NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Management of COVID-19 in community

The image in the feature tile is from ABC News article Indigenous communities won’t be safe from COVID until we act on the lessons learnt in Wilcannia, 28 November 2021. Photo: Micahel Franchi.

Management of COVID-19 in community

A research article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) says we need to learn from Australia’s response to the pandemic and break down siloes, so we can build a more integrated and resilient health system. While the Australian health care system is well regarded on the global stage in terms of the balance between investment in health care and outcomes delivered, there is considerable fragmentation and poor coordination of care and communication between hospitals and primary care, which limits further improvement. Geographical barriers, workforce shortages and issues relating to acceptability of services limit health care access for residents of rural, regional and remote communities, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and together with an inadequate focus on prevention, limit progress towards health equity.

The article says strong advocacy from NACCHO and GPs in outbreak areas (including the Primary and Chronic Care Panel of the National COVID‐19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce) did consider the issues inherent in managing COVID‐19 in remote communities with overcrowded housing, but resource constraints limited execution of solutions. Early central planning and discussion also rarely involved primary care providers — from private, public or Aboriginal community controlled health sectors — and highlighted a lack of regional health care planning structures. The authors claim there is a particular need for purposeful rebuilding of remote PHC, emphasising the primacy of the Aboriginal clinical workforce, demonstrated as essential for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and enabling timely vaccine rollout.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia article Management of COVID‐19 in the community and the role of primary care: how the pandemic has shone light on a fragmented health system in full click here.

NACCHO developed COVID-19 resource. Image source: Croakey Health Media .

Racism is a public health issue

The Yokayi Footy panel has weighted in on the “horrifying chapter” of racism accusations embroiling Hawthorn football club and AFL coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan Program host Megan Waters made a heartfelt plea and said as mob the news makes her feel “sick to the gut” before emotions got the best of former players Andrew Krakouer, Gillbert McAdam and Darryl White.

Hawthorn football staff, including Clarkson and Fagan, are alleged to have targeted three unnamed First Nations players during their time at the club, pressuring them into severing relationships with partners and families to better focus on their careers. “The story of racism is still very much alive in this country,” Ms Waters said.

Krakouer said similar stories of racism seem to come up every week, highlighting the need for stronger processes to better address the issue, cut suicide rates and social determinate factors felt by Indigenous people as a result of its ongoing impacts. “Racism is a public health issue,” he said. “It affects our health, life and our safety so we need to get serious about racism because what has been done previously, it’s not good enough.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article ‘Racism is a public health issue’: Indigenous footy personalities speak out on Hawthorn probe in full click here.

Andrew Krakouver. Photo: AFL.com.au. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Abolition of cashless debit card

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering a long-term plan to ensure certainty, choice and support to communities moving off the cashless debit card program. Following extensive consultation in sites across the nation, the Government has today announced a suite of measures that empowers local communities and will assist in abolishing the cashless debit card program and ensure communities are better off.

This will deliver on our election commitment to end a failed program. The Government will abolish the cashless debit card program and make income management voluntary in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay. Under the plan, the Cape York region will retain all of its powers of self-determination and referral for community members to go onto income management under the Family Responsibilities Commission.

To view the joint media release Empowering communities with the abolition of the cashless debit card program in full click here.

Photo: Natalie Whitling, ABC News.

WA study to address low vax rate

Pregnant, expectant and breastfeeding First Nations mums will be the focus of new research that seeks to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among Aboriginal women across WA. The project will be led by Dr Anne-Marie Eades from the Curtin School of Allied Health. Dr Eades, a Noongar woman from the Wagyl Kaip region of WA, said First Nations women, particularly of a childbearing age, urgently needed greater access to vaccinations because they were most vulnerable to infection.

“There is currently a lack of research addressing the barriers to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination among Aboriginal families,” Dr Eades said. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA. Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Partnering with the South-West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and Babbingur Mia-Aboriginal Women’s Health Service, Dr Eades will be supported by a team of leading experts in Aboriginal health, COVID-19 vaccinations, immunisation, and midwifery. “We need to determine what factors could have encouraged a greater uptake of vaccination for First Nations mothers who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive,” Dr Eades said.

To view the Curtin University media release Study to address low COVID-19 vaccinations among Aboriginal women in full click here.

Michell Farrell gets her first COVID-19 vaccine at the Ngukurr Clinic. Photo: Kate Ashton, ABC News.

Healthy Skin Guidelines online survey

Telethon Kids Institute is inviting you to participate in an online survey to help with the evaluation of the 1st edition of the National Healthy Skin Guidelines (NHSG). The 1st edition of the NHSG was published in 2018 by the Australian Healthy Skin Consortium, and endorsed by NACCHO. It focuses on the prevention, treatment, and public health control of skin infections (such as impetigo, scabies, crusted scabies and tinea) for Aboriginal populations. Available online, the NHSG has been viewed >10,000 times, downloaded > 3,500 times, and the quiz for knowledge assessment completed >300 times.

Telethon Kids Institute want to know your experience of the guideline to help inform the updates to the next edition, or if you haven’t used it, we’d like to know about where you might go to access this kind of information and resources. The survey is intended for any healthcare worker who cares for people with skin infections. There are two separate surveys for those who have, and those who have not, used the 1st edition of the NHSG. You do not have to have used the 1st edition to take part in this survey, and you will only complete one survey.

It is estimated that the survey will take a maximum of 20 minutes. All responses are anonymous.

Click on this link to begin the survey.  If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Asha Bowen using this email link.

Increasing maternal health service uptake

University of Huddersfield researcher Devendra Raj Singh hopes that improvements in public health in disadvantaged communities will be the result of his international collaborations under the UK’s Turing Scheme. Devendra recently spent two months at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he found that his research drew parallels between health issues faced by Australia’s Aboriginal community and people in his native Nepal.

The PhD research aims to co-design an initiative to improve the delivery and uptake of free maternal and new-born health services in Nepal, where Devendra hails from Madhesh Province in the south of the country. While in Canberra, Devendra worked closely with academics at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU, one of Australia’s highest-ranked universities, and he gained invaluable insights into the issues facing Australia’s First Nations peoples.

“My visit to ANU has provided me with an excellent practical introduction to implementation research methodologies such as co-design, realist review, and policy analysis. But it was my absolute privilege to learn about the historical past, culture, and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia,” he adds.

To view the University of Huddersfield article Health researcher Devendra aims to build on Turing Scheme experience in full click here.

Natalia Moore-Deagan says the Indigenous health workers are one reason she goes to Danila Dilba. Photo: Lucy Marks, ABC News.

Medicare must be accessible to prisoners

Gerry Georgatos, a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice has written an article for Independent Australia arguing that Medicare must be accessible for prisoners. “It is my experience, in general, people come out of prisons in worse conditions than when they commenced the situational trauma of incarceration” Georgatos said. Health inequalities and discrimination in this nation’s 132 prisons are rife. Nearly 45,000 prisoners are denied Medicare.  Medicare is denied to prisoners, old and young, and to children as young as ten.

In addition, the incarcerated in effect are denied access to the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme  and denied access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with disastrous impacts. It is established and self-evident, nearly all of Australia’s prisoners are comprised of people living in the lowest quintile of income. Additionally, they also comprise the quintile of the weakest primary and secondary health.”

To view the Independent Australia article Medicare must be accessible for prisoners in full click here.

Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rut of policy failure linked to colonial ideas

The image in the feature tile is from The Mandarin article Reports point to failed Indigenous policies, 20 June 2020. Image source: Getty Images.

Rut of policy failure linked to colonial ideas

An article Colonial ideas have kept NZ and Australia in a rut of policy failure. We need policy by Indigenous people, for the people, available here, by Dominic O’Sullivan, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology and Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University was recently published in The Conversation. In the article Adjunct Professor O’Sullivan says “Crisis is a word often used in politics and the media – the COVID crisis, the housing crisis, the cost of living crisis, and so on. The term usually refers to single events at odds with common ideas of what’s acceptable, fair or good.

“But in NZ, Australia and elsewhere, Indigenous policy can be portrayed as a different kind of crisis altogether. Indeed, it can often just seem like one crisis after another, one policy failure after another: poor health, poor education, all kinds of poor statistics. A kind of permanent crisis. Policy success, on the other hand, often doesn’t fit the crisis narrative: record low Māori unemployment, for instance, or the Māori economy being worth NZ$70 billion and forecast to grow 5% annually. It may be that crisis makes better headlines. But we also need to ask why, and what the deeper implications might be for Indigenous peoples and policy in Aotearoa NZ and Australia.”

Image source: Shutterstock, The Conversation.

AMA President on health workforce woes

AMA President, Professor Steve Robson spoke yesterday on ABC AM about the health workforce, saying “I think if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy Australians and that means a healthy workforce. So we need to future-proof the system and because it takes so long to train a doctor, it takes so long to get experience as a healthcare worker, there is no time to waste. All of the changes to the system need to be made now.”

Professor Robson wants incentive programs that’ll encourage more medical graduates to go into general practice, particularly in remote and regional areas, saying “It’s going to mean working conditions, it’s going to mean remuneration, it’s going to mean respect from the Government to make it a job that people want to do.” The same approach needs to be applied to public hospitals to make them more attractive workplace as well. It’s all part of the AMA’s National Health Workforce Strategy, which tries to match community needs with how many doctors need to be trained in particular specialist areas and geographic regions. It means funding more specialist training placements and regional training and research hospitals.

You can view the transcript of the AMA President’s interview in full here. You can also view a related AMA media release Implementing health workforce plan must be a priority for government here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interpreter. Image source: ABC News.

COVID-19 and vax updates for mob

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have developed a range of COVID-19 vaccination resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. General COVID-19 vaccine information communication materials, including videos (such as the one below), radio advertisements and interviews, social media, fact sheets, posters and newsletters are available here. In addition subscribers can receive regular newsletters featuring COVID-19 and vaccines updates and other health updates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. You can view the newsletter collection here and also subscribe to the newsletter email list here.

ACCOs should have greater control in CP cases

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children are nearly 10 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection services compared to non-Aboriginal children. And data shows the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care is projected to double by 2029. “The figures are appalling, and we should all hang our heads in shame,” Tanya Harper, from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), said. “Today in 2022, we are continuing to create yet a new generation of stolen children.”

The data, released by Family Matters, has led to renewed calls for Aboriginal-controlled organisations to be given greater control over Indigenous children needing out-of-home care across the country. Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Jamie-Lee Maynard-Burgess knows what it is like to be removed from her family and her culture. She spent much of her childhood in out-of-home care.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal organisations should be given more control over Indigenous kids in child protection system, advocacy group says in full click here.

Image: Paul Strk, ABC News.

Medicine shortages affecting sector

The NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team would like to notify you about a few recent medicines shortages affecting our sector, including:

tenecteplase (Metalyse) injection: shortage predicted to extend over the next 18 months, TGA has extended shelf-life of some batches by 12 months

semaglutide (Ozempic) and dulaglutide (Trulicity) injections: stock is predicted to return to normal supply by the end of August 2022

benzathine benzylpenicillin tetrahydrate (Bicillin L-A) injection: anticipated shortage has been resolved without issue

It is important that ACCHO and patient ordering remains consistent with previous orders, so that medicines are available for the entire sector. Please discourage stockpiling and hoarding behaviours which can prolong shortages or create inequities.  

The Medicines Supply Security Guarantee including the introduction of Minimum Stockholding Requirements (available here on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) webpage) should help reduce the impact of global medicine shortages that interrupt supply of medicines. Manufacturers will be required to hold a minimum of either 4 or 6 months’ of stock in Australia for certain PBS listed medicines.  

You can search for updates on all shortages at here on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website and subscribe to NACCHO’s monthly medicines newsletter here for tailored advice around shortages and general medicines issues for the sector. To nominate any specific medicines that would result in serious and immediate problems for your ACCHO (for example those with no possible substitute used for life-threatening conditions), contact the NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team here.

For further information you can access a NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team letter here.

Mike Stephens – Director, Medicines Policy and Program at NACCHO and a registered pharmacist. Image source: Making Connections.

Growing and supporting health workforce

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, says representatives from across Australia’s health workforce including unions, employers and other stakeholders met today to discuss how best to grow and support this vital sector – already Australia’s largest source of employment. Over the next two months the Minister for Health and Aged Care will continue to meet with frontline health care workers, including students and those who have recently left their positions, to understand their issues and what governments can do better.

The feedback from these meetings will inform and advise our new Health Workforce Taskforce as well as the Jobs and Skills Summit process. The Government’s health workforce priorities are: ensuring secure, well-paid jobs, supporting skilled workers throughout their career, and creating a safe work environment.

To view the Minister Butler’s media release Growing and Supporting our Health Workforce click here.

UniSA’s Horizon Hospital and Health Service. Image source: University of SA website.

Cervical screening options for mob

Most women have their cervical sample collected by their health professional. Some women who have never been screened or are overdue for screening may be more comfortable taking their own sample (called self-collection).

Self-collection is one way you can choose to do your Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. It involves collecting your own sample from your vagina, in a private space. These instructions help you to collect your own sample, so you can prevent cervical cancer and live long and strong for yourself and your family.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have developed a document specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, providing information on the Cervical Screening test and options available for screening. The document, Cervical Screening Test – how to collect your own sample, available here, including an illustrated 10-step instructions.

For further information and to order the cervical screening self-collection resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women click here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Getting NDIS funding only half the battle

The image in the feature tile is of the super talented artist 23 year old Dion ‘Cheeky Dog’ Beasley who is profoundly deaf and has Muscular Dystrophy. Image is from ICTVPLAY – Indigenous community videos on demand, 2014.

Getting NDIS funding only half the battle

Some NDIS participants worry if they don’t spend their annual funds, they won’t be offered the same support in their next plan – and it’s harder for some to use what they’ve been allocated. Around 4.5 million Australians live with disability but less than 13% of them are covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Getting into the scheme is one thing. But many NDIS participants find using their funding is yet another.

Research indicates a major issue in terms of the fairness of the scheme is less in the allocation of funding but more about whether people are able to spend their funding. Some groups – particularly people living in regional or remote areas or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – are less able to use their budgets. The research compared plan size and spending for participants from culturally and linguistic diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and according to where people live, taking into consideration factors such as age to ensure comparisons were “like with like”.

The research found participants from culturally and linguistic diverse backgrounds backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people received larger plans than other NDIS participants. But they spent a similar amount, despite having bigger budgets. This resulted in lower levels of utilisation. Modelling showed increasing the use of support coordinators could increase plan utilisation and reduce inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse participants, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and those with psychosocial disabilities.

The ConversationTo view the UNSW Sydney Newsroom opinion piece ‘Use it or lose it’ – getting NDIS funding is only half the battle for participants by Helen Dickinson, Professor, Public Service Research, UNSW Sydney and George Disney, Research Fellow, Social Epidemiology, The University of Melbourne click here.

Xtremecare Australia founders William and Marjorie Tatipata with their son, Will. Image source: Hireup website.

Ear disease mistaken for misbehaviour

New research from Western Sydney University has revealed living with childhood ear disease and hearing loss can substantially impact the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with the symptoms of Otitis Media often difficult to identify and mistaken for misbehaviour. The study focused on the experiences of caregivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with Otitis Media, revealing the barriers and challenges they face in accessing effective treatment.

Lead author, Letitia Campbell, a community-based Aboriginal Research Officer with Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a high burden of Otitis Media in childhood, and she is determined to improve how families can manage the condition and receive better healthcare. “Living with chronic ear disease and its consequences on hearing, language development, school performance and behaviour is a common reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, with the impact of hearing loss in children having long lasting effects on their wellbeing and development,” said Ms Campbell. “Caregivers have described how easy it is to mistake ear disease for misbehaviour in a child, and how distressing this is to the children who feel they are always getting into trouble for ‘not listening’ or talking too loudly when there is a genuine underlying medical reason.”

The view The National Tribune article Symptoms of childhood ear disease and hearing loss mistaken for misbehaviour, new study finds in full click here.

Dr Kelvin Kong. Photo: Simone De Peak. Image source: RACGP news GP.

Kidney replacements more than double

The number of Australians receiving kidney replacement therapy has more than doubled over the past two decades, new data shows. Kidney replacement therapy numbers jumped from 11,700 to 27,700 from 2000 to 2020, showing chronic kidney disease (CKD) remains a significant health issue, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. CKD is defined as the presence of impaired or reduced kidney function lasting at least three months, according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report. An estimated 1.7 million Australians are living with early signs of kidney disease, however, many are unaware due to its asymptomatic nature.

AIHW data shows that more than half (14,600) of those receiving kidney replacement therapy were on dialysis and the remainder (13,100) had functioning kidney transplants that required ongoing follow up care. Approximately 2,500 Indigenous Australians with kidney failure received kidney replacement therapy in 2020, a rate of 284 per 100,000, with more than 1 in 4 receiving treatment close to home.

After living with diabetes for 20 years, Ina, an Aboriginal artist from Central Australia, was diagnosed with kidney failure and needed dialysis. She was forced to relocate from a remote are to Adelaide for treatment, which has been the most difficult thing about living with kidney disease. “It’s very important and pretty difficult to manage. Some of us, some of our families, lose us on this machine,” she said.

To view the Daily Mail Australia article Kidney replacement therapy on the rise in full click here. You can also view the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) media release Recipients of kidney replacement therapy more than doubles over 20 years here.

Darwin dialysis patient Jacqueline Amagula would like to be waitlisted for a kidney transplant. Photo: Bridget Brennan, ABC News.

Child vax rates falling behind

First Nations people are being urged to get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster by the country’s peak Indigenous health organisation, NACCHO. The rate of people over 16 who have had two vaccine does sits at nearly 82%. However, only 55% have had a third does and just 30% of eligible people have had their fourth shot.

Earlier this morning Medical Adviser for NACCHO, Dr Jason Agostino, spoke on Koori Radio 93.7FM about how children’s vaccination rates are falling behind “in children coverage has been quite poor and only about one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids aged 5 to 11 have received any vaccine and only about one in five are fully vaccinated and that hasn’t changed much in the last four, six months.” NACCHO says mob may be eligible for new antiviral medications and should talk to their doctor.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

PHC lessons from overseas

New federal Health Minister Mark Butler says primary care is “in worse shape than it’s been in the entire Medicare era” and has made it his top health priority. Primary care is any first point of contact with the health system, such as a GP clinic, dentist, or community pharmacy, but the government is likely to focus on GP clinics. A new taskforce will advise the minister on how to spend $750 million to improve access, chronic disease management, and affordability. The taskforce has until Christmas to come up with a plan, which is a big ask given where the system is now. It has been recommended that Australia should take on lessons from what’s worked overseas to reform general practice funding.

Almost half of Australians have a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma or depression. More than half of Australians over 65 have two or more. Those proportions have been rising fast in recent decades. To help patients manage these conditions, GPs need ongoing relationships with patients (known as continuity of care), and a team working with them by providing routine care, outreach, coaching, and advice. That lets GPs spend more of their time working with the most complex patients, resulting in better care and outcomes. The National Rural Health Alliance has proposed the sector move towards a model with similarities to Aboriginal-controlled clinics and community health providers.

To view the on-line Viw Magazine article General practices are struggling. Here are 5 lessons from overseas to reform the funding system in full click here.

Image sources: Indigenous Access Program for health professionals webpage Services Australia.

Awabakal regional vax clinic IT lessons

At a time when most IT professionals retreated to isolated workplaces, local experts Smikteck found a unique way to assist others during COVID-19. The Cardiff business hit the road to support Aboriginal health care provider Awabakal at vaccination clinics in regional areas. Now, 12 months on, they are ready to share their lessons learnt with other medical services. Smikteck director Michael Stafford admitted the pandemic changed the way health care was provided and IT was fundamental to that adjustment. “Lots of industries had to pivot how they provided their services,” he said. “Medical and health services were no exception.”

Instead of trying to troubleshoot issues from a help desk, the Smikteck team joined forces with the health professionals and became an integral part of the clinic set up and service delivery. “Awabakal Ltd came to us with a challenge,” Mr Stafford said. “They provide medical services to an Aboriginal community of more than 8,000 patients. So, the solution was to provide pop-up vaccination clinics in local communities throughout the Hunter. But, to do this, they needed to have the same, secure technology available as a normal medical clinic – and system downtime needed to be minimal.”

To view the Newcastle Weekly article IT helps build community health in full click here.

Smikteck director Michael Stafford and Awabakal Ltd chief operations officer Scott Adams. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

Cultural safety training for optometrists

Last year, Optometry Australia offered 100 members the opportunity to undertake cultural safety education through Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA). Following the incredible interest they received they have purchased access to IAHA’s Cultural Responsiveness Training (Levels 1 and 2), available for free to all members via the Optometry Australia Institute of Excellence. IAHA’s cultural safety training uses an evidence-based Cultural Responsiveness Framework. Levels 1 and 2 are action-oriented and highly interactive, focusing on strength-based outcomes through critical self-reflective practice.

In 2022, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards (except Medical, Nursing and Midwifery and Psychology) released a revised Code of Conduct which took effect on 29 June. The revised Code includes a new section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety, requiring that all optometrists provide culturally safe and sensitive practice for all communities.

To view the Optometry Australia article Cultural responsiveness training now available for all Optometry Australia members article in full click here.

Optometrist Kerryn Hart does an eye examination on Andrew Toby who needed glasses. Andrew, a driver for the Anyinginyi Allied Health Clinic, Tennant Creek, collects patients to bring them to the clinic. Image source: Optometry Australia.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Everyone needs to be represented

The image in the feature tile is of Pat Turner presenting at the National Press Club. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 2020.

Everyone needs to be represented

An interview with NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks regarding her views on the Voice to Parliament was aired on multiple radio stations yesterday. In the interview Ms Turner said “the national voice has to be elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives from each jurisdiction so that everybody is represented.” Ms Turner said “there will be cases put forward for the Torres Strait Islands to have their own representative and there will be large areas in states like NSW, Queensland, NT and WA that will want to have at least different areas of those states and territories represented. So the top end for example of the NT is very different to Central Australia, and the Kimberley is very different to the south-west of WA and likewise with outback NSW versus people who live in Sydney and along the coast.”

Ms Turner said she knows people are rushing on this, but an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representative group needs to work with the Australian government on the nitty gritty of going to a referendum – the issues of what the referendum question should be, what approach the government takes and timing all need be sorted out first.

The interview appears from 3:05 to 3:29 of the ABC Radio Overnights with Rod Quinn recording here.

Image source: Institute of Public Affairs website.

Australia fails to deliver on UNDRIP

It is now well recognised that Indigenous peoples worldwide have a binding relationship to Earth and Nature which is integral to their health and wellbeing. In 2007 the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), was announced. It was expected to lead to improved understanding and delivery of the spiritual and cultural needs of Aboriginal peoples in relation to their attachment and ownership of lands. In turn this would benefit the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities.

In 2007 a majority of 144 nations voted for the Declaration. There were 4 votes against, Australia, Canada, NZ and the USA, all with a history of colonisation. Australia was reticent to sign, but eventually did in 2009. We are committed to implement the Declaration and promote indigenous people’s enjoyment of rights on an equal basis. However an Australian Human Rights report in 2021 shows the Australian Government  has not taken steps to implement the UNDRIP into law, policy and practice; has not negotiated with Indigenous peoples a National Action Plan to implement the UNDRIP; and has not audited existing laws, policies and practice for compliance with the UNDRIP.

These need to be addressed urgently in the context of Aboriginal health and well being, which has been a laggard in the Closing the Gap assessments, and in the spirit of moving forward in the context of the new Prime Minister’s commitment to constitutional change.

To read the National Tribune article Australia is failing to deliver on the UN Rights of Indigenous people in full click here.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair Jackie Huggins delivered an intervention at the UN in New York on 19 April 2018 during the 17th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Image source: The Mandarin.

Booze bans ‘not a long-term fix’

Early intervention and reducing community demand for alcohol is the key to tackling problem drinking in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions, the head of an Aboriginal health and rehabilitation service said last Friday. Earlier this week new WA police commissioner Col Blanch said he would support a ban on takeaway alcohol apart from light beer in the Pilbara and Kimberley if it is deemed to be the most effective option for reducing alcohol-related harm.

Milliya Rumurra Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Andrew Amor said he understood police and others were frustrated with the issue of problem drinking which he said was getting worse in Broome. “This is part of a complex issue that has been evolving over many generations. It will take generations to appropriately address,” he said. “Supply reduction measures do provide short-term relief and potential respite for frontline services, however, it is not a long-term solution. “The most effective approach is to reduce the community demand for alcohol. This must be a whole of government and community priority.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article Kimberley and Pilbara booze bans ‘not a long-term fix’, Aboriginal health group warns in full click here.

All booze except light strength may be banned in WA’s North West. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Wounds a costly health system sore point

A new report from the AMA shows the crippling cost of medical dressings and treating chronic wounds could be mitigated through targeted investment which would save the health system $203.4 million over the next four years. The report — Solutions to the chronic wound problem in Australia — says chronic wound care is a poorly understood and under-funded public health issue, despite studies indicating chronic wounds affect 450,000 Australians and cost $3 billion each year.

The AMA is calling on the Commonwealth to provide more support for GPs to provide high quality wound care for patients through the establishment of a national scheme to fund medical dressings for chronic wounds and extra Medicare funding to cover the unmet costs of providing care for patients suffering chronic wounds. AMA modelling shows chronic wounds treated in hospitals place an additional burden on an already stretched system, with the AMA’s modelling indicating they resulted in close to 32,000 hospital admissions in 2019–20 costing $352 million and 249,346 patient days. The report provides costed solutions to improve wound management in general practice and estimated savings associated with the proposed MBS items.

To read the AMA media release Wounds a Costly Sore Point for the Health System in full click here.

Image source: AMA website.

Caring for your kidneys

Looking after yourself includes keeping your kidneys healthy and having Kidney Health Checks. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 4 times more likely to have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and develop End Stage Renal Disease (ESRN). In remote communities ESRN is especially high, with rates almost 20 times higher than non-Indigenous people. Getting a regular Kidney Health Check is important because often there are no warning signs for sick kidneys. That’s why kidney disease is sometimes called a ‘silent disease’.

Healthy kidneys filter waste from your body; keep good blood pressure; maintain salt and water balance; keep your bones strong; and help make strong blood. If you have sick kidneys, your body can’t filter your blood properly and that means you can get really sick and even die. When you go to the doctor for a Kidney Health Check, one of the things they will ask you is how you feel and how you live. They will also check your height and weight and measure the size of your waist.

You should have a Kidney Health Check at least once a year! Yarn to your local healthcare worker about your Kidney Health Check today. For more information visit the Kidney Health Australia website here. To view The National Tribune article Chronic Kidney Disease click here.

Image source: Department of Health and Aged Care.

Stay COVID-19 safe!

Masks help protect people from viruses like COVID-19 and help stop them from spreading between people. Wearing a mask is something easy that you can do to protect yourself. Wearing a mask when in crowded places like public transport or at the supermarket is strongly recommended. Encouraging your loved ones to do the same will help protect them too.

Help stop the spread:

  • Wash or sanitise your hands
  • Maintain physical distancing (1.5m or two big steps)
  • Keep your COVID-19 vaccinations up to date, and
  • Stay at home and get tested if you’re unwell.

When wearing a mask:

  • Wash (or sanitise) your hands before putting on the mask
  • Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face
  • Do not touch the front of the mask while wearing it or when removing it. If you do touch the mask, wash or sanitise your hands immediately
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your chin or neck
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after removing the mask, and
  • Wash cloth masks after each use, or daily at a minimum.

Important: People with chronic respiratory conditions should seek medical advice before wearing a mask.

You can find more Stay COVID-19 safe! resources on the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website here and view Dr Ngiare Brown explaining how to correctly wear a face mask in the video below.

Red Lily installs defibrillator

The Red Lily Team have installed an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) at the community hall in Warruwi. It will certainly play a significant role in saving lives if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest in the community. The community has 24/7 access to this device.

Support for the AED was received from the Warruwi Community, TOs, West Arnhem Regional Council – Warruwi Team, the Warruwi Health Centre, Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation, ALPA for their advice to select the installation spot and also the St. John Ambulance who partnered with Red Lily.

You can view the West Arnhem Regional Council article 24 hours access to lifesaving device here.

Red Lily Transition Manager Steve Hayes is with Red Lily Health Board Director from Warruwi Mary Djurundudu in front of the newly installed Warruwi community AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Image source: Red Lily Health Facebook page.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Transforming First Nations nursing education

The image in the feature tile is of midwives Mel Briggs and Kady Colman wearing Sister Scrubs, a new uniform for First Nations midwives to create awareness about the unacceptably high mortality rate of First Nations women and babies. Image source: NITV Radio website.

Transforming First Nations nursing education

Bold recommendations for transforming nursing and midwifery education will be unveiled in a new report to be launched at the 25th Anniversary National Conference of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM). The report, ‘gettin em n keepin em n growin em’ – Strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Education Reform, will include strategies to privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery knowledges and embed Cultural Safety across all domains of nursing and midwifery education.

“Its recommendations are bold and practical, emphasising who should act and how,” says Professor Roianne West, the CEO of CATSINaM, a descendant of the Kalkadoon and Djunke peoples. Since the release of the first iteration of this report in 2002, Professor West says there has been negligible improvement in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registered nurses and midwives. “We are far off the necessary numbers completing tertiary programs to ensure parity is reached in the near future,” she said.

Significantly, the conference will also include a National Apology from the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery about the role of nursing and midwifery education and research in contributing to the harm and ongoing suffering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

To view the CATSINaM media release CATSINaM making news at 25th Anniversary National Conference in full click here.

Image source: Northern Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery career pathways webpage.

Improving health research experiences for mob

Yesterday the University of Newcastle launched a new national study Murru Minya that aims to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences and involvement in health research. The Murru Minya project is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers with the desire to improve the way all research is conducted with, and for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. You can find more details on the project’s website here.

Dr Michelle Kennedy, Wiradjuri woman and lead researcher said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the knowledge holders, it is our job to appropriately capture their voices, experiences and directives to improve the conduct of health research into the future”.

The project has launched a short community survey for Aboriginal Community Organisation’s to share their experience of research. Communities can also opt in to hold Yarning Circles with the research team over the next 12 months to share more details and directives for research into the future.

The Murru Minya survey can be accessed here.

Members of Murru Minya research team. Image source: Murru Minya website.

Push to ban junk food adverts aimed at kids

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) have welcomed the push for the Federal Government to ban junk food advertising aimed at children by Independent MP Dr Sophie Scamps. The RACP have been recently advocating for this through the Kids COVID Catch Up campaign which is calling for mandatory regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy diets to children and young people.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says, “The widespread advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks is strongly linked to high child obesity rates. In 2017 to 2018, almost one quarter or Australian children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese. This is a concerning statistic. The Federal Government must recognise this and take immediate action to establish formal standards to protect children and young people from unhealthy food marketing.”

To view the RACGP media release Physicians support push to ban junk food advertising aimed at children click here.

Last year NACCHO made a submission, available here, to the Department of Health on the National Obesity Prevention Strategy supporting efforts to restrict/ban advertising and marketing of unhealthy food, especially to children.

Image source: Priceless SA website.

GP in training returns to Central Australia

For Dr Ellie Woodward, the first time she experienced the landscape and community of the NT was enough to bring her back. Originally from NZ, Dr Woodward moved across the Tasman Sea in 2012 to study medicine in Sydney. It was during this time she was given the opportunity to travel to the NT or an elective placement with the Royal Darwin Hospital physician outreach service. ‘I was immediately drawn to the incredible country and cultures of the Territory,’ Dr Woodward said. “I came back as soon as I could.”

After working as a registrar in medicine and public health in Darwin, she began her GP training in Alice Springs in 2021. Since then, there has never been a dull moment for the GP in training, who this year is splitting her training between the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and the Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control, in addition to completing dual training on the Australian GP Training (AGPT) and an Extended Skills Post in Public Health with the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

All the while she is being enriched by what her surroundings offer. “It’s a privilege to live and work on Arrernte Country, and I’ve been fortunate to engage in two-way learning with patients and colleagues here to learn more about central desert cultures,” Dr Woodward said. “I’ve been hooked by the close-knit community, natural surroundings and unique medicine of Central Australia, and look forward to continuing my practice here after finishing training.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article ‘I came back as soon as I could’: Why this GP in training is staying rural in full click here.

Dr Ellie Woodward is a GP in training and public health registrar at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

COVID casts doubt on trachoma target

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malandirri McCarthy is having ongoing discussions about the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025, as the COVID pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Senator McCarthy told ABC News that overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities, but she would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. She said she would be talking to experts to see what could be done to eradicate the eye disease, which has been successfully eliminated in countries including Cambodia, Ghana, and Mexico, but not yet in Australia.

“I’m incredibly mindful we’re still in a pandemic with COVID, and I know that many communities across the country were isolated and the ability for trachoma and any other health programs to be carried out was severely limited, if not completely stopped, and we have to recognise that,” McCarthy said. “What I would like to see in my role as Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health is to ensure that we pick it up again and run with it, to get rid of trachoma in our country.”

To view the Insight News article COVID casts doubt on target to stamp out trachoma in full click here.

More severe cases of trachoma are treated with antibiotics or surgery but the best way to prevent the disease is better hygiene. Photo: The University Of Melbourne. Image source: The Guardian.

Wounds conference – First Nations focus

After a temporary move online in 2020 due to COVID-related restrictions, Wounds Australia’s biannual wounds conference is returning to Sydney this September. To be held at the ICC Sydney from 14–17 September 2022, the conference will bring together leading experts and clinicians to share their insights and experience in working with wounds.

Presentations in the program will explore this year’s theme: ‘Time to unite, time to heal, time to innovate’, with a special focus on Indigenous health care, in recognition of the need to close the gap between the quality of wound care provision in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Keynote addresses by James Charles and Lesley Salem will discuss Indigenous healthcare initiatives.

Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan said, “As the peak body for wound prevention, diagnosis, treatment and healing in Australia, we are committed to ensuring that Australians receive the best possible wound care. Our national conference is one part of that commitment, helping our hardworking healthcare professionals stay up to date with technological advances and scientific innovations in the area.”

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article Wounds Australia Conference — keynote speakers announced click here.

ANU cybernetics scholarships for mob

The ANU Master of Applied Cybernetics is the world’s first graduate program focusing on the challenges of ensuring AI systems are safe, sustainable and responsible. Masters students participate in a range of educational experiences and research projects at the School of Cybernetics and beyond to consider: who is building, managing and decommissioning our AI-enabled future?

The the School of Cybernetics sees equity of access to their education programs as important. They believe diversity and inclusivity are a MUST if we are to build the future. People from all walks of life are needed to build that future. A future that is safe, responsible and sustainable for all of humanity. With this in mind, and to increase diversity within the School, new scholarship opportunities, named in honour of Florence Violet McKenzie, Australia’s first female electrical engineer, and the founder of the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps in the Australian Defence Forces in 1939, are being offered, including a targeted Florence Violet McKenzie Indigenous scholarship opportunity for the 2023 Master of Applied Cybernetics program.

You can access an information sheet on the Florence Violent McKenzie Master of Applied Cybernetics scholarships for Indigenous students here.

Image source: University of Texas website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: On Children’s Day, hear voices of the future

The image in the feature tile is of Brooklyn Goodwin, kutalayna Collective and Pacey Riley, kanamaluka Collective. Both photos were taken by Kata Glover, Digital Communications Officer, Connected Beginnings, lutruwita.

On Children’s Day, hear voices of the future

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (Children’s Day) is celebrated across Australia each year on 4 August. Historically this was the date used to celebrate the birthdays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were taken from their families at a young age, without knowing their birthday –  they became known as being part of the Stolen Generations.

Now, Children’s Day is a time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to celebrate the strength and culture of our children. The theme for this year’s Children’s Day is ‘My Dreaming, My Future’ – which askes our kids to reflect on what the Dreaming means to them, their lives, their identity, and the aspirations for the future.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), the national peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, actively supports and promotes Children’s Day.

TAC program supports strong beginnings

On National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, NACCHO would like to highlight the innovative work done towards improving the lives of our kids and building better outcomes for them by our affiliate, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), an ACCHO for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

The Connected Beginnings program aims to improve health, educational, developmental, and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-5 years to ensure every child is ready for the transition to school.

The program is delivered under an innovative Collective Impact framework that aims to elevate the Aboriginal community’s voice, support integrated service provision, advocate for culturally safe and appropriate services and facilitate positive actions to improve community outcomes.

TAC Chief Operations Officer and Program Director, Raylene Foster says, “A program like Connected Beginnings is vital to improving the whole ecosystem of service delivery for Aboriginal children.  This place-based program is essential for the successful delivery and utilisation of mainstream programs and child health, social, educational and development needs for Aboriginal children, to be delivered through an Aboriginal lens”.

The success of the Connected Beginnings program at kutalayna (Brighton), has led to the program’s expansion to two new sites in pataway (Burnie) and kanamaluka (George Town and Northern Suburbs Launceston). The expansion is a testament to the great work being carried out at TAC and to their ongoing commitment towards improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Connected Beginnings in pataway will be officially launched in tandem with the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.

The program is jointly funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care and the Department of Education. TAC is the recipient of both streams of Connected Beginnings funding from the Departments and delivers the program across lutruwita, Tasmania.

  • read the kutalyana Collective media release here
  • read a related National Indigenous Times article here
  • listen to an ABC News radio (Northern Tasmania) interview with Chloe Woolnough from TAC and Project Manager of Connected Beginnings, lutruwita, here.

Background Information

The Connected Beginnings program forms part of the first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. It aims are to contribute to achieving Outcome 4, that children thrive in their early years, under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Connected Beginnings currently fund 14 ACCHOs and Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia. In 2021, the Australian Government provided additional funding to expand the Connected Beginnings Program to a minimum of 50 sites by 2025 and are working in partnership with NACCHO on the delivery of the health component of the Connected Beginnings program.

The program demonstrates how change can be made within the new Closing the Gap partnership arrangements and how transformation can happen if everyone has a shared vision, trust, and commitment. The success of Connected Beginnings in lutruwita is being celebrated across the country, highlighting how, through Aboriginal community control, meaningful and lasting systems changes are best achieved.

You can find more information about Connected Beginnings on the Australian Government Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations joint website page here.

katalayna Collective logo, Francis Ketley, katalayna Collective, Leveigh Bernes, kanamaluka Collective, Isabella Romanelli, pataway Collective. Photos: Kate Glover.

COVID vax for kids with comorbidities

The Australian Government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommendations for COVID vaccination use in children 6 months to <5 years of age with significant comorbidities and these children will be eligible for a vaccine from Monday 5 September 2022.

The ATAGI have released a statement ATAGI recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use in children aged 6 months to <5 years which is available on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

Of particular note:

  • there are eligibility conditions for the vaccine and most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children WILL NOT be eligible for the vaccine. Only children with immunosuppression, significant comorbidities or a disability that requires significant assistance with daily activities will be eligible
  • the Department of Health and Aged Care is engaging ACCHOs around vaccination for this age group, with webinars with ACCHOs organised for next week to discuss how to support access for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait children, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Occupational therapist at Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS). Image source: WACHS website.

Call for First Nations first responders

When Lismore was hit with its biggest flood in recorded history, national Indigenous newspaper the Koori Mail responded quickly to the needs of the community. The newspaper’s general manager Naomi Moran said she was able to salvage laptops and hard drives, but the building and most of its contents were destroyed. In the wake of the mud and wreckage, Ms Moran said they were forced to face the reality that for the first time in the organisation’s 30-year history, they would not be able to print the next edition, and possibly several after that. “We lost our building, we lost our first floor, we lost everything that the Koori Mail was for the past 30 years,” she said.

Far from calling it a day, the organisation pivoted and became a flood hub responding to the community’s needs for food, supplies, clothing and support. “We came up with a strategy and some ideas around how we, as an Aboriginal organisation – an independent organisation and business in this region – could utilise all of our resources, our contacts in our networks, to support the local community,” she said. In the days, weeks and months that followed, the Koori Mail team helped coordinate food, clothes, counselling and essential items for thousands of flood-affected residents relying on financial support from donations.

To view the ABC News article Success of Koori Mail flood response in Lismore prompts calls for First Nations first responders in full click here.

The Koori Mail’s Naomi Moran says the organisation used all its resources to support the community. Photo: Matt Coble, ABC News.

Pathway to improve services for mob

A new strategy that aims to increase opportunities for ACCOs to deliver culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal children, families and communities has been launched in Fremantle. The 10-year strategy was developed by representatives from 11 ACCOs across the State, Department of Communities and the Department of Finance. It aligns to several Priority Reform Areas and Socio-Economic targets identified within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and aims to empower Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from the foundations provided by ACCOs.

ACCOs hold an important role in delivering culturally secure services to Aboriginal people across WA. They provide a vast range of critical services and support including health, healing, safe homes, housing, education and training, child protection, disability support, justice, and maintaining strong connections to land and culture. As stated by Community Services Minister Simone McGurk: “Aboriginal people across WA have repeatedly told us that to truly change outcomes, Aboriginal communities must lead the way, and that is achieved through community-based and family-led solutions. We are committed to partner with and support ACCOs so that Aboriginal services can serve the unique needs of Aboriginal families alongside Communities ACCOs usually achieve better results, employ a majority of Aboriginal workforce and are the preferred providers by Aboriginal people over mainstream services.”

To read The Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) Strategy 2022 to 2032: Empowering Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from secure and sustained foundations provided by ACCOs visit here.

Research shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled art centres play a significant role in supporting the health and wellbeing of older people and people living with dementia. Image source: Dementia Australia.

New health service for Mapoon

The community of Mapoon is preparing to celebrate the opening of a new purpose-built Primary Health Care (PHC) Centre on 23 August 2022. The Thimithi Nhii Primary Health Care Centre will be opened by Apunipima Chairperson and Mapoon Mayor, Aileen Addo, who will cut the ribbon on the new facility in front of elders, community members, the local Health Action Team and local and regional dignitaries who are all invited to come and enjoy the festivities.

“This is fantastic news. We’ve growing in size as a community and there was an increasing need for a PHC Centre to work alongside Queensland Health to match that population growth,” Mrs Addo said. The new facility was made possible thanks to local Traditional Owner group, the Rugapayn Corporation. “We’re extremely grateful to the Rugapayn Corporation for granting us the land to build a much-needed Primary Health Care Centre in Mapoon,” she said.

“What we are seeing with the new PHC Centre in Mapoon is exactly what ‘community control’ is all about. The Centre has been designed by community, it will be staffed and run by community and it will ultimately belong to the community,” said Apunipima CEO Debra Malthouse. Currently Apunipima delivers its health services from the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service premises in Mapoon. This arrangement has limited Apunipima’s capacity to increase primary health care services in the community. Community control was always the goal for the community and having a stand-alone centre will give Apunipima the opportunity to respond to community health needs in a way that community want.

To view the Apunipma Cape York Health Council media release Date announced for opening of new Health Care Clinic in Mapoon click here.

Health Worker Daphne De Jersey and Mapoon PHC Manager Debra Jia are excited about the PHC opening and what that means for their growing community. Photos supplied by: Apunipima Cape York Health Council.

Awabakal welcomes babies to Country

“It is important that our babies grow up knowing their identity and connection to country.” That’s the sentiment of Awabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon after the organisation welcomed the next generation of First Nations children into the community at Newcastle City Hall earlier this week. Following a COVID-enforced hiatus, more than 200 families across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Raymond Terrace and Maitland are expected to take part in Baby Welcoming Ceremonies this week, which coincide with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day on 4 August.

“We have hosted this event since 2015,” Mrs Gordon said. “So, we’re glad to be back after a couple of years due to COVID-19. Our Baby Welcoming Ceremonies relate to the tradition of introducing newborns to the community where the Elders welcome them to the land. This sense of identity and belonging was denied for many of our people for so long. So, our ceremonies are a reminder to our community that you and your babies belong here – and they are loved. We all want to help them grow to be proud, safe and beautiful First Nations people.”

To read the Newcastle Weekly article Awabakal community welcomes babies to Country in full click here.

Awabakal Ltd hosted one its Baby Welcoming Ceremonies at Newcastle City Hall this week. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: More community control needed

Image in the feature tile is from the ACT Government 2022–23 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement. The ‘Walk through Wiradjuri country’ painting was completed by two Wiradjuri men, Tony “TK” Levett and Trevor Ryan.

More community control needed

The ACT Council of Social Service’s Gulanga Program says the recent 2022–23 ACT Budget, which featured an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement, responded to some of the calls from the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but much more is needed to be done to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples in the ACT. Head of the Gulanga Program, Ms Rachelle Kelly-Church said: “While welcomed, these announcements follow a long period of inaction in implementing recommendations under the Our Booris Our Way and We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded Reports.

“We also need to see significant increases in investment to establish and expand Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs). We need to ensure there is a better distribution of funds so that new initiatives targeting our communities are delivered through Aboriginal community-controlled organisations – not just through ACT Government services. Time after time, experience shows that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to support our community and achieve the improved outcomes that we are all desperate for.

“We also need investment to ensure that the services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are culturally safe and respectful. The announcement of $12m for the implementation of Corrections ACT’s Blueprint for Change must include the delivery of mandatory Aboriginal cultural competence training for staff involved in our justice system so that we can challenge ongoing systemic discrimination and racism.”

To read the ACTCOSS media release Gulanga Media Release: ACT Budget – more community control needed in full click here.

Mobile healthcare to remote NSW

A retrofitted motorhome will be used to bring medical care to remote NSW communities to help minimise the spread of COVID-19. Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) revealed it had purchased the vehicle through a BHP donation to provide medical care outside of traditional clinical spaces. It will allow ACCHOs to hold mobile vaccination clinics in communities, negating the need for people to travel to get vaccines.

AHMRC chief executive Robert Skeen said the service’s response team had been integral to the vaccine rollout. “With the help of the valuable partnership of BHP we’re able to provide care to all our mob in every community across the state,” he said. The motorhome will initially be used in the Northern Rivers region where flooding has impacted community clinics.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal medical group prepares new motorhome for flood-hit NSW healthcare roadtrip in full click here. You can also find more details about the motorhome on the AH&MRC website here.

Image source: AH&MRC website.

Clinic doubles usual 715 health checks

A clinic in WA more than doubled its usual number of health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients after introducing free walk-in assessments during NAIDOC week. Lockridge Medical Centre in Perth offered free MBS 715 Indigenous Health Checks to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who came along during the week. “The health assessments were a great opportunity to offer support for preventive healthcare,” Dr Kayla MacKinnon, a GP at the clinic said.

The clinic doctors were given additional spaces to meet demand and accommodate walk-ins and all nurses agreed to work additional shifts for the week.  All doctors were rostered for one session per week, thereby sharing the experience. Dr Shashi Ponraja, also a GP at the clinic, said it was ‘an excellent opportunity for outreach’ and ‘patients seemed to really appreciate the flexibility in the appointment setup’.

When reflecting on the success of their NAIDOC week experience and increased health assessments, Director Mrs Watts said that “success is measured in many ways, such as the centre’s agreement to undertake Aboriginal Health Workers through Marr Mooditj Training, with the hope of employing an Aboriginal Health Worker as a result and the networking, the collaboration and the improvement in preparing the practice to be a culturally safe healthcare home for the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article NAIDOC week leads to more health assessments in full click here.

Boxing champion fights for mental health

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown knows whatever faces him in the ring, the larger fight on his hands is breaking down stigmas mental health, ADHD and autism. The 51-year-old Wiradjuri man won the national 75.1-80kg class in the 50-55 age bracket in July. Fighting under the name Buddy Oldman, Brown took to the sport fewer than two years ago to get back into physical shape before realising the bigger battle was fought upstairs.

Sexually abused as a child and later suffering from PTSD and depression through adulthood, Mr Brown shied away from boxing earlier in life. It was labelled a mug’s game by his late late father, who himself had been an exhibition tent-fighter in his youth. Brown’s dramatic rise from novice to national champ is spurred on partly by his own struggles, but even more so by the opportunity he hopes it brings to the lives of others.

Now living in Albury, he and his wife have fostered Aboriginal kids for 20 years and are currently the guardian to a neurodivergent child. Working in special needs and with an autistic son and grandson, Brown said representation through sport could have wide-reaching advantages. He fights to raise awareness for these conditions and for those diagnosed to be treated equally in all area’s of life. His message has stretched to include the Aboriginal health in general, and at times the LGBTQ+ community. “I’ve just taken it upon myself to make it happen,” Brown said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Boxing novice-turned national champion Buddy Oldman fights for mental health with every venture into the ring in full click here.

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Telehealth provides care closer to home

A boy who accidentally slashed his throat when he rode his motorbike into a fence, a burns victim, and an elderly Indigenous woman who wanted to die on country – all are among rural patients successfully treated by telehealth, a conference has heard. The trio were seen by specialists through the WA Country Health Service Command Centre, which provides telehealth via video conferencing to help frontline doctors treat patients at rural hospitals. The centre is part of the world’s biggest rural service in geographical terms, covering more than 2.5 million square kms from Kalumburu in the Kimberley to Albany in the south.

Speaking at the National Rural Health Conference in Brisbane, the command centre’s managing director, Justin Yeung, said it aims to provide “care closer to home” for people in rural and remote areas across the vast state. “We see the whole gamut,” Dr Yeung told the conference, which is focusing on collaboration and innovation in rural health. The centre runs emergency care, inpatient treatment to reduce the number of patients who need to be transferred to bigger hospitals, maternity care, psychiatry and palliative care. Dr Yeung said telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care, but supplements traditional treatment.

To read The West Australian article Burns and injuries treated via video in WA in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Diabetes youth webinar series

Menzies Diabetes Across the Lifecourse Northern Australia Partnership aims to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by targeting the intergenerational cycle of type 2 diabetes and is hosting a 10-part webinar series to give a comprehensive overview of youth type 2 diabetes, screening, management, multidisciplinary care, models of care and preventative strategies. The discussions will be co-led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and community members in partnership with clinicians and researchers. Delivered fortnightly starting on Thursday 4 August from 12:45–1:45 PM. Those who cannot attend the live sessions but would still like to view the sessions can sign up to be sent a recording of the presentation.

You can view a flyer about tomorrow’s webinar here. Please register for the first event by following this link. Registered participants will be sent a calendar invite and a zoom link for the live presentation and a link to the recorded presentations for later viewing. Subsequent events will be communicated thereafter.

HealthInfoNet user survey and prize draw

Australian Indigenous HealthINfoNet is conducting an online survey designed to gather feedback from users of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) as part of its continual improvement.

The survey will take about 5-10 minutes to complete.

Survey responses will remain anonymous. Choosing to answer the survey questions indicates your informed consent to participate. You can stop the survey at any time by closing the computer window in which the survey appears.

At the end of the survey, you have the option to submit an entry for a prize draw for a $350 Coles Group & Myer gift voucher. The winner’s name will be drawn at random and they will be contacted by phone or email after the survey closes. Your contact details will not be linked to your survey responses. Survey respondents who enter the prize draw within its first week will automatically be entered twice.

The survey is open now until 11.59pm (AWST) Sunday 21 August 2022.

You to complete the 2022 Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet User Survey by clicking here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Michael Amendolia (2014) featured on the Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The new federal minister responsible for Indigenous health has stopped short of backing the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025 as the pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Australia is the most developed country in the world where trachoma — which causes blindness and is linked to poor face hygiene — is still prevalent. New Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy has declared overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities in the job, but said would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. “This is going to be an absolute priority for me and I will be travelling the country to talk to those experts to see what we can do to eradicate this scourge.”

Asked directly whether she backed the 2025 target, Senator McCarthy replied: “I’m having ongoing discussions, I’ve only been in this role a matter of weeks.” In 2009, the Rudd Labor government pledged to eliminate the eye disease by 2020. Since then, Cambodia, Ghana, Mexico and more have achieved the feat. But in Australia, the disease persists. The target was pushed back to 2022, but it is now clear Australia will not meet the commitment. The previous Coalition government announced a new target of 2025 to eliminate all avoidable blindness in Indigenous Australians, including beating trachoma.

To view the ABC News article Goal of eliminating eye disease trachoma by 2025 under threat as pandemic bites in full click here.

The Indigenous Eye Health unit travels to remote communities and teaches face hygiene. Photo: Jack Snape. Image source: ABC News.

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

ACT Government says it is prioritising funding for community sector organisations that provide essential services and programs to Canberrans in crisis. Some the programs and organisations that will receive funding through the 2022–23 ACT Budget include: meeting health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). The ACT Government will provide $9.40 million dollars over four years to continue a holistic model of health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. The funding will support the continuation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services’ model of care at the AMC.

To view the ACT Government website page More funding for the ACT community sector in full click here.

AMC cell converted into an Australian-first Indigenous health clinic in 2019. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Canberra Times.

First Nations aged care voice boosted

The Federal Government has appointed Yugambeh woman Jody Currie to the National Aged Care Advisory Council. The appointment of Ms Currie, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, is part of efforts to close the gap in design and delivery of aged care programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said First Nation voices were vital in the implementation of aged care reforms.

“For far too long older First Nations people have experienced barriers to accessing aged care services in their homes and communities,” she said. “To address service gaps and improve access to care, we must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the design, discussion and implementation of aged care reforms.” While 27% of non-Indigenous people participate in the aged care system’s key programs, only 17% of Aboriginal Elders participate.

In WA’s south-west, including Perth, the gap is the largest in the country, with only 8.6% of Elders participating in aged care programs. Aboriginal Community Elders Aged Care Partnership for Perth and South-West WA chairman Jim Morrison said there was discrimination in the ability for Aboriginal older people to access culturally appropriate aged care services. “All Stolen Generation people will be (at least) 50 next year, and we will qualify for aged care,” he said. “We want to consider our elder care and look after our older people…and it might be that our elder care centres be healing centres where our Elders can depend on their culture.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Jody Currie gains Federal appointment to tackle ‘discrimination’ in aged care system in full click here.

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

First Nations Victorians are being restrained and secluded at a higher rate than the general population, a shocking new report by the state’s peak mental health advocacy body has revealed. The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) third Seclusion Report found more than 5% of people admitted to Victorian mental health facilities subjected to seclusion were Indigenous, despite First Nations people making up just 3.5% of total people admitted. The rate of restraint among Indigenous patients was also higher at 4.6%. The findings come one year after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found poor mental health and substance use disorders accounted for as much as 14% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the new data made it clear why First Nations people might be apprehensive to seek help. “It’s these mental health services and the acute units where people are supposed to go to feel safe,” he said. “And then they’re being harmed by these practices, and traumatised by these practices. That makes people really concerned about seeking help in the future, knowing that these things have happened to them or could happen to them.” Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) social and emotional wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said the figures revealed in the report the tip of the iceberg. “(The figures) indicate that people might have been secluded twice in their stay,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Restraint, seclusion of Indigenous mental health patients in Victoria laid bare in damning report in full click here.

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

NACCHO is conducting a consultation survey to better understand the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services, support and coordination provided to communities by Affiliates and ACCHOs. The survey has been developed in partnership with Professor Pat Dudgeon from the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project, led by the University of Western Australia. Responses to this survey will help to build a national picture of what SEWB services and support are currently available, help to map SEWB services nationally, and identify service gaps. This evidence base will inform NACCHO’s advocacy to government for improved support to Affiliates and ACCHOs to deliver SEWB services and inform policy development.

The survey covers the following topics:

  • SEWB services and support
  • SEWB workforce and training
  • barriers to providing SEWB services or support
  • other SEWB activities that your organisation may be involved in.

NACCHO members should have received a link to the survey, and we are keen to hear from all of you! The survey will be open until Sunday 7 August 2022. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to Sasha Banjavcic-Booker, Senior Advisor Mental Health Policy and Programs via email or call 0409 919 398.

VACCHO Biannual Statewide Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering. Image source: VACCHO website.

headspace Grad Program applications open

Applications for the headspace Graduate Program 2023 have now opened for First Nations Allied Health Graduate roles.

These rewarding positions will be situated in a clinical team at a headspace centre and closely linked to the First Nations Wellbeing & Healing Division at headspace National. You’ll work alongside passionate people and make a real difference to young people, families, and communities. Where you’ll hit the ground running and continue developing your skills and career in youth mental health/social and emotional wellbeing. Find your place at headspace.

These graduate positions are designed to provide social work, occupational therapy and psychology graduates access to a two-year comprehensive youth mental health training and development program with support of cultural supervision.

Further information about this opportunity, including our First Nations information and yarning session, can be accessed at the headspace Graduation program website available here.

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

Two-thirds of Indigenous children in Victoria are meeting encouraging levels of key wellbeing indicators, according to a report from a pair of leading health researchers. The results, courtesy of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) found the vast majority of 9–12 year olds are getting enough sleep, practice a healthy diet with 84% meeting physical activity guidelines.

VACCHO and IHT also found relatively low levels of excess screen time, and a correlation between eating well and higher social and emotional wellbeing. Their Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together report surveyed primary school students in 18 local government areas of the state’s Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions in 2019.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria,” VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said. “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Encouraging data reveals Indigenous Victorian children picking up healthy eating, excercise habits click here.

The Deadly Koolinga Chef Program involves cooking classes that teach skills in food and nutrition essential to improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Image source: Murdoch University Research Tweet 4 March 2021.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

National Homelessness Week

Homelessness Week is held annually across the nation to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also a time reflect on the collective action needed by community and all levels of government to help break the cycle of homelessness. In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events, including providing information on the importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a difference.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. For further information about Aboriginal homelessness in Australia click here.

The theme for Homelessness Week 2022 is To end homelessness we need a plan. A range of resources are available on the Homelessness Australia website here including social media tiles, web banners, email signatures, posters and messaging to support your advocacy. One on the website you can also register for the Homelessness Week 2022 launch from 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Monday 1 August 2022.

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

Image in the feature tile is from the ABC News website.

NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

NT health experts say they are “alarmed” about a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, saying the territory’s infection rate is growing at a higher rate per capita than the national average. Their warning comes as coronavirus cases rise across the country, marking the start of what Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has described as the start of a new Omicron wave. Professor Kelly said the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the COVID-19 Omicron strain were highly infectious, and that cases were expected to surge in coming weeks.

Data shows that surge may have already started in the NT, which recorded 671 cases on Tuesday — the highest daily caseload since February and a dramatic jump from 469 cases on Monday. That’s higher percentage per capita than the national average, according to John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliances of the Northern Territory (AMSANT). “[The figures] make us 22 per cent above the national per capita average on a seven-day rolling average, which is alarming and concerning for our members,” he said. “So, we’ve got to seriously consider perhaps some mandatory public health measures, especially for our most at-risk population and our community members. This is alarming for us.”

To view the view the ABC News article COVID-19 cases are rising in the Northern Territory as Australia approaches a new Omicron wave in full click here.

Territorians are being encouraged to wear face masks to combat the virus’s spread. Photo: Che Chorley, ABC News.

Telehealth cuts leave remote patients behind

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has once again urged the federal government to make Medicare rebates for longer telehealth phone consultations a permanent fixture of the nation’s telehealth scheme so that patients living outside of major cities can get the care they need when they need it. It comes following reports of a study, which found that 40% of people living in rural and remote areas had internet speeds that were less than 28 kilobits per second. This makes conducting telehealth video consultations challenging, if not impossible, given that the minimum recommended speed for video calls is 600 kilobits per second. In addition, other people are not confident using the technology or find the cost of purchasing a smartphone or laptop prohibitive.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett  said “Removing Medicare rebates for longer consults is not only particularly detrimental for patients in the bush but also older patients across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with disability or limited mobility. This is troubling as these patient cohorts already have poorer health outcomes than the general population. We are effectively denying healthcare access to those who need it most.”

To view the view the RACGP media release Rural and remote patients left behind by telehealth cuts in full click here. The AMA has also raised concerns in a media release, available here, that the dropping of a number of telephone Medicare items by the Government on 1 July has left vulnerable people at risk.

Image source: Hospital + Healthcare.

Grants to improve cancer outcomes

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy today announced that nine grants totalling over $1 million have been awarded to improve cancer outcomes, including three aimed at reducing the impacts of cancer on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Senator McCarthy said that Cancer Australia’s Supporting people with cancer grants will fund locally-based programs to make a much needed difference in regional and remote Indigenous Australian communities. “These grants are a step in the right direction to improve wellbeing, provide support and increase equitable cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

To view Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release New opportunities to improve Indigenous cancer outcomes click here.

Cancer Council SA’s Yarning Circles provide a way to comfortably connect with the community and break down any barriers or fears that may exist with regards to cancer. Image source: Cancer Council SA website.

Remote areas lack quality drinking water

Australians in more than 400 remote or regional communities lack access to good-quality drinking water, while about 8% of Australia’s population is not included in reporting on access to clean water, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). The researchers reviewed public reporting by 177 water utilities to measure gaps in drinking water quality in regional and remote Australia.

They assessed water quality performance against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), which provide guidance to water regulators and suppliers on monitoring and managing drinking water quality. The researchers found at least 25,245 people across 99 locations with populations of fewer than 1,000 people had accessed water services that did not comply with the health-based guideline values at least once in 2018–19.

They also identified 408 regional and remote locations with a combined population of 627,736 people that failed to measure up to either health-based guidelines or the ADWG’s aesthetic determinants of good water quality across taste, colour and odour. Furthermore, 40% of all locations with reported health-based non-compliances were remote Indigenous communities. Lead author of a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature Partner Journal Clean Water, Dr Paul Wyrwoll said their research also shows Australia’s national reporting of drinking water quality is not fit-for-purpose.

To view the ANU media release Aussies living remotely lack access to quality drinking water in full click here. You can also access a related Nature article Measuring the gaps in drinking water quality and policy across regional and remote Australia here.

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

Cervical cancer self-screening resources

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have produced a range of National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) resources, including videos (such as the one below), posters, brochures and fact sheets. The resources, available here include ones specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women:

  • a visual guide to help understand Cervical Screening Test results
  • an A3 poster to promote the National Cervical Screening Program
  • visual guide to help understand how to take a vaginal sample for a Cervical Screening Test
  • a video (below) explaining how to take a Cervical Screening Test sample if self-collection is chosen as a screening option for their Cervical Screening Test.

PrioritEYES survey participants thanked

This year in JulEye, NACCHO wants to give a shout out to all ACCHOs that completed the PrioritEYES Survey open from 8 April to 20 May 2022. The information gathered will help us tackle gaps in eye care for our ACCHOs and their communities.

80% of all ACCHOs provided a response to the PrioritEYES survey – a huge achievement and information that will help us progress ACCHO eye care needs.

We learnt, 81% ACCHOs that responded are interested in greater ACCHO ownership and leadership in eye care. We are excited to work towards this as ACCHOs are best placed to support eye and vision care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs will hear from us soon about the findings from the survey and what’s next.

JulEye is also a good reminder to get your eyes tested, wear eye protection, and eat well to maintain healthy eyesight.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The scheme provides scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people studying an entry level health course.

The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to First Nations Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). A NACCHO News special tribute edition available here provides an insight to Puggy and his tireless efforts to improve Aboriginal health.

PHMSS will open for applications on Monday 29 August 2022 for studies undertaken in 2023, closing Monday 10 October 2022. Online applications will be available from this website once the scheme opens.

If you would like to be sent the link to the application once the scheme opens, please register for application updates, click here.

PHMSS Deadly Health Professions recipient Shaydeen Stocker (pictured above with her husband and three children) has started her RN Grad program at SJOG in Midland. Image source: Australian College of Nursing First Nations health scholarships webpage.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: More time needed for diabetes patients

The image in the feature tile is of Townsville GP Jacinta Power with a patient. Image source: James Cook University website.

More time needed for diabetes patients

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and NACCHO have issued the following joint media release calling for greater investment in general practice care of people with diabetes:

RACGP: Greater investment needed in general practice care of people with diabetes

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the new federal Government to boost investment in general practice to provide more time to care for people with diabetes.

It comes during National Diabetes Week (10 – 16 July 2022). Around 1.8 million people in Australia have diabetes (this includes all types of diabetes as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes) with 280 people developing the condition every day.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that the new federal Government can do more to enhance general practice care of people with diabetes.

“GPs and general practice teams play a vital role helping people manage chronic conditions like diabetes,” she said.

“With the right kind of investment, we can do even more. Greater support for longer consultations and GP-led team care will make a huge difference for people with chronic conditions. The RACGP is calling for the introduction of a rebate for GP consultations that last 60 minutes or more and a 10% increase to existing Medicare rebates lasting more than 20 minutes. Longer consultations provide an opportunity for GPs to support care of people with chronic conditions.

“Coordinating care with other health professionals is also important in complex chronic conditions like diabetes. The Workforce Incentive Program or WIP provides financial incentives to practices across Australia to meet the complex health needs of older patients and those with chronic complex health conditions. It helps them to engage a range of health professionals including nurses, allied health professionals, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health practitioners.

“By boosting investment in the Workforce Incentive Program practices could, for example, work more closely with other health professionals such as diabetes educators or general practice-based pharmacists. The RACGP has long championed co-ordinated care to reduce fragmentation and healthcare costs.

“By incorporating the pharmacist role within the general practice setting we can offer an alternative model that delivers integrated care, something that is especially important for people with diabetes. This would be particularly beneficial for people managing their diabetes and make a real difference in communities nation-wide, especially those disproportionately affected by this condition such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Diabetes Network Dr Gary Deed backed Adj. Professor Price’s comments.

“We know that living day-to-day with a chronic disease such as diabetes can significantly impact someone’s life, including the fact that it is associated with higher rates of mental health issues. This is a national problem, and, with greater support, practices can help people take charge of their health and get a better handle on conditions like diabetes,” he said.

“If a patient doesn’t have the right kind of support and isn’t managing their condition properly, the consequences can prove dire. As an example, untreated or poorly managed diabetes can quickly lead to severe complications that involve almost all every part of your body, including your heart, eyes, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and more. So, I fully support Adj. Professor Price’s call for the Government to give practices a helping hand so that more people are supported in managing their diabetes.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Director, Medicines Policy and Programs Mike Stephens said that the right approaches are crucial in helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients better manage their diabetes.

“The Integrating Pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to Improve Chronic Disease Management, known as the ‘IPAC Project’, which embedded pharmacists into ACCHOs has been effective in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those with conditions such as diabetes,” he said.

“We are encouraged by the Medical Services Advisory Committee’s recent appraisal in June 2022 of IPAC: ‘an excellent example of an integrated, collaborative, patient-centred approach to primary care which has the potential to have a meaningful societal impact by improving equity of health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.

“Given the project’s demonstrable acceptability and effectiveness, it is time for government to provide a sustained investment in integrating pharmacists into team-based primary care settings, including ACCHOs.  One existing program that provides a suitable framework for funding includes the WIP.”

In 2020 in collaboration with Diabetes Australia, the RACGP has launched the updated Management of type 2 diabetes: A handbook for general practice (Diabetes Handbook) as a primary healthcare tool to support practices nation-wide.

The RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system outlines a model of care that aims to address the nation’s healthcare challenges and ensure the best possible health outcomes for patients through general practice. The economic benefits of implementing the Vision show that it is a sound return on investment.

You can view the joint RACGP and NACCHO media release on the NACCHO website click here.

Unpacking diabetes and the heart webinar

On Thursday 28 July 2022 the Heart Foundation is partnering with the World Heart Federation and Australian Diabetes Society to bring to you a health professional webinar focusing on the latest evidence on cardiovascular (CVD) and diabetes. The event will be chaired by Prof Garry Jennings, Chief Medical Advisor of the Heart Foundation, who will be joined by Professor Rod Jackson, internationally renowned epidemiologist, as well as Australian experts as they discuss the latest evidence and how it can be translated into practical preventative care. Topics to be discussed will include:

  • How to stratify CVD risk within a diabetes cohort – who is at highest risk?
  • Updates on diabetes pharmacological therapies and their cardiovascular benefits
  • The fourth pillar of heart failure management – how are diabetes medicines used to treat heart failure
  • Practical advice on motivational and behavioural strategies to support improvements in CVD risk factor management.

This event has been accredited by RACGP for 2 CPD points. (Activity no. 355838).

You can register for the webinar using this link.

Mob urged to get bowel cancer screening

A new campaign featuring Gabbi Gabbi man Dr Joel Wenitong is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to stay healthy and strong by doing a bowel cancer screening test every two years. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of bowel screening and increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. The Australian Government program provides people aged 50-74 years with a free screening test every two years.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer and one of the most common cancers impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data (2018-2019) indicates that just over a quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (27.3%) participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program while a 2019 survey by Cancer Council found nearly half of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed weren’t up to date with any kind of cancer screening. Dr Wenitong says early detection, through screening, can help save lives and reduce bowel cancer rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view the Third Sector article First Nations community encouraged to stay healthy and get bowel cancer screening in full click here.

Dr Joel Wenitong. Image source: Third Sector.

How much life has COVID-19 cost us?

New data from the  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows how Australians’ health changed over the course of the pandemic. It allows us to step back and assess what happened, and to whom. Australia’s management of the pandemic was overall very good, leading to about 18,000 deaths averted in 2020 and 2021. However, the pandemic is not over. The number of deaths in the eleven months since the plan was released is almost ten times the number than in the 18 months before.

Although most deaths throughout the pandemic were in people aged over 60, each of those was a shortened life. Thousands of years of life have been lost prematurely because of COVID-19. People living in the poorest communities had death rates three times that in wealthier communities.

Some preventive care was deferred during the pandemic, which could mean some diseases weren’t detected in their early stages, resulting in poorer outcomes. The rate of Indigenous health checks also took a downturn. This may mean it will be even harder to close the gap between the health of First Nations Australians and the rest of the population.

To view The Medical Republic article How much life has covid cost us? in full click here.

Image source: First Opinion.

People with diabetes at risk during COVID-19

People living with diabetes had an increased risk of complication and death during the COVID-19 pandemic, new data shows. More than 40% of COVID-related hospitalisations in 2020-21 had one or more diagnosed comorbid conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This was a significant increase from 25% the year prior, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Additionally, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were the most common comorbid conditions associated with COVID-19 hospitalisations between 2020-21.

The report also found in recent years the impact of diabetes has been higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those living in remote or lower socio-economic areas. The diabetes prevalence rate was 2.9 times as high among Indigenous Australians as non-Indigenous based on age-standardised, self-reported data from the 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey. The impact of diabetes is higher with increasing remoteness and socio-economic disadvantage.

To view the Daily Mail article People with diabetes at risk during COVID in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia website.

Digital health design must have authenticity

The CSIRO have heard the calls for advice on how to design ehealth solutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But the key is not designing for any particular community, it’s designing with them, over a long period and with authentic relationship. The CSIRO’s Indigenous eHealth Research Centre which is creating a best practice guide for designing digital health solutions with Indigenous peoples Ms Georgina Chelberg, who is from the eHealth Research Centre, says that at the core of good design are community priorities and the need to be honest about structural racism.

“We speak about the social determinants of health and that the disadvantage caused by policies and governance that are embedded with racism. When we don’t address that authentically in the way that we do our research, the health of people continues to suffer,” Ms Chelberg says. Sustainability in projects is another key requirement of best practice design. “Interventions often lack longevity; the funding cycle ends and the researchers disappear with a publication to their name. So, that creates mistrust and further disadvantage to community which flows on to create poor health outcomes,” Ms Chelberg says.

To listen to the Wild Health Summits podcast Indigenous digital health design should lead with authenticity click here.

The CommDoc app features 19 Aboriginal languages spoken in the NT provides audio translations of phrases and questions patients are asked in a consultation to be able to provide treatment. Image source: eLearn Australia.

Registrars in short supply in regional areas

Difficulties securing GPs and registrars in regional areas has left Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation with only one scheduled GP onsite for six months. It comes following the current GP registrar’s six month placement ending in early August. As a result, from August 8, there will only be scheduled visiting GPs onsite to provide community appointments, limiting the number of available appointments and leaving Pangula with a general practitioner for only five hours per week.

According to the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency, Mount Gambier has about 30 GPs, nine registrars and three visiting doctors throughout Pangula Mannamurna, Hawkins Medical Clinic, Ferrers Medical Clinic, Dr Try Medical Clinic and Village Medical Clinic. This number does not include GPs or registrars who work at the Mount Gambier and District Hospital. Pangula Mannamurna CEO Andrew Birtwistle-Smith said difficulty finding adequate housing was also an issue for incoming staff.

To view The Border Watch article Registrars remain in short supply in full click here.

Pangula Mannamurna’s CEO Andrew Birtwistle-Smith has his regular check up with Aboriginal health practitioner John Watson. Image source: The Border Watch.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.