Acceleration of efforts to reduce overincarceration
The Joint Council on Closing the Gap met today and acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and agreed that joined up work between all governments in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is critical to reducing the rate at which Indigenous people are incarcerated, and thereby reduce deaths in custody. Given the urgency and enduring nature of this issue Joint Council agreed to the high priority of accelerating the critical work to establish a Policy Partnership on Justice with the aim of reducing youth and adult incarceration.
Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks said “It’s vital that governments, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, are taking urgent and decisive steps to address the overincarceration of our peoples. For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives will be at the table with Ministers, Attorneys’-General, government officials, corrections, policing, housing and health under a formal shared decision making arrangement.”
To view the Coalition of Peaks media release click here.
Photo: Getty. Image source: BBC News website.
Aboriginal people still dying in custody
Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney prison cell in 2015 after officers restrained him to stop him eating biscuits. During the struggle, he was pinned face-down by guards and jabbed with a sedative. Video later shown at his inquest captured his final moments: his laboured breathing and muffled screams under the pack of guards. “I can’t breathe,” he yelled repeatedly.
His case has parallels to that of African-American man George Floyd, whose death triggered global protests against racism and policing in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement also threw a spotlight on Australia’s own incarceration of indigenous people and their deaths in custody.
This week marks 30 years since a landmark inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The royal commission made hundreds of recommendations to address the crisis. But three decades on, the situation has worsened. Central to the problem is overrepresentation. Indigenous people are about 12 times more likely to be in custody than non-indigenous Australians.
That reality, a product of systemic problems and disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people, has prompted fresh anger over a lack of action. “The system is continuing to kill us and no one’s doing anything about it,” Paul Silva, the nephew of David Dungay Jr, said at a rally this week.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth spoke with Dan Bourchier, ABC Radio 666 Canberra ‘Afternoons’ yesterday about the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and intergenerational healing.
Fiona Cornforth said “it is an important time to do that reflecting. Though it’s something we carry every day, I think, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unfortunately, we’re at a point now where we’ve lost hope in recommendations being fully implemented, despite all our voices being in these reports over time and people being generous and courageous to put forward their stories, time and time again. Where the solutions are in community, the solutions are given up as important by those with lived experience. But the powers that be and the complex system, the incarceration system, and all the service providers, the big web just can’t seem to get these recommendations out of the too hard basket.”
The Morrison government has decided to delay introducing mandatory independent assessments (IAs) for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in a move strongly welcomed by disability groups.
New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said earlier this week that she would not be making any decisions around in IAs legislation until an IA trial was finished and the government could examine the feedback. While people currently need to get reports from multiple health providers of their choosing to assess their NDIS eligibility, the new mandatory assessments will be conducted by NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals using standardised tools.
The decision to introduce IAs has been met with overwhelming opposition from disability advocates, who say the process does not adequately capture the complexity of a person’s support needs and will lead to unfair outcomes for people with disability. Reynolds acknowledged the “significant feedback” IAs have already received, and said she would be consulting across the country with as many stakeholders as she could. Disability groups – who feared people would disengage from the scheme entirely because of their unwillingness to engage with IAs – strongly welcomed the minister’s comments.
To view the Pro Bono Australia article in full click here.
Image source: Pro Bono Australia News website.
The more that have the vaccine, the safer we’ll be
NACCHO CEO and lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner and NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey received their first AstraZeneca vaccines at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services last week. “The more people have the vaccinations, the safer we will be,” said Pat. “We’ve managed to keep our community free of any deaths from COVID-19 to date and we want to continue that outstanding record.”
Contact your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or GP to find out when you can receive your vaccine and to ask any questions you may have. To view the Pat Turner’s video click here.
Review of kidney transplant wait-listing
Research has confirmed poor access to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from the NT. The study found causes of delays to wait-listing included: failure to attend appointments due to competing priorities and communication barriers, access and navigating complex pathways to specialist services, transport, co-morbidities requiring multiple tests and multiple specialty services, and pressures on dialysis and hospital bed capacity.
The study concluded that barriers to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are complex and can be addressed by redesigning healthcare provision, including increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to provide education and patient navigation of the healthcare system and improve communication, streamlining investigations and coordinating specialist services.
A study has been undertaken to determine what lessons can be learned from the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacles Subsidy Scheme (VASSS). The VASSS, which started in July 2010 and has operated continually since, aims to improve access to visual aids and eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.
An estimated 10,853 VASSS cofunded visual aids were delivered over the first 6 years of the scheme. During that time the mean annual number of comprehensive eye examinations provided within services using VASSS grew 4.6-fold faster compared with the 4 years preceding the VASSS. VASSS achievements were attained through collaborations, flexibility, trust and communication between organisations, all facilitated by funding resulting from evidence-based advocacy.
Access to visual aids and eye examinations by Aboriginal Victorians has improved during the operation of the VASSS, with associated direct and indirect benefits to Aboriginal health, productivity and quality of life. The success of the VASSS may be replicable in other jurisdictions and provides lessons that may be applicable in other fields.
We are excited to announce that the NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant round will be opening soon!
IBSF offers funding to eligible ACCHOs to help address:
basic establishment costs, and/or
business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS.
Grants of $20,000will be available for up to 100 member ACCHOs. ACCHOs will be contacted shortly via email with information about the grants and how to apply.
Image source: AbSec website.
Outcry over fifth death in custody in a month
The fifth Indigenous death in custody in a month has provoked an outcry by Aboriginal leaders after a 45-year-old maximum security inmate died in a WA prison. The prisoner from WA’s Casuarina Prison, who has not been publicly identified was taken to the secure wing of Fiona Stanley Hospital in southern Perth where he underwent a medical procedure and was placed in intensive care where he died.
Among the outcry from Indigenous leaders, Victoria’s first Aboriginal politician, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe posted on Twitter that the man was “the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country’s criminal legal system since the start of March. The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!,” she wrote. Since 1991, almost 500 Indigenous Australians have died in prison or in the custody of police.
Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe (above at an Invasion Day rally in January) has protested at the fifth death in custody in a month. Picture: Darrian Traynor. Image source: news.com.au
Fears new NDIS assessments not culturally safe
Submissions to a parliamentary inquiry have raised concerns that controversial proposed changes to the NDIS will not serve people from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. A parliamentary committee examining controversial independent assessment reforms under the NDIS has been warned about the potential impact of changes on Indigenous and culturally diverse communities.
The inquiry is looking into the proposed changes intended to overhaul the evaluation process for determining an individual’s eligibility for support and funding under the disability support scheme. Currently, people with disability are required to submit evidence from their own experts such as specialists for evaluation by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
The reforms would instead see participants undergo an “independent assessment” from an allied health professional employed by contracted providers – paid for by the Australian government. Critics claim the move is a cost-cutting exercise that will leave participants worse off and undermine their control over the support they receive – a claim strongly denied by the government.
Ngarrindjeri Wirangu woman and artist Jackie Saunders lives with FASD. Image source: SBS News website.
Funding boost for Indigenous healthcare provider
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing has received nearly $2 million to expand its services. The Frankston-based Indigenous healthcare provider’s CEO, Karinda Taylor, said the funding would “ensure that first nations’ people are provided with culturally safe services that meet the health and wellbeing needs of local communities”. The funding was secured through the federal government’s Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme. and is expected to fund service expansion and minor capital costs until 2023.
Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said, “the City of Frankston is home to one of the fastest growing indigenous populations in Victoria. This funding will allow First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing to continue their crucial work and expand their local services. I’m proud to have lobbied the federal government for this additional funding”.
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing’s Naaz Stojkova & Karinda Taylor with MPs Peta Murphy & Paul Edbrooke. Image source: Bayside News.
Crusted scabies NT study
Scabies is listed as a neglected tropical disease by the World Health Organization. Crusted scabies affects vulnerable and immunosuppressed individuals and is highly contagious because of the enormous number of Sarcoptes scabiei mites present in the hyperkeratotic skin. Undiagnosed and untreated crusted scabies cases can result in outbreaks of scabies in residential facilities and can also undermine the success of scabies mass drug administration programs.
Crusted scabies became a formally notifiable disease in the NT in 2016. A 2-year prospective study of crusted scabies cases notified between March 2016 and February 2018, with subsequent follow up for 22 months has been conducted. Demographics, clinical and laboratory data, treatment and outcomes were analysed, with cases classified by severity of disease.
The study concluded that crusted scabies can be successfully treated with aggressive guideline-based therapy, but high mortality remains from underlying comorbidities. Reinfection on return to community is common while scabies remains endemic.
Sarcoptes scabiei mite under a microscope. Image source: Managing Crusted Scabies in Remote Communities 2017 Edition.
The Lucky Country – but not for all
Australia’s lack of action on climate change, treatment of Indigenous people and the ongoing detention of refugees have been singled out for criticism in Amnesty International’s annual report into the state of human rights around the world: Amnesty International Report 2020/21 – The State of the World’s Human Rights. The report highlighted widespread public support for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and Australian law makers reluctance to move on an important reform which would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children. “Australians like to see ourselves as living in the lucky country, and that’s true for the privileged among us, but there are swathes of our community who are unable to access justice and the basic rights to which we’re all entitled,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Samantha Klintworth, said.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Street Smart Action Against Homelessness website.
Check yourself, before you wreck yourself
A major push to improve the health of the Indigenous community was launched by the Australian Government last month, with a focus on increasing Annual health checks. Backed by a new radio advertising campaign delivered in five Aboriginal languages: Kriol, Yolngu Matha, Warlpiri, Arrernte and Burarra, the Government is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their GP and have a 715 health check.
The health check, listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, is tailored specifically to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages. It is free and available every nine to twelve months. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the health checks are an opportunity for early intervention, prevention and chronic disease management for all age groups.
In one of the campaign’s latest resources comedian Sean Choolburra urges mob to get a regular 715 health check. After completing his 715, Sean says there’s nothing to be afraid of. “It was what I expected – I had my hearing checked, my eyesight checked, and I thought my eyesight has been getting worse, but apparently Dr. Prabash says I have great eyes. No joke, I do have great eyes,” says Sean. “I’d love to bring my kids in because they seem to not hear me. And they don’t seem to see their clothes all over the floor and their empty cups. I think they’re the ones who need their eyes and hearing checked!” Sean jokes.
Further information, including resources for patients and health practitioners is available here.
To view the Minister for Health’s media release click here and to view the Sean Choolburra case study click here.
Comedian Sean Choolburra. Image source: Department of Health.
Suicide rises linked to disasters
NSW suicide deaths data released today highlights the need for immediate action to address distress in our community and future-proof against disasters. According to the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System there have been 104 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 31 January 2021. This is significantly more than the number of deaths reported within the same period in 2019 (75) or 2020 (81). Suicide Prevention Australia, CEO, Nieves Murray said, “Any increase in deaths by suicide is a tragedy. The ripple affect across families, workplaces and communities is unfathomable. “The past year has presented many trying circumstances across NSW communities including droughts, bushfires and COVID-19. This has increased risk factors for suicide such as financial distress and unemployment.
To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.
Image source: Psychiatric Times.
COVID-19 vaccine priority groups
In this video, Professor James Ward explains why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be some of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Ward says he’s heard some concerns regarding which vaccine people will get and why the vaccine is being rolled out to our mob first. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like other Indigenous peoples around the world, will be some of the first to receive the vaccines. This is solely to protect our Elders and those in our communities with underlying health conditions. Without the vaccine, our population will remain susceptible to COVID-19. When it’s your turn to be vaccinated, you’ll have access to whichever vaccine is available at that time. There’ll be enough vaccine doses for everyone in Australia.
VIC or ACT – Melbourne or Canberra – Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health x 1 PT (4 days/week)- Melbourne or Canberra
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of over 28,000 physiotherapists in Australia. It does so by advocating for access to quality physiotherapy services, providing leadership in the wider health landscape, creating lifelong learning opportunities for members, and promoting the value of physiotherapy to the community.
The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.
To view the job description and to apply click here. Applications close Wednesday 14 April 2021.
NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney
Senior Ad (identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney – CLOSING DATE EXTENDED
The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.
This role is primarily located at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney but will be required to spend short periods in rural and regional Australia.
To view position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close midnight Sunday 18 April 2021.
While Liverpool became a COVID-19 hotspot during the pandemic, not one case was recorded at the Gandangara clinic. Medical adviser to NACCHO, Jason Agostino, said Indigenous leadership was critical in this achievement. “All the ACCHOs across the country have just been really incredible in getting messages out to their communities about how to stay safe in the initial part of the pandemic and in those spots where there have been outbreaks, places in Melbourne, in Brisbane, have just been exceptional in supporting their communities and keeping them safe,” he said. “So it’s been a whole bunch of things all put together but at the heart of it is leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
The second phase of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started today with 33 ACCHOs being the first to administer the jab, including the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council’s health service in Liverpool, in Sydney’s south-west.
But questions remain within the community about the vaccine. “A lot of them are saying yes, a lot of them are just not sure,” said Dunghutti elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Aunty Gail, who’s worked in the health industry for almost 40 years, said despite the community’s low case numbers the pandemic had had a huge impact. “It was a big strain because they couldn’t go out or meet their families, a lot of us come from country areas we couldn’t go there as well,” she said. “I think it’s been tough across the board for everybody… but now we’re slowly getting back to it. I encourage everyone if they could, it’s up to them, [but] if its gonna help our community and our people, why not, because we’re survivors and we want to survive for our next generations as well.”
Dunghutti Elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Image source: ABC News website.
Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance launched
Kimberley-based Aboriginal community-controlled and government health services, research institutes and universities have united to form the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance (KAHRA) with the objective of improving and promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley through the development and application of practical health research. This collaboration combines the power of research to drive evidence-based change, the commitment of regional health services, and the vast cultural knowledge and strength of communities.
The development of collaborative projects utilising the strengths of the Alliance will seek to drive change to health outcomes, policy and services within the Kimberley and ultimately improve health outcomes of Kimberley Aboriginal community members. KAHRA has already seen unprecedented collaboration across health services in the region, with a collective voice advocating for better use of data to inform health service delivery in the region. Work has begun on a project to enable health services and researchers to see the full picture of disease burden in the region.
KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell speaking at the launch of KAHRA.
Rhetoric and action gap needs to close
As communities across Australia mark National Close the Gap Day, leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have come together to call for enduring reforms to support self-determination and tangible outcomes for First Peoples. According to Pastor Mark Kickett, UAICC Interim Chair, “after 13 years of Closing the Gap, it is time to turn rhetoric into real action that genuinely empowers First Peoples and delivers lasting benefits.
Pastor Kickett continued, “the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has the potential to be a gamechanger. But we are yet to see the structural change and funding commitments needed to achieve real reform, and pressure needs to be kept on governments to maintain their commitments and to apply the principles of reform that they signed off in 2020. Real change requires more than words and minor policy tinkering. It requires closing the gap between rhetoric and action. And it requires enduring structural and constitutional reform to empower First Peoples to take leadership in their affairs, in true partnership with government. The response of our communities to COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of community-led action and the enduring resilience, creativity, and decisiveness of First Peoples leaders and governance.”
Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church lamented with First Peoples the ongoing health inequality, lack of self-determination, experiences of racism, high incarceration rates and the tragic prevalence of preventable deaths in custody. Dr Palmer said investing in solutions led by First Peoples was key to Closing the Gap.
Mutitjulu elders at Uluru. Photo by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Image source: BBC News.
Aged care fails remote communities
For the last five years, Mary Dadbalag, aged in her 90s and confined to a wheelchair, has been living in a tent on a verandah in the NT remote community of Jibena. For the last three years, her granddaughter Jacqueline Phillips has been knocking on every government service provider’s door she can think of asking for help to get her grandmother a bedroom built with a toilet attached. She said her grandmother is living in the tent at the edge of what she described as a “chicken house” because she can’t get to the nearest toilet 20 metres away over grass in her wheelchair, but she can shuffle to the edge of the verandah.
“It’s upsetting, not healthy and not hygienic. Like, her tent is just right next to where she does her toilets. She’s a great, great, great-grandmother, one of the last elders of our region and she’s just not being respected.” Ms Phillips is worried her grandmother may continue to fall through the cracks. “There needs to be better aged care services, especially for the people on the homelands,” she said. “We really need the federal government to listen to the very remote communities and provide that service, it’s human rights.”
Mary Dadbalag has been living in a tent on the veranda of a makeshift home. Image source: ABC News.
High youth detention FASD rates acknowledged
Danila Dilba Health Service has welcomed the release of the Senate’s report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (17 March 2021). Danila Dilba provides comprehensive primary health services within the Darwin/Palmerston region, including to many children and families impacted by FASD or other neurodevelopmental impairments. The release of the Senate’s report the day before National Close The Gap Day provides a timely reminder of the tangible ways the government can fulfil its commitment to address the health gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.
The report highlights the need to incorporate FASD prevention, assessment, and management into a comprehensive primary health care model. In particular, the Senate Committee recognises the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) like Danila Dilba in delivering culturally appropriate, holistic care to families affected by FASD.
Danila Dilba’s Head of Clinical Governance, Dr Andrew Webster, gave evidence to the inquiry about the lack of culturally appropriate assessment, therapeutic interventions, and support for children with FASD and their families, “ACCHOs can provide a ‘one-stop shop’ within a trusted service rather than families having to go through the process of diagnosis and therapy with multiple providers. Sadly, due to the barriers to assessment, many children suffering from FASD or other impairments do not get a diagnosis, and so are unable to receive the supports that they need. It is these children that we then unfortunately see coming to the attention of the child protection and justice systems.”
To view Danila Dilba’s media release in full click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Yesterday the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called upon Canberrans to reflect on their personal responsibility in combatting racism. “This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against Racism’, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the power that young people have in shifting narratives and creating change, both online and in person,” said ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racism to the forefront of global conversation. In Australia it drew attention to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system, and reignited conversations about racism and implicit bias more broadly.”
To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.
Diabetes management in Aboriginal communities webinar
The first webcast session of a four-part series of interprofessional webinars focusing on Diabetes management in an Aboriginal community will be held from 12:30–1:30 PM this Thursday 25 March 2021.
The webcast, Prevention and Control of Type-2 Diabetes in Aboriginal Communities: Changing Dietary, Activity and Lifestyle Patterns will explore evidence-based approaches and practical strategies for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behaviour changes to support the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people. Barriers and solutions to improving engagement with Aboriginal communities will also be discussed.
Diabetes is a complex condition that can impact people in different ways. It has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This webcast provides an overview of the prevalence of diabetes in the Aboriginal population, discusses risk factors for early diabetes detection and focuses on the key lifestyle behaviours for the prevention and management of diabetes. Key nutritional considerations relating to the use of whole foods, fibre, carbohydrates and how to shop on a budget will be discussed. Further to this, stress management, importance of sleep, exercise, flexibility and ways to reduce sedentary behaviour will be covered. The presenters will also discuss their local Aboriginal community group programs, including culturally safe practices.
For more information you can download an event flyer here and register here.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
First Nations COVID-19 vaccine implementation plan released
The Australian Government has released its COVID-19 Vaccination Program – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Implementation Plan. This Implementation Plan is for the COVID-19 vaccination program for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples over 18 years of age. This plan has been developed in consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, and with state and territory governments.
It’s one of the busiest and most esteemed emergency rooms in the country, but for decades some of the most vulnerable have slipped through the cracks. Located in the heart of Sydney’s nightlife district, St Vincent’s Hospital has saved thousands of lives — but it was considered the worst in the state when it came to caring for certain patients. “A high number of Aboriginal people were coming in through our emergency department and were leaving us, not completing their treatment,” said Pauline Deweerd, director of Aboriginal health at the hospital.
Some months, as many as one in three patients left the hospital before receiving the vital care they needed. “It was because of past bad experiences, they didn’t like waiting, and they didn’t like the way we treated them,” Ms Deweerd said. It was a persistent, hard to address problem, even for a hospital that has a reputation for providing top-notch emergency medicine.
But in the middle of a global pandemic the hospital found a solution, and doctors are certain the rest of the country can learn from it. “It’s our attempt at closing the gap for our small part of the health world; we not only brought it to the level of the general population, we made it a little better,” Dr Preisz said.
Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito. Image source: ABC News website.
Former PM urges women to get COVID-19 vaccine
Julia Gillard has had her coronavirus jab, urging everyone – and particularly women – to get vaccinated. The former PM joined Health Minister Greg Hunt and Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy to be among the first to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at a Melbourne clinic on Sunday 7 March 2021. “Me being here today is a visible representation that no matter what side of politics you barrack for, no matter whom you intend to vote for, there is a united message,” Ms Gillard told reporters. “Please get the vaccine. And particularly to Australian women, can I say, please get the vaccine.
She understands that people might feel a little bit anxious, but recommended they get their information from reliable sources, such as the Australian government or from their local health practitioner. “Whether it’s smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, influenza, and now COVID-19, vaccinations can save lives and protect lives,” Mr Hunt said.
AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses from overseas are being given to frontline health and hotel quarantine workers, as well as aged and disability care residents and staff, as part of phase 1a. The AMA said more than 130 respiratory clinics and over 300 Aboriginal community controlled health service sites will support the phase 1b rollout.
To view the full SBS News article click here and to listen to a Julie Gillard urging Australians to get the COVID-19 vaccine click here.
Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Image source: SBS News website.
“South Australia’s economic and health response to the COVID-19 threat has been world-leading, and we are focused on working with our health experts to deliver a safe and quick roll out of the vaccines,” SA Premier Marshall said. “This is the biggest peacetime operation in our state’s history, and a big plank in our plan to keep South Australia safe and strong. “The roll out is happening right across the State, with our three key hubs in the north, south and centre of Adelaide all operational, and our regional hubs also progressing .”
Minister Wade said the rollout continues to expand into regional areas with 240 doses of the vaccine arriving at Coober Pedy Hospital today.
“Frontline staff of the Coober Pedy Health Service, Umoona Tjutagku Aboriginal Health Service and Umoona Aged Care as well as aged care residents will receive their COVID-19 vaccine over the next four days. It is an excellent example of cooperation across all sectors of Health and Aged Care in the Eyre and Far North Local Health Network, SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said.
To view the SA Premier’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Umoona Tjutagku Health Service Aboriginal Corporation website.
Over 55s in next phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More GPs and health clinics will be involved in the vaccine rollout every week from March 22, as the mass COVID-19 vaccination program enters its next phase. Federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy says phase 1b of the vaccine rollout will include adults based on their vulnerability to getting COVID-19. “[It] will involve the over 80s who are most at risk as a general group, then the over 70s, and those who are immunocompromised. We will have our Indigenous Australians over 55 as well as frontline emergency service and defence workers.”
The staged commencement of general practices will be complemented by GP-led respiratory clinics and Aboriginal community controlled health services. The AMA said more than 130 respiratory clinics and over 300 Aboriginal community controlled health service sites will support the phase 1b rollout.
Professor Marcia Langton AO, The University of Melbourne.
Pain treatment and opioid use – have your say!
NACCHO is working on a project to create some support materials for pain management and the use of opioid medicines, including for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is looking for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consumers and health professionals to take part in group discussion to understand the important issues so that the materials made can be useful.
If you are a health consumer and experience pain and use opioids or are interested in pain management as a practitioner in your ACCHO we invite you to contribute to this project. NACCHO will provide financial compensation for your participation.
System must be held accountable for deaths in custody
Responding to news that two Indigenous people died in custody in NSW in the past week, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead Nolan Hunter said: “We’re coming up to the 30 year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody (RCIADIC) and it feels as though very little has changed. For example, recommendation 165 called for the screening and removal of hanging points that could be used for self-harm; now nearly 30 years later, we hear of an Indigenous woman who used such a hanging point to tragically take her own life. Here we have two tragic deaths in custody and the Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin claims the system can be accountable, while not making these tragedies public.”
To view Amnesty International’s media quote in full click here. and a related article in The Sydney Morning Herald here.
Image source: ABC News website.
World Kidney Day
Kidney disease is a non-communicable disease (NCD) and currently affects around 850 million people worldwide. One in ten adults has chronic kidney disease (CKD). Being diagnosed with kidney disease can be a huge challenge, both for the patient and those people around them. Its diagnosis and management, particularly in advanced stages of kidney disease, impacts severely upon their lives by reducing their, and that of family and friends, ability to participate in everyday activities like work, travel and socialising whilst causing numerous problematic side effects – e.g. fatigue, pain, depression, cognitive impairment, gastrointestinal problems and sleep problems.
This year World Kidney Day continues to raise awareness of the increasing burden of kidney diseases worldwide and to strive for kidney health for everyone, everywhere. Specifically, the World Kidney Day Steering Committee has declared 2021 the year of “Living Well with Kidney Disease”. This has been done in order to both increase education and awareness about effective symptom management and patient empowerment, with the ultimate goal of encouraging life participation.
When compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Indigenous Australians
Are more than twice as likely to live with biomedical markers of chronic kidney disease – representing 1 in 5 Indigenous Australian adults
Experience an increased prevalence of significant medical co-morbidities
Have a median onset of ESKD around 30 years younger
Are almost 4 times as likely to die with CKD as a cause of death
Have incidence rates of renal replacement therapy (RRT) 8 – 9 times greater
Are less likely to receive dialysis in a home setting (either peritoneal or haemodialysis)
Are less likely to receive a kidney transplantation
Have worse outcomes from transplantation
Are more likely to live in very remote or remote areas which is associated with poorer health outcomes
Experience a greater psycho-social impact of their disease
For further information on World Kidney DayThursday11 March 2021click here.
My Kidney Journey by Inawinytji Williamson, a Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjara woman and kidney patient. Image source: World Kidney Day website.
2021 Indigenous Wellbeing Conference
The Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMHA) has announced details of its new conference, the 2021 Indigenous Wellbeing Conference to take place in Cairns from 7–8 October 2021.
Its theme will be “Honouring Indigenous Voices & Wisdom: Balancing the System to Close the Gap” and will showcase a high calibre of keynote speakers and presenters, covering four vital topics: (1) Promoting Wellness, (2) Social, Emotional & Cultural Determinants, (3) Community Care & Social Recovery and (4) Service Care & Recovery.
With a vision to “shine light on the key challenges in Indigenous communities and address the past and present issues contributing to inequities in mental health treatment and care,” the conference is set to enlighten, educate, and share the hard truths amongst keynote speakers, presenters and attendees.
For more information about the conference and to register click here.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety made several recommendations aimed at improving access to culturally safe aged care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Radical change is needed to provide appropriate aged care which draws on Aboriginal culture, says the National Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care (NAGATSIAC). NAGATSIAC chair and CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Jill Gallagher AO has urged the Federal Government to swiftly adopt all recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report.
“The Royal Commission’s recommendations call for radical change and acknowledge that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and organisations are best placed to serve Aboriginal Elders. Ms Gallagher said the aged care system had “profoundly failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and these long overdue changes would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to access aged care that meets their needs. Elders are the keepers of Culture and the heart of our Communities.”
A new health awareness video has been produced by registered Australian health charity Dragon Claw, with funding from the Federal Government, in response to research showing that our First Australians suffer disproportionately from musculoskeletal conditions. The video was developed in conjunction with the Dubbo and Coonamble Aboriginal Health Services and is focused on raising the awareness in the community of the support and treatment that is available for the debilitating impacts of musculoskeletal conditions in Aboriginal communities across Western NSW.
Unaware that seeking help for what, in many cases are treatable ailments, a significant number of our fellow Australians continue to accept their symptoms as the unavoidable ‘aches and pains’ of life – leading to needless suffering and physical impairment. The video features local Aboriginal people, in their own words, encouraging everyone, irrespective of age, to seek the help of their local healthcare providers and then to follow their treatment plan with the prescribed medications.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Report was tabled in Parliament this week. The final report, titled Care, Dignity and Respect, made 148 recommendations following a two-year investigation into the structural issues in governance and funding in the aged care sector. Commissioners Lynelle Briggs and Tony Pagone said the sector needs a significant boost in funding, a levy similar but separate to the Medicare levy and to bolster the role of an independent pricing authority for the sector. The commissioners recommended a new Aged Care Act be put in place by July 2023, recommending a system based on a “universal right to high quality, safe and timely support and care”.
Adrian Carson CEO of Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) said it was clear that the commissioners listened to Indigenous Elders and Indigenous community-controlled providers of aged care services and their experiences. “Our Elders experience challenges attempting to navigate and access their entitlement to aged care,” he said. “The series of significant recommendations reflect what the sector has been saying for some time, the report called the system out on a few big things, including the complete silence around the new national Closing the Gap agreement, it didn’t pay attention to the needs of our Elders, it didn’t set targets or have health commitments for our Elders. It was a huge oversight and I commend the Royal Commission for calling that system out, we’re keen to ensure that not only the recommendations happen, but that the needs of our Elders are reflected in the broader conversation when talking about how we close the gap.”
Matthew Moore General Manager of Aged and Disability Services at the IUIH said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are “underrepresented in a system where they should be overrepresented. Only 17% of Aboriginal eligible Elders that are over 50 access a part of the aged care system compared to the mainstream engagement that sits [at] over 27%.”
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.
Germanus Kent House resident Bertha Linty and care worker Victoria Gardener. Image source: Aged Care Guide website.
Vision 2020 Australia welcome Royal Commission recommendations
Vision 2020 Australia has welcomed the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and is strongly supportive of recommendations that would address some of the major issues the sector has raised around current arrangements for older Australians living with blindness and vision loss.
A key recommendation contained in the final report was establishing tailored pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need aged care support, an important part of the broader work done to ensure that all Australians can access culturally safe care and support.
In its recent submission to the 2020–21 Federal Budget Vision 2020 Australia is calling for $37.38 million over 4 years for enhancements to the current aged care system to make it simpler, quicker and more affordable for older Australians who develop or live with permanent vision loss to get the technology and supports they need.
To view the Vision 2020 Australia media release click here and to access their recent submission to the 2020–21 Federal Budget click here.
Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.
Aboriginal healthy ageing – the Ironbark Project
Would your service like to be part of research that shows how important community programs are for older Aboriginal people?
The Ironbark Project compares the health impacts of two programs: Standing Strong and Tall program (a weekly exercise and yarning circle) and Healthy Community program (a weekly social program) among groups of Aboriginal people aged 45 years and older.
Services that work with groups of older Aboriginal people (45 years and older) are invited to participate in the study. Services will be funded and trained to run one of these programs weekly for 12 months
For more details about the Ironbark Project click here and to view a flyer for the project click here.
Interested NSW services can register for the 30 minute webinar being held from 2:00– 2.30 PM on Thursday 18 March 2021 by clickinghere.
Mental health report a template for the nation
The report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System aligns in many ways with the recent report of the Productivity Commission, strengthening the impetus for more effective and equitable care and support Australia-wide, the Consumers Health Forum of Australia says. “The Victorian report shares with the Productivity Commission’s mental health report a blueprint for a fresh standard of support and access to care for mental health. The direction of both reports conquers the habitual barriers that have previously consigned mental health care to second class status compared to what’s routinely available for people with physical illness,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said.
Image source: Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative Limited website.
Only 10% of remote NT kids have healthy ears
In remote communities across the NT, only one in 10 Aboriginal children younger than three years have healthy ears, a new report in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has found. Five have otitis media (OM) with effusion (OME) or ‘glue ear’, and four have suppurative OM – acute OM (AOM) with or without perforation, or chronic suppurative OM (CSOM) ‘The level of ear disease in Aboriginal [and Torres Strait Islander] children is defined by the World Health Organization [WHO] as meeting a public health emergency,’ the study’s lead author Professor Amanda Leach told newsGP.
According to Professor Leach, leader of the Ear Health Research Program at the Child Health Division of Menzies School of Health Research, any rate of OM above 4% is considered a public health emergency. The rate of chronic suppurative OM in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NT currently sits between 12–15%. ‘We started off here with around 24%, so it’s definitely come down,’ she said. ‘But we’re a long way away from that target.’
NT Minister for Education, Lauren Moss, says the Territory Labor Government is investing $1.65 million in acoustic upgrades in Territory schools to support high-quality and inclusive education for students. “Improving the acoustic quality of the classrooms makes it easier for our children to learn and hear. 75 classrooms across the Territory are set to receive these works. This funding comes in addition to the $5.2 million Building for Inclusion funding announced in January 2020, where 21 urban classrooms were fitted with specialist amplification systems, designed to support students with hearing difficulties and those who need additional support to focus in class.
To view the full article in newsGPclick here and to view Minister Moss’ media release about the acoustic infrastructure upgrades for NT schools click here.
Image source: newsGP.
Yarning towards life after stroke
Two new studies, focused on speaking and listening from the heart, will seek to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with stroke to self-manage their stroke recovery. Dr Heidi Janssen and Dr Di Marsden from the Hunter New England Local Health District each received $50,000 grants to kick-start their projects as part of the 2021 Stroke Foundation Research Grants round..
Stroke Foundation Research Advisory Committee Chair Professor Amanda Thrift said Dr Janssen and Dr Marsden will partner with the community to gain knowledge and develop new supports to help survivors of stroke live well. “Sadly, too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being affected by stroke,” Professor Thrift said. “Due to recognised disadvantage, the average age of onset of first-ever stroke is 54, 17 years younger than the non-indigenous population and the burden of stroke is 2.3 times as high.
To view the Stroke Foundation article in full click here.
Coral Toomey cares for her husband Bill Toomey who suffered a stroke. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.
CARE for Rural Australia comes to Queensland
OzHelp Foundation (OzHelp) with the support of Perpetual Trustees, has partnered with Dr Meg Perceval, Be Health, and the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) through Griffith University to deliver CARE for Rural Australia. With the initial goal of reaching 300 people across Queensland’s rural and farming communities, a total of 18 CARE for Rural Australia workshops are available free of charge, through both face-to-face and online workshops during March.
Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation employees harvest spinifex grass on the outskirts of Camooweal, Qld. Image source: The University of Queensland website.
COVID-19 vaccine for people affected by cancer
Following from the COVID-19 Vaccines and Cancer virtual roundtable in Mid-February, Cancer Australia has released a new webpage with dedicated information on the COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer. This information will supplement the broader information provided to clinicians and the community as part of the Australian Government’s national COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy.
The information is available to view here and the FAQs can be viewed here.
Over the coming weeks, Cancer Australia will release, in collaboration with our Indigenous colleagues, tailored information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer. Cancer Australia will also be translating the FAQs into different languages to support culturally and linguistically diverse populations affected by cancer. In order to address the ongoing information needs of people affected by cancer, Cancer Australia will be regularly updating the FAQs as new information emerges about COVID-19 vaccines and cancer. Cancer Australia would also appreciate any further information or feedback you may have on the FAQs.
Image source: The Guardian.
Legal challenge launched over proposed Dan Murphy’s store
Danila Dilba Health Service has launched legal proceedings over the decision to approve a large Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin. In the legal action filed in the NT Supreme Court, the Darwin-based Aboriginal community organisation is asking for the liquor licence approval to be set aside. The court document names the Director of Liquor Licensing and Woolworths Group – which owns Dan Murphy’s – as the defendants to the action. Maurice Blackburn’s Social Justice Practice is running the case. Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen said the decision to approve the liquor licence failed to properly weigh up the risks and benefits of the new store.
Someone else who is opposed to the Dan Murphy’s store is psychologist Dr Damien Howard. Dr Howard has provided counselling services at Bagot Community in Darwin for over 10 years. He has seen the attempts of the dry community to keep thee damaging effects of alcohol out of the community. He has seen the havoc alcohol causes in family life and is dismayed that Woolworths wants to place a Dan Murphy’s alcohol megastore nearby the community, against the strong wishes of the Bagot community. The Dan Murphy grog megastore in Darwin is being pursued by Woolworths and is opposed by local dry Aboriginal communities as it will cause more:
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome
alcohol related violence, including family violence
Dr Howard says while espousing reconciliation Woolworth’s actions are carving a place for themselves in corporate infamy.
Hearing loss and dementia research
In December 2020, the Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA) commissioned Mark Laureyns of the Thomas More University College in Antwerp, to write a paper examining the rapidly evolving research linking the treatment of midlife hearing loss and the prevention of dementia in later life. In doing this, Mark had the brief to only utilise research that had appeared in peer reviewed journals over the past 4 years.
Dementia, Hearing Loss and Hearing Care: Saving Australia’s Minds provides compelling, peer-reviewed evidence for early hearing care intervention to prevent dementia. A key finding of the latest research finds that hearing loss in mid-life is the largest modifiable risk factor for age-related dementia.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death amongst Australians and the leading cause of death amongst Australian women. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, whose report was recently released, made 148 recommendations. Of those, 14 related to dementia. With an ageing population and increasing costs of providing aged care, now is the time to seize the opportunity for a preventative hearing health strategy that will address the link between age-related hearing loss and dementia.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation is seeking a dynamic, forward-thinking CEO to lead the delivery of health and wellbeing services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in southern NSW.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services works in partnership with local health services to ensure that their clients receive culturally appropriate medical, dental, social and emotional wellbeing services. Their vision is “for Aboriginal people to live healthy lives enriched by a strong living culture, dignity and justice and for Katungul’s work to be recognised as a driving force in achieving this.
The CEO is accountable to the Board and is responsible for the delivery of the objectives outlined in the strategic plan.
You will be responsible for strengthening partnerships with local health providers, expansion of the current operating areas and development of a community engagement strategy to ensure that services on offer remain relevant and in line with their client’s needs.
The CEO has the support of an Executive Officer and leads the four main organisational areas of Community Services, Health Services, Business Services and Governance, and Finance.
The role is based in Narooma, with additional offices and clinics in Bega and Batemans Bay. Katungul covers a wide operational base, and travel throughout the region is essential.
We are looking for a person who is decisive, proactive and results-oriented who likes to achieve excellence, is innovative and can communicate to customers and team members with flair and style. A natural leader who is enthusiastic and good at seeing the big picture whilst focusing on results.
This is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identified position. Applicants must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent (pursuant to Section 14 (d) of the Anti-discrimination Act and Confirmation of Aboriginality will be required.
For full details of the requirements of the role and the selection criteria, please refer to the position description attached below or contact Natalie on 0439 626 393 or email@example.com for a confidential discussion.
Post Doctoral Research Fellow x 1 FT (fixed term for 2 years) – Newcastle
The School of Medicine and Public Health College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing, The University of Newcastle has a vacancy for a Post Doctoral Research Fellow. In the position you will collaborate with influential Professors and research leaders within Aboriginal health research to lead Aboriginal health ethics projects nationally.
Research Assistant x 1 FT (fixed term) – Sydney – The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
The University of Sydney’s Centre for Kidney Research is seeking a Research Assistant to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to undertake research and develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
During Hearing Awareness Week, it is important to remember that Aboriginal Australian children have one of the highest rates of chronic otitis media (middle ear infection) in the world. They are three times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to experience permanent hearing loss associated with ear disease.
Children living in regional and remote communities are particularly at risk of long-term hearing problems due to environmental determinants such as poor housing and infrastructure, overcrowding, and exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke.
In Australia, some Aboriginal communities report that up to 40% of their children suffer from chronic otitis media. Early diagnosis and management of otitis media, as well as measures aimed at improving environmental health conditions, are key elements in avoiding hearing loss, and the consequent effect on a child’s language, education and psychosocial development.
The Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) model of holistic, comprehensive primary care is best suited to provide this early intervention and to address environmental determinants of poor ear health. ACCHOs are embedded within communities and can provide regular education, screening and treatment for children in a culturally secure, family-oriented environment.
To view the Aboriginal Health Council of WA’s We’re all Ears for Hearing Awareness Week media release click here.
2021 Close the Gap Campaign report launch
The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.
The Australia Institute is delighted to invite you to the launch of the 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report “Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe”, written by the Lowitja Institute. Speakers include:
June Oscar AO
Co-Chair, Close the Gap Campaign
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
Co-Chair, Close the Gap Campaign
CEO of National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners
Dr Janine Mohamed
CEO, Lowitja Institute
and special guest
Sir Michael Marmot
Chair, WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health
The report will be launched via webinar, on National Close the Gap Day – Thursday 18 March – hosted by the Australia Institute in support of the Close the Gap Campaign.
Noon AEDT (ACT, VIC, NSW, TAS)
11:30 AM ACDT (SA) / 11 AM AEST (QLD)
10:30 AM ACST (NT) / 9.00 AM AWST (WA)
The webinar is free, but registration is essential – to register click here.
NBA star, Patty Mills is providing pathways for young Indigenous talent as a way to give back to the game in Australia. Patty Mills hopes the new league he has launched will give more Indigenous children the chance to not only play basketball at high levels but to achieve better educational and health outcomes. Mills said “Basketball as a sport has brought me happiness, joy, education and a real sense of purpose and perspective. It has changed my world and shaped the person I am today. However, not everyone has had the same opportunities as I have, which is why I’m so dedicated to using my platform, my profile and my voice to develop innovative programs like the Indigenous Basketball Association, which will allow my people to really own their story. I have spent over 10 years in the NBA, an organisation that has not only supported and championed me as an athlete, but celebrated my cultural identity as an Australian, an Indigenous man of the land.”
Yesterday NACCHO Chairperson Donnella Mills gave an address at the opening ceremony of the Indigenous Community Basketball League at the Cairns Basketball Stadium. Donnella addressed the teams gathered saying “I don’t know as much about basketball as you all do, but I can share with you a few observations about health and how important sport is in keeping us all fit and healthy. Playing sport is not just good fun. Sport has a huge impact on a person’s daily life and health. Sport improves your heart function; reduces the risk of diabetes; lowers stress; and improves your wellbeing and strength of mind.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people usually fare pretty badly in the statistics and the press tends to focus on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. You are all living-and-breathing examples of what we can achieve and you should all be proud. In fact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do particularly well in sports statistics. Look at the amazing international career of Patty Mills, it speaks for itself.”
To access the article ‘We’re creating history’: Mills making Indigenous hoop dreams a realityclick here, to view the NBA endorses Mills’ Indigenous Basketball Association news item click here, and to read Australian Men’s Health‘s glowing endorsement of Patty Mills’ initiative click here.
Far North Queensland teams at the Opening Ceremony of the Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) on Sunday 7 February 2021.
Bill passed to decriminalise public drunkenness
The Victorian Lower House has passed a bill to decriminalise public drunkenness, 30 years after it was first recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Upper House is expected to vote on the bill in coming weeks and if approved being drunk in a public place will no longer be treated as a criminal offence but rather a health issue, with reforms to be implemented over the next two years.
The move was triggered by the death of 55-year-old Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who was asleep on a V/Line train before she was arrested and taken to the Castlemaine Police Station in 2017. Ms Day was left unattended in a holding cell where she fell and hit her head at least five times, causing traumatic brain injuries which later ended her life.
Ms Day’s death was a haunting reminder of a strikingly similar tragedy that could have been prevented if public drunkenness offences were repealed decades earlier. On a winter afternoon in 1987, Gunai man Arthur Moffatt, 51, boarded a regional train from Moe to Morwell in eastern Victoria after spending the day enjoying a few drinks with friends. During his trip, Mr Moffatt suffered a diabetic hypoglycaemic attack (low blood sugar levels), which was a mixed reaction to the alcohol in his system and a lack of food, according to a federal inquiry into his death. He then fell unconscious and missed his stop but was soon carried off the train and taken by officers to Warragul Police Station where he died hours later in a cell.
Associate Professor Gillian Gould and her all-women team comprising Aboriginal researchers, non-Indigenous researchers and experts have secured a $50,000 grant to support development of the MAMA-EMPOWER App. The app provides tailored support for women to tackle risk factors affecting their health. The funding from the NSW Government’s Investing in Women funding program allows for further development of the system designed to address the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal women during preconception or pregnancy.
Associate Professor Gould is based in Coffs Harbour, where she has established a University of Newcastle-affiliated research hub. Team member and University of Newcastle based Research Manager for the project, Dr Nicole Ryan said, “This funding will help in incorporating feedback from local women to not only make it culturally appropriate but to include evidence-based guidance for the individual person.”
The app provides tailored support to women to tackle four risk factors impacting their health – smoking, alcohol, physical activity, and low fruit and vegetable intake. It will incorporate behavioural change techniques such as goal setting and reminders and has an interface that is easy to connect with.
To view the Coffs Coast News of the Area article click here.
Associate Professor Gillian Gould. Image source: The University of Newcastle Australia.
Making diabetes care culturally safe
Gulumerridjin Traditional Custodian and Karrajarri man Christopher Lee is taking action to support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with Diabetes. Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement at Diabetes Australia, Lee was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2014. “I was diagnosed around 2014 out in Toowoomba. I went in for the Deadly Choices check, then they rang me back and said doctor needs to see you. I rock up and he tells me I have Type 2 Diabetes. I had no idea what it was, was it poor lifestyle choice? Was my upbringing wrong?”
Now, seven years on, Lee has a lot more knowledge around Diabetes but has faced ignorance and adversity. “We are genetically predisposed to getting Diabetes,” he said. “I went through four or five different Aboriginal Medical Services in southeast Queensland. In one of them, the doctor said it was my fault, I had made poor lifestyle choices and brought it on myself.”
Researching on the internet and sifting through resources, it wasn’t until Lee got to yarn with a friend did he find confidence. “It wasn’t until I found a brother that we got to sit and yarn. We spoke about his Type 2 Diabetes and what I needed to know,” he said. “A yarning conversation with someone I respected, someone I trusted, and in a language I understood. From that point, I had a basic understanding and through talking with some fantastic health professionals, I’ve built up the trust to ask why this happens.”
To view the full article in the National Indigenous Times click here.
The Australian Department of Defence has confirmed that 2,200 US marines, in batches of 200–500, will arrive in Darwin between now and June this year as part of an annual training rotation. Earlier this year, the use of a Darwin CBD hotel as a quarantine facility for international military arrivals was the subject of significant criticism from health groups, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).
The Department of Defence says each marine will have to do a coronavirus test within 72 hours of their departure and show a negative result before boarding the plane to Australia. After they touch down in the NT, the marines will have to do another COVID-19 test and then undertake 14 days of quarantine. Before leaving quarantine, each person will be tested again for COVID-19. To accommodate the large group, the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin unit has rented a secure facility outside Darwin for most of the US arrivals to quarantine in. The first two groups, however, will quarantine in isolated accommodation on an unnamed Australian Defence base. To view the full article click here.
Last year, each marine who arrived in Darwin was screened and tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival. Image source: ABC News website.
Western NSW Local Health District Board vacancies
The NSW Minister for Health is inviting applications from persons interested in becoming a member of the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Board
There are a number of vacancies opening up on the board due to the retirement of members. WNSWLHD Board Chair Scott Griffiths explained “The Board is responsible for overseeing an effective governance and risk management framework for the district, setting its strategic directions, ensuring high standards of professional and ethical conduct are maintained, involve providers and the community in decisions that affect them, monitoring the service delivery and financial performance of the district against its targets and holding the chief executive accountable for their performance.”
Persons completing an expression of interest (EOI) must have skills and experience in one or more areas of the following areas:
clinical practice/provision of health services to patients
expertise, knowledge or experience in relation to Aboriginal health
understanding of local community issues
understanding of or experience in primary health care.
To view the full article in the Forbes Advocate, including details of how to submit an EOI click here.
NCSR release Healthcare Provider portal
The National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) has released a Healthcare Provider portal and is integrating the Register with Clinical Information Systems. This new functionality creates a new channel for users to interaction with the Register online at a time convenient for them.
In collaboration with the Department of Health, the NCSR is providing a Communications Toolkit to increase awareness of the Healthcare Provider Portal and integration with Clinical Information Systems. NCSR have worked closely with Best Practice and MedicalDirector to develop an API which will be shared with more vendors throughout the year with the intent to integrate with as many vendors as possible. The Best Practice integration recently went live and NCSR are working with MedicalDirector to finalise the necessary steps to integrate.
The toolkit provides links to supporting collateral to assist in raising awareness of the new ways to access and submit data to the NCSR. The supporting assets include:
A media release
Social media creatives
Awareness raising animations
A Healthcare Provider Portal demonstration video (split into chapters)
A promotional PowerPoint resource
To access an overview of the NCSR Communications Toolkit – Healthcare Provider Portal and Clinical Software Integration click here.
AMA comment’s on draft National Workforce Strategy
The AMA recently provided feedback to the Department of Health on the Draft National Medical Workforce Strategy. The AMA was broadly supportive of the five priority areas and most actions outlined by the Draft Strategy. If executed well in concert with other major health reforms already underway, the Strategy should provide a solid platform to ensure that the medical workforce sustainably meets the changing health needs of Australian communities.
Some key points of the AMA’s response included support for the development of functional and reciprocal links between tertiary, regional and rural hospitals, Aboriginal health services, universities, medical colleges, and regional training providers, and the integration of prevocational and vocational training pathways within these networks as a priority. This will ensure trainees undertaking generalist training have adequate access to relevant terms in larger urban hospitals.
To view the article regarding the AMA’s comments on the draft click here.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Transitioning to PHC community control
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) play a critical role in providing culturally appropriate, accessible primary healthcare (PHC) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. The success of many ACCHSs has led to increased policy support for their growth and development, including the transition of state government administered PHC services to Aboriginal community control in select communities. However, there is minimal published literature available which evaluates such transitions. A research paper reports on an evaluation of the experience of one ACCHS (Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service) of transitioning local PHC services to community control in Yarrabah, Queensland, with a focus on the processes and strategies which were implemented to achieve successful transition.
Achieving successful transition to community control of PHC for Gurriny entailed a lengthy process of substantial, ongoing organisational growth and development. Gurriny’s experience provides a framework for both governments and the ACCHS sector to inform future transitions of PHC services to Aboriginal community control.
Peak community organisations AMSANT, NTCOSS and Danila Dilba Health Service have responded to the announcement of the members who will make up the Independent Panel Review, into Endeavour Group’s proposal to develop a Dan Murphy’s retail outlet in Darwin. CEO of Danila Dilba Health Service, Olga Havnen said, “We are aware of the panel, welcome the review and look forward to meeting with the panel. However, our organisations will not be misrepresented by Endeavour Drinks Groups (EDG) purporting extensive consultations by EDG and Woolworths, regarding the Dan Murphy’s development in Darwin. Ultimately Woolworths needs to be held accountable for their lack of genuine engagement to consider the devastating public health issues that will arise from this megastore.”
Similarly CEO of AMSANT, John Paterson said, “If there was a genuine commitment to engaging with peak Aboriginal health bodies and other Aboriginal organisations the Woolworths Group, not EDG, should facilitate a meaningful dialogue. Instead, they have largely ignored the serious health concerns raised and the call to withdraw their application of this megastore in Darwin. This is a refusal by Woolworths to engage on important public health issues and knowingly ignoring the disastrous effects of alcohol in the NT. Danila Dilba, AMSANT and NTCOSS continue to wait for the decision-makers, Woolworths, to adopt an ethical stance and talk to peak health bodies in the NT about putting public health ahead of profits.”
To view the joint AMSANT, NTCOSS and Danila Dilba media statement click here. To view a related article SBS News article click here.
Photograph: Time Wimborne/Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.
Katungul community control success stories
Telehealth has been a game changer for Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services (Katungul) on the NSW south coast as it sought to support its community through the devastation of the 2019–20 bushfires and the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid roll-out of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided unexpected and ongoing benefits for clinical staff and patients at Katungul.
For Katungul GP Dr Muhammad Azfar Nor Zaihan these benefits have included a higher patient appointment attendance rate and more time for preventative health, “It’s a huge game changer, especially for rural GPs and rural patients.” At the peak of the pandemic restrictions from March to July 2020 around 80% of Dr Azfar Nor Zaihan’s appointments were by phone telehealth but by December 2020 he was still doing 40% of consultations by phone.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services staff taking a well-earned break at a mobile COVID-19 clinic at Eden. Image source: Croakey.
Reading between the lines of government data
Commonwealth and state governments collectively spend about A$115 billion annually on health services, but we don’t always know exactly what results we get for the money. Australia’s health system is an accountability black hole, despite exabytes of data being collected from hospitals, medical services and the public. Very often the data collected are simply about how many “things” have been produced — how many hospital bed days or patients treated, how many GP attendances — rather than what result was achieved for the patient, how efficiently and how equitably. And the data can be fragmented and overlapping. It is rarely transformed into useful information the public can understand and use to hold politicians, doctors, and hospitals to account.
The Productivity Commission recently released the health section of its annual Report on Government Services, bringing together a range of data on hospitals, primary care, ambulance services and mental health care in Australia. This report aims to help fill the accountability hole, with information going beyond simply counting activity to include information about quality as well. The idea is that public reporting will prompt governments to improve their health systems.
Vaccine rollout for regional, rural and remote communities
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines into regional, rural and remote communities is a vital part of the Australian Government’s vaccine strategy to protect country people and managing the fight against the virus in the regions. The Australian Government is working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, General Practices, state and territory governments, Primary Health Networks, General Practitioner-led Respiratory Clinics and community pharmacies, to ensure that Australian’s living in regional, rural and remote locations have access to a vaccination if they choose to. To further strengthen the rollout delivery across Australia, both GP’s and pharmacies have been invited to join the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said it is expected that there will be thousands of sites that will support the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia.
As part of The University of Sydney Business School’s ‘Thinking outside the box’ series, Dr Alastair Stone said “We should try to take advantage of the worldwide disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic to establish new paradigms around what we value beyond pure monetary goals. COVID-19 has exposed imprecision in expressing our value systems with the debate of health vs economy the headline example. A return to all-encompassing political welfare economics could solve the semantic issue but given the many interpretations and adjectives to describe economics and social sciences, it would be better to define more accurately what we value, and build policy around that. It takes large disruptive phenomena like a pandemic (or war, or rebellion) to generate the energy for paradigmatic change. NZ introduced a “well-being budget” in 2019 targeting mental health, child welfare, Indigenous reconciliation, the environment, suicide, and homelessness, alongside traditional measures of productivity and investment.
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), a peak body representing 44 national organisations in the rural health and wellbeing sector, including health practitioners, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, NACCHO, and the CWA has called on the federal government to take tangible action on climate change, saying inaction has serious consequences for rural health. In a position paper released this week, the NRHA expressed concern that rural, regional and remote communities would bear the brunt of health effects caused by extreme weather events, food security threats, and vector-borne diseases.
NRHA CEO Gabrielle O’Kane said: ‘The paper provides a timely perspective on the trauma and other health impacts rural people experience from the effects of climate change, as well as the cost to society. Climate change is a significant threat to health, and the adverse health risks are generally greater in rural, regional and remote communities where people are already at a disadvantage from unequal access to health care and are more susceptible to poor health outcomes. The Alliance is calling for the inclusion of climate-driven impacts on rural health in all future health planning, as well as research and transition plans to help communities mitigate the short and long-term health effects of climate change.’.
To view the full article in the Echo Netdailyclick here.
Image source: 10 Deserts Project website.
Making Time for mental health
Australian’s living with a mental illness or mental ill health and their families and carers have said that one thing that has helped them through difficult moments is making time for what matters to them – whether this is time to connect with friends and loved ones, time for themselves, time to talk, time to connect with support and treatment, time to learn something new, time offline, time for a swim or simply time in nature.
Following the difficult year Australians have had in 2020, the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) launched the #MakingTime initiative to build resilience, over the summer period, in Australians who live with mental illness, those who care for them as well as those who experience mental distress. NMHC would love people to contribute their experience via their own social networks using the hashtag #MakingTime and encourage family and friends to really share their personal experiences on the #MakingTime website on what has helped them manage their mental health.
To view the Australian Government National Mental Health Commission media release click here.
Image source: #MakingTime website.
Building a stronger immunisation register
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says Australia’s vaccination system has been strengthened with the passage of new legislation through the Australian Parliament, making it a requirement for all vaccination providers to report life saving vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). The Australian Immunisation Register is a whole of life, national immunisation register, which records vaccines given to all people in Australia. The AIR includes vaccines given under the National Immunisation Program, through school-based programs and privately, such as for seasonal influenza and vaccines required for travel purposes. Importantly, it will also include COVID-19 vaccinations.
To view the Minister Hunt’s media release click here.
Image source: ABC News website.
Managing diabetic kidney disease webinar
Kidney Health Australia is hosting a health professional webinar Diabetes and Kidney Disease – new information and recommendations at 7:30 PM AEDT Wednesday 10 February 2021. The webinar will be presented by Nephrologist, Dr John Saunders and include discussion around some new information and recommendations for Managing Diabetic Kidney Disease.
To view the webinar flyer click here. Registration is essential. You can register here.
Building Indigenous research capacity
For nearly three decades, Professor Jacinta Elston, an Aboriginal woman from North Queensland and the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at Monash University, has worked in higher education, furthering efforts to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia. When awarded an NHMRC Capacity Building Grant, Professor Elston and the team at James Cook University had two goals: to support emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and academic leaders to develop their careers in research and health; and to develop partnerships with Indigenous community-controlled health services. Professor Elston said the “NHMRC funding helped to provide the resources to create a space to share experiences, develop and discuss areas of interests and build a sense of community, as well as allowing us to foster emerging Indigenous researchers into the research community.”
Professor Elston’s project Building Indigenous Research Capacity in Australia has been included in the twelfth edition of the NHMRC’s 10 of the Best, a publication showcasing significant projects that support the improvement of human health.
For further information about the 10 of the Best click here and for a summary of each of the 10 projects click here.
Professor Jacinta Elston. Image source: Monash University website.
EOIs sought for HealthInfoNet Advisory Board
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is seeking expressions of interest from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to join its national Advisory Board. The Advisory Board provides strategic advice and guidance to the HealthInfoNet Director to ensure that it continues to provide support to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet undertakes knowledge exchange research activities to summarise, synthesise and analyse the available research and other information and make it available to the health sector workforce in ways that are timely, accessible and relevant.
Youth representatives will provide important feedback from a young person’s perspective to guide the strategic and operational activities of the HealthInfoNet. The youth representatives will join the Advisory Board of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other health experts from throughout Australia.
For further information about the Advisory Board click here and to access the EOI click here. Applications are due by 26 February 2021.
Chronic disease prevention survey
The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre has developed a range of resources on chronic disease prevention. They is trying to improve the accessibility of their resources on their website and would greatly appreciate your feedback on want does and doesn’t work via a short 5-min survey here.
Rising concerns about racism in Australia
The latest Mapping Social Cohesion report by the Scanlon Foundation shows a rising concern about racism in the Australian community. 37% of Australian-born respondents and 59% of Asian-born respondents expressed concern that racism was a growing problem in Australia. Disturbingly, 22% of Chinese Australian respondents reported they had experienced discrimination more often since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising concerns about racism, requires action and consistent leadership. A number of organisations have called on the Federal Government to tackle racism by committing to a national anti-racism strategy. To view an article on the call for a national anti-racism strategy click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Indigenous interpreting services available via My Aged Care
My Aged Care can connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to an Indigenous interpreting service to provide aged care information in a person’s preferred language. To access an Indigenous interpreter, call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 and ask for an interpreter in your client’s preferred language. If an interpreter for the required language is not available at the time of the call, another time will be arranged that suits the client.
To view a short video about My Aged Care click here and for further information about My Aged Care Indigenous interpreting services click here.
Vote on Impact 25 Awards
Voting for the Pro Bono Australia 2021 Impact 25 Awards is now open, allowing people to nominate the social sector’s most influential leaders, many of whom may intersect with the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in their work with children and families. A shortlist of 150 people has been created from more than 400 nominations, with each list member recognised for their efforts in creating positive change amid the turbulent events of the past 12 months.
Pro Bono Founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM encourages the general public to vote, and recognise the work of those who strive to improve the lives of others, “Over the past six years, the Impact 25 Awards have done what they first intended to do: showcase a steady stream of individuals, largely unnamed and largely unacknowledged working in our communities.”
Central Australian Aboriginal Corporation’s CEO Donna Ah Chee is among the 150 people who’ve made the shortlist.
The Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (DYHS) was established in 1974 and is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Perth. Our team of 130+ staff enable the delivery of culturally safe holistic and integrated primary health care services to over 15,000 Aboriginal people across four clinics in the Perth metropolitan region. DYHS has a vacancy for a People & Culture manager to lead the People & Culture Team in the delivery of quality human resource and organisational development processes and services.
To view the advertisement for the position and to apply click here.
Papua New Guinea – Port Moresby – Abt Associates – Australia (in association with Ninti One Limited)
Program Support Officer – PNG Australia Transition to Health (PATH Program) x 1 FT (12 month contract, possible extension)
The PNG Australia Transition to Health (PATH) Program is one key way in which Australia is investing in PNG’s security, stability, and prosperity by delivering support to PNG’s health sector. PATH supports locally generated and scaled health systems reform, working in partnership with the Government of PNG on high priority health issues including health security, communicable disease, family planning, sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health.
PATH looks to attract staff who are committed to this vision, and who are also able to work in collaborative, creative and adaptive ways to contribute to better health outcomes for people in PNG. There is a current vacancy for a Program Support Officer to provide programmatic support to senior members of the PATH Program team by assisting in operationalising all intermediate outcomes across the PATH program.
This position is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants only.
To view position description and to apply click here.Applications close Friday 26 February 2021 (Midnight local time).
Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) Inaugural launch – Sunday 7 February 2021
The Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) starts this Sunday!
NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills will be speaking at the opening ceremony at the Cairns Basketball Stadium to inspire the players.
In 2016 The first State of Reconciliation in Australia Report was produced by Reconciliation Australia in 2016 to mark 25 years of a formal reconciliation process in Australia, through both the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and Reconciliation Australia. The 2021 report is the second such report and reflects on where we have come from, where we are today, where we need to get to, and how we can get there.
While we recognise the decades of dedication to the reconciliation process, Australians needs to move from ‘safe’ to ‘brave’ in order to realise the promise of reconciliation, a new report says. The 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report assesses the current status of reconciliation and outlines some practical actions that need to be taken if we are to continue to progress the reconciliation process. Reconciliation Australia, CEO Karen Mundine says the report shows the reconciliation movement is at a tipping point. “While we see greater support for reconciliation from the Australian people than ever before, we must be more determined than ever if we are to achieve the goals of the movement — a just, equitable, and reconciled Australia. There is a far greater awareness of the complexity and magnitude of First Nations cultures and knowledges, and many more Australians now understand and acknowledge the impacts that British colonialism and the modern Australian state have had on First Nations families and communities. Reconciliation must be more than raising awareness and knowledge. The skills and knowledge gained must now motivate us to braver action. Actions must involve truth-telling, and actively addressing issues of inequality, systemic racism and instances where the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are ignored, denied or reduced.
The State of Reconciliation report’s focus of moving from safe to brave is supported by the year’s theme, “More than a word. Reconciliation takes Action” which urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action.
To view Reconciliation Australia’s media release in regarding the launch of the report click here, to access a summary report click here and to view the full report click here.
Plan to slash eyesight-saving surgery wait lists
Extended waiting lists for routine yet potentially eyesight-saving cataract surgery could be slashed under a plan proposed by the eye health and vision care sector in a submission to the 2021–22 Federal Budget. The Vison 2020 Australia submission calls for expanded delivery of public cataract surgery, along with the development and roll out of innovative and sustainable service models and national protocols to support enhanced access to cataract surgery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The submission also proposes improving access to local eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by rolling out local case management and supporting community designed and led eye care models.
The full submission can be accessed here and Vision 2020’s media release regarding the submission is available here.
Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.
Health services needed for iSISTAQUIT project
iSISTAQUIT training aims to train health providers in culturally appropriate smoking cessation techniques through self-paced online modules and a range of other resources. The main aim is to make health providers confident in delivering smoking cessation interventions to pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. To achieve this the iSISTAQUIT team is currently actively looking to recruit Aboriginal and mainstream health services in their iSISTAQUIT project. You are invited to consider participating in the iSISTAQUIT project, with an informational webinar on Thursday 11 February at 11:00 am to help you get started.
For further information about the ISISTAQUIT project and webinar click here.
Image source: The Queensland Times.
Exemption policy impacts across generations
A new book titled Black, White and Exempt: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives under exemption presents the untold story of Aboriginal exemption; a policy imposed by state governments on Aboriginal people during the twentieth century. Exemption certificates promised Aboriginal people access to the benefits of Australian citizenship that Aboriginal status denied them, including access to education, health services, housing and employment. In exchange, exempted individuals were required to relinquish their language, identity and ties to kin.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Studies CEO, Craig Ritchie said “the traumatic and complex impacts of this policy [including mental illness] across generations is little understood.”
Daisy Smith with her daughter Valma, circa 1950. Image source: La Trobe University website.
WA ACCO consortium leads homelessness project
There is an over representation of Aboriginal people among those experiencing homelessness. The WA McGowan Government has awarded $6.8 million 5-year contract to Noongar Mia Mia Pty Ltd who will lead an ACCO partnership with Wungening Aboriginal Corporation and Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corporation to provide culturally appropriate assertive outreach, case management and after-hours support for individuals and families sleeping rough across the Perth metropolitan area. The new service will link people who are sleeping rough with appropriate wraparound support services, including accommodation, employment, health, mental health, financial management, and social support. ACCOs have been recognised as having the cultural authority to deliver effective services within Aboriginal communities.
To view the Government of WA media statement click here.
Two men in front of a tent in Perth. Photograph: Jesse Noakes. Image source: The Guardian.
Darwin Dan Murphy’s fight continues
Medical leaders are pushing ahead in their fight against plans to build a Dan Murphy’s near three Indigenous communities as they call for an urgent meeting with Woolworths’ bosses. Construction on the alcohol megastore in Darwin’s airport precinct is due to start in May after the NT Government gave it the green light in December last year. Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) are demanding a meeting with the Woolworths’ board and chairman.
AMSANT CEO John Paterson says the health service deals with alcohol-related incidents every week, and he fears it will worsen if the store goes ahead, “Spanning from violence, deaths, car accidents, you name it, it’s happening as a result of large consumption of alcohol here in Darwin and surrounding suburbs. Our position is quite clear, we do not want the build of a super liquor outlet store in Darwin…full stop.”
Cherbourg parents and care-givers have been invited to take part in a free “positive parenting” program which aims to build on the strengths and resilience of the community. For the past two years Darling Downs Health, via Cherbourg Health Service, has been working with CRAICCHS and the University of Queensland to roll out Indigenous Positive Parenting Programs (Triple P) in the community. The programs are known collectively as “D’arin Djanum”, which means “strong together” in Wakka Wakka.
Clinical psychologist Arvind Ponnapalli, co-ordinator of the project, said it aimed to provide positive support for parents and families. “The D’arin Djanum project rests on the proven fact that ‘strong together’ families can create a strong foundation for children, support their growth and development, guide them through challenges of life, and teach positive cultural values,” Mr Ponnapalli said. “According to a recent independent report by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Triple P is one of only two programs given a ‘very high’ evidence rating in an international review of 26 parenting interventions designed to prevent or reduce the negative impact of adverse childhood experiences.”
To view the full southburnett.com.au article click here.
The Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (an Australian non-for-profit) is set to build a social, justice, training and agricultural enterprise, incorporating halfway housing for Indigenous people leaving prison at Myalup, 90 minutes south of Perth. Designs are out for public comment regarding the proposed $15 million development Myalup Karla Waanginy – meaning ‘meeting place for different people to come together and yarn around the fire’.
FISH and a team of Aboriginal advisers considered all states for the prototype, but chose WA in part because of its standout Indigenous incarceration rate. The site will house 45 residents at a time, each staying six months, but will also support people after they move on into the community. The program will last 18 months with 180 participants at a time. The wellbeing building will operate like a small campus where participants and staff will work and do counselling, art therapy, education, training and medical checks.
Artist’s impression of Myalup Karla Waanginy complex. Image source: WAtoday website.
Bathurst educator wins Dreamtime Award
Kerrie Kennedy, Senior Educator from Goodstart Early Learning Bathurst is the proud winner of the Awabakal Excellence in Education Award at the Dreamtime Awards. In its fourth year the National Dreamtime Awards has grown to be the biggest and best celebration in the country recognising Indigenous excellence in the categories of Sport, Arts, Education, Health and Community.
Kerrie was nominated for her excellence in education in early childhood. Kerrie said winning the award was a huge honour and paid tribute to her own parents for their commitment to her education, “My mum and dad always told us how important our education was and instilled in us the importance of education for all children. I have helped to establish a Bush Kindy Program in Bathurst, making connections within the local Aboriginal Community, and connecting back to Country. I believe the most important learning and development in anyone’s life happens in high quality early learning centres like ours.”
Goodstart Early Learning Bathurst. Image source: Toddle website.
COVID-19 Advisory Group communique
The Australian Government’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 (the Taskforce) have released a new communique, advising vaccination will be free and a staged rollout is expected to start in February 2021 for people at high risk of infection such as frontline healthcare workers, with vaccination of other population groups to follow.
The Taskforce noted the overarching Australian Government approach to prioritisation has been guided by medical and technical experts. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) acknowledged that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have an increased risk of getting and developing serious illness from COVID-19 due to multiple factors, including having a high rate of chronic health conditions and a greater chance of living in communities where crowded living conditions exist.
Greater sports participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is linked with better academic performance, according to new research from the University of SA. Conducted in partnership with the University of Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney, the world-first study found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who played organised sports every year over four years, had numeracy skills which were advanced by seven months, compared to children who did less sport.
The study used data from four successive waves of Australian’s Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children, following 303 students (with a baseline age of 5–6 years old) to assess cumulative sports participation against academic performance in standardised NAPLAN and PAT outcomes. Sports participation has been linked with better cognitive function and memory in many child populations, but this is the first study to confirm the beneficial association between ongoing involvement in sport and academic performance among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Lead researcher, Dr Dot Dumuid, says the study highlights the importance of sports as a strategy to help close the gap* for Australia’s First Nations peoples.
To view the University of SA’s media release click here.
Yuendumu footballer Messiah Brown (centre) is shepherded by Jerome Dickson as Ezekial Egan (stripy shirt) and Riley White try to tackle him. Photograph: Steve Strike. Image source: The Australian.
Suicide data release to aid prevention
Victoria’s Coroners Court will release annual statistics on Indigenous suicide rates to help prevention organisations better target programs to reduce the numbers. A new report has found that suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians are double that among the non-Indigenous population. State Coroner Judge John Cain says the ongoing discrepancy in Indigenous suicide frequencies is worrying.
The Coroners Court established a Koori Engagement Unit two years ago to help tackle the disparity. Unit manager Troy Williamson said the release of a new full-year data in a report to be released each January came in response to requests for more data from Indigenous-led suicide prevention sector and the community. “In 2020, Victoria had one of the country’s highest suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said. “Our communities have requested more public data to put agency back in their hands and guide culturally safe response to Aboriginal health and wellbeing.”
To view The Young Witness article in full click here.
The Coroners Court set up a Koori Engagement Unit to tackle the frequency of Indigenous suicide. Image source: The Young Witness News website.
Indigenous Governance award nominations open
Dr Joe Tighe from the Australian Human Rights Commission has commented that unless you have the patience of the Dalai Lama (who had the option of going into exile) – work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equity can feel like a very slow, frustrating and painful burn for many advocates. This is one reason why Joe thinks it is so important to recognise and acknowledge successes, the little or big wins, at every opportunity.
When Dr Tighe said that when governments allowed us to dance, these wins sometimes meant a well-deserved night out for an awards ceremony. Acknowledgment of the wins provides a breather and helps to restore some energy. It also reminds governments (again) – that Indigenous health in Indigenous hands is the most effective approach.
Joe encourages you to take the time to nominate the many warriors and success stories for Reconciliation Australia’s Indigenous Governance Awards. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Indigenous organisations to have their governance recognised.
For further information about the Indigenous Governance Awards 2021 and the process for nominations click here.
Current tests fail to identify LGA babies
Following a large international study on Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO), diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) were changed in WA in 2015. The ORCHID Study (Optimisation of Rural Clinical and Haematological Indicators of Diabetes in pregnancy) is a collaboration between the Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA), Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services and WA Country Health Services. It was designed to help simplify screening for GDM in rural and remote WA. The study’s first paper showed it can be difficult to get everyone to do this test, while the second paper showed two-thirds of women with GDM who do the test are missed due to blood glucose sample instability. A further component of the study (funded by Diabetes Research WA) is still collecting data for the revalidation of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and glycated albumin as an alternative to OGTT for GDM screening at 24–28 weeks gestation.
To view a plain language summary of the research click here.
Image source: Daily Mail Pics Twitter.
2021 State of Telehealth Summit
The use of telehealth consultations in mental health has rapidly expanded in recent months. While this accelerating trend has been ignited by the global COVID-19 pandemic, studies suggest that the shift from in-person care to virtual delivery is here for good. As a mental/allied health professional, how prepared are you to effectively deliver telehealth and take advantage of the latest technologies and opportunities in this field of practice?
To help you answer these questions, Mental Health Academy (Australia’s largest CPD provider for mental health professionals) and COVIU (Australia’s leading telehealth platform) have partnered to deliver the largest ever telehealth-focused online conference, the 2021 State of Telehealth Summit.
Join Australia’s largest online telehealth conference for mental and allied health professionals. It’s entirely free. This ground-breaking event brings together 21 subject-matter experts and 10 hours of learning – all accessible from the comfort of your home. As a participant, you’ll be able to join live webinars, watch session recordings (on-demand, 24/7), and much more.
Digital Health Week 2021 from 8–11 February 2021 will be hosted by the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. The 2021 Theme is Pushing the Boundaries of Health Care. Check out the fully-online conference program and speakers here and explore the ePoster gallery here – showcasing the work of digital health researchers from across the world. Have your say and vote for the 2021 ‘People’s Choice’ ePoster. Two optional digital health and data workshops are on offer, each running for three half-days – Data Science for Clinical Applications and Design of Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS).
Diabetes Australia is prompting people living with the disease to get back on top of their care with a new campaign, funded through the National Diabetes Services Scheme, an Australian Government initiative administered by Diabetes Australia. Titled ‘Back on Track’, the multi-platform campaign is urging those who may have fallen behind with their appointments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, to get in touch with their local medical service. Indigenous people are almost four times as likely to live with diabetes compared with other Australians.
Ngunnawal Elder Violet Sheridan, who is a diabetic, admitted that her management of the disease had dropped off. She said her fear of COVID-19 was so great she was reluctant to go out into the community or to even engage with her health care providers, “I can be a bit naughty; I don’t listen sometimes which I should… I need to get my mind focused again after getting off track,‘ she told NITV News. “I went down to one of the supermarkets, I went in when COVID was raging real bad when it was first here in Canberra and the grocery store was just packed, I panicked, I panicked, panicked, I just left everything.”
Christopher Lee, the manager for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement at Diabetes Australia said they’ve collected data that corresponds with stories like Ms Sheridan’s.
You can access an online copy of the NITV Back on Track news story featuring Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet Sheridan by clicking here and to you can view the Diabetes Australia media release regarding the Back on Track launch by clicking here.
Ngunnawal elder Violet Sheridan who lives with diabetes, was scared of contracting COVID-19. Image source: NITV News.
Get a heart check video
The Heart Foundation, Mawarnkarra Health Service, Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro from the University of WA, the WA Centre for Rural Health and consumers have contributed to the production of a short, animated video designed to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their local health worker to get a free heart check.
The Healing Foundation is urging all Australian schools to include the story of the Stolen Generations in their curriculum to ensure students have a better understanding of the full history of Australia. As schools prepare for the 2021 year, they are encouraged to incorporate The Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Resource Kit for Teachers and Students into their curriculums. The kit provides schools with a free resource that communicates the full history of Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a safe and age-appropriate way.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said Australia’s history dates back more than 60,000 years and is rich with stories of the oldest continuous culture on Earth. “The story of the Stolen Generations provides context and meaning for the struggles and inequities that First Nations peoples have faced since colonisation,” Ms Petersen said. “The traumatic impact of historical child removals continues to affect Stolen Generations survivors and their families today, but until now very little has been taught in schools. “The grief and trauma that resulted from historical child removals is deep, complex and ongoing, and it is compounded when unacknowledged or dismissed for a sanitised version of history.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release in full click here.
Kahlin Compound and Half Caste Home, Darwin, NT, 1921. Image source: ABC News.
NSW Aboriginal Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy
The NSW Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-2025 is designed to support and assists NSW health services in delivering respectful and appropriate mental health services in partnership with Aboriginal services, people and communities. The strategy is the foundation for change that will support a future way of working under the national Agreement for Closing the Gap in Aboriginal Health outcomes.
Climate change impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities – and all Australians. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has recently issued a policy statement titled, Climate change and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. The paper outlines AIDA’s position in relation to climate change in Australia and the current research around its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
AIDA has invited you to read the paper, share it with your members and colleagues and promote it among your networks.
To view AIDA’s policy statement in full click here.
Image source: Seed website.
Ever-present structural and systemic racism
As years go, 2020 was memorable to say the very least. For First Nations Australians and their allies the COVID-19 pandemic was not been the only stressor. The death of American black man George Floyd on 25 May at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers, and the subsequent resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement highlighted again the ever-present structural and systemic racism across Australia, including in the health system.
Kristy Crooks, an Aboriginal woman of the Euahlayi nation, who has three degrees under her belt and a PhD in progress, works every day to improve the health of First Nations people through her role as Aboriginal Program Manager with Hunter New England Population Health. Ms Crooks said “COVID has further marginalised people who are already disadvantaged, and it’s highlighted the structural barriers, including institutional racism”.
To view the full article in the Medical Journal of Australia click here and to read the opinion piece (First Nations people leading the way in COVID-19 pandemic planning, response and management) by Ms Crooks and her colleagues which focuses on the new community-driven approach to the pandemic click here.
Image source: 3CR Community Radio website.
Health literacy needed to combat fake health news
The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has welcomed the AMA’s position statement on health literacy as important recognition of the need for strong public support for people to have access to valid health information. “CHF has long argued for more focus on health literacy to ensure people understand their own health and care needs so they have the power to make the best decisions for their health,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “In the internet era when so much good and bad information floods people’s screens, there is a need for a healthy information culture to overcome fake health news.
“We agree with the AMA that doctors, and health systems, have a vital role to play in improving health literacy by communicating effectively and sensitively with patients, encouraging discussion, and providing information that is understandable and relevant. We would support the AMA’s call for an Australian Government-funded campaign to counter this misinformation and promote healthy choices, including information about vaccine safety and the health risks associated with alcohol, junk food, tobacco, and other drugs “Health literacy is vital to consumers’ capacity to manage and feel in control of their health care. Right now, up to 60% of Australians appear to lack the capacity to access, understand, appraise and use crucial information to make health-related decisions.
To view the CHF’s media release in full click here.
Image source: IC-Health.
Stroke Foundation award nominations open
Nominations are now open for the 2021 Stroke Foundation Stroke Awards. The Awards celebrate survivors of stroke, carers, health professionals and volunteers who have shown an outstanding commitment to make life better for Australians impacted by stroke.
Do you know someone who deserves to be recognised? Nominate them for the 2021 Stroke Awards by Friday 12 February 2021 by clicking here.
2021 Nurses and midwives national awards
HESTA is calling on Australians to show their appreciation and support for the nation’s nurses and midwives by submitting a nomination to the 2021 HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards. The Awards recognise nurses, midwives, nurse educators, researchers and personal care workers for their outstanding work to provide exceptional care, leading the way for improved health outcomes.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said the COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the immense impact these professionals, who have gone above and beyond to deliver quality patient care during a very difficult time, have in keeping communities healthy and safe. “Our nurses and midwives are the backbone of our community; they deserve to be recognised,” Ms Blakey said.
“Nominating in these Awards is an opportunity to show support for and give thanks to all our nurses and midwives and acknowledge their hard work and achievements.”
To view the media release regarding the awards and details of how to submit a nomination click here. Nominations close on 7 February 2021.
Angelena Savage and baby Tyrell and Gumma Gundoo Indigenous Midwifery Group Practice midwife Kat Humphreys. Image source: The Queensland Times.
Housing and infectious diseases study
Housing and crowding are critical to health. Sufficient, well-maintained housing infrastructure can support healthy living practices for hygiene, nutrition and safety. However, when there is insufficient public housing for a growing community and a lack of functioning health hardware, the transmission risk of hygiene related infectious diseases increases. The outcome is that many Indigenous Australians currently living in remote areas experience considerably higher levels of preventable infections, such as boils, scabies, middle ear infections and lung infections, than their non-Indigenous and urban counterparts.
The Pilyii Papulu Purrukaj-ji (Good housing to prevent sickness): A study of housing, crowding and hygiene-related infectious diseases in the Barkly Region, Northern Territory report provides a case study of Tennant Creek and the surrounding Barkly Region in the NT, to highlight the relationship between remote housing, crowding and infectious disease. It was conducted in partnership between The University of Queensland (School of Public Health and Aboriginal Environments Research Centre) and Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation that provides health services within the town and through a mobile clinic.
Palliative Care Victoria have produced a podcast which provides an example of the support Aboriginal Health Liaison Workers can offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a life-limiting illness. Suzanne Nelson, a Yorta Yorta woman and Aboriginal Health Liaison Worker, discusses how she supports Aboriginal people who have a life-limiting condition and their families. To listen to the podcast click here.
Suzanne Nelson. Image source: LinkedIn.
High youth incarceration rates in ACT
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services have expressed their deep concern over the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT as detailed in a recently released report. Data from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (ROGS) 2021 revealed that the rate of Indigenous youth incarceration in the ACT in 2019–20 was at its highest since 2014–15. Dr Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “The ROGS data tells us that there is significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in detention in the ACT.”
To read the joint ACTCOSS and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services media release in full click here.
ACT’s Youth Detention Centre, Bimberi. Image source: Aulich Lawyer & Law Firm blog.
Health magazine seeks contributions
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), a peak body working to improve health and wellbeing in rural and remote Australia, is seeking contributions for the next issue of its online magazine, Partyline, to be published in March 2021. The March issue will focus on the long tail of COVID-19 in rural, regional and remote settings as we learn from the past 12 months. The extraordinary disruption of the pandemic has resulted in a swag of changes in the way we live, the way we perceive our own health, in our experiences and engagement with the health system, and in the way we understand the role of public health.
For the March edition NRHA welcomes stories about trends happening in rural health during the pandemic, and both positive and negative changes because of COVID-19. They recommend an article length of 600 words with accompanying photos that visually portray your message. As always, they are also happy to publish poetry or creative prose.
To view the current Partyline issue click here. Contributions to the next issue aredue byCOB Thursday 11 February 2021.
CSU lecturer in physiotherapy & placement supervisor Kay Skinner with CSU physiotherapy students Emily Barr and Kloe Mannering. Image source: Partyline.
SEWB programs review
Multiple culturally-oriented programs, services, and frameworks have emerged in recent decades to support the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) people in Australia. Although there are some common elements, principles, and methods, few attempts have been made to integrate them into a set of guidelines for policy and practice settings.
A Charles Darwin University review, A scoping review about social and emotional wellbeing programs and services targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Australia: understanding the principles guiding promising practice aims to identify key practices adopted by programs and services that align with the principles of the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017–2023.
The review argues the selective application of nationally agreed principles in SEWB programs and services, alongside a paucity of scholarship relating to promising practices in young people-oriented SEWB programs and services, are two areas that need the urgent attention of commissioners and service providers tasked with funding, planning, and implementing SEWB programs and services for Aboriginal people. Embedding robust participatory action research and evaluation approaches into the design of such services and programs will help to build the necessary evidence-base to achieve improved SEWB health outcomes among Aboriginal people, particularly young people with severe and complex mental health needs.
Image source: ‘Wellbeing’ by Professor Helen Milroy, 2017.
Recognising mental illness patterns
Kylie Henry, a 43-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Wakka Wakka tribe in Cherbourg, Queensland, where she was born and raised, has learned to live with mental illness.
“I’ve always known that I was different from others and couldn’t understand why I was going through so much turmoil in my life. To admit to having a disability was shameful for me and I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I had a mental illness, largely because of being discriminated against by my own people along with others. I didn’t want people, especially those from my own community, to tease me because of my disability. I hid it for so many years.”