In the latest episode of the Australian Healthcare and Hospital’s Association (AHHA) podcast, The Health Advocate, AHHA Strategic Programs Director, Dr Chris Bourke, speaks with St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, Emergency Department Director, Dr Paul Preisz and Aboriginal Health Manager, Scott Daley, to discuss how St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney has improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. While the hospital’s staff knew there was a problem in the Emergency Department with the delivery of care and the outcomes, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, NSW Health data highlighting the unacceptable treatment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients was the final straw. This promoted a mandate from executives to improve results.
‘St Vincent’s work in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is a great example of how organisations can transform the delivery of care and offers many lessons for other organisations wanting to follow a similar path,’ said Dr Bourke.
You can view the AHHA press release here and listen to the podcast here.
Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley with a patient in St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department. Image source: ABC News website.
Wirraka Maya leads way in better patient management
An Aboriginal community health service in WA has produced record results in the use of technology to ensure better connected care for local patients. Senior Medical Officer at Wirraka Maya Health Service in Port Hedland, WA, Dr Yolande Knight said: “We rely on My Health Record to keep us updated on patient pathology, imaging, medication, dispensing and history records. “We find it helpful because a lot of our patients are transient, moving from one region to another, so it can be difficult to get their comprehensive files. We can see what other doctors have requested and performed, overcoming the delays waiting for records requested from other practices and providers.” Australian Digital Health Agency Consumer Advocate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Champion and Co-Chair of the Agency’s Reconciliation Working Group and national Medicines Safety Program, Steve Renouf, congratulated Wirraka Maya for its commitment to digital health.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is seeking feedbackon proposals to help ensure ongoing, reliable supply of important medicines.
Medicine shortages have been of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic and the TGA have been reviewing ways in which they can better assist affected Australian patients and their healthcare providers. Specifically, the TGA is seeking feedback on possible reforms that would:
prioritise the evaluation and registration process for certain important generic prescription medicines, to reduce the risk of shortages
encourage registration of more generic versions of medicines known to be affected by shortages, to mitigate the impact of those shortages
support a more reliable supply of overseas-registered medicines imported into Australia as substitutes when the Australian medicine is in longstanding or repeated shortage.
The consultation will close on Monday 17 May 2021.
Image source: Newsbook website.
Resources for First Peoples with Disability
A range of new accessible, culturally appropriate resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been released by the peak body First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN).
“Our community urgently needs information about the vaccine, so we have created a poster with culturally relevant information and artwork to let people know about what is happening and why,” said Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN.
“During the pandemic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability found it hard to get the right information about what was happening, and it looks like those lessons haven’t been learnt when it comes to the vaccine roll out.”
Little is known about how older Aboriginal adults access and engage with aged care services. A project has been initiated by the Port Augusta Community to address gaps in Aboriginal aged care and research is being conducted for the broader Aboriginal Eyre Peninsula Communities in partnership with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School Aboriginal research unit.
The lead researcher Kym Thomas, from Port Augusta, is an Aboriginal person, providing and ensuring that spirit and integrity are at the forefront of all community and stakeholder engagement and activities. Communities involved in the research include Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla. Kym has been supported in his work by Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller and Emma Richards.
Disadvantaged neighbourhoods can shape adolescent brains
Growing up in a poor or disadvantaged neighbourhood can affect the way adolescents’ brains function, according to new research. It can alter the communication between brain regions involved in planning, goal-setting and self-reflection. These brain changes can have consequences for cognitive function and wellbeing. But the good news is that positive home and school environments can mitigate some of these negative effects.
A “disadvantaged neighbourhood” is one in which people generally have lower levels of income, employment, and education. Growing up in these conditions can cause stress for children, and is associated with cognitive problems and mental health issues in young people.
It is not yet known exactly how this link between neighbourhood disadvantage and poor mental outcomes works, but it is thought that social disadvantage alters the way young people’s brains develop.
The fifth national report on the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with updated data available for 15 measures. The level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving for Indigenous Australians. While the mortality rate from cardiac conditions is falling among the Indigenous population, it is still higher than among non-Indigenous Australians. The incidence of acute rheumatic fever among Indigenous Australians continues to be much higher than in non-Indigenous Australians.
The prevalence of mental health issues is higher in people with a disability than in the general population. This means that often, a person who has both a physical, intellectual or neurological disability is also dealing with mental health challenges. There can be complexities in distinguishing mental health issues from intellectual or neurological disability and this can lead to mental health challenges not being recognised or identified. Participants will explore concepts of recovery, trauma and strength- based approaches to working with people with complex needs. They will use a recovery and biopsychosocial approach to meet their client’s needs.
Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) are promoting a training course being delivered by the WA Association for Mental Health. For more details click here.
Image source: SBS News website.
Vaccinations being in regional SA AHS
Indigenous health workers in Mount Gambier have been among the first in SA to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Phase 1b of the national roll-out. 10 staff at Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation were selected to receive the vaccine on Monday this week.
Outreach worker Catherine Bulner was the first of the group to roll up her sleeve and get the jab. She said she felt privileged to be the first South East Indigenous community member to get vaccinated. “I’m pretty fortunate to have it done in an Aboriginal community-controlled health service. “I think it’s really good that we can instil confidence in our community to get it done to protect not only ourselves, but our family and our community.”
Ms Bulner encouraged others to do the same to allow life to return to normal. “It’s unknown, but there’s plenty of information out there that can tell you all about it, if you need to make an informed decision before,” she said. “It’s not mandatory, but arm yourself with the information I did and you will be really confident to get it.” Transport worker Peter Brennan was also vaccinated and said it would provide him with a lot more confidence when conducting his work duties.
Indigenous transport worker Peter Brenna. Image source: ABC News website.
Keeping the momentum on eye health equity
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector entered 2020 with high hopes. The equity gap was still evident in measures of access to services and outcomes, but there was a continued positive trajectory towards the gap for vision being closed, with a strong sector driving change through collaborations on regional and state levels. 2020 was a target year for the elimination of trachoma, as well as to achieve equity and close the gap for vision.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the work of the sector in a number of ways. Many communities closed or reduced non-urgent visiting services, suspensions to elective surgery and reductions in permitted surgical loads and lockdowns in different parts of Australia to stop outbreaks, while necessary, meant that the already-existing waitlists for eye care became longer. The stronger impact on public hospitals, for example through lower caps on elective surgeries compared with private, has a disproportionate impact on population groups with the stronger reliance on the public system.
The impact on the sector’s work also includes the interruption to the positive momentum of change. Across Australia, regional and state-level groups of stakeholders involved with the provision of eye care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been driving improvements in pathways and outcomes. The community-controlled sector has been key in leading this change.
Milpa the trachoma goanna supporting ‘Clean Faces, Strong Eyes’ health promotion messaging at an AFL game in Alice Springs NT. Image source: Partyline.
WA – Broome – University of WA
Research Fellow x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Broome
The University of WA are seeking a skilled health researcher to conduct statistical analysis of real world health services data from current and future projects. This position will be based in the Kimberley where Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) sites conduct collaborative research with health services into improving Aboriginal health and building research capacity. Under limited directions from Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Julia Marley and in close collaboration with the Kimberley Medical Services, you will provide impetus and capacity to research initiatives in the Kimberley region of WA.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers are encouraged to apply.
To view the job advertisement, including the Position Description click here position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close Monday 16 April 2021.
World Health Day 2021 – Building a fairer, healthier world
April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.
Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.
To celebrate World Health Day the Australian Global Health Alliance is hosting a special online event where a line-up or expert guest speakers will share their reflections on this year’s theme ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.
For more information about the event from12:00–1:00 PM AEST Wednesday 7 April 2021 and to register click here.
Vaccine crucial to protect family, community & culture
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians received his vaccine earlier this week at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service. “The vaccine program plays a significant role in protecting Indigenous Australians”, said Minister Wyatt.
“Please get the vaccine. It is important to protect our communities, our families and our culture”, highlighted Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, who has also received her first dose yesterday.
More than 6 million people are eligible to receive their first doses after Phase 1B of Australia’s coronavirus vaccination program began on Monday this week. Phase 1B includes Australians aged 70 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples click here and to view a video of Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney speaking click here.
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Hon Linda Burney MP, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians.
Voice to Parliament to include regional voices
Local Aboriginal groups will form an important part of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament under the federal government’s plan for the project. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt, appointed Aboriginal leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma to lead a group aimed at putting forward design options for an Indigenous advisory board. That plan is different from another voice to Parliament that was part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and includes calls for a treaty. “They’re proposing to go to a referendum first and if it gets voted up, then we’ll determine what it looks like,” Professor Calma said. “Whereas what the government’s doing is constructing it first and then working out whether they want to establish it through legislation or a referendum. If the government chooses to go by legislation, it gets something established, it gets tested and if it’s working then it can go to a referendum.”
The Indigenous Voice co-design board has been visiting regional communities across Australia getting feedback on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want from the process. Professor Calma said regional and local groups would be created under the plan to address issues on the ground. “We need to have a mechanism where a local voice could influence the state voice,” he said. “You’d break up Australia into between 25 to 35 regions, and within each region there’d be a little infrastructure to support people to express a view and pass it up to the state level.
CEO of Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation (Koonibba SA) Zell Dodd speaks with participants at the Port Lincoln local Indigenous Voice session. Image source: ABC News.
Qld Health Equity Discussion Paper – have your say
Following the passing of the Health Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (the Act) in August 2020, amendments were made to the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011 requiring Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) to develop and implement Health Equity Strategies. A subsequent piece of legislation, the Hospital and Health Boards (Health Equity Strategies) Amendment Regulation 2021 (the Regulation) is due to be considered soon. According to the Act, the Regulation will define who must be involved in the development and implementation of a Health Equity Strategy (prescribed persons), and the way in which they must be consulted.
Over the coming months, Queensland Health, in partnership with QAIHC, will be hosting several consultation workshops on health equity design principles. The aim of these workshops will be to understand the types of support required for Health Equity Strategies (HES) to be successful. The vision is that HHSs will co-design, co-own and co-implement HESs with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisation (ATISCCHO) and other partners. What the journey looks like in practice will be influenced by these consultations and the legal requirements that will be outlined in the Regulation.
To understand the cause and effect of these changes, QAIHC and Queensland Health have co-designed a series of documents, which can be accessed here, for the consultation workshops and seek your feedback about the principles put forward.
The CSIRO has partnered with Indigenous organisations and communities to co-design and co-develop potential e-Health solutions to complement existing successful models of care for some of the most significant health issues in their communities., including aged-related conditions and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
An increasing proportion of all Australians are aged 65 years and older and as people live longer, many experience chronic conditions. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ageing-related conditions are experienced at earlier ages than non-Indigenous Australians. Historical and contemporary experiences of colonialist policies and racism (direct and indirect) have contributed to this gap and have severely disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including those in urban areas. Difficulties accessing culturally safe health and aged care compound the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Solutions to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait people to live with autonomy and safety on Country are needed.
The CSIRO’s At home in Quandamooka project is scoping the feasibility of Smarter Safer Homes technology and its cultural appropriateness for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people.
Another CSIRO project is the Hypertension Scoping Study which is investigating the use of a mobile health platform to support people in Indigenous communities either with or at risk of CVD. CVD refers to a host of life-threatening conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, congenital heart disease and stroke and has long been a significant health problem among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Statistics show that the condition remains the leading cause of death for the population, and that Indigenous adults are almost twice as likely as non-Indigenous adults to be hospitalised with CVD. Improved access to culturally appropriate primary healthcare is needed to support patients with and reduce the prevalence of CVD in remote and Indigenous communities.
Further information about both CSIRO projects can be found here.
Image sources: NITV website.
Health Partnership Forums update
The Australian Government Department of Health has issued the March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update covering a wide range of topics including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, the Refreshed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, Indigenous interpreting service and translated resources available via My Aged Care, the Renewal of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy and the Draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan 2021–2031 (National Workforce Plan).
You can view the March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update here.
Place of Knowledge, 2014 by Chris Thorne (acrylic on canvas) community / language group – unknown. Image: Chris Thorne. Image source: The University of Melbourne website.
2021 Close the Gap Report webinar
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday 18 March 2021 to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
The launch of the Close the Gap Campaign report Leadership & Legacy Through Crises: Keeping Our Mob Safe written by the Lowitja Institute was hosted by the Australia Institute on National Close the Gap Day via a public webinar. The webinar features Ken Wyatt AM MP, June Oscar AO, Karl Briscoe, Dr Janine Mohamed and special Guest Sir Michael Marmot and can be viewed here.
First-ever stand-alone SA Aboriginal Housing strategy
A new Head of Aboriginal Housing to lead the rollout of SA’s first-ever stand-alone Aboriginal Housing strategy, with the aim of improving outcomes for Aboriginal people. Kuyani-Arrernte woman Erin Woolford was appointed to the head role in the SA Housing Authority to spearhead the development and implementation of a new Aboriginal Housing Strategy. The new strategy will address the specific housing needs of Aboriginal people and is expected to be released in mid-2021. Minister for Human Services, Michelle Lensink, said Erin has a wealth of experience working with regional and remote South Australian communities. “Erin is an accomplished leader in Aboriginal Affairs and policy development, and as Head of Aboriginal Housing she will play a vital role in improving housing for Aboriginal people across our state,” said Minister Lensink.
You can view Minister Michelle Lensink’s media release click here and a related article in InDaily click here.
The community of Mimili in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, an Aboriginal local government area in NW SA. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen. Image source: The Australian
NSW – Wyong – Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre
Team Leader Yadhaba, Buridjga, Ma-Guway Programs x 1 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Yadhaba, Buridjga, Ma-Guwag Team Leader. The Team Leader will provide high quality supervision and mentorship to Yerin’s Yadhaba, Buridjga and Ma-Guwag program staff and ensure the programs meet objectives and set key performance indicators.
You will work collaboratively with patients, GPs, practice staff and other relevant health service providers, to provide appropriate patient and family centred, multidisciplinary care services for Aboriginal people affected by Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol, and other social issues.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Team Leader Housing Support Worker x 1 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Housing Support Team Leader. The Aboriginal Housing Support Team Leader will provide high quality on the ground support and professional guidance and development whilst providing intensive Case management (small caseload), as well as deliver and coordinate intensive support from other agencies. You will support and lead a team of two whilst working with Aboriginal people who are sleeping rough into stable accommodation linked to wraparound intensive supports, some clients’ needs may be outside of office hours.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Housing Support Workers x 2 FT – location
Yerin is looking for a suitably qualified Aboriginal Housing Support Worker. to provide high quality intensive case management as well as deliver and coordinate intensive support from other agencies. You will support Aboriginal people who are sleeping rough into stable accommodation linked to wrap-around intensive supports, some clients’ needs may be outside of office hours.
To view position description and to apply click here.
Applications for all positions close Wednesday 7 April 2021.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
Electronic prescriptions (or e-prescriptions) are being rolled out in stages across Australia after being used in Victoria during the pandemic. E-prescriptions have been common in countries such as the United States and Sweden for more than ten years. In Australia, a fully electronic paperless system has been planned for some time. Since the arrival of COVID-19, and a surge in the uptake of telehealth, the advantages of e-prescriptions have become compelling. To read more about what e-prescriptions are, how they work, their benefits and what they mean for paper prescriptions click here.
Image source: Australian Pharmacist.
Electronic prescription roll out expanded
The big news in digital health in recent weeks has been the expansion of Australia’s roll out of electronic prescriptions to metropolitan Sydney, following the fast-track implementation in metropolitan Melbourne and then the rest of Victoria as a weapon in that state’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also some rare movement in the secure messaging arena, with a number of clinical information system vendors and secure messaging services having successfully completed the implementation of new interoperability standards that will hopefully allow clinicians and healthcare organisations to more easily exchange clinical information electronically. The road to secure messaging interoperability has been a tortuous one to say the least, but movement does seem to be occurring. At least 19 separate systems have successfully fulfilled the Australian Digital Health Agency’s requirements, with the vendors now getting ready to release the capability in their next versions. It is expected these will start to roll out over the next few months.
Lack of physical activity requires national strategy
A new report finding Australians are not spending enough time being physically active highlights the need for action on a national, long-term preventive health strategy, according to AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found that the majority of Australians of all ages are not meeting the minimum levels of physical activity required for health benefits, and are exceeding recommended limits on sedentary behaviour.
The AMA is working with the Federal Government on its proposed long-term national preventive health strategy, which was first announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt in a video message to the 2019 AMA National Conference almost 18 months ago. Dr Khorshis said “As a nation, we spend woefully too little on preventive health – only about 2 per cent of the overall health budget. A properly resourced preventive health strategy, including national public education campaigns on issues such as smoking and obesity, is vital to helping Australians improve their lifestyles and quality of life.”
To view the AMA’s media release regarding the physical activity report click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
KAMS CEO appointed to WA FHRI Fund Advisory Council
The McGowan Government has today announced the make-up of the Advisory Council of WA’s Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund. The FHRI Fund was the centerpiece of the State Government’s commitment to drive research and innovation in WA by providing the State’s health and medical researchers and innovators with a secure and ongoing source of funding. Vicki O’Donnell, CEO, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Ltd (KAMS), is one of seven eminent Western Australians appointed to the Advisory Council to provide high-level advice to the Health Minister and the Department of Health.
To view the Government of Western Australia’s media release click here.
Vicki O’Donnell, CEO KAMS. Image source: ABC News.
PLUM and HATS help save kids hearing
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are being encouraged to use an Australian Government toolkit to ensure young children are meeting their milestones for hearing and speaking. The rates of hearing loss and ear disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly higher than for the non-Indigenous population. Between 2018–19 and 2022–23, almost $104.6 million will be provided for ear health initiatives to reduce the number of Indigenous Australians suffering avoidable hearing loss, and give Indigenous children a better start to education.
The Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure (PLUM) and the Hearing and Talking Scale (HATS) have been developed by Hearing Australia in collaboration with Aboriginal health and early education services. As part of a $21.2 million package of funding over five years from 2020–21 to advance hearing health in Australia, the 2020–21 Budget includes an additional $5 million to support early identification of hearing and speech difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and embed the use of PLUM and HATS Australia-wide.
To view the Department of Health’s media release click here.
Image source: The Wire website.
Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation receives research grant
The University of Wollongong (UOW) had announced the recipients of the Community Engagement Grants Scheme (CEGS). CEGS is uniquely focused on addressing the challenges faced by communities and taking action to create real and measurable outcomes. The CEGS projects are dedicated to serving communities on a range of issues that matter in the real world. Some areas of focus are health and wellbeing, disability and social services, culture and multiculturalism, Indigenous and local history and communities.
This year, the University awarded grants to three innovative community partners and UOW academics to support their research and outreach projects. Among the recipients is the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation and senior Aboriginal researcher and anthropologist, Professor Kathleen Clapham. Their project, titled ‘Amplifying the voices of Aboriginal women through culture and networking in an age of COVID19’ aims to address women’s isolation, restore networks, and nurture the exchange of Aboriginal knowledge and traditional practices.
To view the University of Wollongong’s media release click here.
Professor Kathleen Clapham, UOW. Image source: UOW website.
LGBQTISB suicide prevention
Indigenous LGBQTISB people deal with additional societal challenges, ones that can regularly intersect and contribute to the heightened development of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug problems, and a heightened risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour. Dameyon Bonson, an Indigenous gay male from the NT and recognised as Indigenous suicide prevention subject matter expert, specifically in Indigenous LGBQTI+ suicide, will be presenting ‘An introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous Australian) LGBQTISB suicide prevention’ from 11.00 am to 12.00 pm (ACST) on Tuesday 10 November 2020.
For more information about the event and to register click here.
Dead quiet to award winner in only two years
“The first year we were almost dead quiet … word of mouth and occupational health is what grew us, and now we’ve been able to really branch into Indigenous health and Closing the Gap initiatives,” said Practice Manager Olivia Tassone. At just 22-years-old, Tassone is also a part-owner of the company, along with former footballed Des Headland and others. Being privately owned gives Spartan First a flexibility that other companies in the same space don’t have. “One of the benefits of being a being a private business is we don’t really have a lot of red tape to jump over. If we want to start making a change, then we can just do it,” Tassone said.
Spartan Practice Manager Olivia Tassone. Image source: National Indigenous Times website.
Tackling Indigenous Smoking with Prof Tom Calma
Tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of ill health and early death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is responsible for 23 per cent of the gap in health burden between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program aims to improve life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by reducing tobacco use.
Professor Tom Calma, National Coordinator, leads the TIS program which has been running since 2010. Under the program local organisations design and run activities that focus on reducing smoking rates, and supports people to never start smoking. Activities are:
The Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) has launched a digital health guide to help Australians find the latest health information and advice about navigating the healthcare system during a time when information overload is widespread.
Your practical guide to a healthier future through digital technology provides clear advice to help Australians and their families get healthcare safely as restrictions are eased, with online resources and an easy to use online symptom checker.
Key advice includes what to do if you or a family member:
has COVID-19 symptoms;
needs medication (unrelated to COVID-19);
is sick or injured with symptoms unrelated to COVID-19;
The following Mary G video post added by NACCHO and AHCWA
The Agency’s Chief Digital Officer, Steven Issa said, ‘A recently coined term, infodemic, has been used to describe the oversupply of information that confuses rather than clarifies.
Digital health solutions are key to the national response to COVID-19 and the Agency has developed this online guide to give Australians clear advice on how to navigate the health system during this global infodemic’.
‘This guide aims to support Australians throughout their health journey and encourages Australians not to put their health on hold’.
The practical guide explains what to do if an individual or a family member: has COVID-19 symptoms; needs medication (unrelated to COVID-19); is sick or injured with symptoms unrelated to COVID-19; is seeking emotional support; or general information on how to stay healthy as restrictions are eased and people start getting out and about.
Dr Bav Manoharan, Doctor and Hospital Director in South-East Queensland has been working tirelessly to provide support to his community throughout this challenging time.
Dr Manoharan said, ‘Fortunately, Australia is seeing the COVID-19 pandemic ease, as our collective efforts to flatten the curve have worked. However, we need to be careful to not get complacent and put off our normal health check-ups and regular visits to GPs and other health services.
There are a number of convenient ways to get health help and make a physical or telehealth appointment with your usual health practitioner, and a good place to start is to visit the practical guide to a healthier future through digital technology for advice on your situation.’
The guide also explains how patients can update their online health information including allergies, medicines and personal details. Patients can also learn how to access their pathology and diagnostic imaging results, book a telehealth consultation and get their medications without a paper prescription.
“Telephone counselling lines and online counselling services are now available, which will increase awareness, and encourage help seeking by improving reach and access to professional practitioners.
However, the cultural capabilities of practitioners and culturally safe standards of service provision are critical to ensure therapeutic support delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is culturally appropriate to support healing.
These measures are to ensure clients are supported and not re-traumatised.”
Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association ( AIPA ) Chair, Tania Dalton (Jones) see part 2 below
Part 1 : These strategies will make phone service provision better for most. However, they are especially important for certain groups who’re likely to have particular difficulties with phone conversations
• Those listening to an unfamiliar language
• Older people with age related hearing loss or auditory processing problems
• People from disadvantaged minorities who have experienced childhood ear disease
• Those who experience anxiety which can influence capacity to take in information
• Many who use counseling services who have a history of childhood ear disease and/or auditory processing problems
• Youth who have been involved with police who have found to have a high incidence of auditory processing problems
• Children and adults with attention problems which will influence their taking in information
• Children in care or that have had child protection reports made about them who have been found to have a high incidence of hearing loss and/or auditory processing problems
Part 2 : Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) welcomes the Government’s pledge to support mental health during COVID – 19.
The commitment, totalling $74 million, will support mental health services during the COVID – 19 pandemic. “We warmly welcome this commitment and thank the Australian Government for recognising the mental health needs of all Australians during these challenging times,” states AIPA founding Director Professor Pat Dudgeon.
With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples more vulnerable to the impacts of COVID – 19, AIPA are conscious that this additional funding is not only necessary, but crucial in ensuring access to culturally safe supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
There are those in the AIPA membership who are providing psychological care to people impacted by COVID -19, ranging from working with frontline essential workers to families, and persons who have experienced family violence.
Professor Pat Dudgeon mentions, “Professionals who are working in mental health who are supporting Aboriginal people must be working within the framework of cultural safety. Also, psychologists must have experience in working with people and families from culturally diverse backgrounds.”
AIPA Chair, Tania Dalton (Jones) says “Telephone counselling lines and online counselling services are now available, which will increase awareness, and encourage help seeking by improving reach and access to professional practitioners.
However, the cultural capabilities of practitioners and culturally safe standards of service provision are critical to ensure therapeutic support delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is culturally appropriate to support healing. These measures are to ensure clients are supported and not re-traumatised.”
Mental health services must understand the cultural context for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people if they are to deliver the best possible outcomes.
As the national body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychologists, AIPA must have a seat at the table to ensure that mental health supports reflect the needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“It’s vital that Aboriginal health services are involved in the work of the Digital Health Agency as our holistic approach to the health of our people ensures those who will benefit most from engaging with digital health have the information to enable them to do so.”
Heather Sculthorpe, CEO of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
The Australian Digital Health Agency met with representatives from state and territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services on 4 December to support improvements in digital health literacy.
The national partnership of Affiliates meets quarterly to progress strategic digital health priorities that contribute to Closing The Gap.
This meeting was held in Tasmania and was hosted by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, and was attended by representatives from:
Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC)
Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)
Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA)
Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA)
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC)
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT)
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS)
Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC)
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
Each jurisdiction showcased the progress of their local initiatives and received an update on the Agency’s 2020 community engagement work.
Professor Meredith Makeham, Chief Medical Adviser for the Australian Digital Health Agency, said “Australians living outside of cities experience lower quality health outcomes. Digital health initiatives such as the My Health Record can help bridge the health care gaps for people living in regional and remote areas.”
“It is essential that the Agency hear from and work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.”
“Their frontline work to improve health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people is integral to ensuring their communities can access and benefit from digital health technologies and services,” Professor Makeham said.
How you can use My Health Record
If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you can use My Health Record to:
Created in collaboration with the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW, these My Health Record storybooks give you an overview of My Health Record. This includes how to log in, who can see your records and other important information:
Your new My Health Record might not have much information in it when you first log in. Your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare provider can start to add information to create a picture of your health over time.
Ask your healthcare provider to add new information to your My Health Record at your next visit.
Case study: Access to prescriptions wherever you go
Jim and Cindy live in Far North Queensland and love travelling across Australia to see friends and family. But they also need to ensure Cindy’s Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus can be managed on the road. Recently, on a trip interstate, Cindy realised she had left behind her prescription, which she uses to control her blood sugar levels.
Despite being far away from her GP, Cindy was able to visit a different doctor and bring up her medical history using My Health Record. My Health Record makes it easier for Cindy to take her medical history with her and ensure no matter where she is, her health is taken care of.
Esther’s My Health Record story
Aboriginal woman Esther Montgomery is living with chronic health conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and stage 2 renal disease.
“Today is about ensuring the road to a better digitally connected system is a two-way conversation.”
“Best use of data and technology is key to sustainable, high quality and person-centred health care,” said Agency chief executive officer Tim Kelsey.
“We’ve made progress since the National Digital Health Strategy was launched in 2018 – including creating a My Health Record for 9 out of 10 Australians, and developing standards for secure digital messages to replace letters and fax machines in healthcare. We are now developing the plan to move Australia to the next stage of connected care.
“Improving the interoperability of health and care services so that the right information is available at the right time for the right person is fundamental to improving the outcomes and experience of healthcare.”
Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Executive officer Tim Kelsey.
Picture above : On the final stop of the Central Queensland tour, The CEO and Chief Medical Adviser Meredith Makeham meet with early adopters of MHR, the Bidgerdii Community Health Service (ACCHO) , and chat about how it has benefited their community
NACCHO endorses and supports the My Health Record system initiative provided patient information and privacy is protected. The patient is in control of what information is placed in their electronic record and who else has access to it.
But want an assurance from the Health Minister that all patient records will be protected and if that requires further legislation then so be it.’
The Australian Digital Health Agency has today opened an online consultation for all Australians, including frontline clinicians, consumers, healthcare organisations and the technology sector to have their say on a more modern, digitally connected health system.
The online consultation is part of a nationwide series of discussions used to co-design the National Health Interoperability Roadmap, which will agree the standards and priorities required to achieve a more modern digitally connected health system in Australia.
The survey is open until Friday 14 June 2019.
The Roadmap is a key priority of the National Digital Health Strategy, which was approved by all states and territories through the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Health Council in 2017.
The National Digital Health Strategy highlights the importance of connected health services and calls for the definition of standards to support interoperability that will support clinicians, patients and citizens make the best health and care decisions.
“Industry clinical software supports millions of digital transactions daily through public and private health systems,” said Emma Hossack, Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Software Industry Association.
“A collaborative consensus on standards will increase confidence of all users and make a more interconnected health system possible for patients and their healthcare providers.”
In addition to the online consultation, the Agency will be facilitating over 50 digital health community conversations over coming months with members of the healthcare sector, health technology industry and consumer representatives to collaborate on how digital technology can best support the delivery of a person-centred healthcare system that prevents disease and empowers personal wellbeing.
Sharing the right health information at the right time is critical to high quality, sustainable health and care. Currently, many digital health systems in separate healthcare locations are unable to talk to each other. Information collected about a patient – for example in a hospital or a GP practice – often isn’t made available to others involved in a patient’s care.
“Based on my experience as a patient, having a better-connected system will ensure I can have more control over my own health information and greater access to more efficient and safer services,” said patient advocate Harry Iles-Mann.
“It means knowing that when it matters most, the management of my health and wellbeing by the system is being supported by a network of information sharing tailored to my own needs and expectations.”
In almost every part of our lives, whether it’s banking, transport, travel or maintaining social or business connections, technology has changed the way we do things. Just as people expect technology to seamlessly support them in their everyday lives, both consumers and healthcare professionals expect digital technology to support the delivery of high-quality healthcare.
Interoperability holds the potential to bring patients’ records together from a range of systems and to provide access to information from disparate sources, give consumers and providers greater visibility and enable research and innovation.
For example, 20% of Australians have a confirmed allergy. Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have increased five-fold over the past 20 years, and drug allergy induced anaphylaxis deaths have increased by 300%. In clinical situations where a patient is deteriorating and requires immediate intervention, knowing whether a drug may cause life‐threatening anaphylaxis is vital.
This first consultation, hosted by Agency chief executive officer, Mr Tim Kelsey, was held on 18 March 2019 at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney and brought together leaders from medical colleges, innovation experts, privacy advocates.
At the launch, President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners said: “A better-connected healthcare system will allow doctors to spend less time ringing around and searching for faxes and more time talking with patients.”
“Today is about ensuring the road to a better digitally connected system is a two-way conversation.”
“Best use of data and technology is key to sustainable, high quality and person-centred health care,” said Agency chief executive officer Tim Kelsey.
“We’ve made progress since the National Digital Health Strategy was launched in 2018 – including creating a My Health Record for 9 out of 10 Australians, and developing standards for secure digital messages to replace letters and fax machines in healthcare. We are now developing the plan to move Australia to the next stage of connected care.
“Improving the interoperability of health and care services so that the right information is available at the right time for the right person is fundamental to improving the outcomes and experience of healthcare.”
Address: L25/175 Liverpool Street, Sydney NSW 2000.
About the Australian Digital Health Agency
The Agency is tasked with improving health outcomes for all Australians through the delivery of digital healthcare systems, and implementing Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy – Safe, Seamless, and Secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia in collaboration with partners across the community.
The Agency is the System Operator of My Health Record, and provides leadership, coordination, and delivery of a collaborative and innovative approach to utilising technology to support and enhance a clinically safe and connected national health system.
These improvements will give individuals more control of their health and their health information, and support healthcare providers to deliver informed healthcare through access to current clinical and treatment information.
3 and 4 April Webinar ‘Privacy obligations post-opt out for My Health Record – Healthcare organisations’.
The Australian Digital Health Agency will be holding the following national webinar, ‘Privacy obligations post-opt out for My Health Record – Healthcare organisations’.
Do you work within a GP clinic, Community Pharmacy, Public or Private Hospital? Is your organisation registered for My Health Record?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions this webinar will be a must attend.
This interactive webinar will inform healthcare providers of their privacy obligations when interacting with the My Health Record. Learning outcomes of this webinar include:
Governing access to My Health Record system and how this applies to your organisation
Ensuring appropriate policies are in place to adhere to legalisation requirements
Complying with consumer wishes in regard to accessing and uploading information
This webinar will be held live twice, please register for the date & time that is most suitable for you. You are only required to attend one session. Please feel free to forward the below details to your colleagues and stakeholders:
Webinar – Privacy obligations post-opt out for My Health Record – Healthcare organisations:
Date & Time: 12.30 – 1.30pm (AEDT) on Wednesday 3rd April 2019
Where: Online (join via your computer – register beforehand.
Note registrations close 24hrs prior to webinar event ( Today 2 April 12.30 PM )
20 -24 May 2019 World Indigenous Housing Conference. Gold Coast
Thank you for your interest in the 2019 World Indigenous Housing Conference.
The 2019 World Indigenous Housing Conference will bring together Indigenous leaders, government, industry and academia representing Housing, health, and education from around the world including:
National and International Indigenous Organisation leadership
Senior housing, health, and education government officials Industry CEOs, executives and senior managers from public and private sectors
Housing, Healthcare, and Education professionals and regulators
Academics in Housing, Healthcare, and Education.
The 2019 World Indigenous Housing Conference #2019WIHC is the principal conference to provide a platform for leaders in housing, health, education and related services from around the world to come together. Up to 2000 delegates will share experiences, explore opportunities and innovative solutions, work to improve access to adequate housing and related services for the world’s Indigenous people.
Key event details as follows:
Venue: Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre
Address: 2684-2690 Gold Coast Hwy, Broadbeach QLD 4218
Dates: Monday 20th – Thursday 23rd May, 2019 (24th May)
EARLY BIRD – FULL CONFERENCE & TRADE EXHIBITION REGISTRATION: $1950 AUD plus booking fees
After 1 February FULL CONFERENCE & TRADE EXHIBITION REGISTRATION $2245 AUD plus booking fees
PLEASE NOTE: The Trade Exhibition is open Tuesday 21st May – Thursday 23rd May 2019
Please visit www.2019wihc.com for further information on transport and accommodation options, conference, exhibition and speaker updates.
Methods of Payment:
2019WIHC online registrations accept all major credit cards, by Invoice and direct debit. PLEASE NOTE: Invoices must be paid in full and monies received by COB Monday 20 May 2019.
Please note: The 2019 WIHC organisers reserve the right of admission. Speakers, programs and topics are subject to change. Please visit http://www.2019wihc.comfor up to date information.
Conference Cancellation Policy
If a registrant is unable to attend 2019 WIHC for any reason they may substitute, by arrangement with the registrar, someone else to attend in their place and must attend any session that has been previously selected by the original registrant.
Where the registrant is unable to attend and is not in a position to transfer his/her place to another person, or to another event, then the following refund arrangements apply:
Registrations cancelled less than 60 days, but more than 30 days before the event are eligible for a 50% refund of the registration fees paid.
Registrations cancelled less than 30 days before the event are no longer eligible for a refund.
Refunds will be made in the following ways:
For payments received by credit or debit cards, the same credit/debit card will be refunded.
For all other payments, a bank transfer will be made to the payee’s nominated account.
Important: For payments received from outside Australia by bank transfer, the refund will be made by bank transfer and all bank charges will be for the registrant’s account. The Cancellation Policy as stated on this page is valid from 1 October 2018.
At the Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2019 delegates from around the world will discuss the role of First Nations in leading change and will showcase Indigenous solutions.
The conference program will highlight ways of thinking, speaking and being for the benefit of Indigenous peoples everywhere.
Join Indigenous leaders, researchers, health professionals, decision makers, community representatives, and our non-Indigenous colleagues in this important conversation.
A night of celebrating excellence and action – the Gala Dinner is the premier national networking event in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health.
The purpose of the IAHA National Indigenous Allied Health Awards is to recognise the contribution of IAHA members to their profession and/or improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The IAHA National Indigenous Allied Health Awards showcase the outstanding achievements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health and provides identifiable allied health role models to inspire all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to consider and pursue a career in allied health.
The awards this year will be known as “10 for 10” to honour the 10 Year Anniversary of IAHA. We will be announcing 4 new awards in addition to the 6 existing below.
24 -26 September 2019 CATSINaM National Professional Development Conference
The 2019 CATSINaM National Professional Development Conference will be held in Sydney, 24th – 26th September 2019. Make sure you save the dates in your calendar.
Further information to follow soon.
Date: Tuesday the 24th to Thursday the 26th September 2019
Location: Sydney, Australia
Organiser: Chloe Peters
Phone: 02 6262 5761
9-10 October 2019 NATSIHWA 10 Year Anniversary Conference
SAVE THE DATE for the 2019 NATSIHWA 10 Year Anniversary Conference!!!
We’re so excited to announce the date of our 10 Year Anniversary Conference – A Decade of Footprints, Driving Recognition!!!
NATSIHWA recognises that importance of members sharing and learning from each other, and our key partners within the Health Sector. We hold a biennial conference for all NATSIHWA members to attend. The conference content focusses on the professional support and development of the Health Workers and Health Practitioners, with key side events to support networking among attendees. We seek feedback from our Membership to make the conferences relevant to their professional needs and expectations and ensure that they are offered in accessible formats and/or locations.The conference is a time to celebrate the important contribution of Health Workers and Health Practitioners, and the Services that support this important profession.
We hold the NATSIHWA Legends Award night at the conference Gala Dinner. Award categories include: Young Warrior, Health Worker Legend, Health Service Legend and Individual Champion.
Watch this space for the release of more dates for registrations, award nominations etc.
16 October Melbourne Uni: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing Conference
The University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health are pleased to advise that abstract
submissions are now being invited that address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and
The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference is an opportunity for sharing information and connecting people that are committed to reforming the practice and research of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health and celebrates Aboriginal knowledge systems and strength-based approaches to improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal communities.
This is an opportunity to present evidence-based approaches, Aboriginal methods and models of
practice, Aboriginal perspectives and contribution to health or community led solutions, underpinned by cultural theories to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.
In 2018 the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference attracted over 180 delegates from across the community and state.
We welcome submissions from collaborators whose expertise and interests are embedded in Aboriginal health and wellbeing, and particularly presented or co-presented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and community members.
closing date for abstract submission is Friday 3 rd May 2019.
As per speaker registration link request please email your professional photo for our program or any conference enquiries to E. email@example.com.
Aboriginal Partnerships and Community Engagement Officer
Department of Rural Health, University of Melbourne T. 03 5823 4554 E. firstname.lastname@example.org
5-8 November The Lime Network Conference New Zealand
This years #LIMEConnection whakatauki (theme for the conference) was developed by the Scientific Committee, along with Māori elder, Te Marino Lenihan & Tania Huria from @otago.
“ The proposals included in this submission are based on the extensive experience NACCHO member services have of providing many years of comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We have long recognised that closing the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and disadvantage will never be achieved until primary health care services’ infrastructure hardware is fit for purpose; our people are living in safe and secure housing; culturally safe and trusted early intervention services are available for our children and their families; and our psychological, social, emotional and spiritual needs are acknowledged and supported.=
If these proposals are adopted, fully funded and implemented, they provide a pathway forward where improvements in life expectancy can be confidently predicted. “
Pat Turner AM NACCHO CEO on behalf of our State and Territory Affiliates and 145 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services operating 302 ACCHO Clinics
NACCHO is the national peak body representing 145 ACCHOs across the country on Aboriginal health and wellbeing issues.
In 1997, the Federal Government funded NACCHO to establish a Secretariat in Canberra, greatly increasing the capacity of Aboriginal peoples involved in ACCHOs to participate in national health policy development. Our members provide about three million episodes of care per year for about 350,000 people. In very remote areas, our services provide about one million episodes of care in a twelve-month period.
Collectively, we employ about 6,000 staff (56 per cent whom are Indigenous), which makes us the single largest employer of Indigenous people in the country.
The following policy proposals are informed by NACCHO’s consultations with its Affiliates and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services:
Increase base funding of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services;
Increase funding for capital works and infrastructure;
Improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and community infrastructure;
Reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in out-of-home care and detention; and
Strengthen the Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
NACCHO is committed to working with the Australian Government to further develop the proposals, including associated costings and implementation plans and identifying where current expenditure could be more appropriately targeted.
1. Increase base funding of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
That the Australian Government:
Commits to increasing the baseline funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to support the sustainable delivery of high quality, comprehensive primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
Works together with NACCHO and Affiliates to agree to a new formula for the provision of comprehensive primary health care funding that is relative to need.
The Productivity Commission’s 2017 Indigenous Expenditure Report found that per capita government spending on Indigenous services was twice as high as for the rest of the population. The view that enormous amounts of money have been spent on Indigenous Affairs has led many to conclude a different focus is required and that money is not the answer. Yet, the key question in understanding the relativities of expenditure on Indigenous is equity of total expenditure, both public and private and in relation to need.
The Commonwealth Government spends $1.4 for every $1 spent on the rest of the population, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have 2.3 times the per capita need of the rest of the population because of much higher levels of illness and burden of disease. In its 2018 Report Card on Indigenous Health, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) states that spending less per capita on those with worse health, is ‘untenable national policy and that must be rectified’.1 The AMA also adds that long-term failure to adequately fund primary health care – especially Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) – is a major contributing factor to failure in closing health and life expectancy gaps.
Despite the challenges of delivering services in fragmented and insufficient funding environments, studies have shown that ACCHSs deliver more cost-effective, equitable and effective primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are 23 per cent better at attracting and retaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients than mainstream providers.2 ACCHSs continue to specialise in providing comprehensive primary care consistent with clients’ needs.
This includes home and site visits; provision of medical, public health and health promotion services; allied health, nursing services; assistance with making appointments and transport; help accessing child care or dealing with the justice system; drug and alcohol services; and providing help with income support.
2 Ong, Katherine S, Rob Carter, Margaret Kelaher, and Ian Anderson. 2012. Differences in Primary Health Care
Delivery to Australia’s Indigenous Population: A Template for Use in Economic Evaluations, BMC Health
Services Research 12:307; Campbell, Megan Ann, Jennifer Hunt, David J Scrimgeour, Maureen Davey and
Victoria Jones. 2017. Contribution of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to improving Aboriginal
There are limits, however, to the extent that ACCHSs can continue to deliver quality, safe primary health care in fragmented and insufficient funding environments. This is particularly challenging to meet the health care needs of a fast-growing population.3 There is an urgent need to identify and fill the current health service gaps, particularly in primary health care, and with a focus on areas with high preventable hospital admissions and deaths and low use of the Medical Benefits Scheme and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
An appropriately resourced Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector represents an evidence-based, cost-effective and efficient solution for addressing the COAG Close the Gap and strategy and will result in gains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing.
Strengthening the workforce
NACCHO welcomes COAG’s support for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce Plan. A long-term plan for building the workforce capabilities of ACCHSs is overdue. Many services struggle with the recruitment and retention of suitably qualified staff, and there are gaps in the number of professionals working in the sector.
NACCHO believes that the plan will be strengthened by expanding its scope to include:
metropolitan based services;
expanding the range of workforce beyond doctors and nurses; and
recognising that non-Indigenous staff comprise almost half of the workforce. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff are critical to improving access to culturally appropriate care and Indigenous health outcomes, consideration to the non-Indigenous workforce who contribute to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health outcomes should also be given.
An increase in the baseline funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, as set out in this proposal will enable our sector to plan for and build workforce capabilities in line with the Health and Medical Workforce Plan objectives.
2. Increase funding for capital works and infrastructure upgrades
That the Australian Government:
Commits to increasing funding allocated through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme for capital works and infrastructure upgrades, and Telehealth services; noting that at least $500m is likely to be needed to address unmet needs, based on the estimations of 38.6 per cent of the ACCHO sector, and we anticipate that those needs may be replicated across the sector (see Table A below).
There is a current shortfall in infrastructure with a need for new buildings in existing and outreach locations, and renovations to increase amenities including consultation spaces. Additional funding is required for additional rooms and clinics mapped against areas of highest need with consideration to establishing satellite, outreach or permanent ACCHSs.
Many of the Aboriginal health clinics are 20 to 40 years old and require major refurbishment, capital works and updating to meet increasing population and patient numbers. The lack of consulting rooms and derelict infrastructure severely limits our services’ ability to increase MBS access.
Further, whilst there may be some scope to increase MBS billing rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, this cannot be achieved without new services and infrastructure. A vital priority is seed funding for the provision of satellite and outreach Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will access, and which provide the comprehensive services needed to fill the service gaps, to boost the use of MBS and PBS services to more equitable levels, and to reduce preventable admissions and deaths.
Improvements to the building infrastructure of ACCHSs are required to strengthen their capacity to address gaps in service provision, attract and retain clinical staff, and support the safety and accessibility of clinics and residential staff facilities. However, the level of funding of $15m per annum, under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme allocated for Capital Works – Infrastructure, Support and Assessment and Service Maintenance, is not keeping up with demand.
In our consultations with Affiliates and ACCHSs, NACCHO is increasingly hearing that
Telehealth services, including infrastructure/hardware and improved connectivity, is required to support the provision of NDIS, mental health and health specialist services. A total of 22 out of 56 survey responses (see Table A below) identified the need for Telehealth to support service provision.
NACCHO believes that insufficient funding to meet capital works and infrastructure needs is adversely impacting the capacity of some ACCHSs to safely deliver comprehensive, timely and responsive primary health care; employ sufficient staff; to improve their uptake of Medicare billing; and to keep up with their accreditation requirements. In January 2019, we surveyed ACCHSs about their capital works and infrastructure needs, including Telehealth services. We received 56 responses, representing a response rate of 38.6 per cent.
Survey respondents estimated the total costs of identified capital works and infrastructure upgrades (see Table A below). The estimated costs have not been verified; however, they do
suggest there is a great level of unmet need in the sector. Please note that not all respondents were able to provide estimates.
Table A. Estimated costs of capital works and infrastructure upgrades identified by ACCHSs
Number of respondents
Percentage of respondents
Total estimated costs
Replace existing building
New location/satellite clinic
Total estimated costs of capital works and infrastructure upgrades
37 survey respondents applied for funding for infrastructure improvements from the Australian Government Department of Health during 2017 and/or 2018. Of the 11 that were successful, four respondents stated that the allocated funds were not sufficient for requirements.
ACCHSs believe that the current state of their service infrastructure impedes the capacity of their services as depicted in Table B, below:
Table B: Impact of ACCHSs’ infrastructure needs on service delivery
Infrastructure impeding service delivery
Safe delivery of quality health care
Increase client numbers
Expand the range of services and staff numbers
Increase Medicare billing
An extract of feedback provided by ACCHSs relating to their capital works and infrastructure needs is at Appendix A.
3. Improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and community infrastructure
That the Australian Government:
Expand the funding and timeframe of the current National Partnership on Remote Housing to match AT LEAST that of the former National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.
Establish and fund a program that supports healthy living environments in urban, regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, similar to the Fixing Houses for Better Health program. Ensure that rigorous data collection and program evaluation structures are developed and built into the program, to provide the Commonwealth Government with information to enable analysis of how housing improvements impact on health indicators.
Update and promote the National Indigenous Housing Guide, a best practice resource for the design, construction and maintenance of housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Safe and decent housing is one of the biggest social determinants of health and we cannot overlook this when working to close the gap in life expectancy.
1. Remote Indigenous Housing
The National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing 2008-2018 was a COAG initiative that committed funding of $5.4b towards new builds, refurbishments, housing quality, cyclical maintenance, and community engagement and employment and business initiatives.
In 2016, the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing was replaced by the National Partnership on Remote Housing. Under this new partnership, the Commonwealth Government committed:
$776.403m in 2016, to support remote housing in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory over a two-year period; and
$550m in 2018, to support remote housing in the Northern Territory, over a five-year period.
New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania are not part of discussions with the Commonwealth Government on housing needs.
A review of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (2018) found that:
An additional 5,500 homes are required by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding in remote areas to acceptable levels
A planned cyclic maintenance program, with a focus on health-related hardware and houses functioning, is required.
Systematic property and tenancy management needs to be faster.
More effort is required to mobilise the local workforces to do repairs and maintenance work.
There is currently a disconnect between the levels of government investment into remote housing and the identified housing needs of remote communities. This disconnect is increasingly exacerbated by population increases in Aboriginal communities.
There is a comprehensive, evidence-based literature which investigates the powerful links between housing and health, education and employment outcomes. Healthy living conditions are the basis from which Closing the Gap objectives may be achieved. Commonwealth Government leadership is urgently needed to appropriately invest into remote housing.
The importance of environmental health to health outcomes is well established. A healthy living environment with adequate housing supports not only the health of individuals and families; it also enhances educational achievements, community safety and economic participation.10
Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments have a shared responsibility for housing. Overcrowding is a key contributor to poor health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In addition to overcrowding, poor and derelict health hardware (including water, sewerage, electricity) leads to the spread of preventable diseases for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Healthy homes are vital to ensuring that preventable diseases that have been eradicated in most countries do not exist in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and homes.
4. Reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in out-of-home care and detention
That the Australian Government:
Establishes an additional elective within the existing Aboriginal Health Worker curriculum, that provides students with early childhood outreach, preventative health care and parenting support skills
Waives the upfront fees of the first 100 Indigenous students to undertake the Aboriginal Health Worker (Early Childhood stream) Certificate IV course.
Funds an additional 145 Aboriginal Health Worker (early childhood) places across ACCHSs.
The overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection system is one of the most pressing human rights challenges facing Australia today.
Young people placed in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely than the equivalent general population to be under youth justice supervision in the same year.
Government investment in early childhood is an urgent priority to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care and youth detention. Research reveals that almost half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are placed to out of home care are removed by the age of four and, secondly, demonstrates the strong link between children and young people in detention who have both current and/or previous experiences of out of home care. There is also compelling evidence of the impact of repetitive, prolonged trauma on children and young people and how, if left untreated, this may lead to mental health and substance use disorders, and intergenerational experiences of out-of-home care and exposure to the criminal justice system.15
Despite previous investments by governments, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people remain overrepresented in the children protection and youth detention systems. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 (‘National Framework’) was established to develop a unified approach for protecting children. It recognises that ‘Australia needs a shared agenda for change, with national leadership and a common goal’.
One of the six outcomes of the National Framework is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are supported and safe in their families and communities, with this overarching goal:
Indigenous children are supported and safe in strong, thriving families and communities to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children in child protection systems. For those Indigenous children in child protection systems, culturally appropriate care and support is provided to enhance their wellbeing.16
Findings presented in the 2018 Family Matters Report reveal, however, that the aims and objectives of the National Framework have failed to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up just over 36 per cent of all children living in out-of-home care; the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-ofhome care is 10.1 times that of other children, and disproportionate representation continues to grow (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2018b). Since the last Family Matters Report over-representation in out-of-home care has either increased or remained the same in every state and territory.17
Furthermore, statistics on the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in detention facilities reveal alarmingly high trends of overrepresentation:
On an average night in the June quarter 2018, nearly 3 in 5 (59%) young people aged 10– 17 in detention were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people making up only 5% of the general population aged 10–17.
Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were 26 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be in detention on an average night.
A higher proportion of Indigenous young people in detention were aged 10–17 than non-Indigenous young people—in the June quarter 2018, 92% of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander young people in detention were aged 10–17, compared with 74% of non-
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2018. Youth detention population in Australia. AIHW Bulletin 145.
NACCHO believes an adequately funded, culturally safe, preventative response is needed to reduce the number and proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection and youth detention systems. It is vital that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who are struggling with chronic, complex and challenging circumstances are able to access culturally appropriate, holistic, preventative services with trusted service providers that have expertise in working with whole families affected by intergenerational trauma. The child protection and justice literature are united in that best practice principles for developing solutions to these preventable problems begin with self-determination, community control, cultural safety and a holistic response. For these reasons, we are proposing that the new Aboriginal Health Worker (Early Childhood) be based within the service setting of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.
The cultural safety in which ACCHSs’ services are delivered is a key factor in their success. ACCHSs have expert understanding and knowledge of the interplays between intergenerational trauma, the social determinants of health, family violence, and institutional racism, and the risks these contributing factors carry in increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ exposure to the child protection and criminal justice systems.
Our services have developed trauma informed care responses that acknowledge historical and contemporary experiences of colonisation, dispossession and discrimination and build this knowledge into service delivery.
Further, they are staffed by health and medical professionals who understand the importance of providing a comprehensive health service, including the vital importance of regular screening and treatment for infants and children aged 0-4, and providing at risk families with early support. Within the principles, values and beliefs of the Aboriginal community controlled service model lay the groundwork for children’s better health, education, and employment outcomes. The addition of Aboriginal Health Workers with early childhood skills and training will provide an important, much needed role in preventing and reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young peoples’ exposure to child protection and criminal justice systems.
Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory, Submission to the Royal
Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, 2017
NACCHO supports the position and recommendations of Aboriginal Peak Organisations in the NT, that:
• Aboriginal community control, empowerment and a trauma informed approach should underpin the delivery of all services to Aboriginal children and their families. This applies to service design and delivery across areas including early childhood, education, health, housing, welfare, prevention of substance misuse, family violence prevention, policing, child protection and youth justice.
• The Australian Government develops and implements a comprehensive, adequately resourced national strategy and target, developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
• There is an urgent need for a child-centred, trauma-informed and culturally relevant approach to youth justice proceedings which ultimately seeks to altogether remove the need for the detention of children.
• Early childhood programs and related clinical and public health services are provided equitably to all Aboriginal children (across the NT) through the development and implementation of a three-tiered model of family health care – universal, targeted and indicated – to meet children’s needs from before birth to school age. Services should be provided across eight key areas: o quality antenatal and postnatal care;
o clinical and public health services for children and families; o a nurse home visiting program; o parenting programs; o child development programs; o two years of preschool; o targeted services for vulnerable children and families; and o supportive social determinants policies.
• These services need to be responsive to, and driven by, the community at a local level.
5. Strengthen the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
That the Australian Government:
Provide secure and long-term funding to ACCHSs to expand their mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, suicide prevention, alcohol and other drugs services, using best practice trauma informed approaches.
Urgently increase funding for ACCHSs to employ staff to deliver mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services, including psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists, mental health workers and other professionals and workers; and
Urgently increase the delivery of training to Aboriginal health practitioners to establish and/or consolidate skills development in mental health care and support, including suicide prevention; and
Return funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, health and wellbeing and alcohol and other drugs from the Indigenous Advancement Strategy to the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has estimated that mental health and substance use are the biggest contributors to the overall burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indigenous adults are 2.7 times more likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress than other Australians. They are also hospitalised for mental and behavioural disorders and suicide at almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous population and are missing out on much needed mental health services.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal people aged 5-34 years, the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. In 2016, the rate of suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was 24 per 100,000, twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal people living in the Kimberley region are seven times more likely to suicide than non-Aboriginal people.
Many Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services deliver culturally safe, trauma informed services in communities dealing with extreme social and economic disadvantage that are affected and compounded by intergenerational trauma and are supporting positive changes in the lives of their members. The case study provided by Derby Aboriginal Health Service demonstrates not only the impact that this ACCHS is having on its community. It also illustrates the rationale for each of the proposals described in this pre-budget submission.
Case Study: Derby Aboriginal Health Service, WA
Derby Aboriginal Health Service’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing Unit (SEWB) have partnered with another organisation to employ someone in our SEWB unit to work directly with families on issues that contribute to them losing their children to Department of Child Protection (DCP). This program is designed to help prevent the children from being removed by DCP by working one to one with families on issues such as budgeting, education, substance misuse, a safe and healthy home etc.
Our SEWB unit has a community engagement approach which involves working directly with clients and their families, counselling with the psychologist and mental health worker, the male Aboriginal Mental Health Worker taking men out on country trips as part of mental health activities for men, the youth at risk program (Shine), the Body Clinic, the prenatal program working directly with mums, dads and bubs around parenting, relationships between mums, dads and children etc. The team work directly with the community.
We are now introducing a new SEWB designed program into the Derby prison which focuses on exploring men and women’s strengths and abilities rather than looking at their deficits. Using a strengths based program was very successfully delivered with a group of 22 Aboriginal men and 16 Aboriginal women where, for many of the participants, they were told for the first time in their lives that they matter and that they have good things about them and they are strong men and women (this naturally brought in some behavior modification that they could attempt in making changes in their lives; e.g. one participant said that when he went home, he was going to make his wife a cup of tea instead of expecting her to make him tea – he said he had never thought of that before). The SEWB team presented this at the National Mental Health Conference in Adelaide, August last year.
Given the deep and respectful footprint the SEWB team has in the town and surrounding communities, they, and the people, deserve and need a new building in which to continue their important work. If we can help people deal with the issues above, then they will be much more empowered to prevent/deal with their own health issues – perhaps then we can Close the Gap.
Given the burden of mental, psychological distress and trauma that our communities are responding to and the impact this has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ life expectancy, educational outcomes, and workforce participation, NACCHO believes it is imperative that a funded implementation plan for the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing
2017-2023 (‘the Framework’) be developed as a priority. The following Action Areas of the Framework relate to this proposal:
Action Area 1 – Strengthen the foundations (An effective and empowered mental health and social and emotional wellbeing workforce);
Action Area 2 – Promote wellness (all outcome areas); and
Action Area 4 – Provide care for people who are mildly or moderately ill (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with a mild or moderate mental illness are able to access culturally and clinically appropriate primary mental health care according to need).
As the above case study suggests, our trusted local Aboriginal community controlled services are best placed to be the preferred providers of mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, and suicide prevention activities to their communities. Australian Government funding should be prioritised to on the ground Aboriginal services to deliver suicide prevention, trauma and other wellbeing services. Delivering these much-needed services through ACCHSs, rather than establishing a new service, would deliver economies of scale and would draw from an already demonstrated successful model of service delivery.
Further, NACCHO believes that the current artificial distinction between separating mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and alcohol and drug funding from primary health care funding, must be abolished. Primary health care, within the holistic health provision of ACCHS, provides the sound structure to address all aspects of health care arising from social, emotional and physical factors. Primary health care is a comprehensive approach to health in accordance with the Aboriginal holistic definition of health and arises out of the practical experience within the Aboriginal community itself having to provide effective and culturally appropriate health services to its communities.
The current artificial distinction, as exemplified by program funding for ACCHS activities being administered across two Australian Government Departments, does not support our definition of health and wellbeing. It also leads to inefficiencies and unnecessarily increases red tape, by imposing additional reporting burdens on a sector that is delivering services under challenging circumstances.
Qualitative feedback from Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services capital works and infrastructure needs
The following comments from ACCHSs have been extracted from a survey administered by NACCHO in January 2019:
Currently at capacity and as the government focusses more on Medicare earnings and less on funding we need the ability to expand into this area as well as the NDIS in order to meet our client service needs and build sustainability.
The facility that our service currently occupies is state government owned, on state crown land, is over 40 years old and is ‘sick’ – it is not fit for purpose with an irreparable roof, significant asbestos contamination, water ingress, mould and recurrent power outages. The maintenance costs are an unsustainable burden, it is unreliable, unsuitable and unsafe for clients and staff, and there is no room for expansion for program and community areas. We applied for funding from the Australian Government Department of Health, but the application was not successful. This figure is inclusive of early works transportable – temporary accommodation, building works, demolition works, services infrastructure, external works, design development contingency, construction contingency, builder preliminaries and margin, loose furniture and equipment, specialist/medical equipment, ICT & PABX, AV equipment, professional including.
disbursements (to be confirmed), statutory fees, locality loading, and goods and services tax.
We are in need of kitchen renovations to each of our community care sites that do meals on wheels. The WA Environmental Health unit has informed us that we need to upgrade all our kitchens to meet Food Safety requirements or they will enforce closure of some of our kitchens, which would then mean we are unable to do our Meals on Wheels service in some communities
Currently limited by space to employ support staff and increase our GP’s, our waiting room is around 3x4m and we are always having clients standing up or waiting outside until there is space for them. We currently have three buildings in the one township with two being rentals, if we could co-locate all services, we could offer a higher level of integrated care and save wasted money on rent.
Not currently enough space to house staff and visiting clinicians.
Have been applying for grants in infrastructure and included in Action Plan for quite a few years and still not successful.
We need a multi-purpose building to bring together our comprehensive range of services in a way that enables community to gather, express their culture and feel safe and welcome whilst receiving a fully integrated service delivery model of supports. We have more than doubled in staffing and program delivery and are still trying to operate out of the same space. The need for further expansion is inevitable and the co-operative welcomes the opportunity to bring more services to our community, but infrastructure
is a barrier and we have taken the strategic decision to acquire vacant land near our main headquarters with the view to obtaining future infrastructure funding – it is much needed.
The three sites we currently lease are all commercial premises and we have to make our business fit, the buildings are not culturally appropriate nor are they designed for a clinical setting.
For eight years we have struggled to grow in line with our community service needs and the requirement to become more self-sufficient in the face of a funding environment which is declining in real terms (not keeping pace with CPI and wages growth). Further to this, every time we add a building our running costs go up so even capital expansion comes at a cost to the organisation as it takes time to build up to the operating capacity that the new/improved buildings provide. This is the ongoing struggle in our space.
Our service was established in 1999 and has been operating from an 80 year old converted holiday house, with a couple of minor extensions. The clinic does not meet the contemporary set up for an efficient clinic from viewpoint of staff, medical services and for community members. Space is very limited, and service delivery is also limited due to room availability. Demand for services both for physical and mental health/SEWB is growing strongly. We have 425 Community Members (with 70 currently in prisons in our region) and our actual patient numbers accessing services over 12 months have increased 50%.
We never received support or funding to acquire a purpose-built facility from the outset and as there was no suitable accommodation for rent or lease, we acquired two small houses to deliver our services from. These were totally inadequate but all we could acquire at the time. We have 31 staff accommodated through three locations and require a purpose-built facility to deliver quality primary health care to our Community.
Over the last two years we have been able to purchase the site it is currently located on. This site is based on five contiguous residential properties, with each property containing a 2-3 bedroom, approximately 40 year old house. Two of these houses have been joined together to form the Medical Clinic, the other three houses have all been renovated and upgraded to various levels in order to make them usable by the service. The next step in the plan is to redevelop the entire site to build an all-in-one centre to replace the current four separate buildings. In our 12 years of service we have moved from renting at a number of locations to being able to purchase our current site. The current site of old, converted residential buildings while viable in the short term, does not allow for efficient use of the site nor capacity for growth. Parking is scattered around the site, staff are scattered and continually moving from building to building to serve clients. There is no excess accommodation capacity to allow for growth of services. Our intention is to re-develop the site to house all staff in one building, which will be configured for growth over the long term and allow efficient use of the available grounds for parking, an Elders shed, and so on.
We have run out of room. Every office is shared, including the CEO’s office. We can’t hire any staff – nowhere to house them. Whenever a visiting service is operating – GP clinic, podiatry, optometry, audiology, chiropractor etc, offices have to be vacated to house
them, displaced staff basically have nowhere to go. Fine balancing act to schedule things to displace as few people as possible.
We are currently located in two refurbished community buildings as there is no suitable accommodation for lease. Our organisation is growing very quickly, and we need all services located under one roof – one identity, one culture.
Rapidly reaching the point where services will be diminished because of failing infrastructure or insufficient housing for the nursing staff required.
Some clinical rooms are not fit for purpose. Clinicians working from rooms without hand washing facilities. Medical Clinic is old, out of date, some rooms not fit for purpose, ineffective air conditioning, clinical staff sharing rooms, no room for expansion, difficult to house students due to lack of appropriate space.
We have made a number of applications to improve infrastructure, and to replace current infrastructure, all have been unsuccessful, in some cases we have purchase buildings & land to try and demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth and servicing of clients. We get little feedback in relation to funding applications.
Spread across three sites with some providers having to share rooms and staff being required to work outside on laptops at times. Desperately needing to build a purposebuilt facility in order to stop paying high amounts of rent and allow effective primary health care to an increasing client number.
Derby Aboriginal Health Service
The Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS) Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) unit is housed in a 60+ year old asbestos building that was originally a family home. It has an old and small transport unit connected to the house by an exposed verandah. There are 6 staff working from the house who provide individual and family counselling and support. The clients who come to SEWB experience mental health issues, family violence, poverty, Department of Child Protection (DCP) issues around removal of children, alcohol and other drug issues and supporting those released from the Derby local Prison (approx. 200 prisoners). It is difficult to safely secure SEWB to the extent it is required given the age and asbestos nature of the building (security alarms etc). In the photos, you can see the buildings are old and are of asbestos. The transportable out the back houses the manager who is also the psychologist – this means she is in a vulnerable position when counselling should the session not go as planned (potential for a violent situation – see photo showing external verandah connecting to the donga).
The size of the house means that counselling clients privately is difficult as everything happens in close quarters. The number of clients the team work with exceeds the capacity of the building which impacts on the number of Aboriginal clients the team can help. The SEWB building has been broken into a number of times the last being during the long weekend in September 2018 where significant damage was done. Given the age of the house, during the past 18 months, parts of the internal ceiling including cornices have been falling away from the structures creating potential issues of asbestos fibre being released into the air. In addition, there are plumbing problems and the wooden floor is becoming a safety issue in one area of the building.
SEWB runs a vulnerable youth programme (the Shine Group) and a Body Shop clinic for youth who will not attend the main clinic for shame and fear reasons (special appointments are made with a doctor so that the young person doesn’t have to wait in the waiting area. In addition, a doctor runs a monthly session at the SEWB building with youth around health education and also sees them if there is a clinical need). These programmes run out of another 60+ year old asbestos family house some distance from the main SEWB house. Not only is the house not suitable but there may be security risks for the staff member working with vulnerable youth. The Shine House was also broken into in September 2018 where significant damage was done (see photos).
The DAHS main building has no further office or other space to house staff. This is particularly the case for 2019 as DAHS takes on new programmes (e.g. 2 staff for the new Syphilis Programme). DAHS is acutely aware of the need to source funding to build new administration offices in order to release current admin offices for clinical and programme purposes.
DAHS requires a new or upgraded SEWB building. DAHS first applied for service maintenance funding in March 2017 but were unsuccessful. DAHS applied in June 2018 for Capital Works but were unsuccessful because it didn’t fit in with IAHP Primary Health Care as it was about mental health. DAHS also paid for an Architect to draw up the plans for a new SEWB building. It is my view that one of the main issues is that the government separates SEWB from primary health care.
Social and emotional wellbeing issues CANNOT be separated from primary health care. As is well known, a person’s SEWB impacts on the physical health of an individual. Physical illhealth is frequently caused by the SEWB condition of an individual (i.e. historical and current experiences of trauma frequently commencing in the pre-natal phase of a child’s life, family violence, alcohol and other drug use, smoking, anxiety, removal of children, mental health issues etc). Aboriginal people suffer greatly from SEWB issues which impacts on their overall physical health. Mental health in all its forms is part and parcel of physical health so it must be included in primary health care.
However, both state and commonwealth governments do not seem to prioritise or even support funding for SEWB (such as service and maintenance work, capital works or funding to continue key positions in the SEWB team – in fact, the government actively separates funding for SEWB and primary health care). DAHS also provides clinical services to 7 remote communities most of whom are up to 400 kms away with Kandiwal Community 600kms away where we supply a fly in/fly out clinical service. There are many demands placed on a team of SEWB workers stationed in a working environment that does not allow them to function to the best of their abilities or offer increased services to our clients. Passion for the cause alone does not help in Closing the Gap. Working with one hand tied behind one’s back is not effective in reducing mental health issues and chronic diseases.
Part of an upgrade we requested was to renovate reception to make it safer for receptionist staff and to increase confidentiality when clients speak with reception staff (it also doesn’t meet the needs of disabled clients). There are a number of times throughout the year when receptionist staff are verbally abused with threats of physical harm. The current reception was designed prior to more recent events of aggression exhibited by clients under the influence of drugs. The design now enables abusive clients to quite easily reach across the reception counter and hurt staff or can jump over the same counter to gain access to staff. In addition, given there is no screen and the current open nature of the reception area, sharing confidential information can be compromised. DAHS applied for services and maintenance funding to make the changes but were unsuccessful.
ACCHSs may apply for Telehealth funding through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme, Governance and System Effectiveness: Sector Support activity.
Criminal Justice System. Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse. Brief 22; AMA Report Card on Indigenous Health 2015. Treating the high rates of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as a symptom of the health gap: an integrated approach to both; Richards, Kelly, Lisa Rosevear and Robyn Gilbert. 2011.
Outcome areas: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and cultures are strong and support social and emotional wellbeing and mental health; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are strong and supported; Infants get the best possible developmental start to life and mental health; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people get the services and support they need to thrive and grow into mentally healthy adults.