NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Vital role of First Nations midwives

Image in feature tile is of a participant of a new, dedicated, midwifery service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be, established by Townsville Hospital and Health Service in partnership with Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS). Image source: Townsville Bulletin.

Vital role of First Nations midwives

First Nations midwives play a vital role in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children, according to Pamela McCalman (midwife and PhD Candidate at La Trobe University), Professor Catherine Chamberlain (Professor of Indigenous Health Equity at The University of Melbourne) and Machellee Kosiak, who is affiliated with Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund.

Reporting on results from the Birthing in our Community study, they write that “in addition to western midwifery training, First Nations midwives draw on cultural and community knowledge systems” and “foster a sense of cultural safety and trust in maternity services for First Nations women”. While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life, with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses. The article goes on to discuss the health impacts of colonisation, the vital role of First Nations nurses and midwives and the need to increasing their number.

To read the Croakey Health Media article First Nations midwives’ leadership and care are central for improving outcomes click here.

Midwife Mel Briggs, wearing “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

AMA emergency pharmacy trial meeting

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid has called an emergency virtual meeting tonight to discuss the North Queensland Scope of Practice Pilot. The North Queensland pharmacy trial, as it has been called, will allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense autonomously. It will allow chemists in 37 local government areas to diagnose and treat 23 conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart failure and asthma without consulting a GP.

The Queensland Government says a recent two-year Queensland urinary tract infection (UTI) pharmacy prescribing trial was a success, but the AMA strongly disagree, saying the trial lacked transparency. With no meaningful data available about the UTI trial, which was open to non-pregnant women aged 18 to 65, AMA Queensland surveyed 1,300 doctors and found approximately one in five treated patients for serious complications which were either missed or misdiagnosed by pharmacists in the trial. The complications ranged from antibiotic allergies to ectopic pregnancies to cervical cancer.

The AMA and AMA Queensland believe the trial places an unacceptable risk on patient health and safety and will exacerbate workforce shortages and hospital pressures; widen the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; fragment healthcare and exacerbate emergency department ramping and hospital logjam; and is a major conflict of interest for pharmacists.

To view the AMA Queensland article AMA calls emergency Town Hall meeting click here. You can also view NACCHO’s Media Statement NACCHO and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector oppose the proposed Queensland Community Pharmacy Trial on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: AMA News website.

The new addiction of vaping

Vaping is a multi-billion-dollar global industry that is rapidly growing in popularity amongst teenagers and young adults. Vaping was hailed as the new way to quit smoking but there are serious concerns the product is now causing nicotine addiction in teenagers. On Monday next week Four Corners investigates the explosion in vaping amongst teenagers and the booming black market which is thriving in Australia due to a failure to police the rules. Reporter Grace Tobin tracks down some of the suppliers who are illegally selling nicotine vapes either online or under the counter in stores.

To view the ABC Four Corners media release Vape Haze: The new addiction of vaping in full click here.

According to a Talking About the Smokes survey 21% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke have tried vapes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had tried vaping were younger; living in non-remote areas or more advantaged areas; people who smoke daily and wanting to quit, having made a quit attempt/used NRT in the past year.

You can find more information on Tackling Indigenous Smoking webpage Facts about vaping (e-cigarettes) webpage here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Mental health surf program for youth

Biripi and Bundjalung siblings Amber Hamer and James Mercy are working to raise awareness about the importance of mental health through surfing. Surfing has been part of their lives from their earliest days in Coffs Harbour, NSW. “We went straight from the hospital when I was born ,Mum and Dad took me straight to the beach, because Dad was dying for a surf. I guess that started my lifelong affinity with the water,” Ms Hamer said.

Their late father Eric Mercy was a well-known surfer and beloved member of the local community who took his own life. Now, the brother and sister duo are continuing their father’s legacy by teaching youth about mental health and well-being on Gumbaynggirr Country. Five years ago they started hosting regular surfing camps to help young people learn about the healing beauty of the ocean. Their project is called Naru, the Gumbaynggirr word for water.

To view the SBS NITV article The surfing program teaching youth about culture and mental health click here.

Equity and emergency care

Equity and emergency care was the theme for day two of the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine on 17 June 2022. One of the speakers, Professor Greg Phillips, spoke about improving outcomes for First Nations people, how to address systemic racism and decolonise healthcare by blending Aboriginal and Western health paradigms with better representation and rewritten health curricula. He highlighted the importance of separating intent from affect, saying white fragility and recognition of privilege in healthcare is a pressing issue that involves a lot of listening and a lot of unlearning, especially for clinicians.

Ways to keep mums-to-be healthy

Dr Karen Best leads SAHMRI research in Adelaide, SA that targets optimal nutrition for women and kids. Dr Best, a Senior Fellow in the Women & Kids theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), designs and manages clinical trial research to understand the best nutrition for pregnant women.

Food eaten during pregnancy keeps the mother healthy and supports the growth and development of the baby. However, certain components of food – nutrients- are important for more subtle aspects of health. Karen’s recent research has focused on a type of fat called omega-3, which is found in oily fish, walnuts and other foods. “We found a dietary supplement of omega-3 in women who had low levels could reduce their risk of preterm birth,” Karen explains.

Preterm birth can result in developmental problems for babies and is often distressing for families. Required support and healthcare are costly. Even just a small improvement in that rate could translate into better outcomes for the children and families involved, and lowered expense for the healthcare system. SAHMRI’s Women & Kids theme is also researching optimal levels of iodine in pregnancy. Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral important for developing the brain and nervous system. “In this study, we’re looking at levels of iodine in pregnant women and how that is linked with developmental measures we assess once the baby reaches age two,” Karen explains.

To read The Lead article Discovering the best ways to keep mums-to-be healthy in full click here.

Photo: Emma by Jess Naera Creative. Image source: Australian Birth Stories.

Community First Development Fellow’s Oration

At Community First Development, ‘research success’ is research that is requested, led and delivered by First Nations’ people and communities. It is undertaken through deep listening and strives to achieve the outcomes that communities have set out to achieve. The First Nations Research and Evaluation Fellow is a pathway for First Nations’ academics to explore, design and deliver evaluation and research projects driven and led by First Nations’ people and communities.

Community First Development launched the inaugural Fellowship in 2020. As part of the Fellowship Murran/Iwaidja woman, Donna Stephens, our first Fellow, took a lead role in a participatory action research project with 11 communities across Australia. The final report has been published, and findings have been presented at numerous events. At this year’s oration Donna will speak on Participation and Community Development: Reflections on Change Organisations.

You can download an the invitation to the event here and register for the live webcast this Friday, 25 June 2022 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: Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Image in feature tile is of shack outside of Tennant Creek. Image source: ABC News.

Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Experts from The Australian National University (ANU) have raised alarm bells about the “economic apartheid” facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are calling for an urgent, nation-wide strategic approach to ensure their economic self-determination. This is the key theme of a landmark series of events to be held this week and led by the ANU First Nations Portfolio.

A first for Australia, the forum and symposium will chart the path to First Nations Australians’ economic development, wealth creation and a self-determined economy. Professor Peter Yu AM, Vice-President First Nations at ANU, said Australia remains the only Commonwealth country to have never signed a treaty with its Indigenous people.

To view the ANU’s media release Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid” in full click here.

A town camp outside Alice Springs, NT. Photo: Children’s Ground. Image source: The Guardian.

Children protection system under fire

Every year, Australia’s child safety departments remove thousands of children from their parents on the grounds they are not safe at home and need urgent protection. In doing so, the government becomes their guardian, taking responsibility for their lives. Far from being safe, some of these children are then preyed upon by the very people the government has vetted to look after them.

Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families. Departmental policy dictates that they are then placed with Indigenous carers to maintain contact with their culture, but that doesn’t always happen. Instead, Aboriginal children can languish in care hours from their land while some workers dismiss signs of sexual abuse in First Nations children as “cultural” behaviour.

Lisa Wellington from Aboriginal women’s health and welfare organisation Waminda said the child protection system had been failing Indigenous families since it had been set up. “In order for change to happen, the department needs to engage with the Indigenous community and listen to the families and walk alongside them,” she said.

To view the ABC article Bad Parent in full click here.

Image source: Aboriginal Family Legal Services website.

Health reform issues for new government 

Is Australia on the verge of a long-awaited and sorely needed move towards cooperative federalism to drive health reform? Encouraging noises to this effect have emerged from the first National Cabinet meeting (Friday 16 June) since the Federal election.

The NSW Premier said there had been “a real focus of working with the States and Territories in relation to substantive health reform going forward” something that had “been in the too-hard basket for too long.” The Queensland Premier said it had been “a refreshing change to be able to discuss health. Previously, we have tried to get this on the agenda. We’ve got a PM who listens and understands that health is a big issue and it is a national issue that’s affecting everybody across our nation”.

The Victorian Premier said: “…on behalf of every nurse, every ambo, every doctor, every patient in Victorian public hospitals I want to thank the Prime Minister. Politics was put aside at this meeting and we’ve put patients first and that is the most important thing. Now, the test for all of us will be to work hard in the weeks and months to come, to come up with practical ways in which we can make the system work as a true system.”

Associate Professor Lesley Russell will monitor the efforts of the Albanese Government to deliver on their election commitments in health, healthcare, Indigenous health and climate change (and in fact any issue that improves the health status and reduces the health disparities of Australians).

To view the Croakey Health Media article The Health Wrap: as National Cabinet sets a course for health reform, here are some key issues to address in full click here.

Image source: Choose Your Own Health Career website.

Call for action against racism, racial violence 

A Brisbane author brought her defiant call to action against racism and racial violence to Cherbourg last week, welcoming South Burnett community members to the Ration Shed Museum for a workshop on her 2021 book ‘Another Day in the Colony’. ‘Another Day in the Colony’ has attracted praise from fellow academics as well as members of the public, who commend the author on her uncompromising truth-telling and exposure of Australia’s intolerance.

“While I work as an academic, the book was written just for anyone to read – I wanted to write for mob and wanted my kids to be able to read it, regardless of whether they got a degree or not,” Dr Watego explained. “The thing that’s really hit me is mob getting back to me and saying ‘you wrote what I feel! You gave a language to what I already knew but didn’t know how to express.’

“Mob have been really moved by it, and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to speak to the souls of blackfellas. That’s the beautiful part: not the reprints, but the imprint it’s had on the community.”

To view the Burnett Today South, Central & North article Cherbourg Celebrates book tour in full click here.

Dr Chelsea Watego and her book Another Day in the Colony.

Top 3 men’s health questions

In celebration of Men’s Health Week (13-19 June 2022), Dr Lucas de Toca from the Australian Government Department of health has spoken on how family history and lifestyle impact our health and provides tips to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. The three top questions answered by Dr de Toca are:

  • What is Men’s Health Week?
  • How can men build healthier outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic disease?
  • How can men better engage with Australia’s health services?

To view the Department of Health’s Top 3 Qs article click here.

Health conference abstracts FINAL CALL

A final call for abstracts for the upcoming Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference is being put out. The closing date is just one week away – COB Monday 27 June 2022.

For further event information click here and to register to present click here.

Adam Goodes (virtually attending) and Sue-Anne Hunter will be keynote speakers at The 7th Annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference.

Mob left out of low unemployment figures

The National Employment Services Association says First Nations people and other disadvantaged Australians are being left out of record low unemployment figures. Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reported unemployment remained at a record low 3.9% in May.

The real numbers were much higher. The employment rate among Indigenous Australians is considerably lower than it is for the rest of the population. Many First Nations people have historically been excluded from statistical analysis such as employment figures. Historically Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples unemployment rates have sat fairly consistently at three times that of their non Indigenous counterparts.

Discrimination is a factor in the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That is ever so slowly changing so that disparity you know is trending in the right way, but not rapidly. To view the National Indigenous Times article Industry peak body calls out Indigenous exclusion in latest unemployment rates in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens website.

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: NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

Earlier this morning NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills addressed The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2022: Advancing Multicultural Australia conference. The event is Australia’s premier conference on multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion, and migration and hosts multicultural communities, policy makers, service providers, academics and many more over two days of presentations, speakers and topics.

Ms Mills said, “It is important that when we are talking about today’s systemic racism in the health system, we understand two fundamental points. The first is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are foremost and always Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have our own distinct identities, languages and beliefs about what contributes to health and wellness and what causes sickness. Australia’s health system, however, is built around the identities and beliefs of the white settler and their western model of health and wellness and causes of sickness. This immediately puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the back foot in accessing health care in Australia. For us to access mainstream health services, we are required to suspend our own beliefs and cultures and adopt or accept the western model of health.”

You can access Ms Mills’ speech in full here. For more information about the FECCA2022 conference click here.

ACCHO CEO awarded honorary doctorate

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has issued a media release saying it is proud to acknowledge the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Arts to its Chair and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Congress (CAAC) CEO, Donna Ah Chee, by Charles Darwin University yesterday. The award took place at a ceremony in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) where she has lived and worked for the past 30 years.

AMSANT CEO, Dr John Paterson congratulated Ms Ah Chee on her well-deserved honour in recognition of her significant contribution to the health of First Nations peoples. “Donna has distinguished herself through the outstanding leadership she has provided to the Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHS) sector, including many years as CEO of CAAC and as Chair and Director of AMSANT”, Dr Paterson said.

“Her leadership has also been recognised through many high-level appointments to boards and advisory bodies in Aboriginal health and related areas, including the NACCHO, the NT Aboriginal Health Forum and the NT Children and Families Tripartite Forum. “Donna has been a driving force in the development and expansion of the model of Aboriginal comprehensive primary health care delivered by our ACCHSs and broader reforms of the health system that together are required to achieve better health outcomes for our people. Her passion and significant contribution in the areas of early childhood development, education, health research and reducing alcohol harm have been widely recognised.”

To view AMSANT’s media release AMSANT Chair, Donna Ah Chee, awarded Honorary Doctorate in full click here.

Donna Ah Chee. Image source: Health Voices Journal of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

Remote houses are dangerous hot boxes

In remote Indigenous communities that are already very hot and socioeconomically disadvantaged, climate change is driving inequities even further. New research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows how higher temperatures in remote Indigenous communities in the NT will drive inequities in housing, energy and health.

Existing housing in remote areas is old and poorly constructed. In many remote Indigenous communities in the NT, you don’t need a building permit or even a qualified builder to build a house. Houses have missing doors, boarded-up windows, no air conditioners, are often un-insulated, have failed plumbing and have been poorly maintained over decades. These houses become dangerously hot as climate change bears down.

The researchers conclude the solution is Indigenous communities need a say; buildings need to be climate resilient; energy needs to be safeguarded and houses need to be maintained.

To view The Conversation article How climate change is turning remote Indigenous houses into dangerous hot boxes in full click here.

Shoddy NT remote homes lethal

Indigenous Australians living in remote, shabby housing with unstable electricity connections in the NT’s extreme heat are enduring life-threatening conditions. A research paper published this month in the Medical Journal of Australia found that Indigenous Australians with chronic diseases who depend on cool storage and electrical equipment are vulnerable to dying earlier.

The study was conducted by the ANU in partnership with the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation in the NT, where extreme heat stress has become a reality in the past few years. ANU researcher Simon Quilty says excessive heat, poor housing, energy insecurity and chronic disease have reached critical levels and a multi-sector response is needed to avert catastrophe. He says a constant electricity supply is often a luxury, rather than a right.

“Most houses in remote communities are old, poorly constructed and poorly maintained,” Dr Quilty said. He said tenants pay rent for houses with no doors, no windows and no insulation in the ceiling, falling well below national building codes. “All of the houses in these communities rely on pre-paid power cards and as a result there are extreme rates of electricity disconnection, making those with chronic disease particularly vulnerable,” Dr Quilty said.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Shoddy homes lethal to Indigenous patients in full click here.

Unserviced shacks in Tennant Creek shelter some people on the public housing waiting list. Photo: Samantha Jonscher. ABC News.

Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia

The latest health research has shown type two diabetes in remote Aboriginal communities has reached epidemic proportions, with children as young as four diagnosed. The rates of type 2 diabetes in remote communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse, according to new research released by the Menzies School of Health Research.

Menzies researchers examined seven years of health data from 21,000 Aboriginal people across 51 remote communities in the NT. It found a staggering 40% of adults in Central Australia now have the condition, which can cause kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections. 29% of the Aboriginal adult population in the rest of the Territory are also living with the condition. In 2020 it became the leading cause of death in communities, and those diagnosed with it are getting younger.

Shiree Mack and her family have lived with type two diabetes for years and many of her extended family are also battling the condition. With younger generations increasingly affected, she says the time for change is now. “The effects are huge and our little people are getting diagnosed at five and six,” she said. Ms Mack said any proposed solutions need to come from the community. “Let’s listen to the community let them tell us what will work. They know.”

To view the SBS NITV article Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia in full click here.

The Mack and Ross families from Alice Springs are all living with type two diabetes as the number of cases in the Centre skyrocket. Image source: NITV.

Integrating kidney health into patient care

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects one in 10 Australian adults. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the prevalence is even higher, affecting nearly one in five adults. CKD contributes to 11% of all deaths and is associated with 37% of all cardiovascular deaths in Australia. However, the asymptomatic nature of CKD means it can be difficult to diagnose unless there is targeted screening for it. Timely management can slow or even prevent the deterioration in kidney function, and improve cardiovascular outcomes. GPs are in a prime position to detect and diagnose CKD early. This involves targeted screening and performing investigations that are mostly already part of regular clinical practice.

Dr Tim Senior, GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney Medical School and CKD expert in general practice says that “Rather than seeing the kidneys as a single, separate, complex and difficult organ, it is straightforward to integrate them into the overall care of your patients along with other organ systems. You’ll find, for instance, that what’s needed to diagnose CKD is largely already what you’re doing for other conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So when you assess your patients for risk factors and test for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you should also think of their kidneys.”

To view the NPS MedicineWise article CKD – Integrating kidney health into patient care in full click here.

Dr TIm Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Indigenous assistant minister sworn in

Indigenous Australians assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy has vowed health outcomes for First Nations people will be placed at the forefront of the Albanese government’s bid to close the gap. The NT senator was sworn into the ministry by Governor-General David Hurley at Government House on yesterday.

Senator McCarthy said commitments taken to the election campaign focused on health policies, but also included improving access to education and job opportunities for people in regional and remote communities. A key focus would be closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with better health outcomes being essential to improving the lives of First Nations people.

Senator McCarthy said she will be working closely with Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney – who was appointed to cabinet – on progressing a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament in the government’s first term.

To read Yass Tribune article Indigenous assistant minister sworn in in full click here.

Malarndirri McCarthy with her partner Richard and their children following her swearing-in at Parliament House. Photo: AAP, Image source: SBS News.

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

Health leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who recently attended a national eye health conference, called on non-Indigenous Australians to support efforts to establish an Indigenous led approach to closing the gap in eye health. The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC22), co-hosted by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) at the University of Melbourne and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), took place on Larrakia country in Darwin from 24–26 May 2022.

The conference theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, was reflected in a consistent call for “greater leadership and ownership of eye health by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, along with the shift in power that is necessary to produce the outcomes that we are all working towards”.

One of the conference co-chairs, Anne-Marie Banfield, who is the National Manager of Engagement and Awareness at Hearing Australia said that while First Nations peoples must play a key role in leading eye health initiatives that improve outcomes in their communities they cannot do this on their own – non-Indigenous people are needed as allies to “amplify the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Making Change: Indigenous Eye Health Conference in full 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: racism in perinatal health services

Image in feature tile is of Stacey Foster-Rampant with her baby boy, Tyler, at a Malabar Community Midwifery Link Service clinic. Photo: Louise Kennerley. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Racism in perinatal health services

After nine months, imagine giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. As tired as you are, you adapt to your new sleep-deprived routine, feeding your newborn at any time of the day and night as needed. But then child protection services arrive with the police, and a court order, to take your baby from your arms and place them in the care of a stranger. Sadly, this is the case for too many First Nations women in Australia.

Issues relating to the removal of First Nations infants from their families by contemporary child protection systems can be traced to perinatal health services. Tracey Stephens, a Kurnai woman and registered midwife, sees racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across mainstream healthcare settings on a regular basis. “Stereotypically in mainstream midwifery there’s this strong sense that all Aboriginal women are going to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol and are drug addicts. However, this isn’t the case.” she says. “Far too much of my time is spent trying to educate others and address unconscious bias and racism amongst the healthcare workforce.

To read the article Separated at birth: Racism and unconscious bias in perinatal health services by Research Fellow, Health and Social Care Unit, Monash University in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens webpage.

SA to start Voice to Parliament journey

South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher wants to begin talks on a state version of the First Nations Voice to Parliament ahead of a launch of the body next year. It would provide advice to Parliament about decisions affecting the lives of First Nations people. Mr Maher — SA’s first Aboriginal Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister — said South Australian Labor made a commitment to adopt the Statement from Uluru after the 2019 federal election.

He said he believed the state should not have to wait for the federal government to act. “At its core, it’s about Aboriginal people having more a say in decisions that affect their own lives,” Mr Maher said. “I find that pretty hard to argue against.”

To view the ABC News story Consultation to start on SA Indigenous Voice to Parliament ahead of 2023 launch in full click here.

Kyam Maher is the only Indigenous person elected to parliament in South Australia at a state or federal level. Photo: Ethan Rix, ABC News.

First Nations more likely to die in childbirth

While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

The causes of these gaps in life expectancy are complex and stem from colonisation, including:

  • racism and lack of cultural safety in hospitals and from healthcare providers
  • pregnant First Nations women avoiding antenatal care for fear of child protection services taking their children. This is a legacy of the “stolen generations” with continuing high rates of child removals
  • closures of regional and remote birthing services requiring more First Nations women to leave home and travel long distances to give birth, often alone. Some women opt to give birth without a midwife, which can have significant issues for mother and baby.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses.

To view The Conversation article First Nations mothers are more likely to die during childbirth. More First Nations midwives could close this gap in full click here.

Geraldine at the Gudang Dalba Hostel, Darwin NT. Image source: ABC News.

Mental health restraint concerns

Patients in Victoria’s mental health hospitals are being restrained at higher rates and for longer than the national average, a new report has found. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being secluded and restrained at higher rates, which the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) said is concerning.

“Many Aboriginal people have complex trauma,” a spokesman for VACCHO said. “We are concerned with this data and would like to know more on the reasons that drive this over-representation. A model of care that is focused on healing, social and emotional wellbeing and cultural safety is what works for Aboriginal people.”

To view the 7 News article Restraint concerns in Vic Mental health in full click here.

Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Approaches for non-Aboriginal health professionals

SA’s outstanding young leaders were recently celebrated through the 40 Under 40 Awards. Annabelle Wilson, Associate Professor of Implementation Science at Flinders University, SA was included in the list. 38-year-old Professor Wilson is a dietician and PhD with a clear focus on Indigenous health. “Through my research and leadership, I have disrupted and challenged current thinking about how non-Aboriginal health professionals work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, specifically in nutrition and dietetics,” Annabelle says.

“My research has impacted health professional practice by identifying and translating approaches that non-Aboriginal health professionals can use when working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including reflexivity and awareness of one’s own attitudes and biases.” Annabelle’s work led her to develop models of practice, which were adopted in mentoring and training courses for health professionals. “In the next few years I plan to continue and extend the work I have been doing. In particular, I have applied for funding to lead transformation in nutrition and dietetics related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”

To view the InDaily and CityMag article SA’s top young business leaders click here.

Associate Professor Annabelle Wilson. Image source: citymag.indaily.com.au.

Indigenous Health Division is recruiting

Do you want to make a real contribution to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes? Do you have a unique set of skills and experiences to contribute to this challenging undertaking? The Indigenous Health Division of the Department of Health has multiple roles for you across both the APS5 and APS6 levels.

The Department of Health is seeking experienced and committed people to develop relationships, policies and programs that improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You will help to shape the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s healthcare commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Applications close on Monday 27 June 2022. Further detail on the roles is available on the APSJobs and the Department of Health’s website or by using this link.

Remote PHC Manuals project June update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated. Monthly updates are being provided to keep health services and other organisations up-to-date as RPHCM moves through the review process. It is now almost two years into the manuals updating project and activities are continuing to meet planned timelines (despite some COVID impacts that have tightened deadlines for reviews).

All protocols will be finalised for publication on Thursday 20 June 2022. After this date, there will be no further changes to the manuals as they move into the final editing and publication stage. The new editions are planned for release (online and hardcopy) in November 2022. The project team will meet with key stakeholders shortly to discuss major changes and prepare health services to use the new editions.

You can view the RPHCM Project Update June 2022 flyer 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.

Take Heart: Deadly Heart screening

A virtual screening of the Take Heart: Deadly Heart – A Journey to an RHD Free Future followed by a Q&A panel session will take place from 11:00 AM–12:00 PM AEST on Wednesday 29 June 2022.

A guest speaker for the Q&A panel session is a senior Noongar woman, Vicki Wade, who has over 40 years of experience in healthcare. Vicki is a co-producer of Take Heart: Deadly Heart. She has guided the production process in a culturally appropriate way and employed a series of yarning circles throughout the pre-production phase. Vicki is well respected for the work she has done to close the gap. She sits on the National Close the Gap steering committee and is a previous board member of the Congress of Aboriginal Nurses and Midwives.

The screening is an opportunity to see the work that is being done across Australia, in regional and remote communities, to eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease. Attendance is free but registration is essential. To register click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Save money on medicines, register for CTG scripts

Save money on medicines, register for CTG scripts

As of 1 July 2022, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be registered correctly with Services Australia Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) to continue to claim benefits for their medicine scripts, through the Closing the Gap (CTG) Pharmacy Benefits Scheme (PBS) program.

Unfortunately, not all patients who previously received CTG prescriptions were transferred to the new database, resulting in some people paying more for their medicines.

Check with your local doctor or health service today, to help register you as soon as possible to avoid paying full price for medicines from 1 July.

Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO NACCHO said, “We welcome the reforms to the CTG PBS database but are concerned not all eligible patients have been correctly registered. Potentially thousands of patients may have to pay more for medicines on 1st of July, so please check your registration with your pharmacy and doctor now.”

For further information about the CTG PBS program click here.

The Department of Health reminder letter regarding the CTG PBS program can be found here.

Download this poster that you can put up at your services here and images for Facebook/Twitter here and Instagram here.

We urge you to please do share this across all your networks.

200+ years of injustice – is redress likely?

Opinion columnist David Fickling leads a recent article with ‘Talk is easy. Political change is hard. In Australia, it’s more than two centuries overdue.’ He goes on to write: ‘Claiming victory in last month’s election, new PM Anthony Albanese’s first words were a vow to redress the unfinished business from the colonial invasion of 1788. His promise to “commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart” — a set of political demands from Indigenous groups, first outlined in 2017 — puts Australia on the path to the most substantive constitutional change it’s seen in more than half a century. If the resulting referendum succeeds, the country may wind up with a new First Nations elected chamber, an array of treaties with state and federal governments, and a truth and reconciliation commission.

Adopting the Uluru Statement would ensure Indigenous people are “given a seat at the decision-making table where it comes to laws and policies that affect us,” Dani Larkin, a legal lecturer at the University of New South Wales and Bundjalung and Kungarykany woman. Megan Davis, a Cobble Cobble woman and constitutional lawyer instrumental in the drafting of the Uluru Statement, wrote in a 2015 essay on the halting process of reform saying  “Public policy no longer requires the imprimatur of the Aboriginal people; Aboriginal participation in the decisions taken about their lives is negligible.”

To view the The Print article How Australia is likely to redress two centuries of injustice towards indigenous groups in full click here.

Photo: Luas Cosh, AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Coonamble ACCHO needs a dentist

The Coonamble Dental Surgery remains without a resident dentist and the Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) says that the hole left by the departure of the last dentist is a problem for the whole community. “The previous dentist left in December for bigger and better things,” said CAHS CEO Phil Naden. “That left us in a challenging position to recruit a permanent dentist and we’ve been relying on locum dentists since before Christmas.”

According to Mr Naden, CAHS have been pulling out all stops to find a new permanent dentist and the package on offer is very competitive, “We’ve tried every avenue we can think off over the last 6 months to make it as attractive as possible in competition with other areas, but we are challenged with recruiting a full time dentist. While it is CAHS’ responsibility to recruit a dentist, ensuring that the service continues, oral health is closely linked to chronic disease and if we can’t have treatment locally the matter is a community issue and we need some longer term solutions.”

To view the Coonamble Times article Dentist vacancy starting to bite article in full click here.

CAHS Executive Assistant Beau Ewers with one of the chairs at Coonamble Dental Surgery in need of an on-site dentist. Image source: The Coonamble Times.

‘Go Rural’ program inspires medical students

The Rural Doctors Network (RDN) recently took 20 medical, nursing and allied health students on a number of immersive excursions to GP clinics, hospitals and multipurpose services. The trip’s western region leg spanned from Dubbo to Nyngan, Cobar, and Wilcannia. Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia showed rural exposure during medical training was key to getting medical students to consider leaving capital cities for the bush after graduation.

A massive part of that effort is educating, familiarising future healthcare workers with the unique healthcare needs Aboriginal people living regionally. RDN Future Workforce Manager Chris Russell said communicating the importance of Aboriginal Medical Services, and the role they played in the whole community, was best done in person. “It allows [students] to get some insight into Aboriginal culture and people and the specific healthcare needs they have,” he said.

To view the ABC News article Rural road trip gives health students a taste of life and work in western NSW amid staff shortage in full click here.

The students toured Dubbo Base Hospital as part of the Rural Doctors Network ‘Go Rural’ program.Photo supplied by the NSW Rural Doctors Network. Image source: ABC News.

Public drunkenness health-based response

The Andrews Labor Government is ensuring the right programs and systems are in place to help people who are drunk in public get the support they need to stay safe. Minister for Health Martin Foley today announced $50 million over two years to continue the trial site operations that will help develop a health-based response to public drunkenness ahead of the state-wide rollout of the reforms.

Four trial sites will begin operating in the City of Yarra, City of Greater Dandenong, City of Greater Shepparton and Castlemaine from mid-year onwards and be managed in partnership with local health services and Aboriginal organisations. These trials will inform how a new public health model will be rolled out across the state. The investment will provide outreach services in all four trial locations and sobering facilities in Yarra, Dandenong and Shepparton – ensuring intoxicated people are transported to a safe place where they can receive appropriate support.

To read the Victorian Health Minister’s media release Delivering a Health-Based Response to Public Drunkenness click here.

Family of Tanya Day – a mother, grandmother and proud Yorta Yorta woman – who died in a holding cell after being arrested for public drunkenness. Photo: Nicole Asher, ABC News.

Nominate a mental health hero

With the pressures of COVID-19 restrictions, followed by the current cost of living crisis, the work of mental health professionals has rarely been so important. Now is the time to put them in the spotlight and recognise the amazing work they do in communities across Australia. On Tuesday 14 June 2022, nominations will open for the Australian Mental Health Prize, which seeks to recognise the important and ground-breaking work that many Australians do in this area.

This year, the prize has expanded to accept nominations in four categories:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander: To recognise and celebrate outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level;
  • Lived experience: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership by someone with lived experience of mental health, either personally or as a supporter, at a national level;
  • Professional: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership in the clinical, academic or professional sectors at a national level; and
  • Community hero: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership at a state or community level.

Henry Brodaty, Professor of Ageing and Mental Health at UNSW, said “While we will continue to recognise people who have dedicated their lives to improving the mental health of Australians, we specifically wanted to shine a light on the incredible work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health leaders. People with lived experience have so much insight and wisdom to share. We also wanted to recognise our community heroes, as a great deal of innovative work begins at a grass-roots level in local communities.”

You can nominate a deserving Seymour and district-based mental health professional by visiting the UNSW Sydney Australian Mental Health Prize webpage here.

You can view the Kyabram Free Press article Honouring Seymour’s mental health heroes in full here.

Suicide prevention consultation in Balgo community, WA. Photo supplied by KAMS. Image source: NIT website.

Healing Circle facilitator training program

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, causing shockwaves of isolation and trauma throughout Australia, Kultchafi Managing Director Ara ‘Julga’ Harathunian made a commitment to support the healing of individuals and communities right across the nation. Two years later, an innovative and ground-breaking Healing Circle Work Facilitator Training program has been officially launched. The training will be showcased again at the National Rural Health Alliance’s 16th National Rural Health Conference in August and at the 23rd International Mental Health Conference being held by the Australian and NZ Mental Health Association (ANZMA) in September.

“My wife, Aboriginal Elder Aunty Cheri ‘Yingaa’ Yavu-Kama-Harathunian, devoted her life to the development of Healing Circle Work right up until her passing in December 2019. We had always committed to share this work for the highest good of others,” says Ara. “Healing Circle Work is not a therapy, but therapeutic outcomes are experienced. It is a healing process based on an ancient Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander methodology. Participants learn to live life in the moment, recognising and understanding their own spirituality, and reaffirming themselves. It is suitable for any trauma, and for Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women.”

To view the Partyline article Kultchafi healing training rolls out across Australia in full click here and the Kultchafi website page 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: Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Note: the mage in the feature tile is of Winston, a traditional owner, land manager, artist and Aboriginal Health Worker from Blackstone (Papulankutja) community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of WA, who was first diagnosed at Kings Canyon during an outreach screening service for Aboriginal rangers. His dense cataract caused him to go blind in his left eye, which he kept shut to keep out the painful glare. Image source: The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Dr Tim Woodruff, a specialist working in private practice, has written an article for Croakey Health Media arguing that when it comes to delivering better healthcare and better health for Australians, the new Federal Government has a lot of work to do. Dr Woodruff  says the government’s intention to review the NDIS is desperately needed, and if improvements introduced are the right ones, this will also help public hospitals by limiting unnecessary admissions and time in hospitals. It will also make primary healthcare for those with disability much easier to access and co-ordinate.”

Dr Woodruff goes on to note that “Primary healthcare is in increasing disarray. The GP workforce is aging and unable to provide adequate timely access. Co-ordination of care is chaotic even when access to the spectrum of care is available. Primary Health Networks are improving but have quite limited capacity, and fee for service funding is inappropriate for chronic disease.”

Dr Woodruff points out that ACCHOs and 80 Community Health Centres in Victoria who have demonstrated the success of different models of primary healthcare provision need to be supported and expanded. Co-ordination and integration are key elements for these services, rather than optional add-ons as they often are in standard GP-led practices, and primary prevention is an integral part of such practices.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Memo to Minister Mark Butler and colleagues: your to-do list is packed in full click here.

Image source: Croaky Health Media.

Labor’s Indigenous affairs agenda

Alongside reforms in Indigenous health, housing, welfare and the justice system, Labor is committing to a referendum on the voice to parliament in their first term of government, all spearheaded by the first Aboriginal woman in cabinet – the new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.

Guardian Australia’s Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam, spoke to Linda Burney about how Labor intends to keep these promises in a podcast available here.

Linda Burney. Phto: Blake Sharp-Wiggins, The Guardian.

Pat Dodson on the Uluru Statement

Yawuru man Patrick Dodson has been at the forefront of change for much of his life. Well-known for his role at the helm of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the 1990s, the Broome-based Labor Senator has also played significant roles in the fields of Aboriginal deaths in custody, native title and research. In 2019 he was widely tipped to become Australia’s first Aboriginal Federal Indigenous affairs minister before a shock result delivered the election to the Liberals and Ken Wyatt was elevated to the job.

Now, finally part of a government in office, Mr Dodson has been appointed a new role as Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement. From the Heart campaign director Dean Parkin said Mr Dodson’s appointment was well-deserved, “having his wisdom, experience and expertise involved in this in a very direct way is a great development and hugely encouraging for our prospects of success.” Mr Parkin, who is of the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland, said Indigenous-led decision making was vital to making progress. “A voice to parliament making sure people from those communities are sitting at the table advising the politics and the bureaucrats is the best way to make progress in Closing The Gap,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Father of reconciliation Pat Dodson turns eye to Uluru Statement in new role in full click here.

Senator Pat Dodson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Mob in city for medical care risk homelessness

Aboriginal people from regional WA visiting Perth for medical care are at risk of homelessness and relying on aged care facilities for accommodation in the city, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. During a recent inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services in WA, Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Corporation told the panel chaired by Liberal MLC Peter Collier there was a “terrible increase” in individuals and families facing homelessness.

Moorditj Koort deputy chief executive Annie Young said at least one in every 10 clients was at risk of or already of homeless. “We have people with other issues including justice issues, they are involved with the Department of Child Protection, there are compounding issues as well,” she said. Ms Young said rental stress was acute for those accessing Centrelink and on low incomes. She encouraged the inquiry to also examine overcrowding and its impact on health of residents.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal people visiting Perth for healthcare forced to rely on aged care system, inquiry told in full click here.

Raymond Ward (right) talks with Freddie in his shelter which he shares with up to six other people at the Tent City homeless camp in Perth. Image source: Daily Mail Australia.

Top 3 questions – flu vax and pregnancy

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan has given a presentation on why it’s important for women to get the flu vaccine when they are pregnant. In the presentation Professor McMillan answers the following questions:

  • Is it safe for women to receive a flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy?
  • What potential adverse reactions should pregnant women be aware of following the flu vaccination?
  • Does getting the flu vaccination while pregnant protect unborn babies from flu?

For further information you can access the Australian Government Department of Health’s webpage Top 3 questions – Flu vaccination & pregnancy with Professor Alison McMillan here.

Clinical Yarning program about trust

Clinical Yarning — a Mid West-led approach to build more trusting relationships between patients and clinicians — is set to keep spreading the word after receiving a funding injection. The research program, a patient-centred healthcare framework that marries Aboriginal cultural communication preferences with biomedical understandings of health and disease, will receive a share of $2.3 million in funding after being awarded an Implementation Science Fellowship.

Dr Ivan Lin, senior lecturer at the Geraldton-based WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH), which is part of the University of WA, was one of four recipients of the fellowship, which are conducted in partnership with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS). “(Clinical Yarning is) designed to address long identified issues reported by Aboriginal people when accessing health services, by improving health providers communication with these communities,” Dr Lin said.

To view the Sound Telegraph article Mid West-led Clinical Yarning program receives State Government funding boost thanks to fellowship in full click here. You can also view Professor Dawn Bessarab in the video below introducing the Clinical Yarning eLearning Program.

Jimmy Little’s early death to kidney disease

Dr James “Jimmy” Oswald Little AO was born on 1 March 1937. The eldest of seven children, he was raised on Cummeragunja Mission Station on the Murray River. The Yorta Yorta/Yuin man first picked up a guitar at 13, taking to it quickly he was playing local concerts in just a year. In 1955 he took the leap and moved to Sydney, pursuing a country music career. By 1956, he had signed to Regal Zonophone Records and recorded his first single Mysteries of Life/Hearbreak Waltz.

In 1963, Little hit the big time with his cover of gospel song Royal Telephone which hit #1 Sydney and #3 in Melbourne. Its success made history, being the first song by an Indigenous artist to hit the mainstream. Little was hitting his stride at a time when his people weren’t counted as citizens. In 1989, Little received the National Aboriginal Day of Observance Committee’s Aboriginal of the Year award, in 2002 he was named NSW Senior Australian of the Year, and in 2004 he was the recipient of the Australia Council Red Ochre Award. The same year he received an Order of Australia for his health and education advocacy and was recognised as a “living Australian treasure” via public vote.

In 1990, Little was diagnosed with kidney disease which led to kidney failure and Type II diabetes. In 2006 he established The Jimmy Little Foundation. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get check-ups often enough or soon enough to realise the possibility that my kidneys could fail,” he said. “I have seen too much fear and sadness caused by the early death and suffering from potentially preventable chronic illnesses by my Indigenous brothers and sisters. “I started The Jimmy Little Foundation to do something positive to curb the rate of chronic disease.” On April 2, 2012 Little died at Dubbo home, aged 75.

To view the NITV article Google pays homage to Indigenous music icon, Jimmy Little in full click here.

Dixon Patten’s Jimmy Little dedicated graphic for Google. Image source: SBS NITV website.

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: Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Image in feature tile is of Stan Grant. Image source: The Monthly.

Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi journalist Stan Grant delivered an impassioned and eloquent keynote address reflecting on the scars of colonisatio at the recent Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists Congress in Sydney. Grant said that after years of “dragging my history around with me”, which took “an enormous toll”, he decided to leave Australia – a “foreign country, for other people” where he never felt he belonged. “I felt a great sense of liberation, freed from the history of this country and what it does to us, written on our bodies,” he said.

Overseas, reporting on the legacies of “colonisation, empire, dictators and despots, kings appointed by foreign powers”, he recognised in oppressed people, “positioned on the other side of history”, a familiar grief where “only the afflicted know the truth. I saw the eyes of my own family, people for whom all certainty had been removed, who cou;ldn’t believe in the promise of Western liberalism and all it purported to deliver,” he said. Grant reflected on the cumulative trauma of growing up Aboriginal in Australia, culminating for him in a breakdown whilst posted overseas with an “irrepressible surging wave” to end his life. Grant seeing a psychiatrist was very important in his recovery, but absolutely nothing was as important as “standing on my land.”

To view Croakey Health Media article Yindyamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in click here.

You can also watch a video below of Stan Grant delivering a National Reconciliation Week 2022 Keynote Address.

NACCHO CEO welcomes end of cashless debit card

Labor will push ahead with plans to abolish the cashless debit card scheme with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth saying last week that she was in discussions to terminate the program, which was a Labor election commitment. She pledged to work with communities to find “better local solutions”. The decision followed an Australian National Audit Office ­report released on Thursday last week which highlighted a lack of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scheme. “The former Coalition government spent more than $170m on the privatised cashless debit card – money that could have been spent on services locals need,” Ms Rishworth said.

Implemented under the ­Abbott government in 2016, the scheme was designed to encourage socially responsible behaviour by quarantining 80% of a person’s welfare payments on a debit card to prevent it being spent on alcohol and gambling. It was initially introduced in Ceduna, SA, East Kimberley and the Goldfields in WA, and then ­expanded to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland. The cost of the program reached $36m in 2020–21, with nearly 17,000 people participating as of February this year.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO, said the scheme had caused “unnecessary embarrassment” for Indigenous Australians. “I certainly welcome the scrapping of the cashless debit card,” she said. “The Auditor-General’s report confirms what we already knew and why we were so opposed to the scheme. It’s simply poor public policy to run trials as the former government did for five years.”

The above has been extracted from an article by Jess Malcolm’s Cashless welfare card to be folded article published in The Australian on Friday 3 June 2022.

Image source: Crikey, 3 June 2022.

Using culture to turn suicide tide

Rocked by a spate of suicides, Shepparton’s Aboriginal community is using culture to turn the tide It began in October 2021 when a group of Shepparton’s First Nations community members came together in a backyard to figure out how to change the situation on youth suicide rates in town. “We had a cuppa and said, ‘what are we going to do about this?’,” Yorta Yorta woman and founding member of Dunguludja Dana Jean Miller said. “Our kids have been exposed to way too much trauma here, and something needs to be done.” Shepparton is home to the largest Aboriginal community and one of the highest rates of suicide in regional Victoria. Jean Miller said last year the community experienced about seven suicides by youth in just two months. This is when Dunguludja Dana was formed with a purpose to change the numbers. “It’s a Yorta Yorta word for strong pathways or strengthening journeys, and that’s what we want to do, that’s our vision,” Jean Miller said. “It was just about trying to engage our youth and let them know that no matter what life path they’re currently on, there’s always someone that loves them and cares and wants to support them.“ It could be a friend, it could be a cousin, it could be someone they knew in their school, but the impact is a ripple effect.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

Each Wednesday, the group run three sessions where First Nations students partake in painting, drawing, charcoal, and burning art – as well as creating possum skin cloaks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Undrinkable water, casual racism the reality

Rebecca Davis, a Senior News & Features Writer for MamaMia, has written a lengthy article Undrinkable water and casual racism: The reality of Indigenous health in Australia. In the article Ms Davis includes several accounts from Indigenous women about:

  • undrinkable water contaminated with uranium in Laramba, NT
  • Betty Booth from Doomadgee who died after being given Panadol by the local hospital and told to go home
  • a Melbourne woman routinely soiling herself as her bathroom door is not wide enough for her walker

For her article Ms Davis spoke to Pat Turner, a revered figure; a Gudanji-Arrernte woman with a long history as an Indigenous and women’s rights activist. Aside from being CEO of NACCHO, she was the founding CEO of NITV, and is an advisor to the establishment of an Indigenous voice to government. NACCHO facilitates 144 ACCHOs across the country, bringing comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It’s not just for Indigenous people – it’s largely run by them too, with more than half of their 6,000-strong staff of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

Speaking with Mamamia from Darwin, Pat reflected on the impact of institutionalised racism that still plagues many state-run hospitals. “Many Indigenous people also discharge themselves against medical advice, which I think is a sign of being unhappy with how they are treated, and not having access to their families,” she says. “There is still a lot of unconscious bias and racism across the board, particularly where you have large numbers of Aboriginal clients, so it’s about getting staff that are more culturally competent. Some of the worst offenders are the nurses. They really have to smarten up their attitudes. They think they know everything, and they can be very direct and rude. A lot of Aboriginal people feel very confronted by that.”

To read the article in full click here.

Feature Image: Children from the remote Indigenous community of Laramba in the Northern Territory, a region affected by undrinkable tap water. Credit: Marianna Massey, Corbis via Getty Images, Mamamia.

Moves to save Coonamble’s Marrabinya program

Petitions are circulating in each of the western NSW communities served by the Marrabinya program as Aboriginal people react to a decision by the Western NSW Primary Health Network (Western PHN) to cease funding the service from the end of 2022. Marrabinya is a Wiradjuri word meaning “hand outstretched” and since 2016, the Aboriginal-run program has acted as brokerage service to assist Aboriginal people with a diagnosed chronic illness to access medical support services, even in the most isolated communities. The priority chronic diseases are heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney and liver disease and cancer.

The Western NSW PHN are yet to issue a statement regarding the end of funding for Marrabinya’s program however, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service CEO Phil Naden told the Coonamble Times that the situation was not all doom and gloom. “A major review was conducted and feedback provided from right around the region,” he said. “Whilst Marrabinya might not continue in its current form the service will not be lost.”

To learn more about the Marrabinya program you can listen to a podcast “Marrabinya – Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” here. You can also read the May 2022 Marrabinya News, including details of the Save Marrabinya Campaign 2022 here.

To view the Coonamble Times article Moves afoot to save Marrabinya in full click here.

Alarming STD-caused throat cancer

The prevalence of throat cancer caused by a prominent sexually transmitted disease among Indigenous Australians has been laid bare by new global research. University of Adelaide (UOA) researchers human papilloma virus-led throat cancer was 15 times more prevalent in Indigenous Australians than young non-Indigenous Australians, and five times higher than rates found in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Finland.

UOA Indigenous oral health unit director and Yamatji woman Joanne Hedges said Indigenous communities had worked closely with the researchers on the project. “Participants wanted to be part of this HPV project because they wanted to be part of change,” she said. “The theme coming out was, ‘I had a family member pass away with this throat sickness, and I don’t want to happen to any other Nunga in my community or my family’. There was a real strength of participation.”

HPV is normally associated with cervical cancer, but can spread to the throat, head and neck via oral sexual activities, and is increasing at a rapid rate globally. UOA Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health director Lisa Jamieson said extending the study would allow a deep dive of the knowledge they had already learnt.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Alarming STD-caused Indigenous throat cancer statistic laid bare in new report in full click here.

Lisa Jamieson and Joanne Hedges (inset). Photo: University of Adelaide. Image source: University of Adelaide.

Home Stretch WA supports kids leaving OOHC

The WA State Government has committed $37.2 million to support the Department of Communities state-wide roll out of its Home Stretch WA program over the next three years. Home Stretch WA will support young people who exit the State’s child protection system at 18 years of age, until they turn 21, helping them successfully transition to independence. Research shows young people leaving care are at greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and interacting with criminal justice systems.

The Home Stretch WA program will provide flexible one-to-one individualised support focused on coaching young people towards independence. This support can include to obtain stable accommodation, enrol in further education, progress to work opportunities, identify where to access assistance in the local community, access health services, build support networks and improve financial skills.

The WA Department of Communities is looking forward to working in partnership with Yorganop Association Incorporated (Yorganop) to deliver Home Stretch WA to young Aboriginal people preparing to leave the child protection system  in the metropolitan area. Yorganop’s readiness to deliver Home Stretch WA is built from direct involvement in development of the ‘Nitja Nop Yorga Ngulla Mia’ (our boys and girls are staying home) model that formed part of the Home Stretch WA Trial.

You can view the WA Government Department of Communities article Young people to benefit from the state-wide roll out of Home Stretch WA click here.

Image source: WA.gov.au.

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: NACCHO CEO delivers Dr Mickey Dewar Oration

NACCHO CEO delivers Dr Mickey Dewar Oration

Last night NACCHO CEO Patricia Turner AM was in Darwin to present the Dr Mickey Dewar Oration. The oration is presented in recognition of Dr Dewar’s significant contribution to the NT and as 3-term member of the National Archives’ Advisory Council. In her oration with the title ‘The Telling of Aboriginal Stories’ Ms Turner said: “Mickey Dewer was a storyteller. She understood that the stories of our nation needed to be told so that, as a country, we could understand where we have come from and who we are. Mickey knew that for us to move forward as a more reconciled and modern nation, the stories of our past needed to be told.”

“Mickey’s work led to the stories of many Aboriginal people being told and some of our history being recognised. This evening I want to talk to you about the importance of Aboriginal storytelling, and how it shapes the nation and our own cultures and identities. Aboriginal peoples are the original storytellers. Telling stories is both a cultural practice of who we are as peoples and is a way in which we sustain our identities and lands.”

You can read a full transcript of the oration click here.

Dr Michelle Sue “Mickey” Dewar (1 January 1956 – 23 April 2017), pictured during her time as NT Library Heritage Co-ordinator. Photo: Katrina Bridgeford. Image source: NT News.

New Minister for Indigenous Australians

Earlier today Linda Burney, a member of the Wiradjuri nations, and the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives was sworn in as the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Yesterday as she delivered the 15th annual Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration, Ms Burney has extended an olive branch to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and urged him to support an Indigenous Voice to parliament. The oration, run by the Don Dunstan Foundation in honour of influential Aboriginal leader Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue.

Burney outlined her vision for the future and urged the new Liberal leader to offer bipartisan support for an Indigenous Voice. “Peter Dutton has in recent days reflected on what it is like to be on the wrong side of history after walking out of the apology to the stolen generations,” she said. “But you know what? We all grow, and we all change, and there is no shame in that at all. “In fact, that is what the journey of reconciliation is all about, and it is a path I would be very pleased to walk with Peter Dutton – and the Liberal Party.” In his first press conference as opposition leader on Monday this week, Dutton admitted he was wrong to oppose former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to stolen generations survivors.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article Linda Burney urges Peter Dutton to support Indigenous Voice in full click here.

The incoming Indigenous affairs minister Linda Burney has urged the opposition to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Photo: Brook Mitchell. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Collaboration key to reconciliation

In an article Collaborate and ‘design a way forward’ towards reconciliation published in the RACGP newsGP yesterday Morgan Liotta describes how she spoke to allyship leaders about the steps GPs can take to promote national reconciliation. Reflect: identify what is the heart of the matter. Relate: put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Reconcile: design a way forward together. The ‘three Rs’ were developed to strengthen allyship and kinship by the co-directors of cultural awareness training organisation, Evolve Communities.

Aunty Munya Andrews, a Bardi Elder originally from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, is a lawyer and educator. Carla Rogers is a training facilitator and community engagement specialist. The two have worked closely together since 2011 to strengthen partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. To mark National Reconciliation Week, Aunty Munya and Ms Rogers spoke with newsGP about how the three Rs align with this year’s theme – ‘Be Brave. Make Change’ – and highlight the important role of courage in reconciliation, which GPs can apply to their practice.

‘It is a really simple three-step approach that GPs could apply when they’re exploring something with one of their patients,’ Ms Rogers said. ‘Immerse yourself in that understanding, learn more about Aboriginal people’s identity – connection to country is all about healing. ‘The land is sick, people are sick. Healthy country, healthy people.’ Outside the GP community, all Australians can learn more about these values and collaborate to ‘design a way forward together’ towards reconciliation. For Aunty Munya, it’s about everybody playing their part.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Others magazine.

Courage to be uncomfortable needed

Dr Bini Bennett, Associate Professor First Nations Health, Bond University, has written an article The courage to feel uncomfortable: what Australians need to learn to achieve real reconciliation in which she writes: “Be Brave, Make Change” is the mantra for this year’s National Reconciliation Week. This is a call urging all non-Indigenous Australians to be allies and take up unfinished reconciliation actions for a fairer nation for all. But often reconciliation actions are observed as insincere and tokenistic. Instead, non-Indigenous people’s actions need to be real, effective and aimed at long-lasting change.

Historical acceptance is one of the five dimensions of reconciliation. Acceptance would mean all Australians acknowledge this nation’s history of injustice, colonisation, dispossession, displacement, exploitation and violence against First Nations people. However, this endeavour to learn is often hindered by hesitant white educators who don’t feel confident or capable to include Indigenous perspectives in their classrooms. The topic of Australia’s difficult history is also often rebutted as First Nations people’s failure to move on and simply “get over it”. If non-Indigenous people are to be honest about our nation’s efforts to achieve reconciliation, it’s time to stop trying to being “seen” to be engaged in First Nation issues, and instead take the time to educate themselves about what is often uncomfortable to learn.

To read The Conversation article in full click here.

Invasion Day protests, Melbourne. Photo: James Ross, EPA. Image source: Aljazeera.

COVID-19 – a barrier to early cancer diagnosis

It’s a worrying fact that data worldwide is demonstrating a delay in doctor visits, as well as missed or decreased cancer registrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you find yourself putting off seeing your doctor about new symptoms, that’s not a good idea. Cancer does not stop or slow down for a global pandemic.

Visit your doctor if your symptom involves blood, such as coughing up blood or blood in your poo or blood in your pee, or if you have any of these symptoms for more than four weeks:

It’s important to see your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker now rather than putting it off! It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer – often, it turns out to be something less serious, but telling your doctor straight away ensures any further investigation or treatment can begin as soon as possible. If it is cancer, the earlier it’s found, the better the treatment options and outcomes.

Cancer Council WA’s Find Cancer Early team have put together some FAQ’s which you can find on the Cancer Council WA website here.

Image source: Danila Dilba Health Service, Darwin NT website.

Mental health crisis in flood-affected NSW

Months after northern NSW’s worst floods on record, many of the thousands displaced are now struggling with depression, anxiety and trauma. An Indigenous-led counselling hub based on cultural traditions is supporting flood victims and working to prevent an even bigger disaster. Michele Laurie is among thousands of flood victims in northern NSW struggling to rebuild their lives after this year’s catastrophic floods. Although the high water has receded, the mental health impacts are far from over.

“I’ve certainly found myself really quite overwhelmed where I’ve had a panic attack just recently,” says Ms Laurie, 47, whose family was among those forced out of home for many weeks by flooding. We have had a housing crisis here on the Northern rivers before the flood, and this is just amplified the disadvantage of families throughout this whole community.” According to state government disaster recovery body Resilience NSW, the Laurie family home is among more than 8,359 damaged by flooding, of which 3,585 are uninhabitable. Yet many northern rivers residents consider themselves lucky to have survived at all. Some sheltered for hours on rooftops, others were trapped inside the roof cavity and were forced to cut themselves free.

The mental health impacts are now being felt across the region. Michele Laurie is also an Aboriginal trauma specialist of Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl heritage and is working to support others affected, like herself, at a healing hub in Lismore. The Aboriginal-led centre has so far offered wellbeing support in more than 1,400 sessions, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

You can read the SBS News article The Indigenous trauma specialists working to ease a growing mental health crisis in flood-affected NSW in full here and also watch an SBS News video about the weaving and yarning circles here.

A weaving circle at the Lismore healing hub. Photo: Kingsley Haxton, SBS. Image source: SBS News website.

Cultural responsiveness training encouraged

Optometry Australia is encouraging its members to undertake cultural education that supports critical self-reflection and the integration of culturally safe and responsive care into practise to improve the health outcomes of First Nations patients. Optometry Australia’s CEO Lyn Brodie said they have partnered with Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) to offer their Cultural Responsiveness Training to 100 members , In addition all Optometry Australia are completing the training so an understanding of First Nation’s cultures is embedded within our organisation.

Anya Dashko, who has completed the training, works as a regional optometrist at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in Windsor, Queensland, which she says has provided her with a great opportunity to learn from her patients. “Back at university, there was no focus on cultural awareness or cultural safety, or how you might adapt your practice when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients,’ Anya said. ‘Although I’ve been fortunate enough to learn through working at the IUIH, I also wanted to take the opportunity to learn from IAHA as they’ve done a lot of important work in this space and provided guidance for allied health professionals across the board. ”

“The cultural training course not only included historical and diverse cultural background information of First Nations people, but also a lot of introspective work. I thought it was a great addition to ask us to consider our own culture and belief systems, how they inform our day-to-day actions and how they might differ for someone from a different cultural background. I think this training course provides optometrists with a solid foundation to build upon and hopefully make their own practice a trusted and safe environment for First Nations people.”.

To view the Optometry Australia article Cultural responsiveness training will help to improve health outcomes for First Nations peoples 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: iSISTAQUIT helps pregnant young mums quit

iSISTAQUIT helps pregnant young mums quit

This World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2022), Southern Cross University’s iSISTAQUIT project is launching a compilation of campaign video clips to raise awareness about the importance of culturally appropriate care in assisting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women to quit smoking. Tobacco smoking represents the most important preventable risk factor for chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. About 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoke during pregnancy compared to 12% of their general population counterparts.

The initial six videos to be launched on the YouTube Channel iSISTAQUIT TV will showcase the importance of culturally appropriate care and communication in supporting women to quit smoking. Research has found education and advice on their own are insufficient, and women are needing practical help and support with quitting. iSISTAQUIT has also developed a training package to help equip health professionals to have culturally appropriate conversations with their patients. Currently there are 26 sites nationally that have undertaken the training.

You can view Donnella Mills, NACCHO Chairperson and Chair of Wuchopperen Health Service and the first Aboriginal person to win a Olympic Gold Medal, Nova Peris OAM have both released videos talking about the launch of the iSISTERQUIT films. Both mention how pleased they are that ACCHOs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community women were consulted during the early stages of the development of the iSISTERQUIT films. You can view Ms Mills’ video here and Ms Peris’ video here. You can also access the iSISTERQUIT website here.

Yarrabah community engaged in new wellbeing centre

A new health and wellbeing centre in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah demonstrates the value of projects that engage the local community not only in building design but in ongoing economic opportunities. When People Oriented Design (POD), with Coburn Architecture, won the bid to design the new Gurriny Yealamucka Health and Wellbeing Centre (GYHWC) at Yarrabah, on the lands of the Gunggandji and Yidinji peoples, the question for co-director Shaneen Fantin was not how to meet what the contract required, but, “How far can we build on what the contract was asking us to do?”

The practice identified opportunities to maximize Indigenous economic benefits at multiple levels, exceeding the requirements for Indigenous employment, training, suppliers and engagement – and all within a tight contractual timeframe. The health centre was delivered without excessive cost blowouts and ahead of its scheduled delivery by the Indigenous-owned company H. C. Building and Construction. This was no small feat, particularly with the impact of COVID affecting building supply chains, construction programs and labour continuity.

According to Suzanne Andrew, chief executive of Gurriny Yealamucka Community Control Health Services, “Local input is not just about designing the building, it’s also about ensuring financial return to the community.” At Yarrabah, “there was a good vibe in the community around this building” because the community was aware that it was being undertaken by an Indigenous company – “giving jobs to mob.” H. C. gave back to the community by buying from local shops and sponsoring the local football team. The project also included a significant budget for local artwork.

To view the ArchitectureAU article Indigenizing practice: Maximizing economic benefits in full click here.

Gurriny means “good healing water” in the language of the Gunggandji peoples, and the design references water in the building siting, layout, finishes, external art screen and garden. Photo: Scott Burrows. Image source: ArchitectureAU website.

Deadly Choices exemplar of tobacco control

Marking World No Tobacco Day 2022, Australia’s National Coordinator of the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) Program, Professor Tom Calma AO has officially recognised Deadly Choices as a recipient of a World Health Organisation (WHO) award. Representatives of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health arm were on hand to accept the honour, which acknowledges efforts in promoting the dangers of smoking among Indigenous communities.

Professor Calma said “I would like to congratulate Deadly Choices for their WHO award which has recognised the program as the exemplar of how people should be going about tobacco control. Deadly Choices has won the global award for helping Mob from right across Australia give up smoking. The core work of Deadly Choices focuses on ensuring smoke-free homes and cars through health and education programs like the ‘Deadly Places – Smoke Free Spaces’ initiative in schools and community events, which align perfectly with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme of ‘protecting the environment’. Ten years ago, smoking rates among Mob were 51%, now they’re down to 39%, but we can’t just focus on smoking cessation, we also need to focus on population health; to give people the right information to make good, healthy choices; to make Deadly Choices.”

World No Tobacco Day is an extremely important day to raise awareness in the community around smoking, to start a conversation and recognise the support that is needed among communities to give up tobacco use. “It’s an outstanding outcome to have our health education and promotional programs acknowledged globally, which reinforces the capacity of Deadly Choices to help close the gap in health and life expectancy outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities from right across the country,” confirmed IUIH CEO Adrian Carson

You can view the IUIH media alert released yesterday here and access further details of the World No Tobacco Day 2021 award winners on the WHO website here.

Image source: IUIH South East QLD Twitter.

Elcho Island Elders celebrate new dialysis nurse

After the plane lands on Elcho Island’s tiny airstrip, Malawa Dhamarrandji’s mood visibly shifts to a sense of calm. The Yolngu Elder insists on walking down the plane’s isle without assistance. It has been years between visits home for Mr Dhamarrandji, who relies on nurse-assisted dialysis in Darwin to stay alive. “Here in my home town, I reckon it’s paradise,” he said. “There’s all the family, it’s all family – all my grandsons, granddaughters, everyone.”

Mr Dhamarrandji and his late brother spent decades advocating for nurse-assisted renal chairs at their island home,the large Arnhem Land community of Galiwin’ku. Now, a renal unit that has been sitting unused in the community for years has been staffed by a nurse from Indigenous-owned health service Purple House. The organisation recently chartered a plane for its Darwin-based patients who wanted to host a ceremony celebrating the unit’s opening. “For the future, children and adults, be careful what you’re eating,” Mr Dhamarrandji said at the ceremony. “Prevent the sickness, prevent the kidney sickness.”

To view the ABC News article Elcho Island Elders celebrate new dialysis nurse and treatment, bringing them home to families in full click here.

Dianne Biritjalawuy Gondarra is among the group that has been pushing for nurse-assisted dialysis. Photo: Felicity James, ABC News.

New ACT suicide prevention service

A new program to help reduce suicide, and the impacts of suicide, within the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will be delivered by a lead Aboriginal community-controlled organisation service provider, Thirrili Limited. The program, which was an ACT Greens 2020 election commitment, will be delivered in partnership with the local postvention Way Back Support Service at Woden Community Service. Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said that Thirrili has been appointed as the service delivery provider through a community-led commissioning process to ensure culturally appropriate support is provided through this service.

To read the ACT Government media release New ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, intervention, postvention and aftercare program click here.

The ACT Government has committed $1.28 million to the new Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Integrated Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Postvention and Aftercare Service over its first two years. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Avoiding pre-term baby heartache

Starting life on an even field remains a challenge for Australian First Nations babies. The rate of stillborn and neonatal deaths for Australian First Nations babies is vastly disproportionate to that of non-First Nations babies. Not surprisingly, one of the leading causes of perinatal mortality for Australian First Nations babies is spontaneous preterm birth. Nationally, approximately 14% of babies born to First Nations mothers are preterm, compared with 8% of babies of non-First Nations mothers. The odds of preterm birth are increased when First Nations mothers have limited antenatal care and pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.

The key to improving outcomes is by providing the best possible pregnancy care and this should not begin following a positive pregnancy test. Providing good health care to women in the preconception period is a vital step in making a difference to better pregnancy outcomes. It offers an important opportunity to address a multitude of factors that can affect the health of generations.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Healthcare key to avoiding pain of pre-term baby heartbreak for First Nations parents in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Charity improves period product access

The Wurrumiyanga Women’s Centre on Bathurst Island in the NT has received a delivery of about 1,000 free period products to help women and girls in the community manage their periods. In remote Indigenous communities like this one, the cost of period products can be a massive barrier for many girls and women in managing their period. It’s not uncommon for packs of pads to retail for $15 or more. This delivery of period products is the 100th pallet of products distributed to remote Indigenous communities across Australia as part of the charity Share the Dignity’s Indigenous Menstrual Health program, in partnership with Libra.

Bathurst Island is part of the Tiwi Islands, located off the coast of the NT mainland. The delivery to the Wurrumiyanga community (Nguiui) coincided with World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Evita Puruntatameri, the Activities Supervisor at Wurrumiyanga Women’s Centre, said the exorbitant cost of pads and tampons is a challenge for many women and girls in the community. “Period products are incredibly expensive here on Tiwi so having support from Share the Dignity allows the women in our community to access products for free and in private,” Evita Puruntatameri said. “It makes such a massive difference to our health by not having to worry about the cost.”

To view the Women’s Agenda article This charity is working to give women better access to period products in remote Indigenous communities in full click here.

Cara Munn, Evita Puruntatameri, Sophia Tipuanantunirri (on ute), and Louise Kelantumama. Image source: Women’s Agenda website.

Significant inequities in paediatric health

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) say they want to ensure they provide services that are culturally responsive and inclusive for all of the patients we see. “It’s important to work in partnership with Aboriginal families and communities to foster strong reciprocal relationships that are responsive to the individual needs of Aboriginal people and their communities,” says SCHN Aboriginal Health Outcomes and Equity Manager Natasha Larter. “Significant health inequities still exist in paediatric health care. A recent analysis of SCHN data revealed that Aboriginal children and young people accessing our hospitals and services are twice as likely to die while in our care, present to our ED in higher triage categories. In addition, they are more likely to require admission to ICU than non-Indigenous children and young people.

“Aboriginality is a significant factor in poorer health outcomes, however it is important to understand the multiple factors behind the severity on presentation, and redirect the focus to work with Aboriginal patients, families, communities and organisations to change this. For example, we know that Aboriginal children and young people arrive sicker and often later, perhaps because of historical factors that make them fearful of going to health services.

By working closely with Aboriginal patients, families, communities and organisations, we better understand their social and cultural needs, and be sensitive to their concerns upon presentation to our services. We can provide appropriate support, a respectful service that instils trust in our clinicians and enable timely treatment that contributes to reducing Aboriginal mortality, unplanned representation and need for admission. Reconciliation plays an important part in a positive return in health and wellbeing outcomes across the life course for Aboriginal children and young people.”

To view the SCHN article National Reconciliation Week in full click here.

Image source: WA.gov.au website.

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: NACCHO CEO joins pre-election health discussion

Image in feature tile, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2022.

NACCHO joins pre-election health discussion

Yesterday Dr Norman Swan, who hosts the ABC Radio National Health Report, said as it has been a long election campaign with not much on health it had been decided for last Health Report before the election to try and cover health issues that have not been covered in the campaign by the major parties. Dr Norman Swan has hosted the pre-election health discussion with four experts talking about the pressing issues: what are the most pronounced problems, what type of care is the most effective, how should rebates work, and what health questions have not been raised at all.

The discussion begins with Dr Swan asking NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM about the recent study done of the economics of health care in Aboriginal communities. Ms Turner said that NACCHO commissioned Equity Economics to look at the gap in health expenditure in terms of what is paid by the government for all Australians and for Aboriginal people. It was found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people require an additional $5,042 per head of population which equates to a $4.4 billion shortfall in funding Aboriginal health in this country – $2.6 billion from the Commonwealth and $1.8 billion from the states and territories in terms of what they should be inputting.

Ms Turner said the figures had been adjusted for the health status of Aboriginal people, who have, on average, over two times the burden of disease that other Australians with a life expectancy still 8–9 years below that of other Australians. Ms Turner then outlined some horrific statistics: Aboriginal people are 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease, 3.3 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to suicide as youth, 2.1 times more likely to die in infancy and youth are 55 times more likely to die from RHD. What is driving this is, Ms Turner said, is the overall lack of equal funding to make up for the health gap, “we can’t close the gap between the life outcomes of our people until we get at least equal funding as other Australians do, on basis of need.”

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Considering health issues ahead of an election of the Health Report with Dr Norman Swan here.

Nigel Morton and half of the 500 residents of his town, Ampilatwatja, NT have diabetes. Image source: ABC News website.

Remote communities pay 39% more for food

Residents in remote Aboriginal communities pay the highest average price for food in Australia. Advocates say the next PM must act to ensure affordable, healthy food is available for all Australians. The local supermarket is the heart of Wirrimanu, a remote Aboriginal community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in WA’s Kimberley region. It’s the only shop of its size for 300 kms and it’s only open limited hours each day, supplying fresh and dry food, as well as clothing, basic furniture and some white goods.

Plastic curtains hang over the front door to keep dust and flies out, as residents enter to pick up their goods and use the ATM. But what’s really surprising about the store are the prices on the shelves. When SBS News visited the Wirrimanu Community Store, a 380g jar of Vegemite was selling for $13.25; a plain loaf of white bread for $4.99 and a two litre bottle of orange juice was priced at $7.20. A 500g bag of San Remo pasta cost $4.40 while a 250g packet of Arnott’s biscuits cost $5.85.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency estimates that residents of remote communities pay 39 per cent more for supermarket supplies than consumers in capital cities, and the gap could be widening. Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito was browsing the aisles, and told SBS News the community has little option but to pay the prices. “If people are desperate and hungry, they will buy whatever they must,” he said. Ronald has diabetes and said he’s trying to improve his diet, but the availability of fresh, affordable food is a major problem.

To view the SBS News article Remote communities pay 39 per cent more at the supermarket checkout than city shoppers. Here’s why that’s a problem. in full click here.

Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito says the community has few other options but to pay the prices. Image source: SBS News website.

Opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health

One of the most important presentations at this year’s 52nd RANZCO Congress was the launch of the college’s Vision 2030 and Beyond plan to overcome Australia’s long-standing and complex eye health equity issues. One of the presenters Dr Kristen Bell called for an Atlas of healthcare delivery to help address healthcare variance, depending on where people live. In her presentation on service delivery issues, Dr Bell – the Vision 2030 and Beyond clinical lead – said ophthalmology differs from other specialties, with 80% being outpatient care-based and 20% surgical. Chronic sight threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration make up the bulk of ophthalmic service delivery, with acute care often bypassing surgery and emergency to the outpatient setting.

Dr Bell presented maps of Australia showing very few public care areas outside of urban areas. NT and WA fund outreach from Darwin, Alice Springs and Broome, respectively, while Tasmania has recently started funding an additional service in the NW of the state, giving these three jurisdictions the best regional coverage. But across Australia, 30% of entire population and 65% of Indigenous patients have no or limited access to a publicly funded local outpatient service.

To view the Insight article A pivotal opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health in full click here.

Auntie Emily at the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, Darwin Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source: Optometry Australia.

TIS National Coordinator on new vaping laws

In the below video, National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Professor Tom Calma AO answers questions including:

    • What is vaping?
    • What are the current laws around nicotine vapes?
    • Can nicotine vaping help me stop smoking?

This video forms part of a campaign created by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking. You can view other resources, including a brochure and posters, developed for the campaign here.

NPS MedicineWise low literacy consumer resource

NPS MedicineWise has developed a number of low literacy consumer resources, which aims to support conversations between a Health Care provider and patient (or patient representative) regarding medicine choice for treatment of mild COVID illness in people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are at higher risk of disease progression.

The medicines mentioned in the resources are the two oral antivirals and the monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab. There are also FAQs for prescribers and dispensers working in ACCHOs for these same three medicines. The links below to the low literacy factsheets for use in ACCHOs and remote communities can be found on the NPS MedicinesWise website.

Paxlovid, Lagevrio (Molnupiravir), Sotrovimab (Xevudy). Image sources: FirstWord Pharma+, Medical Update Online, The Guardian, GSK UK Products.

Health services need to cater for the whole person

The University of Melbourne on-line Pursuit magazine has published an article Embracing Queer Indigenous Australia – Health services need to cater to the whole person as a human right, and that includes Indigenous LGBTIQ+ Australians by Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and University of Melbourne.  In the article, Todd Fernando says: I’ve been fortunate in my life to build a strong sense of pride in my identity as a queer Wiradjuri man. Despite this, my intersectionality – the way different identities can marginalise people or expose them to discrimination – is sometimes misunderstood, particularly in health settings.

This experience rings true for many queer Indigenous people, as evidenced in my recently submitted doctoral thesis exploring health equity for queer Indigenous people. The findings of my own and previous research highlight the need for services to understand the importance of catering to the full person. Because as humans, we don’t divide easily. Without further data that truly captures the lived experience of queer Indigenous people, no effective changes to systems can be lobbied for. The belief that heterosexuality is the preferred or ‘normal’ sexual orientation is as much a direct threat to the survival and advancement of queer Indigenous people as racism is.

To view Todd Fernando’s article in full click here.

Image source: 2SER Breakfast radio.

Keep mob healthy this winter with flu vax

The Lung Foundation of Australia are conducting a campaign from mid-May to June to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be vaccinated against respiratory diseases this flu season. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are eligible for a free flue vaccination. You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website for more information 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.

Arthritis Australia National Grants Program

Arthritis Australia has long been a leader in funding nationally and internationally based research programs to find solutions in the management of Arthritis. In the past three years Arthritis Australia has awarded many research projects, fellowships, scholarships, project grants and grant-in-aid projects from an annual donation sum of $7m.  Arthritis Australia’s National Grants Program is currently accepting applications for 2023. This year we are welcoming applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship sponsored by Janssen.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship is for research to be undertaken in 2023 for a duration of 12 months, in the field of Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Fellowship will be awarded to a researcher who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who has a team member who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The researcher must be currently undertaking post-doctoral work or following a recently completed Rheumatology Advanced training.

Applications are open until Friday 8 July 2022.

The can access further information about the National Research program here and the Fellowship Application form here. Applications should be forwarded to Arthritis Australia using this email link. If you have any further queries, please email Arthritis Australia using the email address here or call the Arthritis Australia office on 02 9518 4441.

Image source: Merri Health.