NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Reducing chronic kidney disease among mob

The image in the feature tile is from an article Newman dialysis clinic: BHP funds purpose-built clinic published in The West Australian on Thursday 28 April 2022.

Reducing CKD among mob

First Nations Peoples have one of the highest rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the world. Diabetes accounts for about 75% of this disease. This rate of diabetic CKD is markedly higher than for non-Indigenous Australians. Kim Morey, an Eastern Arrernte /Anmatyerre person, says First Nations Peoples are ‘deeply concerned’ about the burden of CKD in their communities. A lack of specialist medical services in rural and remote areas contributes to this burden. ‘Elders often have to leave their homes and families to receive medical care, such as kidney dialysis,’ Kim explains.

Kim is Co-Theme Leader of Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Equity, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). Kim is collaborating with Professor Mark Cooper, Monash University, a world expert in diabetic kidney disease. They lead a research team using advanced multi-omics technology to detect, prevent and manage CKD in First Nations communities. The CKD Study is the result of consultations with First Nations communities across SA. Kim carried these out with Alex Brown, now Program Leader of the Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Equity research unit at SAHMRI. The consultations highlighted the need to overcome the burden of diabetes and its complications to reduce health inequality.

To read The National Tribune article Reducing high rate of chronic kidney disease in First Nations communities in full click here.

Kim Morey. Image source: SAHMRI website.

New DNA database a ‘game-changer’

A new DNA database system designed to improve health outcomes for First Nations Australians has been hailed a game-changer by experts. A supercomputer will crunch the database to improve diagnostic rates for First Nations peoples living with rare genetic disorders and help them seek treatment earlier. The project is being led by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in collaboration with the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics, Oxford Nanopore and the National Computational Infrastructure.

Azure Hermes, a Gimuy Walubara Yidinji woman and deputy director at the Australian National University, said the technology was long-overdue. “In Australia, infrastructure around genomic data has always been a little bit fraught,” Ms Hermes said. “It hasn’t been great and I think what NCI is basically developing here is a safe and secure way where it can store data and it can be safe and secure.” Researchers will collect DNA samples from at least 500 First Nations Australians from communities across northern and central Australia. Project lead Hardip Patel said in the past, researchers had not properly engaged First Nations communities. “The systems were never inclusive,” Dr Patel said.

To view the Canberra Times article Push to improve Indigenous health outcomes click here.

Genomic data expert Dr Hardip Patel said researchers had not properly engaged First Nations people. Image source: Herald Sun.

NHMRC Indigenous Virtual Internship Program

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is pleased to invite all eligible applicants to apply to the Indigenous Internship program. NHMRC’s Indigenous internship program provides a wide range of opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students to gain insight into the work of NHMRC, as well as to enhance their educational experience through practical work experience.

NHMRC is facilitating a limited number of virtual internships of 200 hours or more, in a flexible format developed with your supervisor. To be eligible you must be enrolled in an Undergraduate or Master’s degree in a health or medical research or science related field; able to work independently and as part of a team; and can provide evidence to confirm that you are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent. The internship runs for 200 hours or more from mid-November to mid-January (during the summer university break), however there is flexibility around these timeframes.

Applications for the 2022-23 Indigenous Internship Program close 5:00 PM (AEST) Friday 24 October 2022.

You can find more information about the Indigenous Internship program here, including details of eligibility and selection, as well as the terms and conditions of the program. Alternatively you can call Samantha Faulkner, Director Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advice on 02 6217 9526 or Katie Matthews, Director People, Property and Security on 02 6217 9217.

Emily McDonald, NHMRC Indigenous Intern 2021-2022. Image source: NHMRC website.

ANMC scholarship deadline extended

The Australian Nurses Memorial Centre (ANMC) is proud to offer scholarships for nurses and midwives as part of its mission to act as “a living memorial” by advancing the nursing profession through education. The ANMC provides and administers scholarships for nurses and midwives undertaking postgraduate study by course work or research at an Australian university or other accredited higher education institution. Scholarships applied for in 2022 are for study in 2023.

Founded in 1950 by Vivian Bullwinkel and Betty Jeffrey, outstanding nurses and survivors of WWII Prisoner-of-War Camps, the Australian Nurses Memorial Centre (ANMC) was established to honour Australian nurses who lost their lives in the various theatres of wars or humanitarian operations. As part of its mission to act as “a living memorial” by advancing the nursing profession through education, the ANMC provides and administers scholarships for nurses and midwives undertaking postgraduate study at an Australian university or other accredited higher education institution.

To view a flyer listing the various ANMC scholarships available and how to apply click here. Applications close Friday 30 September 2022 (previously 31 August 2022).

Only 7 NT communities opt-in to alcohol bans

Remote communities have largely ignored new Territory liquor laws requiring them to opt-in to prohibition licenses. Two months after the NT government NT announced its controversial decision to lift alcohol bans in remote communities – a legacy of the NT Intervention – only seven communities have opted-in. A further 12 have indicated their interest, including Peppiminarti, but are yet to finalise paperwork.

A total of 12 remote communities, more than 30 town camps and more than 200 homelands had alcohol reintroduced into their homes in July. Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said “We are transitioning out of the race-based restrictions of the Intervention to a tailored harm minimisation approach which empowers communities.”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) chief medical officer public health Dr John Boffa said Alice Springs hospital had experienced an increase in hospital presentations in the first six weeks of the ban lifting. “There has been an 18% increase in alcohol related emergency department presentations with an average of about 131 compared with the long term baseline of 111 per week. This is an additional 20 per week,” Dr Boffa said.

The above has been extracted from an Herald Sun article Only seven remote communities opt-in to new liquor laws published on 22 September 2022.

Image source: ABC News.

Trailblazers program applications open

Applications are now open for the ABC’s 2023 Trailblazers program, which showcases the stories of regional Australia’s brightest new leaders. Trailblazers is an opportunity for young innovators, aged 18 – 28, who have started social, educational and economic development projects in their regional communities, to have their work celebrated nationally.

Previous Trailblazers projects have tackled issues including strengthening Indigenous culture, youth mental health, sustainable agriculture, employment, education and supporting remote entrepreneurs.

The ABC’s Director of Regional & Local, Judith Whelan said  “This is a program that has consistently delivered for those who have taken part in past years. It has also delivered substantial benefits to regional communities. Trailblazers is an inspiring and uplifting initiative and the ideas that come from it never fail to impress.”

Daniel Farmer and Adrianna Irvine, young Indigenous Australians living in Karratha, in the Pilbara region of WA are previous previous Trailblazers program winners. Multiple suicides in their community of Roebourne led to the idea to form the Kuruma Marthudunera Aboriginal Corporation’s Youth Council ( KMAC Youth Council ). The project aims to get more young people involved with culture and to promote social and emotional wellbeing and education in their communities.

Individuals and groups of up to three, aged 18-28, who are initiating projects that create positive change in their communities. From young community leaders to social entrepreneurs, advocates to event organisers, ABC Trailblazers are looking for young people with a commitment to strengthening their regional communities.

For more information, including case studies of previous Trailblazers program winners click here. Applications close Thursday 20 October 2022.

To view The National Tribune article ABC Trailblazers program launches 2023 program to showcase young regional leaders in full click here. Below is a short video of a previous ABC Trailblazers winner.

RPHC Manuals Project September update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated. Monthly updates are being provided to keep health services and other organisations up-to-date as RPHCM moves through the review process. This month’s update advises that the team is working with its IT provider to improve the electronic versions of the manuals on their website to improve accessibility, readability and navigation.

The change report outlining major changes to the manuals is being finalised and will be disseminated in coming weeks. If you would like a copy of the change report or would like to discuss the major changes or the strategies needed to implement the new edition of the manuals in your health service you can email the RPHCM Project Update team here. Meetings for change summary updates are also being finalised with key organisations.

You can view the RPHCM Project Update May 2022 flyer here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Learning from people with lived experience

The image in the feature tile is from the Aboriginal heart health webpage of the Heart Foundation website.

Learning from people with lived experience

Communities and individuals have a right and a duty to participate in the design and delivery of their health care. In tackling the complex global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health conditions, people with lived experience offer powerful expertise and narratives to shape policies, programs and services, and influence and inform those in power. Despite the right of participation, many global health interventions are top–down, one-size-fits-all or donor-driven models.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a short film documentary that sheds light on the experiences of people living with noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions around the world. Nothing for Us, Without Us: listening and learning from people with lived experience highlights six individuals with diverse health conditions, including rheumatic heart disease, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, bipolar affective disorder and auto-immune disease and includes perspectives from Australia, Brazil, Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

These individuals provide powerful expertise and evidence of why including the voices of people with lived experience is critical in the co-design of related policies, programs and health services. In addition to the full-length film, there is also the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the individuals, including the CEO of Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative Limited, LaVerne Bellear, through a series of short films.

Click here to access the WHO’s Nothing for us, without us: new film series on people living with noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions webpage. You can also access the WHO report Nothing for us, without us: opportunities for meaningful engagement of people living with NCDs here.

Addressing health holistically for 25 years

Addressing health holistically can go a long way to improving the quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. On a day-to-day level, it’s services like Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancement in Queensland that makes all the difference. The incorporated community not-for-profit organisation has been providing culturally safe and sensitive services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people in Queensland’s Toowoomba and Darling Downs regions, and SW Queensland for 25 years.

Goolburri knows that encompassing the importance of connection to land, culture, ancestry and how these impact on overall wellbeing of the individual and broader community cannot be underestimated. Goolburri supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a range of services to strengthen families and community relationships, while also protecting the vulnerable and those at risk. These services include GPs, dental services, home support, healing and wellbeing services and a family wellbeing service. It also extends to problematic substance abuse, domestic violence, social and emotional wellbeing, safety plans for children and in-home support.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article Strengthening communities by advancing health care options in full click here.

Goolburri employs around 80 team members across 10 offices. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Condo SkyFest supports mental health initiatives

The recent Condo Skyfest Miima Warrabinya (Seeking the Stars) festival washosted by Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC) and Big Skies Collaboration. The festival showcased works from a number of local community organisations and individuals including the:

  • Condo SistaShed, where Sistas meet regularly to enjoy arts and crafts activities;
  • Marathon Health’s Wiradjuri Wellness Project’s Shine group, who meet regularly to paint, sew, yarn and relax. Their artworks celebrate good mental and physical health and positive attitudes;
  • Focus on the Sky: Suicide Prevention Program exhibition, by participants of workshops conducted by Condobolin artist Karen Tooth for the Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Primary Health Network supported by Western Plains Regional Development, Condobolin Aboriginal Health Service and Lachlan Arts Council.

To view the Eastern Advocate article Condo Skyfest Miima Warrabinya (Seeking the Stars) held at the iconic Wiradjuri Study Centre in full click here.

Some of the Sistas at the Condo SistaShed with some of their lantern experiments. From left, Aleesha Goolagong, Zanette Coe, Bev Coe, Charmaine Coe. Photo: Merrill Findlay. Image source: Arts OutWest website.

Scholarships to support health workers

Applications for 400 scholarships for personal care workers and nurses undertaking vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to aged care, leadership and management have opened. There are also 100 scholarships available for allied health professionals to focus on dementia-related post-graduate qualifications under the three-year commonwealth program, which launched last year. Students are eligible to apply if their course commences or continues in 2023. There is a guaranteed number of scholarships per year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. All scholarship recipients are eligible for a completion bonus on successfully finishing their course.

Chief nursing and midwifery officer Professor Alison McMillan said the priority of the scholarships is to develop skills for aged care nurses in leadership and clinical management, and to improve expertise in areas such as palliative care, dementia care and infection prevention and control. “I’d encourage all nurses and aged care workers working in aged care to look at what courses are available and consider applying for study that will support their career in the long term,” Professor McMillan said in a statement.

“Personal care workers interested in becoming an enrolled nurse should consider applying for a scholarship to complete a Diploma of Nursing. Enrolled nurses can apply for a scholarship to complete a Bachelor of Nursing to become a registered nurse,” she said. For allied health, courses related to aged care including clinical gerontology, behavioural management, dementia, continence and palliative care are eligible in addition to leadership and management courses.

Aged care nurse practitioner Khera said the scholarships changed her life. “The best part about my studies is applying the theories and learnings in the workplace and seeing the positive outcomes.”

For more information you can access the Australian Ageing Agenda article More scholarships for aged care nursing, care, allied health staff in full here.

Image source: VACCHO website.

$2.1m for Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance

With access to health services a big issue for Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara, BHP is providing $2.1 million in funding to help establish the Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance (PAHA). BHP’s partnership with PAHA will help transform how Indigenous health services are provided in the Pilbara, by establishing new services and creating a strong voice for Indigenous health care.

The Alliance brings together three member organisations, Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (Newman), Wirraka Maya Health Service (Port Hedland) and Mawarnkarra Health Service (Roebourne and Karratha). Through their collective expertise and community connections, PAHA has a unique understanding of Indigenous health challenges in the Pilbara. Their goal is to work towards breaking down the barriers and improving the health and resilience of Aboriginal people now and in the future.

Wirraka Maya Health Service CEO, June Councillor, says the funding will make a huge difference in driving real improvements in the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people in the Pilbara. “It will help us identify, develop and roll out the Indigenous health services that will have the greatest impact on our communities in Newman, Port Hedland, Roebourne and Karratha.”

To view the BHP article Transforming Indigenous healthcare in the Pilbara in full click here.

PAHA logo, PAHA health workers. Image sources: PAHA Facebook, BHP website.

Indigenous Literacy Day

Today, Wednesday 7 September 2022 is Indigenous Literacy Day. This is a yearly initiative by Australia’s Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Through literacy programs, the organisation seeks to improve the lives and possibilities of Indigenous Australians. Not just any literacy program, but one that puts the knowledge and wisdom of the Indigenous people first.

Australia’s First Peoples have a deep knowledge of community, culture, and land. These are concepts of “literacy” that the western world may not understand. We must redefine what literacy means for different communities and their needs. To create forward-thinking spaces without losing roots. Indigenous Literacy Day advocates people’s right to an education in the languages they speak at home. It celebrates Indigenous freedom of expression and participation in public life just as they are.

For more information about Indigenous Literacy Day click here.

Eating disorders research grants available

Sydney’s first eating disorders research and translation centre offers nationwide grant opportunity to progress prevention, treatments and support in partnership with research, lived experience, clinical and community experts. The Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, led by InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, has launched the IgnitED Fund to unearth new ideas that have the potential to solve the problem of eating disorders.

Open to anyone living in Australia, IgnitED offers grants of up to $25,000 to develop and test innovative ideas that have potential to improve outcomes for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. It is the Centre’s first funding initiative following the $13m grant awarded in January to establish the new national centre.

According to the Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-Lead, Leilani Darwin, First Nations Australians are believed to experience high rates of eating disorders, disordered eating and food insecurity issues. “The IgnitED Fund facilitates Indigenous innovation,” said Darwin. “For the first time, we are uniquely positioned to elevate the need to better understand the issue of eating disorders and to build the evidence and best practice for our communities.”

For further information you can access The University of Sydney webpage National eating disorders centre ignites research fund for new solutions here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

Getting NDIS funding only half the battle

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

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

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

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

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

Ear disease mistaken for misbehaviour

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

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

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

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

Kidney replacements more than double

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

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

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

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

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

Child vax rates falling behind

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

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

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

PHC lessons from overseas

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

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

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

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

Awabakal regional vax clinic IT lessons

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

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

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

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

Cultural safety training for optometrists

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

Everyone needs to be represented

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

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

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

Image source: Institute of Public Affairs website.

Australia fails to deliver on UNDRIP

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

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

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

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

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

Booze bans ‘not a long-term fix’

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

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

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

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

Wounds a costly health system sore point

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

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

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

Image source: AMA website.

Caring for your kidneys

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

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

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

Image source: Department of Health and Aged Care.

Stay COVID-19 safe!

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

Help stop the spread:

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

When wearing a mask:

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

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

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

Red Lily installs defibrillator

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Recognising First Nations health workers

The image in the feature tile is from a post on the the Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) Facebook page, 7 August 2022.

Recognising First Nations health workers

Every year on 7 August the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) invites the health sector and all Australians to help celebrate the achievements and evolution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Health Practitioner workforce.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) has explained that “within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community this workforce is renowned as a vital and reliable resource critical to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners work on the frontline of Australia’s primary health care system. They are rarely part of the fly in fly out workforce, but instead have a lived experience in and deep understanding of the communities they serve. Their combination of clinical, cultural, social and linguistic skills delivers an engagement capability and community reach that sets them apart from others working in the health care system.”

“They act as cultural brokers; health system navigators; and provide a high standard of culturally safe and responsive primary health care. Their ability to respond to the clinical, social and cultural needs and contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities positions them as unique among Health Professionals.”

On the National Day of Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners and everyday, thank you to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners for their hard work supporting the community, keeping our mob’s health in our own hands.

You can read the NAATSIHWP media release National Day of Recognition for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners here.

Alarming rise in First Nations suicide

Ashleigh-Sue Chatters was sketching designs for her butterfly tattoo in the weeks before her death. Having struggled with mental illness since her teenage years, the 28-year-old Palawa woman told her mother the delicate insect planned for her upper arm was an ode to her will to live. “To her, the butterfly was a symbol of survival and that she hadn’t given up on herself yet, even though the system had given up on her,” her mother Tara Chatters said. Ashleigh had spent numerous inpatient stints in Victoria’s burdened mental health system. In February she was admitted to Dandenong hospital’s psychiatric unit, in Melbourne. She took her own life there four days later on 25 February.

Tara believes the biggest barrier her daughter faced was systemic racism in the mental health sector that undermined her ability to get culturally appropriate treatment. “She was labelled just another black fella. They thought well, this is just how they are and it’s a waste of time helping her,” Tara says. “They would look at her as an Aboriginal girl and think she was a drug addict even when the test results didn’t show that. I don’t want another Aboriginal girl to die because people just look at her like she’s not worth saving.”

Ashleigh’s death is part of alarming increase in First Nations suicide in Victoria. Thelest datafrom the state coroner revealed 35 Indigenous Victorians took their own life last year, a 75% increase, despite a drop in suicide in the state’s broader population. It is a trend that is also replicated nationally, where the rate of Indigenous suicide has nearly doubled in the past decade.

To read The Guardian article ‘I’m scared someone else will lose their child this way’: the alarming rise in First Nations suicide in full click here.

Ashleigh-Sue’s brother Wade Chatters and mum Tara. Photo: Jackson Gallagher, Guardian Australia.

Remote community cost of living crisis

With grocery bills rapidly increasing due to supply chain issues and rising inflation, all Australians are feeling the pinch. But in remote Aboriginal communities, the situation is even more dire. A social media post of a receipt from the Docker River store in the remote indigenous community of Kaltukatjara, in the NT – where many families already live close to the breadline – showed a 2L bottle of Pura Milk cost $9.20. While supermarket chain Aldi has warned grocery prices will “inevitably” continue to rise after the inflation rate surged to 6.1%, by comparison, at a Sydney Woolworths, the same product this week cost $3.10.

A 2021 AMSANT report showed groceries were 56% more expensive in remote communities than regional supermarkets in the NT due to poor quality roads and long supply chains. Back in December 2021 during the Morrison government’s Food Security inquiry, the then WA Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, said “Improving food security and making affordable, fresh and nutritious foods more available in remote indigenous communities is an important part of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” According to a Docker River resident “Nothing has been done” to since then to resolve the cost of living crisis.

To view the news.com.au article ‘Disgusting’: Outrage over cost of living crisis in Aboriginal township where 2L of milk costs $9.20 in full click here.

Two litres of Pura milk now costs $9.20 in Kaltukatjara, in the Northern Territory, showing the dire cost of living crisis in the remote indigenous communities. Image source: news.com.au.

Diabetes rate among world’s highest

Selina and Rhonda Bob are waiting for a lifesaving phone call — one that could be years away. Their kidneys are failing, and they hope they won’t have to wait too long on the organ transplant list. Every week, the sisters are bound to a chair for 16 hours as their blood is pumped out of their bodies and filtered through a dialysis machine. The pair were both diagnosed with diabetes – a disease that can damage the kidneys — at a staggeringly young age. And in this isolated pocket of the world, these sisters are not alone in their prognosis.

New research has found that rates of diabetes in Central Australia are amongst the highest ever seen worldwide – and they are getting worse, with more people diagnosed every year at far younger ages than ever seen before. The lead author is Matthew Hare, an endocrinologist at Royal Darwin Hospital and senior research officer at Menzies School of Health Research, said the new research showed a growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT communities, which was “unprecedented in terms of prevalence. Rates of diabetes in these remote communities are increasing such that now 29% of adults in remote Aboriginal communities are living with diabetes, and this is largely type 2 diabetes. The findings of our research were particularly concerning for the Central Australian region where communities are having diabetes prevalence rates up to 40% of adults.”

You can read the ABC News article Diabetes rates in Central Australia among highest in the world, new research shows in full here.

Selina and Rhonda Bob spend 16 hours a week on dialysis, but they are doing everything in their power to live a healthy lifestyle. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

GP role in primary mental health care

Tim Senior, a GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine is one of nine GPs who have contributed to an article Myth-busting: role of the GP in primary mental health care published in MJA InSight (a newsletter for medical professionals produced by the Medical Journal of Australia) today.

The authors write “In recent years, we GPs have seen a steep increase in mental distress, and the cracks in the system that fail the most vulnerable are familiar to us all. We are well aware of the enormous unmet need for mental health care at this time and we agree with Rosenberg and Hickie, who wrote in InSight+ recently that primary mental health care reform is long overdue. Where we disagree is in our understanding of the problem and in particular, the role of GPs in contributing to the current mental health crisis and its various solutions.

The article authors said “We [GPs] are the best value mental health care in the country using less than 3% of the total mental health budget to see the majority of the patients needing community care. Current underfunding added to rhetoric that alienates and misrepresents GPs seems a counterproductive strategy if we are to provide better mental health outcomes for all Australians.”

To read the article in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

AMSANT CEO – do alcohol bans work?

There’s been furious debate about the future and safety of hundreds of remote communities in the NT after alcohol restrictions imposed under the NT Emergency Response in 2007 were lifted last month. The NT Government says the intervention era bans were racist, and passed legislation in May this year, giving affected communities the ability to choose or “opt in” if they want alcohol bans.

A similar debate is happening in WA where the Director of Liquor Licensing is investigating whether all mid and full-strength alcohol should be banned from takeaway sales in the Pilbara and Kimberley. But do bans like this actually effect change in communities?

In an ABC Radio National broadcast John Paterson – CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT, Marianne Nungarri Skeen – Jaru Woman from Halls Creek region, former health worker and Harold Tracey – Broome Shire President discuss the issue.

To listen to the ABC Radio National broadcast The Roundtable: Are alcohol restrictions in remote communities working? click here.

Signs are supplied to premises that opt into the liquor restriction scheme, which is enforceable by WA Police. Image source: ABC Radio National website.

CATSINaM conference 18–20 August

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) is holding its 25th Anniversary National Conference from Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 August 2022.  The 4 event series, Opening, Exhibition, Conference and Gala Dinner celebrating 25 years since the organisation was founded on Gadigal Country in 1997 to the day, will commemorate and honour both individual and collective activism by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner will deliver a keynote address on the first day of the conference on 19 August 2022 and LaVerne Bellear Bundjalung, CEO of Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service will be a guest speaker.

To view a CATSINaM conference flyer click here and click here to access the CATSINaM National Conference website page

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

More community control needed

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

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

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

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

Mobile healthcare to remote NSW

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

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

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

Image source: AH&MRC website.

Clinic doubles usual 715 health checks

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

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

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

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

Boxing champion fights for mental health

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

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

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

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

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

Telehealth provides care closer to home

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

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

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

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Diabetes youth webinar series

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

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

HealthInfoNet user survey and prize draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: JulEYE champions eye care

Image in feature tile is of Dean Saffron; courtesy of Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source Optometry Australia website.

JulEYE champions eye care

JulEYE is National Eye Health Awareness Month. Led by the Eye Surgeons Foundation of Australia, this campaign aims to: raise community awareness of eye health issues; raise funding for vision research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness; and support international and domestic development projects whose goals are aligned with those of the Foundation. The campaign promotes six top tips to maintaining healthy eyesight: 1) wear sunglasses 2) get regular eye tests 3) eat right 4) wear eye protection 5) don’t smoke, and 6) don’t strain your eyes.

The are a range of initiatives in the eye health space in relation to First Nations peoples. The Royal Australian and NZ College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), for example, maintains a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Committee, which brings together ophthalmologists from across Australia who have particular experience in service provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including via innovative service delivery models. The Committee informs RANZCO’s projects, policies, and advocacy work in this area.

RANZCO works in close collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, including via Vision 2020 Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee which has developed a Strong eyes, strong Communities 5 year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision 2019–2024. RANZCO is also one of the original endorsers of the Roadmap for Closing the Gap for Vision. RANZCO also works in close collaboration with Indigenous medical education organisations (such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association – AIDA, and the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education – LIME) to ensure cultural competency is best embedded into the RANZCO Vocational Training Program.

RANZCO, in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation, recognises that we need practical steps towards reconciliation and closing the gap in eye health. In a 2020 joint statement, available here, the two organisations called on the eye health sector to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health in practical ways such as bulk-billing, patient-centred approaches to care and equity of access to essential eye surgery.

‘Shameful chapter’: NT Intervention ends

The end of the Howard-era ‘Intervention’, which saw unprecedented government control over First Nations communities in the NT, has been welcomed by advocates. Human rights law centre director and Arrernte man Nick Espie described it as “a shameful chapter” in the treatment of First Nations people in the Territory, which began in 2007. “This is a time for reflection, on an era of systemic failures, the disempowerment of Aboriginal people in the NT and the silencing of our voices,” he said.

“During these 15 years, we have seen the demonising of Aboriginal people and culture and the erosion of self-determination.” While most Intervention laws ended on Sunday, Commonwealth legislation enabling compulsory income management continues. “The Albanese government has promised to abolish the Cashless Debit Card Scheme and all forms of compulsory income management, which still live on in other legislation. These are some of the last paternalistic hangovers from the Intervention and should have been scrapped years ago.  The prime minister must keep this promise,” Mr Espie said.

To view the SBS NITV article ‘Shameful chapter’: Intervention ends in the NT after 15 years in full click here.

The infamous blue signs at the entrance to communities became a symbol of the intervention. Image source: Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

Mental health a silent diabetes complication

For 19-year-old Sebastian Harris, the constant pressure to be carefully managing his type 1 diabetes can feel overwhelming. “I sometimes feel that no matter what I do, my diabetes can be extremely hard to control,” Mr Harris said. “Some weeks my blood glucose levels can be unreasonably low or unreasonably high and it doesn’t make any sense, no matter what you do. “It makes me question whether I am managing it well. I know in the long run it will be fine but, in that moment, it’s hard not to feel defeated.”

Mr Harris, from the Gold Coast, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years after his younger brother learned he had the same condition. “You want to switch off and forget about it, but you can’t do that with diabetes,” Mr Harris, an ambassador for Diabetes Queensland, said. “There’s no holiday from it. The consequences if you do try to ignore it can be life-threatening. “We need to make sure people are aware of the issues, both physical and mental.”

According to data from Diabetes Australia, almost 700,000 people in Australia living with diabetes experience a mental or emotional health challenge every year. Diabetes Australia Group CEO Justine Cain said diabetes mental health was the most prevalent, yet least recognised, diabetes complication.

To view the Narromine News article Mental health the silent complication of diabetes epidemic in full click here.

Image source: Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program website.

Youth vaping a serious concern

Physicians and paediatricians from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) say that the rise in youth vaping, exposed in a recent ABC Four Corners report available here, is seriously concerning. The RACP says the Federal Government should consider strengthening importation laws and their enforcement to reduce the growing black-market supply of vaping products to children and young people.

Professor Emily Banks, a public health physician and RACP Fellow, says: “the rise in vaping that we’re seeing in young people is extremely concerning. All nicotine e-cigarette use that is not on prescription is illegal, yet there are massive volumes of high concentration nicotine vaping products being imported into Australia for use by young people.”

To view the RACP media release Physicians and paediatricians say rise in youth vaping is seriously concerning – calls for urgent strengthening of importation laws in full click here.

Image source: Toronto Star.

NT alcohol bans end

Laws banning alcohol from Aboriginal communities across the NT expired at the weekend, making liquor legal in some areas for the first time in 15 years. Some advocates and politicians say the laws were racist, and removing them is an important step towards self-determination. Others – including Aboriginal health groups – say the changes have been rushed and will create more alcohol-related harm.

To listen to the ABC News PM segment NT alcohol bans end click here.

Alcohol was often smuggles into remote NT communities. Image source: ABC News PM.

Service helps reduce number of kids in care

Data from WA’s Department of Communities has revealed a 20% drop in the number of Wheatbelt children in care since the same time last year. There were 242 children in care last June and that has fallen to 194. The department’s executive director of service delivery Glenn Mace said the reduction is a sign prevention programs are working. “Up until the last couple of years we’ve seen year-on-year increases of children entering care, so these latest figures are really pleasing,”

He said in the past year almost all regions have seen a reduction of children in care. Mr Mace said the department’s wraparound services play a vital part in making families stronger. “It’s really aimed at trying, where we can, to build safety within families, building their own capabilities and capacities so that their children don’t have to come into the care system,” he said. Mr Mace said Aboriginal children were over-represented in the care system and there were many reasons for that. “But generally, and in part, Aboriginal children tend to come into care as part of the larger sibling group,” he said. “They tend to enter care at a younger age and they stay in care.”

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal support service shown to help reduce the number of children in care, department says in full click here.

Image source: Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) website.

Raising criminal responsibility age only first step

In some Australian states, children can legally be detained from the age of 10 years old. This has led to over- policing and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. First Nations children represent 50% youth incarcerated during 2021. Incarcerating children can cause irreparable harm, particularly for those who have complex health and social needs. Children who are removed from their families and communities during crucial stages of development and placed in youth detention are exposed to a form of social control, stigmatisation and criminalisation that in many cases inflicts lifelong harm.

Indigenous voices are seeking not just to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years. but to implement an Indigenous-led model of care that provides culturally appropriate early childhood holistic care. In addition, addressing social issues of poverty, employment and access to health and housing would help provide stable lives for otherwise at-risk children.

You can read The Conversation article Raising the age of criminal responsibility is only a first step. First Nations Kids need cultural solutions in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

More time needed for diabetes patients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpacking diabetes and the heart webinar

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

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

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

You can register for the webinar using this link.

Mob urged to get bowel cancer screening

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

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

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

Dr Joel Wenitong. Image source: Third Sector.

How much life has COVID-19 cost us?

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

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

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

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

Image source: First Opinion.

People with diabetes at risk during COVID-19

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

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

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

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia website.

Digital health design must have authenticity

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

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

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

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

Registrars in short supply in regional areas

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

The image in the feature tile is of Professor Louise Maple-Brown (with a patient) who was a Chief Investigator leading a qualitative study, supported by Central Australia Academic Health Science Network (CAASHN) with a Medical Research Future Fund grant to better understand the experiences of Aboriginal youth in Central Australia living with type 2 diabetes. Image source: Australian Health Research Alliance, 16 December 2021.

National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

National Diabetes Week 2022 is on from Sunday 10 July to Saturday 16 July. This year’s awareness week will focus on the emotional health and wellbeing of people living with diabetes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Improving the lives of people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a priority for Diabetes Australia. You can view the Diabetes Australia webpage specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

You can also access online e-Learning diabetes modules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) website here.

SWAMS to extend programs and services

The City of Busselton has announced the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS), an ACCHO that provides holistic wrap around services to the Indigenous community in the South West, as the new lease holder for a campsite at Locke Estate in Siesta Park. SWAMS have demonstrated experience in setting up new clinical services, drive, passion and professionalism, across the South West region and across their 35,000sq km footprint.

SWAMS has exciting plans for the campsite and proposes to develop a community hub with family units, dorm buildings, common areas, a caretaker’s residence and a fire pit. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson said it proposed to use the campsite as a culturally safe place to deliver social, emotional and physical health programs. “We’re excited for what’s to come, intending to offer a diverse range of services, including youth camps, Elders groups, men’s and women’s groups, cultural immersion and health related programs,” she said.

You can read the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article City of Busselton partner with South West Aboriginal Medical Service with a lease on Locke Estate in full here.

Representatives from SWAMS Board, CEO Lesley Nelson, SWAMS team and community; along with Busselton City Councillor Anne Ryan, Acting CEO Tony Nottle and City Officers. Image source: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

Hearing on NDIS in remote communities

A Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in remote communities began yesterday at the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Convention Centre. The hearing will explore barriers to accessing the NDIS and disability services faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in remote and very remote communities.

The recent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey determined that more than one in ten of the 66,000 First Nations people with profound or severe disability live in remote or very remote locations. The hearing will examine to what extent inaccessibility to services cause or contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of Indigenous people with disability. During a previous public hearing, Dr Scott Avery gave evidence that disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was twice as prevalent, more complex and “compressed within a shorter life expectancy” compared to other Australians.

Pat Turner, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks will be speaking at the public hearing this Thursday alongside representatives from the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and other community-controlled organisations on specific barriers they’ve seen getting in people’s way over and over again when they try to get NDIS disability support.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Disability Royal Commission turns spotlight on Indigenous people in remote communities in full click here.

Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the NDIS in remote communities. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Minister Burney on First Nations suicide

The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP, has described the Labor Government’s suicide prevention approach, saying it would focus on, “self-determination, respect for First Nations knowledge systems, restoration of culture and First Nations leadership of programs and services.”

In her first major speech about suicide as Minister, Ms Burney told a national webinar audience of mental health leaders, convened by the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate, “hurts me every time I see it. It hurts all of us. These statistics hurt because they represent people in pain, people we know, families who need to put the pieces of their lives back together.” Indigenous adults die by suicide at twice the rate of other Australians, while for children and teenagers the rate is four times as high.

Ms Burney, a Wiradjuri woman who represents the electorate of Barton in southern Sydney, described her own 2017 loss of her son to suicide, saying he was, “in his 30s and a beautiful young man who found this earth a very difficult and cruel place.” She said suicides were connected to the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives. “Too many experience poverty, trauma, marginalisation and discrimination,” she said. “We know we must make progress on all these fronts if we want to see the future First Nations people deserve.”

To view Minister Burney’s media release Minister Burney speaks out about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide in full click here.

How dietitians can make a stronger impact

Diet, nutrition, exercise advice and community programs are as important in rural and metropolitan settings as regional and remote areas, and peer support for health professionals can help deliver better results particularly if resources are limited. A new study from Monash University and Flinders University academics has identified what Australian dietitians and nutritionists need to do to make a stronger impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the communities they serve.

The study of Australian health workers, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (Association of UK Dietitians), looks at how a peer mentoring process, or ‘community of practice’, can support dietitians to work more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The majority of dietitians in Australia are non-Aboriginal people, with only 32 individuals of more than 7,500 full members and students self-identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in 2020, according to Dietitians Australia’s annual report.

To view the Flinders University media release Building peer support for dietitians published yesterday in SCIMEX in full click here.

Nicole Turner, one of only five qualified Aboriginal community nutritionists speaking at the Food Governance Conference 2019, University of Sydney. Image source: Twitter.

UQ academic on incarceration of youth

Lorelle Holland describes herself as a disruptor. The proud Mandandanji woman and University of Queensland (UQ) PhD candidate is relatively new to academia but is already making her mark. Last month, prestigious medical journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health published a commentary piece written by Mrs Holland and her PhD supervisory team from the UQ school of Public Health on the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

It is a topic Mrs Holland cannot discuss without getting emotional. “It’s a national crisis,” Mrs Holland said. “These vulnerable, marginalised children are in youth detention at a rate 17 times higher than all other ethnicities combined – during a critical period of child development. How people cannot be outraged by this escapes me.”

Her paper called for a community-led response to the issue and for Australian policy to conform to UN guidelines to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years.

You can read the University of Queensland UQ News article From nurse to UQ academic: A journey to create change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in full here.

Lorelle Holland, above right, in the NT with colleague Antonella Martin. Image source: UQ News.

Deadly Vision Centre CTG on eye health

Shaun Tatipata, the founding Director of Australia’s first Aboriginal-owned optical and eye care provider, Deadly Vision Centre, has a strong vision for the future of Indigenous eye health. The goal of the business is to contribute to closing the gap in eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by providing access to culturally safe and socially responsive eye care.

Mr Tatipata, who is of Wuthathi and Ngarrindjeri descent, has gained extensive experience in delivering primary health care and designing and implementing outreach programs in Indigenous communities. He is passionate about ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to access eye care services that are delivered to them by their community.

You can read the mivison (The Ophthalmic Journal) article Celebrating Founder of Deadly Vision Centre in full here and listen to an Shaun Tatipata in conversation with Karl Briscoe about Indigenous eye health below.

First Nations member sought for AMC

The Australian Medical Council Ltd (AMC) is currently seeking applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, who has experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, position on Council.

You can view the EOI notice, providing additional information on the selection process here. Further information and the nomination form are available through the AMC website here.

The application deadline is Friday 19 August 2022.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

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

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

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

ACCHO CEO awarded honorary doctorate

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

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

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

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

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

Remote houses are dangerous hot boxes

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

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

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

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

Shoddy NT remote homes lethal

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

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

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

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

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

Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia

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

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

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

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

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

Integrating kidney health into patient care

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

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

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

Dr TIm Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Indigenous assistant minister sworn in

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

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

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

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

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

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Making Change: Indigenous Eye Health Conference in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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