcomes for Indigenous communities.

Helen Milroy highlights the impact of COVID-19 and the efforts to contain it in Indigenous communities, how it exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and disadvantages, and how we can ensure Indigenous perspectives are integrated in equitable decision-making frameworks going forward. See CV at end of article 

Originally published HERE

The pandemic raises a number of significant issues relating to equity, equality and ethical decision making with many valuable lessons to be learnt along the way.

We have already witnessed the quick action of many of our Indigenous organisations to support, educate and protect our Indigenous communities. Imagine what could be achieved if these issues of equity, ethical decision making, power sharing and funding were shared equally along with support for self-determination for Indigenous communities.

There have been a number of calls from around the world to support and protect Indigenous communities during the pandemic, many outlining their high vulnerability as well as the ongoing historical legacies of past traumas. Shino Konishi (in this Briefings edition) describes the scale and lessons of the 1789 smallpox epidemic upon Indigenous populations across south-eastern Australia.

The Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues released a message [PDF, 0.1MB] urging countries to ensure Indigenous peoples are informed, protected and prioritised, and exercise their right to self-determination during the pandemic.

The message also highlighted the additional concerns related to Indigenous Elders due to their highly valued roles as ‘keepers of history, traditions, and cultures’.

In Western Australia, the Department of Health called for the consideration of Indigenous communities during the pandemic due to their heightened vulnerability through the publication of the Aboriginal Ethical Position Statement [PDF, 0.89MB].

The Statement also calls for health service providers to ensure the provision of equitable and culturally acceptable healthcare and for the inclusion of cultural considerations across all areas of pandemic planning.

While it is difficult to predict what the mortality would be for Indigenous communities if the virus were to take hold, health commentators have stated it could be catastrophic. The only way to prevent this is through isolation until a vaccine is available, which could still take many months or years to develop and disseminate.

Many concerns have been expressed over how to keep our communities, and particularly our Elders, safe during this time. We have the oldest living culture in the world here in Australia, and our Indigenous Elders are considered as the keepers of our cultures, languages and knowledge systems.

They also have an increased vulnerability due to age, chronic health conditions and the impact of disadvantage.

For many rural and remote communities, the only solution currently has been to isolate families, close borders or shift to outstations within homelands. Many Indigenous people have been encouraged – if not coerced – to return home only to find difficulties with overcrowding, food insecurity and few health and community resources.

View above newsletter HERE

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar recently wrote for the ABC about returning to her homelands near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in order to assist her community to live out bush.

She points out the stark contrast between decades of policy to close down remote communities and now being told it is safer to live out bush. Commissioner Oscar points out that the chronic underinvestment and poor conditions of the remote homelands continue to place people at risk.

Although moving to live in the remote communities is part of the right to self-determination, this must now be supported wholeheartedly with a new approach that assists Indigenous communities to not merely live and subsist but rather to thrive in their homelands.

As remote communities closed, much of the mobile workforce also disappeared due to travel restrictions, leaving some communities in a further state of disadvantage. Although the rapid expansion of tele/video health has filled the gap in services in some areas, the coverage outside major regional areas is patchy at best. In some remote locations, communication is reliant on radio transmitters.

Again, this brings into sharp focus the lack of investment in infrastructure, capacity building and workforce development in communities.

Access to health services is already limited, particularly in remote locations. Under these pandemic circumstances, the capacity for medical evacuations is complicated and the availability of intensive medical care is limited in regional and remote Australia. Recent experiences of racism and discrimination in health services have already been reported in the media.

In larger regional or urban centres, there are concerns as to whether Indigenous people would receive the equitable and culturally appropriate care called for in the Aboriginal Ethical Position Statement if resources become scarce.

In the G08 COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery Report, it was estimated the health needs for Indigenous Australians is 2.3 times higher than for other Australians and called for needs-based funding. Is this possible during a pandemic when this issue has not been adequately addressed for the decades prior?

At this point in time, we have been extremely fortunate to have controlled the spread of the virus in our Indigenous communities but the journey is far from over. With the easing of restrictions and the possibility of a second wave, are our communities safe?

We will need to weigh up the risk of returning to the new normal versus the possibility of staying in isolation for prolonged periods of time. We will also need additional resources to manage the unintended consequences of isolation such as the potential worsening of other health and mental health conditions.

People are less likely to seek out health services or have reduced access during this pandemic period. Routine screening or treatment for other conditions will diminish, resulting in the worsening of many health and mental health conditions over time.

Mental health experts predict a significant increase in mental health challenges and suicide as the full impact of the pandemic and the associated measures are experienced across the country. In the 2018 AIHW report [PDF, 0.56MB]on Australia’s Health, 30% of Indigenous people reported high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to 11% for the non-Indigenous population. The levels of psychological distress and associated mental health challenges will worsen with the associated anxiety and aftermath related to the pandemic. Currently, there are limited available, accessible and culturally safe mental health services for Indigenous communities, especially in remote locations where there are very few trained staff available. This is even more critical given the shortage of mental health services for Indigenous children and youth, with the potential for long-lasting effects well into adult life.

There have been many ethical challenges associated with the pandemic with difficult decisions made in order to safeguard the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the many gaps that still exist and the tenuous nature of some services reliant on a mobile workforce without the infrastructure and capacity to sustain services once borders are closed. Given the continuing impact of our historical legacy, any ethical framework for decision making during this pandemic must consider equity and the plights of Indigenous communities during such difficult and life-threatening circumstances.

What we have also seen, however, is a population that can act swiftly, mobilise resources and change models of care to maintain the health and wellbeing of the nation.

We have also seen the great strengths of Indigenous organisations and communities coming together and acting quickly to protect their families. If we can do all of this, then surely we can solve the long-standing health crisis and disadvantage that impacts on our Indigenous Australians to ensure the future wellbeing of all our families.

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. Currently Helen is the Stan Perron Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and The University of Western Australia. Helen has been on state and national mental health and research advisory committees and boards with a particular focus on Indigenous mental health as well as the wellbeing of children. From 2013 to 2017 Helen was a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 80 : June 12 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Message update from our NACCHO CEO Pat Turner on COVID-19 advice for #BlackLivesMatter protesters

“Mass gatherings where people are close together are high-risk for spreading COVID-19 ”

Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Download full press release here

“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 especially those aged 50 years and older.

“The specific advice of all health authorities is that while COVID-19 remains in Australia that everyone should take precautions including the social distancing and hygiene practices,” she said.

“People with coronavirus can spread the virus for at least 48 hours before showing symptoms. Those who attended the rally should take every precaution they can in terms of practical measures to protect themselves and their families.

“It is important you continue with social distancing, regular hand washing and cough hygiene. If you can, avoid contact with Elders and with people with chronic medical conditions as these people are at much higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness if they get infected.

If you develop even the mildest of symptoms, stay home and get a COVID-19 test. The symptoms that warrant a COVID-19 test include a sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, night sweats or a temperature over 37.5°C.

“As per government’s health advice, people who marched don’t need to isolate unless they felt sick, in which case, they should get tested. The earlier we pick up infections, the quicker we can move to prevent further spread.”

Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter News Alerts : Aboriginal deaths in custody with commentary from Pat Turner , Helen Milroy , Marcia Langton , @KenWyattMP @David_Speers @GayaaDhuwi @pat_dudgeon @SenatorDodson

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black lives Matter.

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss.

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

Click here for advice

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

Last week, VACCHO supported a harm minimisation approach to the peaceful protests. We recognised that large crowds were likely to congregate in Melbourne’s CBD regardless of any discouragement.  We wanted to ensure those deciding to attend, could do this as safely as possible.

Our messaging to those who decided to go to the rally was loud and clear; say home if unwell or vulnerable, have chronic conditions, or care for anyone who does; be sensible and wear face masks, bring sanitisers and wash your hands; and maintain safe distance of 1.5 meters apart.

Today, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, announced that a non-Aboriginal man in his thirties who attended the BLM rally held in Melbourne, has tested positive to COVID-19. Victoria reported another 7 cases overnight. These 7 cases are not linked or traced back to the rally.

Brett Sutton also advised that this man, who wore a mask at the rally, showed no symptoms Saturday. Mr Sutton reaffirmed that he was diagnosed 24 hours following the rally, meaning it was ‘highly unlikely’ that he caught the virus there.

Normally people show symptoms 4-6 days after being exposed to the virus. Currently, 179 of the 1,699 cases of COVID-19 are linked to cases of community transmission in Victoria which are unable to be traced back to a known source.

Read full Press Release HERE

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

Last weekend, Black Lives Matter protests brought thousands on to the streets campaigning for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Many signs at rallies referred to the 432 deaths that are known to have happened since the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody delivered its final report in 1991.

That figure is based on Guardian Australia’s findings from a two-year long project to monitor Aboriginal deaths in custody, Deaths Inside.

We updated the database and published new results on Saturday. We found the number had risen to 434.

But by Saturday morning even that number was already out of date. Just before marches began in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and towns around the country, the department of corrective services in Western Australia confirmed that a 40-year-old Aboriginal man had died in custody at Acacia prison, near Perth.

Read full article HERE

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system

Pat Turner, for decades a strong Aboriginal voice, is the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together about 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In this role she is part of the negotiations for a new agreement on Closing the Gap targets.

Unlike the original Rudd government targets, the refreshed Closing the Gap agreement, soon to be finalised, will set out targets for progress on justice and housing.

But the issue is, how much progress should be the aim?

Read this Pat Turner interview HERE

“We want to push the percentages of achievement much higher, but we are in a consensus decision-making process with governments … what the targets will reflect is what the governments themselves are prepared to commit to,” Turner says.

The Australian Black Lives Matter marches have focused attention on the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people, often for trivial matters.

In this podcast Turner canvasses both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

She points to “huge issues with drug and alcohol abuse”, with inadequate resourcing to deal with these problems.

She urges reform for sentencing arrangements for those charged with minor offences, criticising a system which imprisons people who cannot pay fines, or post bail. “It would be less expensive overall for the jurisdictions, and it would more beneficial to the community [if those people weren’t in prison]”. And she identifies the “the over-incarceration of women [as] a major concern.”

Among the changes needed, she says, is better training of police.

“Now I’m not saying that all the police behave badly – we have got outstanding examples of how the police work with our communities.” But “we just can’t wait for ad hoc ‘good guys’ to come out of the system and engage properly – we need wholesale reform of the police departments.”

Listen Here

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

” The Federal  Government is progressing with the Closing the Gap refresh in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, and while we’re still in final negotiations, it has been agreed that there will be justice targets contained within that agreement that focus on incarceration rates.

What’s important is that this Agreement has been developed in Partnership with Indigenous Australians and so we’re all working towards better outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I will keep on working to empower Indigenous Australians – improve health, education and employment outcomes – and reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in custody.

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release:

Every death in custody is a tragedy.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution and no single answer.

Through all the work I do as Minister for Indigenous Australian we’re working to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates – these include health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

If we want to reduce the number of deaths in custody we need to look very closely at what’s happening here in Australia – the factors contributing to incarceration rates and the way in which our systems are handling these incidents – this requires a co-operative approach between government and with communities, particularly when States and Territories hold the policies and levers relating to policing and justice matters.

The relationship between Indigenous Australians and the police, both the good and the bad, in respective jurisdictions must also be examined.

The Morrison Government, through the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), is playing a key role in ensuring that there are additional protections in place for individuals when they are taken into custody through the Custody Notification System (CNS).

But we also need to remember that reducing the number of Indigenous people in contact with the justice system, through addressing the underlying factors that lead to offending, is just as key in addressing the number of deaths in custody.

So we should be looking at these things every day – that’s why we fund a range of activities to complement State and Territories to improve justice and community safety outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

It takes more than money – it takes commitment – it takes listening and understanding, and it takes us working together.

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomed today’s reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Noting that Indigenous Australians are almost ten times proportionally overrepresented in prison, Professor Tom Calma AO, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Patron, said:

The 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was a response to too many Indigenous Australians being in jail, and dying in jail and in police custody. That this crisis is worse, not better, in 2020 is a scandal.

The legacies of colonisation: structural racism, poverty and social exclusion are at the root of the high rates of imprisonment we suffer. All these must be addressed along with policing and sentencing reform as set out in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2018 Pathways to Justice Report.

But in the shorter term, we must also address the pathways to prison that the resulting untreated trauma, mental health and alcohol and drug problems create for our people.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Chair Professor Helen Milroy continued:

We know that high rates of trauma, mental health issues and alcohol use are reported in Indigenous prisoners at the time of their offending, but also that – for many – prison is the first time they get any kind of mental health or other support. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia calls on Australian governments to work together with us to develop a comprehensive mental health focused, justice reinvestment based strategic response to reducing Indigenous imprisonment rates.

This would feature integrated communitybased mental health, AOD and diversionary programs, continuing mental health support in prison, and – upon release – continuity of care to prevent recidivism and to support the reintegration of our people back into our families and communities.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, National Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Indigenous Suicide Prevention and Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia director, added:

Black lives do matter. And in addition to other causes of death in custody, we know that both the stress of pending court cases and the challenges of post-release life contributes to suicides among us, something often forgotten by policy makers. It is critical that diversionary programs and Indigenous prisoner mental health support are also considered within integrated approaches to suicide prevention among us.

Professor Calma closed by stating:

Over a decade ago as Social Justice Commissioner, I called for the development of Closing the Gap targets to reduce our incarceration rates, and for a justice reinvestment approach to doing so.

I repeat these calls today. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia aims to implement the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration’s Vision of Indigenous leadership delivering the best possible mental health system and standard of mental health to Indigenous Australians.

The organisation stands ready to lead and partner with stakeholders and Australian governments to develop a comprehensive mental health based strategic response to help close the imprisonment rate gap.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black Lives Matter

Download Senate debate Black lives Matter

Black lives matter debate in Senate

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss

Download Report HERE

Hearing Loss

Read previous other report HERE 

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery