NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: acceleration of efforts to reduce overincarceration

feature tile text 'Joint Council agrees to accelerate collective efforts to reduce overincarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people' & photo of an Aboriginal man's hands through prison bars

Acceleration of efforts to reduce overincarceration

The Joint Council on Closing the Gap met today and acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and agreed that joined up work between all governments in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is critical to reducing the rate at which Indigenous people are incarcerated, and thereby reduce deaths in custody. Given the urgency and enduring nature of this issue Joint Council agreed to the high priority of accelerating the critical work to establish a Policy Partnership on Justice with the aim of reducing youth and adult incarceration.

Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks said “It’s vital that governments, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, are taking urgent and decisive steps to address the overincarceration of our peoples. For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives will be at the table with Ministers, Attorneys’-General, government officials, corrections, policing, housing and health under a formal shared decision making arrangement.”

To view the Coalition of Peaks media release click here.

protest march with placard of Aboriginal flag overlaid with text 'most incarcerated people on earth'

Photo: Getty. Image source: BBC News website.

Aboriginal people still dying in custody

Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney prison cell in 2015 after officers restrained him to stop him eating biscuits. During the struggle, he was pinned face-down by guards and jabbed with a sedative. Video later shown at his inquest captured his final moments: his laboured breathing and muffled screams under the pack of guards. “I can’t breathe,” he yelled repeatedly.

His case has parallels to that of African-American man George Floyd, whose death triggered global protests against racism and policing in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement also threw a spotlight on Australia’s own incarceration of indigenous people and their deaths in custody.

This week marks 30 years since a landmark inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The royal commission made hundreds of recommendations to address the crisis. But three decades on, the situation has worsened. Central to the problem is overrepresentation. Indigenous people are about 12 times more likely to be in custody than non-indigenous Australians.

That reality, a product of systemic problems and disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people, has prompted fresh anger over a lack of action. “The system is continuing to kill us and no one’s doing anything about it,” Paul Silva, the nephew of David Dungay Jr, said at a rally this week.

To view the BBC article in full click here.

2 young Aboriginal women BLM protestors, one with t-shirt Always Was Always Will Be holding up hands covered in red paint to indicate blood, other woman holding Aboriginal flag behind her with raised arms, t-shirt with text black' and Aboriginal flag broken into 4 horizontal rectangular segments

Photo: Getty: Image source: BBC News website.

Deaths in custody & intergenerational healing

The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth spoke with Dan Bourchier, ABC Radio 666 Canberra ‘Afternoons’ yesterday about the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and intergenerational healing.

Fiona Cornforth said “it is an important time to do that reflecting. Though it’s something we carry every day, I think, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unfortunately, we’re at a point now where we’ve lost hope in recommendations being fully implemented, despite all our voices being in these reports over time and people being generous and courageous to put forward their stories, time and time again. Where the solutions are in community, the solutions are given up as important by those with lived experience. But the powers that be and the complex system, the incarceration system, and all the service providers, the big web just can’t seem to get these recommendations out of the too hard basket.”

You can view a transcript of the interview here.

Aboriginal adult hand with small Aboriginal child's hand holding one of the fingers

Image source: Parks Australia website.

NDIS independent assessments on hold

The Morrison government has decided to delay introducing mandatory independent assessments (IAs) for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in a move strongly welcomed by disability groups.

New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said earlier this week that she would not be making any decisions around in IAs legislation until an IA trial was finished and the government could examine the feedback. While people currently need to get reports from multiple health providers of their choosing to assess their NDIS eligibility, the new mandatory assessments will be conducted by NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals using standardised tools.

The decision to introduce IAs has been met with overwhelming opposition from disability advocates, who say the process does not adequately capture the complexity of a person’s support needs and will lead to unfair outcomes for people with disability. Reynolds acknowledged the “significant feedback” IAs have already received, and said she would be consulting across the country with as many stakeholders as she could. Disability groups – who feared people would disengage from the scheme entirely because of their unwillingness to engage with IAs – strongly welcomed the minister’s comments.

To view the Pro Bono Australia article in full click here.

rear view of seat and wheel of a wheelchai

Image source: Pro Bono Australia News website.

The more that have the vaccine, the safer we’ll be

NACCHO CEO and lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner and NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey received their first AstraZeneca vaccines at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services last week. “The more people have the vaccinations, the safer we will be,” said Pat. “We’ve managed to keep our community free of any deaths from COVID-19 to date and we want to continue that outstanding record.”

Contact your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or GP to find out when you can receive your vaccine and to ask any questions you may have. To view the  Pat Turner’s video click here.

photo of Pat Turner receiving vaccine, text 'NACCHO CEO & Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks PAT TURNER'

Review of kidney transplant wait-listing

Research has confirmed poor access to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from the NT. The study found causes of delays to wait-listing included: failure to attend appointments due to competing priorities and communication barriers, access and navigating complex pathways to specialist services, transport, co-morbidities requiring multiple tests and multiple specialty services, and pressures on dialysis and hospital bed capacity.

The study concluded that barriers to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are complex and can be addressed by redesigning healthcare provision, including increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to provide education and patient navigation of the healthcare system and improve communication, streamlining investigations and coordinating specialist services.

To view the full research paper here.

health professional in green gown, green rubber gloves holding white box with red text ' HUMAN ORGAN FOR TRANSPLANT' against surgical theatre background

Image source: Renal and Urology News.

Lessons from subsidised spectacles scheme

A study has been undertaken to determine what lessons can be learned from the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacles Subsidy Scheme (VASSS). The VASSS, which started in July 2010 and has operated continually since, aims to improve access to visual aids and eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.

An estimated 10,853 VASSS cofunded visual aids were delivered over the first 6 years of the scheme. During that time the mean annual number of comprehensive eye examinations provided within services using VASSS grew 4.6-fold faster compared with the 4 years preceding the VASSS. VASSS achievements were attained through collaborations, flexibility, trust and communication between organisations, all facilitated by funding resulting from evidence-based advocacy.

Access to visual aids and eye examinations by Aboriginal Victorians has improved during the operation of the VASSS, with associated direct and indirect benefits to Aboriginal health, productivity and quality of life. The success of the VASSS may be replicable in other jurisdictions and provides lessons that may be applicable in other fields.

To view the full research paper click here.

Aboriginal man wearing eye test equipment spectacles

Image source: Optometry Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding grant round opening soon

Feature tile text 'NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding Grant Round Opening Soon' & image of tile with same text & logo artwork

Hi there

You may have accidently received the previous blog post that went out earlier today. Our WordPress site had a ‘whoops’ moment and it was published by mistake.

We apologies for the error! This is the final version of today’s NACCHO Aboriginal Health News.

Thank you.

NDIA Ready IBSF grant round opening soon

Attention NACCHO members!

We are excited to announce that the NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant round will be opening soon!

IBSF offers funding to eligible ACCHOs to help address:

  • basic establishment costs, and/or
  • business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS.

Grants of $20,000 will be available for up to 100 member ACCHOs. ACCHOs will be contacted shortly via email with information about the grants and how to apply.

image of wheelchair wheel & seat overlaid with Aboriginal dot painting gold, red, blue white tones

Image source: AbSec website.

Outcry over fifth death in custody in a month

The fifth Indigenous death in custody in a month has provoked an outcry by Aboriginal leaders after a 45-year-old maximum security inmate died in a WA prison. The prisoner from WA’s Casuarina Prison, who has not been publicly identified was taken to the secure wing of Fiona Stanley Hospital in southern Perth where he underwent a medical procedure and was placed in intensive care where he died.

Among the outcry from Indigenous leaders, Victoria’s first Aboriginal politician, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe posted on Twitter that the man was “the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country’s criminal legal system since the start of March. The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!,” she wrote. Since 1991, almost 500 Indigenous Australians have died in prison or in the custody of police.

To read the full article click here.

Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe holding Aboriginal flag & wearing hat with the word Deadly at an Invasion Day rally in January 2021

Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe (above at an Invasion Day rally in January) has protested at the fifth death in custody in a month. Picture: Darrian Traynor. Image source: news.com.au

Fears new NDIS assessments not culturally safe

Submissions to a parliamentary inquiry have raised concerns that controversial proposed changes to the NDIS will not serve people from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. A parliamentary committee examining controversial independent assessment reforms under the NDIS has been warned about the potential impact of changes on Indigenous and culturally diverse communities.

The inquiry is looking into the proposed changes intended to overhaul the evaluation process for determining an individual’s eligibility for support and funding under the disability support scheme. Currently, people with disability are required to submit evidence from their own experts such as specialists for evaluation by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

The reforms would instead see participants undergo an “independent assessment” from an allied health professional employed by contracted providers – paid for by the Australian government. Critics claim the move is a cost-cutting exercise that will leave participants worse off and undermine their control over the support they receive – a claim strongly denied by the government.

To view the full SBS News article click here.

portrait photo of SA artist Jackie Saunders with her artwork in the background

Ngarrindjeri Wirangu woman and artist Jackie Saunders lives with FASD. Image source: SBS News website.

Funding boost for Indigenous healthcare provider

FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing has received nearly $2 million to expand its services. The Frankston-based Indigenous healthcare provider’s CEO, Karinda Taylor, said the funding would “ensure that first nations’ people are provided with culturally safe services that meet the health and wellbeing needs of local communities”. The funding was secured through the federal government’s Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme. and is expected to fund service expansion and minor capital costs until 2023.

Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said, “the City of Frankston is home to one of the fastest growing indigenous populations in Victoria. This funding will allow First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing to continue their crucial work and expand their local services. I’m proud to have lobbied the federal government for this additional funding”.

To view the full article click here.

FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing’s Naaz Stojkova and Karinda Taylor with MPs Peta Murphy & Paul Edbrooke standing outside FPH&WS shopfront

FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing’s Naaz Stojkova & Karinda Taylor with MPs Peta Murphy & Paul Edbrooke. Image source: Bayside News.

Crusted scabies NT study

Scabies is listed as a neglected tropical disease by the World Health Organization. Crusted scabies affects vulnerable and immunosuppressed individuals and is highly contagious because of the enormous number of Sarcoptes scabiei mites present in the hyperkeratotic skin. Undiagnosed and untreated crusted scabies cases can result in outbreaks of scabies in residential facilities and can also undermine the success of scabies mass drug administration programs.

Crusted scabies became a formally notifiable disease in the NT in 2016. A 2-year prospective study of crusted scabies cases notified between March 2016 and February 2018, with subsequent follow up for 22 months has been conducted. Demographics, clinical and laboratory data, treatment and outcomes were analysed, with cases classified by severity of disease.

The study concluded that crusted scabies can be successfully treated with aggressive guideline-based therapy, but high mortality remains from underlying comorbidities. Reinfection on return to community is common while scabies remains endemic.

To view the research article in full click here.

crusted scabies manifestation on feet & sarcoptes scabiei mite under the microscope

Sarcoptes scabiei mite under a microscope. Image source: Managing Crusted Scabies in Remote Communities 2017 Edition.

The Lucky Country – but not for all

Australia’s lack of action on climate change, treatment of Indigenous people and the ongoing detention of refugees have been singled out for criticism in Amnesty International’s annual report into the state of human rights around the world: Amnesty International Report 2020/21 – The State of the World’s Human Rights. The report highlighted widespread public support for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and Australian law makers reluctance to move on an important reform which would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children. “Australians like to see ourselves as living in the lucky country, and that’s true for the privileged among us, but there are swathes of our community who are unable to access justice and the basic rights to which we’re all entitled,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Samantha Klintworth, said.

To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.

remote Aboriginal community with multiple beds in the open outside a dwelling

Image source: Street Smart Action Against Homelessness website.

Check yourself, before you wreck yourself

A major push to improve the health of the Indigenous community was launched by the Australian Government last month, with a focus on increasing Annual health checks. Backed by a new radio advertising campaign delivered in five Aboriginal languages: Kriol, Yolngu Matha, Warlpiri, Arrernte and Burarra, the Government is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their GP and have a 715 health check.

The health check, listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, is tailored specifically to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages. It is free and available every nine to twelve months. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the health checks are an opportunity for early intervention, prevention and chronic disease management for all age groups.

In one of the campaign’s latest resources comedian Sean Choolburra urges mob to get a regular 715 health check. After completing his 715, Sean says there’s nothing to be afraid of. “It was what I expected – I had my hearing checked, my eyesight checked, and I thought my eyesight has been getting worse, but apparently Dr. Prabash says I have great eyes. No joke, I do have great eyes,” says Sean. “I’d love to bring my kids in because they seem to not hear me. And they don’t seem to see their clothes all over the floor and their empty cups. I think they’re the ones who need their eyes and hearing checked!” Sean jokes.

Further information, including resources for patients and health practitioners is available here.

To view the Minister for Health’s media release click here and to view the Sean Choolburra case study click here.

Aboriginal comedian Sean Choolburra getting ear check by health professional - Sean's mouth is wide open

Comedian Sean Choolburra. Image source: Department of Health.

Suicide rises linked to disasters

NSW suicide deaths data released today highlights the need for immediate action to address distress in our community and future-proof against disasters. According to the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System there have been 104 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 31 January 2021. This is significantly more than the number of deaths reported within the same period in 2019 (75) or 2020 (81). Suicide Prevention Australia, CEO, Nieves Murray said, “Any increase in deaths by suicide is a tragedy. The ripple affect across families, workplaces and communities is unfathomable. “The past year has presented many trying circumstances across NSW communities including droughts, bushfires and COVID-19. This has increased risk factors for suicide such as financial distress and unemployment.

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.

split image of a tree, half green & lush, half bare branches grey skys

Image source: Psychiatric Times.

COVID-19 vaccine priority groups

In this video, Professor James Ward explains why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be some of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Ward says he’s heard some concerns regarding which vaccine people will get and why the vaccine is being rolled out to our mob first. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like other Indigenous peoples around the world, will be some of the first to receive the vaccines. This is solely to protect our Elders and those in our communities with underlying health conditions. Without the vaccine, our population will remain susceptible to COVID-19. When it’s your turn to be vaccinated, you’ll have access to whichever vaccine is available at that time. There’ll be enough vaccine doses for everyone in Australia.

VIC or ACT – Melbourne or Canberra – Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) 

Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health  x 1 PT (4 days/week)- Melbourne or Canberra

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of over 28,000 physiotherapists in Australia. It does so by advocating for access to quality physiotherapy services, providing leadership in the wider health landscape, creating lifelong learning opportunities for members, and promoting the value of physiotherapy to the community.

The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.

To view the job description and to apply click here. Applications close Wednesday 14 April 2021.logo: text 'Australian Physiotherapy Association' & triangular blue shape with cursive letters APA, all in blue & white

NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney 

Senior Ad (identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney – CLOSING DATE EXTENDED

The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.

You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.

This role is primarily located at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney but will be required to spend short periods in rural and regional Australia.

To view position descriptions and to apply click here. Applications close midnight Sunday 18 April 2021.

drawing of cross-section of kidney & kidney stones

Image source: Kettering Health Network website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Health sector racism a key barrier to medical care

feature tile: RACISM is a key barrier to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people's access medical care; image Aboriginal flag colours black top half, red bottom half, yellow map of Australia is words 'No Room for Racism'

Racism a key barrier to health care

Racism within the NSW public health service has been identified as a key barrier for Aboriginal people trying to access medical care. A state parliamentary inquiry into remote, rural and regional healthcare has been given examples of Aboriginal residents who say they have been mistreated and disrespected. The submissions state that this is the reason why Aboriginal people do not always trust or feel safe in the public health service.

The CEO of the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (OAMS), Jamie Newman and the spokeswoman, Ariane Dozer for the civil rights and legal service, National Justice Project say there are still racist attitudes among some staff, despite the rollout of cultural sensitivity programs, awareness campaigns and training. “What we would like to see is health services dedicated to working with the local Aboriginal communities to develop strong localised models for culturally safe care because not all Aboriginal communities are the same,” said Ms Dozer.

The way Aboriginal health services are funded is also a key issue. “The levels of funding have to change, the length of funding has to change,” said Mr Newman. He said that unlike the public health system, Aboriginal medical services in NSW have a three-year funding cycle. “We can’t recruit GPs, specialists, allied health services when we only guarantee a three-year contract based on the funding arrangements. We’re not going to get health outcomes in the next three years. We’re talking about generational change over 10–15 years and if we don’t have that approach we will fail in the next three years to Close the Gap.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

doctor having consult with Aboriginal man

Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.

A related article says the state parliamentary inquiry has been told racist attitudes within the NSW public health system are stopping Indigenous people from seeking medical help. The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council says figures show Indigenous patients are five times more likely to discharge themselves early from hospital. Ariane Dozer from the National Justice Project says First Nations people did not trust the public health service, which they said had provided them with “derogatory” and “degrading” treatment. [They are] essentially dismissed and turned away without proper assessment,” she said. “People’s individual concerns and views of their concerns and their suffering can be ignored.”

To view this article click here.

emergency hospital entrance

Image source: ABC News website.

BLM spurs Linda Burney to change Australia

Thousands of protesters took to the streets chanting “Black Lives Matter” in June last year, exasperated at high incarceration rates and deaths in custody. But this was 10,000 miles from New York, Washington and Los Angeles, on the other side of the globe – in Australia. While conservative PM Scott Morrison claimed the protests Down Under showed there was a risk of “importing the things that are happening overseas,” for Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to the nation’s lower house, the anger was justifiable.

Mirroring the U.S., where the Black imprisonment rate is more than five times than that of Whites, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up just 2% of the population but 29% of all prison inmates in Australia. “The Black Lives Matter movement very seriously resonated here because Australia has had such a denial of its history,” Burney, 63, said in an interview. “It clicked because of the extraordinary large numbers of Aboriginal people incarcerated and the hundreds of deaths in custody.”

To view the full article click here.

Linda Burney in house or representatives during Morrison's CtG ministerial statement 14.2.19

Linda Burney during Morrison’s Closing the Gap ministerial statement at Parliament House in Canberra, on 14 February 2019. Photo: Tracey Nearmy. Image source: Bloomberg Equality.

NDIS independent assessments

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has released a joint paper with the Department of Social Services about independent assessments. The paper is the Government’s submission to the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) inquiry on independent assessments. The NDIA’s submission sets out a picture of the planned reforms and why they are necessary to deliver a simpler, faster, fairer and more flexible NDIS that will benefit all Australians. The paper released provides a summary of the background, the key reasons independent assessments are being introduced and clarifies the intent of independent assessments.

The concerns raised in the recent reforms consultation process indicate that there are misconceptions and misunderstandings about the details of independent assessments and how they will be implemented. The submission paper is the Government’s clear statement of independent assessments and is an opportunity for us to clarify details about the planned reforms.

The NDIA says it is committed to actively seeking feedback on independent assessments and other reform proposals through an ongoing and comprehensive consultation program and encourages you to read the joint submission paper here.

torso of a person in a wheelchair view from side

Image source: Disability Insider website.

Second lowest COVID-19 case rate in OECD

The Government will invest more than $1.1 billion to extend its national COVID-19 health response and suppression strategy until 31 December 2021. Australia is leading the world out of the global COVID-19 pandemic and recession. As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the nation, protecting Australians from the ongoing threats of the pandemic remains a priority. This $1.1 billion is in addition to more than $22 billion spent in these areas to date, including more than $6 billion to support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Australia’s suppression strategy has been extremely successful to date, particularly when compared with the devastation caused by the virus in many places overseas. Australia’s remarkable performance in saving lives is evident – we have the second lowest case rate and third lowest mortality rate amongst countries in the OECD.

To view the media release click here.

gloved hands holding pink piece of paper with text 'COVID-19'

Image source: AMA website.

Vaccine rollout to include more Aboriginal Australians

Just over a week out from the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccinations for the phase 1b priority group, the Australian government has quietly changed the parameters to include more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote residents. The ABC understands the decision has been made to assist the logistics of delivering the vaccines to remote communities.

It would mean vaccination teams who head to remote Aboriginal communities can immunise all adults over the age of 18 who want the vaccine, rather than just people over 55 or those who met the previous criteria for phase 1b. The changes would not be targeting, for instance, young Aboriginal people living in urban areas.

The federal Department of Health website has changed its phase 1b category to say, “beginning to vaccinate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. A spokeswoman from the department confirmed the change would also include non-Indigenous remote residents. “All remote and very remote residents [inclusive of both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and the non-Indigenous population] over the age of 18 will be considered a priority group, due to logistical requirements,” she said. “This will limit the need to transfer workforce and relevant materials and will assist with issues associated with distribution and access.”

Previously it was “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55” or who met other phase 1b criteria, like having an underlying medical condition, being a healthcare worker, critical or high-risk worker. There was no change to this for people living in urban and regional locations.

To view the media release in full click here.

medical tray of COVID-19 vaccine syringes

Image source: Surf Coast Times.

Countering vaccine misinformation

The Australian Government is ramping up its campaign against misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccines, as the vaccination program ramps up moving into Phase 1B. Australians can get all their questions answered on the health website to find out what they want – and need – to know about the COVID-19 vaccines. The new material on the website, called Is it true? will help answer questions people may have about the vaccine, and respond to vaccine misinformation they may have heard. This new function will provide trusted, credible information on COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in Australia. It will sort the fact from the fiction. The information on the website will be clear, accurate and timely. This will help reassure Australians about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and answer commonly asked questions and misinformation relating to the COVID-19 Vaccination program.

To view the media release in full click here.

blackboard with arrow to left & word myths, arrow to right & word facts

Image source: The Irish Times.

Self-identification sufficient for vaccine

The AMA has received advice from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Advisory Group that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking vaccination in the 1b and 2a rollout, self-identification is sufficient proof of Indigenous status – no other documentation in required.  The advisory group re-affirmed that no proof beyond self-identification is required and this is consistent with the RACGP standards. While there is the potential for non-indigenous people to take advantage of this system, it was thought the greater harm was in potential racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking vaccination and of having to prove one’s identity.

To view the full article click here.

gloved hand administering vaccine to upper arm

Image: SBS website.

Cancer research priorities survey

Are you interested in contributing to cancer in primary care research?

PC4, the Primary Care Collaborative Cancer Clinical Trials Group, is undertaking a prioritisation study that aims to explore the views of different stakeholders to identify their perspective on what the top research priorities should be in the field of cancer in primary care research. PC4 is funded by Cancer Australia to support the development of cancer in primary care trials.

The survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete and will give you an opportunity to advocate for the areas of cancer in primary care research you feel should be addressed most urgently.

You can access the link to survey for health care professionals, researchers etc. here and the link to the consumer survey here.

This survey is being distributed nationally and is set to close on Friday 16 April 2021.
PC4 banner text 'help rank the top 10 research priorities for cancer in primary care research' photo of a woman at a table, man writing on whiteboard & woman running brain-storming session, text 'Have Your Say with arrow to box containing words Priority 1, Priority 2., priority 3'

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program promotion

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. If found early, up to 90% of cases can be treated successfully. Bowel cancer often has no obvious early warning signs. The good news is, a bowel screening test can detect changes in the bowel long before your patient notices any problems.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program provides free bowel screening kits for eligible people aged 50–74. So, have the bowel screening chat with your patients. An A4-sized poster (for display in staff only access areas) encouraging health professionals to talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about bowel screening as well as other resources can be accessed here.

poster text 'bowel screening can save lives have you discussed bowel screening with patients?'

JobSeeker cuts will widen health gaps

The Federal Government’s failure to provide a liveable income through JobSeeker payments will harm the health of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and contribute to widespread distress as people and families struggle to afford healthy food and housing. Health groups have also warned that the new base rate for JobSeeker will contribute to growing health inequalities and have consistently highlighted evidence of the link between poverty and sickness.

More than 500 submissions were made to the Senate inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Income Support) Bill 2021, with many testimonials of hardship from families and individuals choosing between food and medications, and forced into homelessness. Economic modelling by The Grattan Institute predicts that 40,000 more jobs will be lost when the Government axes the Coronavirus Supplement (currently $75 a week) at the end of March and replaces it with a $25 a week increase to JobSeeker payments.

To view the full article in Croakey click here.

platter of fruit & vegetables, lettuce, apples, ginger, cucumber, broccoli, celery

Demand soared for fresh fruit and vegetables when Aboriginal communities received the Coronavirus Supplement. Photo by k15 on Unsplash. Image source: Croakey.

Innovative post suicide support program

An innovative trial will give children and young people access to community-based, non-clinical support following an attempted suicide, thanks to a $3.8 million investment from the NSW Government. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the service will be designed by young people with lived experience of suicide alongside families and carers, youth mental health and suicide prevention experts. “Growing evidence tells us that following up and increasing community support for people after a suicide attempt can reduce the likelihood of a further attempt,” Mrs Taylor said. “We know that young people are often reluctant to reach out for help and don’t always engage well with clinical services – what works well for adults often doesn’t work well for young people.

To view the NSW Government media release in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl's hands with chipped nail polish holding another Aboriginal child's hands

Image source: Amnesty International website.

Close The Gap Report Launch 2021

The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.

The Australian Institute is delighted to invite you to the launch of the 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report “Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe”, written by the Lowitja Institute. 

The report will be launched via webinar, on National Close the Gap Day from 12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 18 March 2021 – hosted by the Australia Institute in support of the Close the Gap Campaign.

The webinar is free, but registration is essential. To book click here.

You can also view an invite to the Close the Gap & Mental Health Awareness Event here.banner 'close the gap report launch 2021 leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Stafe' June Oscar AO, Karl Briscoe, Dr Janine Mohamed, Sir Michael Marmot

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Vaccine rollout commences next week

feature tile - get ready vaccine rollout commences next week, image of gloved hand administering vaccine

Vaccine rollout commences next week

Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program will commence from next week. People in priority groups who are most at risk and who need protection the most – will receive a vaccine first. The rollout will begin with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and following the approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) earlier this week, will include the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from early March. The initial priority groups include aged care and disability care residents and workers, frontline healthcare workers, and quarantine and border workers. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt reaffirmed that Australia’s vaccine strategy is strong and on schedule, saying “Australia will begin rolling out the COVID-19 Vaccination program from next week.”

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.

9 vials of COVID-19 vaccine with syringe on a mirrored surface

Image source: Human Resources Director.

Facebook blocks Indigenous health groups

Indigenous health and media groups fear Facebook’s shutdown of community pages could have a dangerous impact on regional communities during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Crucial sources of information have been lost as small media outlets, community noticeboards and health services have been caught up in Facebooks’ sweeping shutdown of Australian news. Facebook has blocked the feeds of Australian news companies on its site and is preventing users from sharing Australian news content. The tech giant is pushing back against the federal government’s plans to make it and Google pay for publishing Australian news content — a world-leading initiative the companies have fiercely resisted.

But the effect of Facebook’s ploy has extended well beyond major media companies. Several Aboriginal community-controlled health services have had their posts blocked, including organisations such as the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and Danila Dilba Health Service. CAAC, a community-controlled primary health care provider, vented its frustration on Twitter at the timing of Facebook’s move, given the impending COVID-19 vaccine rollout to Indigenous communities, “A primary vehicle for health promotion, disabled at a crucial time,” it tweeted.

To view the full ABC News story click here.

screen shot of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Facebook page

CAAC is a community-controlled health organisation for people living in Central Australia. Image source: ABC News website.

Removing information sources is corporate bullying

Tech giant Facebook’s decision to remove official sources of information, including Federal and State Government health pages, is irresponsible corporate bullying during a global pandemic, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said yesterday. Dr Khorshid outlined his concern over Facebook’s actions, “The world is battling the COVID-19 crisis, and Australia is days away from beginning the biggest mass vaccination program in our nation’s history. Yet, to save itself from having to pay a few million dollars to Australian news organisations for the work their journalists do, Facebook has decided to punish all Australians by removing their access to news on its platform. This irresponsible action – taken with no notice – has clearly had unintended consequences, with some health department pages taken down, but not others; with people unable to access the Bureau of Meteorology’s page on a day of bushfire and flood warnings. Facebook play a huge part in the lives of ordinary Australians and the company must take its responsibilities seriously.”

“It is truly ironic that Facebook has allowed health misinformation to be spread via its platform throughout this pandemic, yet today much of this misinformation remains on Facebook while official information sources are blocked. The AMA calls on Facebook to restore public access to official information, and to stop putting the health of Australians at risk in order to bully the Australian Government.”

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

hand holding piece of ripped carboard with text 'BULLYING' in capitals

Image source: Corporate Bully Facebook page.

Be vaccine ready – link digital government services

The Morrison Government is encouraging Australians to get ready for their COVID-19 vaccination by linking their digital government services, particularly their myGov and Medicare accounts. The call to link digital services follows the announcement that the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) will be the record for all vaccinations for Australians and that record will form the basis of the vaccination certificate that all Australians will be able to use, including visa holders. The AIR has undergone significant upgrades in preparation for COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Almost 5.5 million immunisation history statements were securely accessed by individuals between October 2019 and August 2020. Your immunisation history statement will record your COVID-19 vaccinations.

To view the media release in full click here.

thumb clicking mobile phone screen with myGov app showing

Image source: The Grenfell Record.

COVID-19 symptoms – get tested

Dr Kelvin Kong has produced a new COVID-19 video clip for the Australian Government Department of Health. He reminds everyone that anytime you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms, get tested immediately for COVID-19 and stay home until you get a negative test result. It is the best way to protect yourself and your community. To access the NSW Government Keep Our Mob Safe webpage click here.

image from COVID-19 DoH video featuring Associate Professor Kelvin Kong in scrubs talking about getting tested if you have COVID-19 system, even if you have previously been tested

Image source: Department of Health Facebook page.

Tailored vaccine information for Mob

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have been identified as a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out program. This is because of the higher risk of getting and developing serious illness from COVID-19 due to a number of factors. This may include a higher rate of chronic health conditions and in some cases crowded-living conditions, which increases the risk of spreading the infection.

COVID-19 can cause serious health issues. Getting a vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting yourself from getting really sick from COVID-19. Encourage your family, Elders and community to get vaccinated so that they are protected from serious illness from COVID-19.

The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, available to everyone in Australia and free.

For more information you can access the Australian Government’s Department of Health’s Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about COVID-19 vaccines webpage here.Department of Health's Stay Informed About COVID-19 Vaccines poster with Aboriginal green blue orange Aboriginal dot painting air border

Free on-line training to keep staff COVID-19 safe

COVID-19 has brought new challenges in the way we work, particularly for people who care for others day-to-day. You want to stay on top of current and relevant information to keep care recipients, staff and visitors safe. That’s why the Australian Government Department of Health has created online COVID-19 infection control training.

This program is free to everyone and especially recommended for people working in the healthcare sectors. People like Rachael Phillips, Manager of Birrelee Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service – a long day care centre in Tamworth, NSW – have already seen results. Biralee’s staff are feeling more confident and able to carry out the centre’s policies to keep everyone safe. For them the reliable nature of the training made it essential. The short length and being able to do it online on a phone made it easy. And the interesting information made it stick.

For further information about the training click here.banner 'COVID-19 infection control training' Australian Government Department of Health, blue green image of COVID-19 cell

Food insecurity post-pandemic

Wide-ranging systemic and structural changes are needed to ensure food and economic security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to University of Queensland academics, Professor Bronwyn Fredericks and Dr Abraham Bradfield. Socioeconomic factors and the affordability of fresh food significantly impact what Indigenous peoples consume and what they are able to access. Dr Megan Ferguson and her colleagues conducted a study comparing the price of food baskets in urban supermarkets in Darwin and Adelaide and remote stores in the NT and SA, finding that products from remote locations cost an average of 60% more. In addition to this, Indigenous peoples earn an average weekly income of $250 less than non-Indigenous Australians. This means that in remote Australia – where employment opportunities are scarce and reliance on welfare a necessity – people must stretch their income just to feed themselves and their family. Purchasing cheaper and often unhealthy processed foods is one way to achieve this.

In the wake of the pandemic, we find ourselves in a situation where Indigenous health – which is often compromised by pre-existing (and preventable) health conditions – is placed at greater risk because the underlying issues informing food insecurity and wider socioeconomic disparities haven’t been addressed. Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), observes this in relation to Outback Stores, a government-owned company servicing 39 food and general stores across remote NT, WA and SA. In an interview for the ABC, Turner spoke of the government’s delayed and reactive response to food security that in some cases contributed to food shortages during the early days of the pandemic: “Given the fact that we have had Outback Stores for a long time and so on, I’m just really disappointed that the pre-planning wasn’t done to ensure ready access to healthy and affordable food. Our people need access to fresh produce and they need, now more than ever, healthy food to keep their immunity system up.”

To view the full Croakey article click here.

 Professor Bronwyn Fredericks & Dr Abraham Bradfield in an office holding a copy of the publication containing their food insecurity essay

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks & Dr Abraham Bradfield. Image source: Griffith Review.

Battle for the Kimberley

The Kimberley is set to be hotly contested at the upcoming March election, with a record number of Aboriginal candidates in the running for the 2.5 million square kilometre seat. The seat has been held by an Aboriginal person since 1980, when Ernie Bridge took the seat from Liberal incumbent Keith Ridge and became the State’s first Aboriginal member of Parliament.

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

map of seat of Kimberley, portrait photos of Divina D'Anna, Millie Hills & Naomi Pigram

Clockwise: map of the seat of Kimberley, WA, Divina D’Anna (Labor), Naomi Pigram (Greens) & Millie Hills (Nationals). Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

1,000+ with cognitive disability detained each year

“Is the justice system being used as a de facto disability service, one that proceeds by punitive rather than therapeutic measures?” That was one of the questions posed by Senior Counsel Assisting Dr Kerri Mellifont at the opening day of two weeks of hearings by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability into the experiences of people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system.

The focus has been broadly welcomed, however the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) has said that the over-representation of First Nations People with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system – acknowledged by Commission Chair Ronald Sackville in his opening remarks – warrants its own dedicated First Nations hearing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned with one third reporting a disability, 50%  reporting a history of psychosocial disability, and 25–30% of prisoners having an intellectual disability, said FPDN CEO Damian Griffis in a statement.

To view the full Croakey article click here.

Aboriginal person's hands gripping bars of jail cell

Image source: newmatilda.com.

No shame is asking for an STI test

The Australian Government Department of Health is promoting NACCHO’s work to support and educate communities on practising safe and consensual sex via its website. To view the webpage in full click here.

close up image of pair of white hands & Aboriginal hands holding across a desk

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Cashless debit card a paternalistic response

Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter said: “The cashless debit card was always just another paternalistic response to addressing issues that affect Indigenous people in this country. Approaches that have failed to make significant inroads into addressing intractable issues like poverty and discrimination. The report into the trial, conducted at great expense, found that people involved in the trial of the CDC felt discriminated against and shamed for receiving welfare payments. Shaming people doesn’t improve anyone’s situation, but condemns them to the same discriminatory treatment they’ve experienced for generations.”

To view Amnesty International Australia’s media statement in full click here.

3 Aboriginal woman & two Aboriginal children holding No Cashless Debit Card placards

The cashless debit card trial in Ceduna in 2016 was met with some community resistance. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

SA pilot suicide prevention program

South Australia’s most vulnerable now have better access to support services thanks to a new pilot program to help survivors of attempted suicide. Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said the Way Back Support Service, a Beyondblue initiative delivered in collaboration between AnglicareSA and Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN), provides one-on-one support to survivors after they leave hospital. “We are committed to tackling our suicide rate through offering appropriate services to those who need support and ensuring that people at increased risk of suicide don’t fall through the gaps, Minister Wade said. “Suicide is a complex issue, however we know raising awareness, breaking down stigma and encouraging help-seeking behaviours can save lives.”

To view the joint media release from the SA Minister for Health and Wellbeing and the SA Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention and Community Resilience  click here.

photo of Ingrid Cumming's face with body paint, looking into the distance, blurred foliage in the background

Aboriginal campaigner and suicide survivor Ingrid Cumming. Photo credit: Amelia Searson. Image source: Western Independent Stories from Curtin University’s Journalism Program website page.

Aboriginal Ear Health webinar

The Academy of Child and Adolescent Health (ACAH) The Academy of Child and Adolescent Health promotes the health and wellbeing of every newborn, child and young person in order that they may meet their maximum potential.

As part of the ACAH 2021 webinar series Associate Professor Kelvin Kong will deliver via Zoom a FREE special WHO World Hearing Day presentation on Aboriginal ear health from 7:00–8:00 PM (AEDT) Wednesday 3 March 2021. To register click here.

Associate Professor Kong is an amazing Australian and part of Australian medical history as the first Aboriginal surgeon, other than the tens of thousands of years of Ngangkari healers. He is one of Australia’s leading ear health experts as part of the Centre of Research Excellence in Indigenous Children’s Healthy Ears and the Australian delegation to the WHO World Hearing Forum. Join his webinar to hear about his journey, his work and the current innovations in ear health in Australia.

health professional checking a small Aboriginal child's ear

Image source: the social photographer website.

NSW – Wyong – Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited

Family Time / Case Work Support Worker x 1 FT (identified) – Wyong

Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Service Ltd. is an Aboriginal Community Controlled organisation, which aims is to deliver holistic, comprehensive and culturally responsive health care, integrated social, emotional and community programs to the Aboriginal community.

Yerin is seeking a suitably qualified Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander individual to join their Ngaliya PSP team. In this role you will support child focused quality contact between a child, young person and their parent/family/kin who are in statutory Permanency Support Program Placements.

To view the position description and to apply click here. Applications close 5:00 PM Thursday 4 May 2021.Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited logo, 7 purple & yellow concentric circles surrounded by 14 flower-like petals with purple & yellow Aboriginal dots

Random Acts of Kindness Week – 14–20 February 2021

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is a small non-profit organisation that believes all people can connect through kindness and that kindness can be taught. Scientific evidence shows the positive effects of doing kind acts for others as well as receiving or even witnessing kindness. Even the smallest act of kindness can change a life. Seemingly insignificant moments where a stranger helps another stranger can impact the rest of someone’s life. When a person tunes into kindness happening around them, the day seems a little bit brighter. The week seems a little more manageable.

Aboriginal Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts is spreading the word about kindness with his book My Kind. The book’s main purpose is to convey messages about diversity, equality, acceptance, anti-bullying, caring for the environment and, most of all, kindness. You can view Eddie’s website Eddies’ Lil’ Homies spreading kindness & culture here.

In 2021, the foundation in encouraging everyone to Explore the Good and Make Kindness the Norm. For more information about the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation click here.

Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts reading his book My Kind to twin babies & two young boys

Adelaide Crows star Eddie Betts. Image source: The Advertiser.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: progressing the Australia Day debate

feature tile, Aboriginal & national flag hanging horizontally, words: Stolen Generations history needed to progress the Australia Day debate

Progressing the Australia Day debate

The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Petersen, spoke with Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne ‘Mornings’ today about the importance of Stolen Generations history being taught as part of the Australian school curriculum. Fiona said the Healing Foundation encourages school communities to engage with survivors in their local area to learn about not just what happened when they were removed and the follow-on effects of that, but also how they and their families have been overcoming what happened. Fiona agreed that if Stolen Generations history is taught more broadly in schools it is likely to better inform the ongoing conversation about Australia Day.

To view the full transcript of the interview click here.

Aboriginal people with large banner National Day of Mourning 26 January

Image source: Teach Indigenous Knowledge.

COVID-19 patient identification and racism

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors in Australia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AIDA members witnessed incidents of racism related to patient identification. Patient identification is imperative to providing culturally safe health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. In one instance, a patient who identified as Aboriginal was denied testing for COVID-19. The justification for this denial was that priority testing would only be offered to “real Aborigines”. Incidents like these highlight the need to improve the cultural safety of all healthcare workers and that increasing community education about why asking all patients whether they identify as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin is vital.

AIDA advocates for best practice in patient identification to support the development of policies and services related to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe practice begins with sensitively, correctly, and regularly asking the identification question at the admission of care. Addressing under-identification includes asking all patients the identity question and recording responses accurately as one of several best practice principles.

To view AIDA’s position paper on patient identification click here.

desktop resource used as a prompt to 'asking the question' "are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?"

Desktop resource to prompt ‘asking the question’. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Measuring self-reported racism in healthcare

Racism is a fundamental cause of ill health and health inequities globally. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders have identified as a high priority, research on the experiences of discrimination, overall and specifically within healthcare. Regardless of the measure used, there is consistent evidence of high exposure to discrimination in this population. High quality measurement of experiences of discrimination is therefore essential to underpin action to improve health and reduce inequities.

A recent article in the International Journal for Equity in Health, Developing and validating measures of self-reported everyday and healthcare discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults looks at instruments to capture Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of interpersonal discrimination. The instruments can be used to enable valid measurement of discrimination’s prevalence, in order to identify priority targets for action, quantify discrimination’s contribution to health and health inequities, monitor trends, and evaluate interventions.

To view the paper in full click here.

Image source: The Royal Melbourne Hospital website.

Confronting Australia’s collective racism

In health, ‘bravery’ is something that is typically used about patients. Children (and sometimes adults) are asked to be ‘brave’ when they receive a vaccination. People are often called brave for sharing stories of mental illness to destigmatise it. Sometimes, just seeing a health professional is brave, if the issue is very personal or potentially embarrassing.

However, bravery has now been used about health professionals and policymakers in the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report: Moving from Safe to Brave. This is the second report (the first being in 2016) outlining where Australia is at with reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The report is based on interviews with leaders of national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, leaders of relevant non-Indigenous organisations, corporate leaders and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) partners.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

street march, lady with flag Aboriginal colours, words no room for racism inside yellow map of Aust, against black top and red lower half of flag, young Aboriginal girl with drum

Image source: The Conversation.

Australia slammed for age of criminal responsibility 

Australia was slammed over its treatment and acknowledgment of First Nations people at the United Nations last week. More than 30 nations – including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Mexico – called on Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, in line with the recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Nolan Hunter, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, told NITV News that policies around Australia’s age of criminal responsibility were “outdated” and a “legacy of Colonialism”. “What’s more worrying is to allow it to continue and the acceptance of this where kids as young as 10 years old are being thrown in jail,” he said. “The culture of the community in Australia and more so the government is the attitude that there isn’t a problem or to recognise this as a serious issue.”

To view the article in full click here.

black & white spray paint image of Aboriginal child on brick wall with white bars across image representing imprisonment

Photo by Chris Devers. Image source: New Matilda website.

Mobilising a COVID-19 vaccine workforce

The Australian Government is preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by securing an additional vaccine workforce and working to deliver essential training to everyone who will administer the vaccinations. “Australia’s vaccine roll out will be carried out through hospitals, general practices, state and Commonwealth vaccination clinics, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and pharmacies. This additional vaccination workforce will help support and supplement existing services and assist in outreach in areas such as aged care and remote and Indigenous communities working with existing providers. Through the Australian Government’s plan, a panel of four providers have been appointed, who will be called upon to provide a vaccine workforce to supplement the existing immunisation workforce for specific populations. The providers are Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS, and Sonic Clinical Services.”

To view the media release in full click here, and to read a related article in the Western Advocate click here.

gloved hand placing cotton wool bud on person's upper arm

Image source: startsat60. website.

Biggest mass vaccination program begins

vaccine Coronavirus production line

Image source: European Pharmaceutical Review website.

GPs united on vaccine rollout

Australian GPs stand united to work with the Government on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines across the community and the nation. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have worked collaboratively with Health Minister Greg Hunt over the past weeks to ensure the vaccine rollout is delivered with patient safety as the first priority.

In a joint media release AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and RACGP President Dr Karen Price said “This is an important moment for the Australian community. We have gone from no coronavirus vaccine a year ago to several vaccines, with the first expected to be rolled out next month. GPs are ready to help vaccinate and protect the community from COVID-19 as soon as vaccines are fully approved for use in Australia, and available for delivery. Vaccinations are also an important opportunity to discuss other health concerns with GPs. This is particularly important at a time when many people have deferred health care due to the pandemic.”

To view the joint AMA and RACGP media release click here.

vaccine lying on top of a mask on at bench

Image source: AMA website.

General practices sought for rollout

The Australian Government is seeking expressions of interest from all accredited general practices to take part in the planned delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. “General practices will play a key role in the Australian Government’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, in what will be one of the greatest logistical exercises, public health or otherwise, in Australian history. Providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in Australia is a key priority for our Government. General practices will help deliver the vaccine initially to priority groups, starting with people over 70, adults with underlying medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in phase 1. Three more phases will follow until the whole country has been offered the vaccine.”

To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release click here.

doctor's arm taking blood pressure of Aboriginal woman

Image source: Australian GP Alliance website.

Pandemic compounds hardship for PWD

Despite the refrain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that ‘we are all in this together’, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (PWD) last week revealed the many hardships encountered by PWD over the past six months. In his closing remarks, Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said the hearings had shed a “piercing light” on the impact of the pandemic and associated stringent measures to contain it on PWD.

He said the pandemic had exacted a “terrible”, and largely hidden, toll on people with a disability. We have heard people with disability experiencing the sudden loss of essential support services, an absence of clear and consistent information in accessible form essential to their health and wellbeing; an inability to access health care, personal protective equipment and even the basic necessities of life such as food and medication; we’ve heard of isolation from the community, from friends and family and from social networks; exposure to a heightened risk of domestic violence; stress and anxiety associated with exposure to the virus; inadequate measures for the protection of people with disability, and uncertainty about how to survive in the face of disruptions to care and essential services, sometimes leading to worsening mental health.”

To read the Croakey article in full click here.

wheelchair image overlaid on Aboriginal dot painting

Image source: AbSec website.

Kelvin Kong’s pandemic reflections

In a Q&A, ear, nose and throat specialist Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, a Worimi man, based in Newcastle on the country of the Awabakal people, has reflected upon the upheaval and life-changing lessons of the past several months. “I am so thankful that we have not seen the devastation that we have seen in other First Nation populations across the world. COVID-19 is such a travesty to all of us. But it really highlights the inequities we have as health service providers. We are lucky geographically that we were able to shut down communities so quickly. The Aboriginal leadership across the nation needs far more praise in its ability to get the message across. Messages that communities could relate to and believe was, and continues to be, paramount in the response.”

To read a transcript of the interview click here.

image of Associate Professor Kelvin Kong smiling at the camera in scrubs in operating theatre with two health professionals in the background

Dr Kelvin Kong. Image source: University of Newcastle.

First Aboriginal dermatologist

Dana Slape is Australia’s first Aboriginal dermatologist. Her mission is mentoring students who may have never considered a career in medicine, as well as advocating for more Indigenous leadership throughout our healthcare system. “I think there has been a really longstanding narrative in Australia particularly in the healthcare space that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are just sick people, and people that are chronically unwell, that are chronically suffering, but the truth of it is that what we have is a system of unconscious and conscious bias that impacts how people are provided care and how they are able to access all of the things that keep us, as a community, well as individuals but also collectively. So when you have people like me and all of the other people that end up working in senior leadership, in hospitals, in clinics, in places where we access healthcare, it starts to tell a different story. You’re deconstructing those unconscious biases around people being always the patient, and never the care provider.”

“My hope is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specialist numbers increase, because the greater leadership we have that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all layers of the health system and tertiary education system, means that we are opening up doors for people so that those people can go on and be the leaders of the future and provide care to the next generation and that’s extremely important, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

To listen to the ABC interview with Dana Slape click here.

photo of Dana Slape against outback grassland setting

Dr Dana Slape. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smoking kills half of those 45+

A study has found smoking kills one in two older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and experts are calling for more funding to boost culturally appropriate smoking cessation services. The report from the Australian National University found smoking caused 37% of deaths at any age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, but that increased to about half of deaths in those aged over 45.

Dr Michelle Bovill, a Wiradjuri woman and an Aboriginal smoking health researcher at the University of Newcastle, found the results were “quite alarming”. “Aboriginal people do want to quit,” she said. “But then people still don’t really know what to do to quit, and we really don’t have enough funding being put into our Aboriginal community controlled health services to provide that support.”

To view the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

elderly Aboriginal man smoking

Image source: The Conversation.

Pharmacy students inform WRAP toolkit

Delivering effective healthcare requires healthcare professionals to reflect on their own cultural background and their patient’s cultural needs. Culture is a determinant of health and if not considered, negative health outcomes can result. This is of particular importance when working with Aboriginal communities and caring for Aboriginal people whose views have been excluded from healthcare models, funding, and policy. Non-indigenous healthcare professionals, such as pharmacy students, benefit from understanding Aboriginal peoples’ healthcare needs and models of holistic healthcare, as well as reflecting on their own cultures, assumptions, and experiences on placement.

A research article, Pharmacy students’ learnings and reflections to inform the development of the ‘Working Respectfully with Aboriginal Peoples’ (WRAP) Toolkit  explores students’ views to inform the development of a Toolkit to support students’ learning prior to engaging in placements in Aboriginal communities. The study involved collaboration with students, Aboriginal community members, educators experienced in Indigenous health and allied health education.

For further details about the research article click here.

Dr Rallah-Baker checking elderly Aboriginal woman's eyes with torch

Dr Rallah-Baker has called for cultural competency to become standard good practice before health workers are registered. Image source: Michael Amendolia (Fred Hollows Foundation).

SNAICC appoints new CEO

SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, has announced that Catherine Liddle has been appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Catherine will commence the role on 8 February 2021. An Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, she comes to SNAICC with a strong background in senior leadership positions with First Nations organisations. “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Catherine to SNAICC,” says Muriel Bamblett, SNAICC Chair. “With her previous leadership roles, combined with her experience on the Coalition of Peaks, Catherine will ensure that SNAICC can continue to strengthen our partnerships with state and federal governments to make sure our children are at the forefront of policies.”

To view SNAICC’s media release click here.

Katherine Liddle standing in front of a tree in bushland holding a twig with leaves, smiling

Catherine Liddle. Image source: radioinfo website.

AHW and patient Wuchopperen Health Service

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Community best placed to deliver human services

AHW and patient Wuchopperen Health Service

Community best placed to deliver human services

Earlier this week (Wednesday 25 November) NACCHO CEO Pat Turner appeared as a panelist the ABC’s The Drum. Pat Turner described why the  NACCHO COVID-19 communication strategy was so successful “it was done at the local level through NACCHO’s 143 members because they know the community and know what sort of messaging will resonate in the community and they know the behaviours of people, there were things that we said like ‘don’t share your smokes and don’t share your drinks’ because we know people do that. It was a way of making sure the messaging that was going out was really going to resonate with the people in those regions and that’s why we did it ourselves, our members did a great job and we were able to do it because we have a long established relationship with the communities and therefore they trust the messaging that comes from us.

The interviewer asked Pat Turner “how do you say to government ‘you’ve had a crack at closing the gap, let us have a try – how do you shake the cage of government and say ‘look you’ve got to let the community do its own delivery of human services because frankly with the best will in the world, Commonwealth government you’re rubbish at it.'”

screen shot of Pat Turner on ABC The Drum

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: ABC The Drum.

Praise for hospital models of care

The St John of God Midland public hospital, which has just celebrated its firth birthday, has been praised for developing models of care in providing Aboriginal health services and building a strong relationship with local community groups. Aboriginal engagement and cultural advisors work across the hospital’s wards to assist patients and their families and assist with post discharge planning. St John of God Midland Public Hospital has created significant links with the local community, and works closely with local health agencies, community service providers and patient support groups and provides important outreach and in-reach services to patients.

To view the Government of WA’ s media release click here.

AHW talking to middle aged Aboriginal patient

Image source: St John of God Midland Public Hospital website.

Child removal Catch-22

Life with Archie

Laugh and cry as you listen to Aboriginal mum Carly and her husband Luke talk about raising their beautiful little four year old boy Archie who has a number of disabilities. Carly talks about her pregnancy, the birth of Archie, learning of his various disabilities, therapy, navigating the NDIS and more. Listen here to the interview on an episode of the Too Peas In A Podcast podcast.

toddler Archie eating sandwich blue plastic bib and Aboriginal colours headband

Archie as a baby. Image source: carlypuck Instagram.

Social media racism affects mental health

In her 2015 book, The Internet of Garbage, Sarah Jeong writes: “The internet is experienced completely differently by people who are visibly identifiable as a marginalised race or gender. It’s a nastier, more exhausting internet, one that gets even nastier and even more exhausting as intersections stack up.” When it comes to racism (and all of its intersections), the exhaustion of experiencing it in our own lives is being increasingly compounded by its visablity online.  To be clear: as a person who is victimised by systemic racism, it’s never your responsibility to adapt. But there are ways to take back control when things feel overwhelming.

To view the article on ABC Life click here.

graphic of Aboriginal person with sweat on forrid looking at iPhone

Image source: ABC Life website.

Ngarrindjeri woman awarded grant

Murray Bridge woman Brooke Vanzati has been awarded a grant to support her study by Flinders University Rural Health SA. Funded and awarded by the rural health departments of the three SA universities – Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the University of SA, the bursary is open to any Aboriginal Health Professional, Practitioner or Worker who is currently working in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in rural or remote SA.

To view the article in full click here.

photo of Brooke Vanzati standing next to Flinders University signage

Brook Vanzati. Image source: The Murray Valley Standard.

Cultural support for hospital patients

Around 3% (more than 10,000) of the NSW Central Coast’s population is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, with numbers steadily rising as more people move to the region to be close to family and to access better employment opportunities and healthcare. The region has one of the fastest growing Aboriginal populations according to data from the last two Censuses.

Nunyara Aboriginal Health Unit provides an important service to local hospitals and the community. Aboriginal liaison officers Jody Milson and Wayne Merritt have explained, “We work out of all hospitals in the Health District and at Woy Woy we concentrate on patients in rehabilitation, sub-acute and transitional care,” Milson said. “We provide cultural support to Aboriginal patients and help them in engaging with staff. “Some of them have been newly diagnosed and need that one on one support.”

To view the full article in the Coast Community News click here.

external image of Nunyara Aboriginal Health Unit NSW

Image source: Unique Building Partners website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Community-led, wraparound solutions a better way to navigate child protection systems

feature tile - better ways to navigate child protection systems, black and white image of young Aboriginal girl from the back walking down a corridor

Better way to navigate child protection systems

This week the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability is holding a hearing focused on the experiences of First Nations people with disability and their families in contact with child protection systems. Over recent months Health Justice Australia has engaged with the Royal Commission legal team about health justice partnerships and the role this collaborative model can play to support better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

This engagement and Health Justice Australia’s written submission were drafted based on the experiences of practitioners within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led health justice partnerships, and the perspectives of NACCHO.

To view the Health Justice Australia media release click here.

Aboriginal woman and Aboriginal child portrait shot

Image source: AbSec website.

Mental health first aid includes traditional knowledge

A couple on a mission, Joe and Natasha Collard are breaking the stigma around mental health through the Birrdiya Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid workshops. The proud Noongar duo run Birrdiya, an Aboriginal consultancy and advisory services company which provides a range of culturally appropriate services and solutions. The Perth-based organisation delivers Cultural Events Management, Cultural Awareness Training, Traditional Language Workshops and the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid (AMHFA) Training.

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

Aboriginal woman and Aboriginal child portrait shot

Image source: AbSec website.

portrait shot of Joe and Natasha Collard

Joe and Natasha Collard. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

SWAMS petition for new medical hub

South West Medical Aboriginal Services (SWAMS) is calling on the WA state government to provide funding which would allow them to build a multi-faceted and holistic Health Hub for Aboriginal and Indigenous clients living in the South West. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson recently travelled to Perth to present a petition, signed by over 1,400 local residents, for funding to Bunbury MLA, Don Punch who has agreed to present it to Parliament.

Lesley Nelson said “SWAMS has outgrown our current facility in Bunbury and even after over 20 years of providing important culturally appropriate health care to the Aboriginal community in the South West and providing huge cost savings to the local public health system, we still do not have a place to call home, instead we spend copious amounts on rental premises.However, despite many applications for funding, completed business cases, visioning documents, environmental analysis and DA Approval being granted, SWAMS is yet to be given a commitment for funding from State or Federal Governments.”

To view the full article in the Bunbury Mail click here.

Bunbury MLA Don Punch with SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson with the petition for WA State Parliament

Bunbury MLA Don Punch with SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson with the petition for the WA State Parliament. Image source: Bunbury Mail.

Children still being separated from family

The rising tide of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families continues at an alarming rate, with the majority of those children permanently separated from their parents. The Family Matters Report 2020 reveals that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be removed from family and kin at disproportionate rates – disrupting their connection to community and culture.

Family Matters Chair Sue-Anne Hunter said,  “Our children are 9.7 times more likely to be living away from their families than nonIndigenous children, an over-representation that has increased consistently over the last 10 years. It is time to completely change this broken system that is not working for our kids.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children represent 37% of the total population of all children that have been removed from their parents – a staggering 20,077 children – but represent only 6% of the total population of children in Australia.  Without urgent action, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is projected to double by 2029.

To view the Family Matters media release click here.

Aboriginal man pushing young Aboriginal child on a tricycle in desert community

Image source: The Conversation.

Growing Stronger Together Award

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) 2020 Growing Stronger Together Award has gone to Dr Justin Hunter, a Wiradjuri man who grew up on Gumbaynggirr country and started his training here. The Growing Strong Together Award recognises an exceptional Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander GP in training.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Awards are for going above and beyond to care for their patients and communities. Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Professor Peter O’Mara said “This year’s recipients are truly exceptional and an inspiration for our profession. Australia needs more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors like Dr Hunter – his hard work and passion have resulted in significant achievements at a very early stage in what I am sure will be a long and successful career.”

To view the full article in Coffs Coast Of the Area News click here.

portrait image Dr Justin Hunter

Dr Justin Hunter. Image source: Coffs Coast Of The Area News.

RACGP’s highest accolade winner

The annual Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) awards are designed to ‘recognise outstanding achievements and exceptional individuals for their contribution to general practice’. Associate Professor Brad Murphy, a GP at Ashfield Country Practice in Bundaberg, Queensland, and founding Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, has been awarded the RACGP’s highest accolade ­– the Rose–Hunt Award.

‘It is the greatest honour to receive the Rose–Hunt Award. It is extremely humbling … to be among so many of the college’s legends and mentors I have had along the way. It is the 10th anniversary of us starting the national faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and I think it’s acknowledgement of the great work the team within the faculty have done,’ Professor Murphy said.

To read the full newsGP article click here.

portrait Associate Professor Brad Murphy

Associate Professor Brad Murphy. Image source: newsGP.

Dan Murphy’s megastore not wanted at any location

Helen Fejo-Frith says the Bagot Aboriginal community does not want a Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin — at any location — and that her feelings about it could not be any stronger. “We don’t want another [alcohol] outlet here, we’ve got enough as it is,” Ms Fejo-Frith said. “The message is as strong as I can put it.”

Ms Fejo-Frith, the Bagot community advisory group president, was one of the most vocal opponents to this initial proposal and feared the potential for harm if the large liquor outlet was within walking distance of her dry community. “For Bagot Road, we didn’t want it on there because we’ve seen so many people getting hit and deaths on that road and because of the alcohol,” Ms Fejo-Frith said.

To view the full article click here.

portrait Helen Fejo-Frith Bagot Aboriginal community

Helen Fejo-Frith. Image source: ABC News website.

Stay In Bed single drops

Naarm-based Wergaia / Wemba Wemba woman, Alice Skye has released her latest single and video “Stay in Bed”. The song was penned after a phone conversation with a friend and the realisation they were both experiencing difficult times of depression. The song’s relatable truths become an anthem of uplifting support to herself and those loved ones around her, reassuring them of the light that exists within and nearby. Alice Skye has a raw musicality, sensitivity and maturity well byong her years.

The single is available on Bad Apples Music, the prolific Indigenous record label founded by Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs. The label aims to use music as a platform for social change and fostering the talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

To read more about “Stay in Bed” and Alice Skye’s previous work click here.

moody filtered image of singer Alice Skye

Alice Skye. Image source: The Music Preview Guide to SXSW 2020.

New clinical training facility in Charleville

Bringing modern, best practice training for nursing, midwifery, and allied health students will be one of the important outcomes of the new Southern Queensland Rural Health (SQRH) clinical training facility recently opened in Charleville, Queensland. The new facility boasts a fully equipped clinical simulation lab, telehealth studios, clinical consultation rooms as well as videoconferencing equipped training rooms, meeting rooms, staff offices and an outdoor education area and will provide significant long-term health care support to the Charleville community and wider region

SQRH engages with the South West Hospital and Health Service; the Royal Flying Doctor Service Charleville; Charleville and Western Areas Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health; Cunnamulla Aboriginal Corporation for Health; and other community stakeholders to increase the number of students able to access rural and remote health experiences.

To view the full article click here.

photo of the new Southern Rural Health Clinical Training Facility, Charleville

Southern Rural Health Clinical Training Facility, Charleville. Image source: University of Southern Queensland website.

Bush fruit 50 times better than oranges

A Sydney doctor has praised the virtues of an Aussie bush fruit that’s got 50 times more vitamin C than an orange and is better at fighting the flu.

Dr Zac Turner said that during parts of his life, he’d dedicated time to learn about bush medicine from Indigenous Australians. Growing up, he said, he was lucky to live on farms in small rural communities like Bourke, Dubbo and Emerald where both his parents worked on the land as well as in youth support programs. During this time he had his first exposure to local bush medicine from some truly inspiring Aboriginal elders. Learning about these traditional medicines that have been shared and passed along for millennia was one of the key factors in Dr Turner wanting to study biomedical science and eventually medicine.

“We’ve known from tracing back in history that plant medicine has been used for quite some time – that’s more than 20,000 plus years if you factor in Aboriginal Australians. One of the fascinating things about this is that for a lot of us (including many doctors and avid bush enthusiasts) is that Australian bush medicine remains somewhat of a mystery. Indigenous knowledge is passed on through speaking, song and dance and as this practice is becoming more limited, we are at a significant cultural loss.”

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal hands holding Kakadu Plums

Kakadu plum harvested by Kimberley Wild Gubinge. Image source: SBS website.

NSW government needs to address mental health needs

In 2019–2020, Aboriginal people in NSW have endured displacement and destruction of their communities due to bushfires, floods, drought, and COVID-19. Aboriginal people experience these traumatic events in addition to the transgenerational trauma that exists from colonisation, loss of land and language and Cultural practices.

The Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) and its Member Services work to address the Social Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) and Mental Health needs of Aboriginal people across NSW. Unfortunately, not all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in NSW have sufficient funding to ensure communities are kept safe and maintain resilience to manage the past, current, and emerging environmental challenges, and disparities. The AH&MRC, on behalf of the NSW ACCHO Sector, is calling for an increase in funding to provide and develop culturally appropriate SEWB and Mental Health services and programs.

To read the AH&MRC’s press release click here.AH&MRC logo

Remote health services COVID-19 response

The Australian Journal of Rural Health has a produced an issues paper called Remote health service vulnerabilities and responses to the COVID‐19 pandemic which looks at how the rapid response to the COVID‐19 pandemic in Australia has highlighted the vulnerabilities of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in terms of the high prevalence of complex chronic disease and socio‐economic factors such as limited housing availability and overcrowding.

The response has also illustrated the capability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Sector, working with the government, to rapidly and effectively mitigate the threat of transmission into these vulnerable remote communities. The pandemic has exposed persistent workforce challenges faced by primary health care services in remote Australia.

Specifically, remote health services have a heavy reliance on short‐term or fly‐in, fly‐out/drive‐in, drive‐out staff, particularly remote area nurses. The easing of travel restrictions across the country brings the increased risk of transmission into remote areas and underscores the need to adequately plan and fund remote primary health care services and ensure the availability of an adequate, appropriately trained local workforce in all remote communities.

To read the issues paper in full click here.

Utju Areyonga Clinic

Utju Health Service, NT. Image source: CAAC website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Improving NDIS access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Improving NDIS access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

The Morrison Government is providing $5.9 million over the next two years to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to strengthen National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

NACCHO will use the funding to work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) to increase registrations to deliver NDIS services. This will help build capacity for these organisations to transition to and operate as NDIS providers and, in turn, grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NDIS market and workforce.

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said the investment would help make NDIS services more accessible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability increasing their choice and control. “Through our ACCHOs we will leverage our relationships within local communities to improve access to culturally appropriate support under the NDIS for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability living in urban, regional and remote communities.

“One of the 16 targets outlined in the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is that ‘everyone enjoys long and healthy lives’. This project will help NACCHO increase community awareness within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of the NDIS and the life-changing support it can provide,” said Ms Mills.

Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert said the Australian Government is committed to delivering an NDIS that is ready to support the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants now and long into the future.

“This initiative builds on the Government’s existing efforts to deliver significant improvements to the NDIS. We now have more than 400,000 participants in the world-leading NDIS – an increase of approximately 100,000 participants over the past 12 months – and with more than 175,000 receiving supports for the very first time. I am focused on ensuring the NDIS is accessible for all, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.”

To view the Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert’s media release click here.

Aboriginal woman helping a young child out of a wheelchair

Image source: First Peoples Disability Network Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Unique funding enables First Nations-led COVID-19 research

feature tile - older Aboriginal man with Aboriginal flag sweatband & ceremonial paint on face waving to camera

First Nations-led COVID-19 research funding

A unique $2 million funding round has privileged First Nations voices and resulted in high-quality COVID-19 research projects that will result in better outcomes for First Nations communities. The 11 projects from across Australia were awarded funding from the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) Centre of Research Excellence, based on a $2 million donation from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to support the development of effective responses to COVID-19 for First Nations communities. Townsville-based APPRISE investigator Professor Adrian Miller of the Jirrbal people of North Queensland and Director of the Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research at CQ University says APPRISE gave the space for a First Nations-led process that began with the creation of the APPRISE First Nations Council to advise on all aspects of  the grant process from research priorities to evaluation criteria.

To view the APPRISE media release click here.

Two Aboriginal women & 3 Aboriginal children walking on Country away from the camera

Image source: Standford News, Standford University website.

Start evaluating for impact

How do you know if your programs are making a difference?

Interplay works with communities to design evaluations that measure the things that communities value. The Interplay Project is designed to bring the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members into research and evaluation with a vision that all people are empowered to experience optimal wellbeing from the safety and strength of their own culture. Interplay work towards this by collaboratively building science around different ways of knowing and being. To view the Interplay Project’s new website click here.

The Interplay Project also recently launched a mobile app, Disability in the Bush on behalf of the NDIS. You can check out the mobile app, available in five different Aboriginal languages by clicking here.

Five Aboriginal women, two Aboriginal children & a terrier dog sitting on bare weathered red rocks

Image source: The Interplay Project website.

WA Connecting to Country grant program

The Connecting to Country grant program supports projects that enable Western Australian Aboriginal people and organisations to undertake on Country trips to renew links between community, Country and culture. Grants up to $25,000 are available for a wide range of activities that foster the transfer of knowledge between generations, preservation of culture and strengthening of communities. Activities may include those that improve understanding of Country, ancestry and kinship and promote positive mental health, wellbeing and resilience through community-led cultural healing projects.

For further information about the Connecting to Country grant program click here. Grant applications close on 10 November 2020.

Aboriginal elder of Nyikina country, John Watson show grandchildren his special lands in WA's Kimberley area

Aboriginal elder of Nyikina country, John Watson show grandchildren his special lands in WA’s Kimberley area. Image source: St Stephen’s School website.

Free palliative care online training program

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has developed a free online training program to help aged and community care workers, carers, volunteers, family members and health professionals who provide palliative care to aged persons in the community. Every person’s needs are unique and sorting your way through the emotional and social stresses faced by a dying person and their family can be difficult. The modules will help those involved in providing end of life care develop skills and confidence in that role.

To find out more about the AHHA palliative care training program and to register click here.

Aboriginal hand held within two other Aboriginal hands

Image source: Aged Care Guide website.

Fierce Girls wellbeing resources

An ABC podcast Fierce Girls tells the stories of Australian girls who dare to do things differently, adventurous girls, girls with guts and spirit. Among the inspiring tales of some of Australia’s most extraordinary women are those of Ash Barty and Nova Peris.

For more information about the ABC Fierce Girls podcast click here.

snapshot of cartoon drawing of Ash Barty from ABC Fierce Girls podcast webpage

Image source: ABC website.

University fee hikes put CtG targets at risk

The Federal Government’s “job-ready” university reforms will dramatically increase the cost of courses in the social sciences, a consistently popular discipline amongst Indigenous students. According to the latest national data, 33 per cent of Indigenous students chose to enrol in social science degrees compared to 19 per cent of the general cohort. Experts are concerned the changes will disproportionately disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, by lumping them with more debt or deterring them from study altogether — scenarios which both stand to jeopardise national higher education targets agreed to just months ago. Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel believes his arts degree was “probably the best thing that ever happened” to him, but fears new laws passed this week will make it much tougher for other Indigenous students to get the same opportunities.

To view the full article click here.

Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel graduating from arts/law degree

Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel graduating from an Arts/Law degree. Image source: ABC website.

NSW – Casino – Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation

FT/PT Practice Nurse

Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation (BNMAC) Richmond Valley is looking for a motivated Practice Nurse to join our team in Casino NSW with part time and full time work options available. The Registered Nurse will take a proactive role to assist clients to address health issues in a holistic way at BNMAC’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service. BNAMC endeavors to take a proactive approach working with local communities to raise awareness of health issues and to develop and implement intervention strategies in the treatment of chronic conditions.

To view the job description click here. Applications close Saturday 14 November 2020.Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation logo

VIC – Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd.

FT Aboriginal Family Violence Practice Leader

Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative has a vacancy for a full-time Aboriginal Family Violence Practice Leader. This is a leadership position co-located in The Orange Door site and will have a significant role to work closely with services to lead high quality, culturally safe and effective responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support and safety. The Orange Door is a free service for adults, children and young people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence and families who need extra support with the care of children.

To view the position description click here. Applications close 4.00 pm Monday 2 November 2020.Rumbalara clinic & logo

Working from home, any location – Hearing Australia

FT Manager of Aboriginal Engagement and Awareness for HAPEE

Hearing Australia is currently recruiting for a Manager of Aboriginal Engagement and Awareness for the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE). This is a national team of 11 Community Engagement Officers that among many things establish and facilitate free hearing assessments primarily in Aboriginal Medical Services, Childcare Centres and CP clinics nationally. This role is responsible for: ensuring that the Community Engagement Officers can effectively engage with primary health and early education services in their locations; ensuring targets for number of locations that Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) operates in are met; working with marketing on the development and delivery of culturally appropriate awareness campaigns; expanding HAPEE so that families who use private medical services are aware of and can access the program; providing high quality advice and support to senior management of Australian Hearing.

To view the job description click here. Applications close as as soon as a pool of suitable applicants are identified.Hearing Australia logo - outline of Australia using soundwaves

Across Australia (except Vic & Tas) – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

2021 Census Engagement Manager x 35 (25 in remote areas, 10 in urban/regional locations)

The ABS is recruiting Census Engagement Managers for the 2021 Census. Due to the close working relationship with the community, 35 Census Engagement Manager positions will be only open to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants. Census Engagement Managers are specialised roles requiring a high degree of community interaction. They will be working within communities telling people about the Census and ensuring everyone can take part and get the help they need. Where possible, Census Engagement Managers will be recruited locally. To view a recruitment poster click here.

For further information on the roles and to apply click here.

Applications for Census Engagement Manager roles are open now and close Thursday 5 November 2020. ABS 2021 Census Engagement Manager banner

feature tile elderly Aboriginal woman sitting on a chair in desert setting

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News – COVID-19 highlights health inequalities

feature tile elderly Aboriginal woman sitting on a chair in desert setting

COVID-19 highlights health inequalities

The COVID-19 crisis has turned a spotlight on existing health, social and economic inequities in Australia and internationally and been a stark reminder of the importance of the social determinants of health, and the need to prioritise support for marginalised individuals and groups in our community.

People with pre-existing health conditions, and those from lower-socioeconomic communities and marginalised groups are at greater risk of experiencing the worst effects of the pandemic compared with those from non-marginalised communities.

When people contract COVID-19 and have pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, obesity and asthma, they’re more likely to experience respiratory failure and death. Respiratory infections such as COVID-19 are more easily transmitted among lower-socioeconomic communities who typically live in more crowded conditions. COVID-19 pandemic recovery should include more funding for local community-led initiatives such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led response which has successfully emphasised health equity through all stages of the pandemic to ensure low rates of infection.

To view the full Monash University LENS article click here.

Turning up for alcohol and drug education

Scott Wilson who works with the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (ADAC), SA has been profiled to give an insight into ‘what excellence in drug and alcohol care looks like’. Scott said, “I would love to see an ADAC all around the country because I think unless you’ve got a group that has that role of helping and coordinating, then you just have piecemeal attempts. Everyone’s just struggling in isolation.”

To view the full article click here.

large group of Aboriginal men on country undertaking ADAC training

ADAC alcohol and drug education. Image source: Croakey website.

Paramedic degree offered for first time in NT

Paramedics will soon be able to train in the NT thanks to a new partnership between Charles Darwin University (CDU) and St John NT. St John NT’s CEO Judith Barker said the NT was one of the country’s most interesting and diverse locations, giving paramedics the opportunity to develop skills and experience with complex medical cases, high speed trauma, and delivery of care in extreme and isolated conditions. CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said that CDU was uniquely positioned to explore issues of national and regional importance such as tropical medicine, Indigenous health and mental health.

To view the full article click here.

four Aboriginal female paramedics standing in front on an ambulance

Image source: Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Facebook p

SA Eyre Peninsula child health initiative

Indigenous children have some of the highest levels of preventable diseases in the world. Eyre Peninsula communities will benefit from a new partnership between the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Masonic Charities SA/NT, which will help bridge the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities. Masonic Charities have committed $900,000 to the Starlight Children’s Foundation over the next three years, allowing them to roll out the Healthier Futures Initiative in SA on a permanent basis. As part of the program Starlight personnel will accompany health professionals, keep the children present and entertained, and aim to provide a positive overall experience.

To view the full article in the West Coast Sentinel News click here.

health worker checking Aboriginal child's throat

Image source: The Australian.

Barriers to hepatitis C treatment

Research on the hepatitis C treatment intentions of Aboriginal people in WA has been published in the October issue of the The Australian Health Review, a peer-reviewed journal of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association. The study found there are substantial hurdles to achieving hepatitis C elimination in Aboriginal communities, including lack of knowledge and concerns about the stigma of seeking treatment. Stable housing was also an important pre-requisite to seeking treatment because Aboriginal people who were homeless were much more focused on day-to-day problems of living on the street, including lack of regular sleep, physical exhaustion and daily anxiety. 

To view the research paper click here.

4 Aboriginal people against graffitied wall with words HEP C is Everyone's Business

Image source: Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc. website.

Suicide Prevention white paper

Suicide rates in Australia have continued to rise over the last decade. The challenge to bend this curve is immense, especially in the context of COVID-19 and the recent bushfire season, which have disrupted lives and impacted the psychological health of Australians. The need for evidence-based solutions has never been more important. Black Dog Institute is pleased to present a white paper which shares critical insights from emerging research and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience evidence that explores contemporary issues and offers innovative responses.

To view the white paper in full click here.

graffiti of Aboriginal man's face in red, yellow & black

Image source: Australian Human Rights Commission.

ITC Program helps health system navigation

The Integrated Team Care (ITC) Program is one of Northern Queensland Primary Health Network’s (NQPHN’s) funded initiatives under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Northern Australia Primary Health Limited (NAPHL) delivers the program throughout northern Queensland. Without the program, many Indigenous people would struggle to access the health care they need to manage their chronic or complex health conditions.

The ITC Program was established to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with complex chronic diseases who are unable to effectively manage their conditions to access one-on-one assistance for the provision of coordinated, multidisciplinary care.

To view the article click here.

Aboriginal health worker taking blood pressure of Aboriginal man

Image source: PHN Northern Queensland website.

NSW/ACT GP in Training of the Year award

Dr Josephine Guyer has won the RACGP’s NSW/ACT General Practitioner in Training of the Year award.

Currently working at the Myhealth Liverpool clinic, Dr Guyer has completed terms at the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation in Airds, the Primacare Medical Centre in Roselands and Schwarz Family in Elderslie. In 2017 she received the RACGP’s Growing Strong Award and has embraced that ethos in her GP training.

RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda congratulated Dr Guyer, saying “Dr Guyer brings extraordinary strength and resilience to her training and work as a GP. Her background as a registered nurse for almost 20 years, cultural experience as a proud Wiradjuri woman and the fact that she is the parent of three teenagers means that she comes to the role of general practice with valuable life experience that will help her care for patients from different walks of life. Providing responsive and culturally appropriate care is absolutely essential and Dr Guyer is perfectly placed to do just that.”

To view the full Hospital and Healthcare article click here.

Dr Josephine Guyer holding RACGP NSW/ACT GP in Training of the Year award

Dr Josephine Guyer. Image source: Hospital and Healthcare website.

Food security webinar

Access to sufficient, affordable nutritious food is important for the health of rural and remote communities. With the recent bush fires, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional supply chains have been interrupted and rural and remote communities that are already at risk of food insecurity, are being impacted even further. Early this year the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) conducted a webinar covering a range of perspectives on current challenges in ensuring food security for households in rural and remote communities, including from an Indigenous health perspective and considered policy and practical solutions to address the issue well into the future.

The recording of the NRHA webinar called A virtual conversation: affordable and nourishing food for rural and remote communities during COVID-19 and beyond is available for free here.

four Aboriginal children with oranges

Image source: NPY Women’s Council website.

SA ACCHO funding to improve disability services

Four Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) will share in $1 million of federal government funding to improve disability services across SA’s Eyre Peninsula and the Far West.

Ceduna’s Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation, Tullawon Health Service at Yalata, Oak Valley Aboriginal Corporation and Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service at Whyalla were awarded the funding under the banner of the South Australian West Coast ACCHO Network. The funding will go towards a two-year ‘Aboriginal DisAbility Alliance’ project aimed at supporting Aboriginal communities to access culturally appropriate disability services.

To view the full article in the West Coast Sentinel click here.

painting re yellow black two stick figures & one stick figure in a wheelchair

Image source: NITY website.

Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month and as part of the 2020 World Mental Health Day campaign, Mental Health Australia is encouraging everyone to make a promise to “Look after your mental health, Australia.” It is a call to action for the one in five Australians affected by mental illness annually, and for the many more impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the increased uncertainty and anxiety that has ensued. The more individuals and organisations who commit to promoting mental health awareness this month and support the campaign, the more we reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health and play our part in creating a mentally healthy community.

To view the media release click here.words Mental Health Month October in blue and red lettering logo

Image Source: Department of Health