NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Image in feature tile is of midwife Mel Briggs, wearing the “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: ABC News.

Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Jaari was Hayley Williams’ third baby, but her first experience working with an Indigenous midwife. Yuin woman Williams, 28, gave birth in Shoalhaven Hospital in Nowra a month ago with the support of midwife Mel Briggs from the Waminda South Coast Women’s Health Clinic. Williams said having an Indigenous midwife meant she felt “relaxed and receptive” to the information being provided, allowing for better communication about issues such as her diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

“I feel like another midwife would be able to build that rapport but with Mel being Indigenous, it was almost instant,” Williams said. “It takes away the formalities – the relationship felt very casual, and I felt very comfortable that she had my best interests at heart.” An initiative called “Huggies Sister Scrubs” will make it easier for mothers to know when they are being cared for by an Indigenous midwife, with the aim to improve better outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies.

The Sister Scrubs, an initiative of the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund supported by Huggies, is a special uniform for Indigenous midwives to visually identify themselves, helping engender trust and better communication. Nationwide, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are twice as likely to die in the first year of their life, according to the Closing the Gap Report 2020. In NSW, the perinatal mortality rate among babies born to First Nations mothers is 47% higher than the rest of the population, based on the Mothers and Babies Report 2020. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has also found First Nations women were three times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, compared with other women, between 2012 and 2019.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Sister Scrubs’: How new uniform could improve outcomes for Indigenous babies in full click here.

Melanie Briggs (left) was the first endorsed Aboriginal midwife in NSW, pictured here with Kady Colman. Image source: Bounty Parents.

Calls for cultural reform in health sector

Growing up in Milingimbi in NE Arnhem Land, Yolngu man Dr Mangatjay McGregor was always drawn to a career in medicine. “From a young age, I felt really in tune with the way people felt and [that] naturally progressed into medicine,” he said. Dr McGregor is a mental health registrar in Melbourne and is believed to be the first Yolngu doctor from the NT.

While the 29-year-old has made great strides in his career, his journey has not come without its challenges. During his time as a junior doctor, he said he experienced bullying and discrimination by senior staff in the workplace. “There are times where [the discrimination] is more overt and in your face, then there are times where it’s a little bit more insidious,” he said. “Often it’s coming from consultants, so they’re specialists or registrars [who] are quite senior — there is that power imbalance.”

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has described the disproportionately high rates of workplace bullying and discrimination as “unacceptable” and raised concerns that it could drive First Nations trainees out of the profession. “It’s something that most of us have faced when we’ve gone through our own training,” AIDA Vice President Dr Simone Raye said. “We had hoped that things would improve for the future generation.” “It’s very concerning because senior staff can actually set the tone for the culture of the organisation that they’re working within.

To view the ABC News article Indigenous doctors call for cultural reform in health sector to address workplace discrimination in full click here and to watch a short video of Dr Mangatjay McGregor speaking about how he faced bullying and discrimination by senior staff during his time as a trainee doctor click here.

Dr Mangatjay McGregor. Photo supplied by: Peter Healy. Image source: ABC News.

Improved social determinants data needed

An article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today looks at why Australia needs better data on health inequities. The article says the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic shone a light on longstanding inequities in societies. Yet, too often, these inequities are effectively invisible, and we can only know if we are tackling them if we can measure them. A lack of appropriate data is an important reason why research that has helped our understanding of health inequities is unevenly distributed internationally, with much concentrated in Europe and North America. Although Australia has some leading global centres for population health research, a lack of appropriate data creates a barrier to undertaking such research here. However, the available evidence indicates that socio‐economic health inequities have increased since the 1980s.

A better understanding of what is happening is important for many reasons, not least the law of unintended consequences; policies designed to improve overall health can inadvertently widen health inequities. It is only by understanding the scale and nature of existing inequities and differential impacts of responses to them that we can assess the effect of policies and monitor progress. Improved data collection and analysis is the first essential step to building back fairer from the impacts of COVID‐19.

To view MJA article The need for improved Australian data on social determinants of health inequities in full click here.

Social determinants of health. Image source: PWC.

Major parties lack rural health commitment

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) have issue a media release pointing out that recent media reports have focused on the major parties’ lack of serious commitment to addressing the rural health crisis. The reports have highlighted the real-life implications for people struggling to access health care and the devastating consequences for communities. The Alliance emphasised that rural Australians are still waiting for any major party to address the glaring gap in election commitments to date and is calling on all political parties to commit to bold and immediate initiatives to address the rural health crisis now.

The Alliance is calling on political parties to recognise the critical needs of rural Australians and commit to addressing the rural health crisis immediately. The Alliance is promoting a model of rural primary care called RACCHOs (Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations) modelled on and complementing the successful and long-standing ACCHO (Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) model of primary care delivery.

You can view the Alliance’s media release Rural Australia can’t wait any longer for action on health care in full here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

A related ABC News article Doctor availability in regional Australia limited by declining workforce describes how Mount Gambier residents are waiting two or three weeks to visit their regular GP as a result of a shortfall that has failed to gain traction in federal election campaigning. It is an ongoing issue regional and rural Australians have been facing for more than a decade, with COVID placing additional pressures on an already overstretched workforce.

Despite this, Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Megan Belot said there had been almost “total silence” on rural health issues throughout the federal election campaign. “So far this election we have seen the Coalition budget initiative of more rural medical students and Labor promise more money for psychiatric telehealth appointments,” she said. “I’m sorry but that is just not enough. We need initiatives that will deliver doctors on the ground in the near future in addition to rural doctor training pathways and positions after they complete their university studies.”

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Health Times.

Portable ultrasounds for more equitable health

Imagine if family doctors, nurses, technicians could use handheld ultrasound devices to screen for everything from hip dysplasia to wrist fractures to heart disease from anywhere. A new approach to scans developed at the University of Alberta pairs the accessibility of portable ultrasound with an artificial intelligence app that can analyse thousands of previous results and provide remote diagnostic support within seconds. The goal is to make access to health care more equitable and improve outcomes for patients, said project lead Jacob Jaremko, a radiologist, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Artificial Intelligence (CIFAR) Chair at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. “It really is a whole different model of care,” Jaremko said. “You’re taking expertise learned from the experts in the hospital and delivering it to the patients, rather than having the patients come to the hospital.”

It will help improve access to timely medical diagnoses and care, particularly for those living in remote and Indigenous communities. With Jaremko’s system, a non-expert can learn with brief training how to use a portable ultrasound device to scan for thyroid cancer, hip dysplasia in infants, breast cancer, heart and lung problems, and arm fractures. The images are uploaded and the AI app compares them with the results of many previous tests to determine whether there is an abnormality. In the video below Jacob Jaremko explains how his AI-based ultrasound system works and why it could increase access to vital diagnostic support for conditions like hip dysplasia.

To view the University of Alberta article Making health care more equitable one ultrasound image at a time – AI-powered portable ultrasound system makes scans and diagnoses accessible from anywhere in full, click here.

First Nations uni students paving the way

In Australia, only 1.9% of university students enrolled in 2018 identified as Indigenous, according to the most recent figures from Universities Australia. And of them, only 47% complete their degrees, compared to 74% of non-Indigenous students. Those figures are improving every year, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure First Nations Australians are given every possible opportunity to go to uni, and to obtain their qualification. There are a multitude of hurdles that First Nations people face when going to university from language barriers, to discrimination to cultural differences obligations.

But, in the NT, where around 30% of the population is Indigenous, Charles Darwin University is on a mission to change the status quo, with a goal of becoming the most recognised university for Australian First Nations training, education and research. Deputy Vice-Chancellor for First Nations Leadership and Yuin/Wandandian and Ngarigo man, Professor Reuben Bolt, said there are a range of fundamental challenges potential Indigenous uni students face.

To view the Northern Beaches Review article Meet the First Nations university students paving the way to a more equal future in full click here.

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields started a Bachelor of Environmental Science last year. Photo: Sarah Matthews. Image source: Northern Beaches Review.

Healthy Ears Clinic marks 10 year milestone

A landmark Victorian health partnership is heralding 10 years of work supporting the health of Indigenous populations. April marked one decade since the union between Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and the launch of the Healthy Ears Clinic for Indigenous Children. Since 2012, the Ear and Eye Hospital has provided more than 220 ear, nose and throat surgeries, while the Healthy Ears Clinic has care for more than 1500 youths.

Eye and Ear hospital surgeon Stephen O’Leary said the partnership was born from a desire to improve health among Indigenous youth. Since the programs’ launch self-reported hearing problems in Indigenous children have reduced from 11% in 2001 to 6.9% in 2018-19. That rate is, however, still more than twice the rate for non-indigenous children.

Wormi man Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, said an underlying barriers for Indigenous people to access healthcare remained an issue. “The system is designed poorly – it is unfriendly,” he said. “The system also doesn’t allow us to get the access we need.” Mr Kong said generationally disproportionate health problems could not be solved through biomedical intervention alone, adding structural change was needed. “We need to develop the pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a meaningful and real contribution,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victorian Indigenous health services mark 10-year partnership milestone in full click here.

Image source: Macquarie University website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Asthma Day

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, causing them to become inflamed, narrowed, swollen and sometimes blocked by mucus, making it hard to breathe. Common symptoms may include wheezing, felling short of breath, tightness in the chest and coughing. The exact cause of asthma are unknown, however, factors thought to contribute to it occurring include: genetics; exposure to tobacco smoke in the womb, or as a baby or child; air pollution; mouldy houses; being born premature (with a low birth weight) and prolonged intense exercise (occurring over several years).

Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory condition among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a major cause of morbidity. This may be due to risks such as smoking, as well as a lack of access to culturally appropriate health services and other social and environmental factors.

World Asthma Day (WAD) Tuesday 3 May 2022 is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma, (GINA), a World Health Organization collaborative organisation founded in 1993.  WAD is held each May to raise awareness of Asthma worldwide. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks.

GINA has chosen ‘Closing Gaps in Asthma Care’ as the theme for the 2022 World Asthma Day. There are a number of gaps in asthma care, including access to diagnosis and treatment, which require intervention in order to reduce preventable suffering as well as the costs incurred by treating uncontrolled asthma.

For more information on World Asthma Day click here.

banner text 'closing gaps in asthma care World Asthma Day May 3, 2022

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Close the Gap 2022 report launches tomorrow

feature tile text 'Close the Gap Cmpaign Report 2022 - Transforming power: voices for generational change launches tomorrow' & 1972 photo of Aboriginal protestors

Image in feature tile from the Library & Archives NT is of demonstrators protesting for land rights outside the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra, 20 July 1972.

Close the Gap 2022 report launches tomorrow

The Australian Human Rights Commission and Reconciliation Australia are delighted to invite you to the launch of the 2022 Close the Gap Campaign report “Transforming Power; Voices for generational change”, produced by the Lowitja Institute.

The report showcases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led community initiatives, that recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, provide genuine opportunities for decision making and that strengthen and embed cultures.

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to see and hear keynote speakers and panel members talk about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their allies, are working to address health equity and equality.

The report will be launched tomorrow on National Close the Gap Day during the  webinar from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM AEDT Thursday 17 March 2022. To register for the webinar click here. The webinar is FREE, but registration is essential.

ACCHO partners with Diabetes SA

Towards the end of 2021, Moorundi ACCHS contacted Diabetes SA to arrange for an educator to visit their clinic to service the community in Murray Bridge. This partnership has been positive for both parties.

The local catchment area in Murray Bridge, SA, has a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and the rates of diabetes are high. Being a regional area, timely access to Credentialled Diabetes Educators is limited. Moorundi ACCHS identified this gap and reached out to Diabetes SA for assistance. Moorundi has partnered with Diabetes SA to have a Credentialled Diabetes Educator visit the clinic once a month to provide culturally appropriate consultations and education about diabetes. So far, we have had two successful clinics with a third scheduled for March 2022. Together, the aim is to improve the management of diabetes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Murray Bridge.

To access the Moorundi ACCHS website click here and to access the Diabetes SA website click here.

Moorundi ACCHS staff. Image source: Moorundi ACCHS website.

AMA calls out dumping of PHC 10-year plan

The AMA is calling on the Federal Government to urgently release its Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan, which appears to have been dumped, despite over two years of development and significant input from stakeholders. The Government gave a commitment in October 2019 to develop a national Primary Health Care 10-Year Plan to strengthen and modernise Australia’s primary health care system.

The system has been struggling to cope with an increasing workload as the Australian population ages and people’s health needs become more complex. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the Government’s failure to deliver the reform and support necessary to equip GPs into the future represented a major policy backflip.

To view the AMA’s media release in full click here.

Image source: Delivering Better Care for Patients: The AMA 10-Year Framework for Primary Care Reform

Family violence surges after floods

Catastrophic flooding in NSW and SE Queensland has led to lost lives, homes, belongings, pets and livelihoods. As the process of cleaning up after the floods continues, we can expect an often unspoken outcome of natural disasters. Domestic violence rates surge during and after bushfires, pandemics, earthquakes, cyclones and floods.

Fear and uncertainty are common during disasters and people’s reactions to disasters vary. In some, these feelings can trigger domestic and other types of violence. The many associated losses related to disasters – including loss of homes and their contents, cars and livelihoods – often cause financial strain, which may also place added pressure on families and relationships.

Grief, loss and trauma can also leave people feeling overwhelmed and test a person’s coping skills. Experiencing life-threatening situations or those that bring about loss and trauma can also lead to mental health issues, such as PTSD. This too, can complicate family dynamics and change people’s ability to cope. Drug and alcohol use often soars during and after disasters, which may also exacerbate tensions in relationships.

When people are displaced and need to stay with other community members or in shelters, the rates of violence against women also rises. In those cases, women and children tend to experience more violence in general, not just domestic violence.

To view The Conversation article in full click here.

A related article looks at the first episode of Taking care for 2022 – a powerful and honest conversation about family violence and the role of health practitioners in helping survivors.

screenshot of Taking care Health practitioners' role in eliminating family violence whooshkaa, 43:12 minutes' & image of two female GPs

Image source: Ahpra & National Boards website.

RANZCO launches vision for eye equity

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) has launched its “vision for 2030 and beyond” that aims to deliver equal and sustainable access to eye care for all. The ambitious plan was described at RANZCO Scientific Congress, a virtual event held from 26 February to 1 March 2022.

In his opening address, RANZCO President Professor Nitin Verma highlighted the importance of sight to general well-being and the impact of eye disease and low vision, including increased dementia, falls, car crashes etc. as well as the economic/financial cost. He said “considerable” inequity of access to eye care across Australia is often the single cause of irreversible, unnecessary and preventable vision loss.

The plan has been launched in response to a request in 2021 from the Federal Minister for Health, for a plan that would close the eye health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and ensure equitable eye care for all Australians, with the aim of eliminating avoidable visual impairment and blindness. The evidence-based plan looks at the problems RANZCO currently sees in eye healthcare delivery through six key areas of focus: service delivery, workforce and training, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare, global eye health, preventative healthcare and sustainability.

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article in full click here. The short film below examines the prevalence of eye problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Impacts of racism on health and wellbeing

The Australian Government Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner (ONRHC) has issued a Position Statement: impacts of racism on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. The key points of the statement include:

There is strong evidence of the impact of racism and barriers to accessing health services for Indigenous people negatively impacting a range of health outcomes for Indigenous people irrespective of geography
• Racism negatively impacts the attraction, recruitment, retention and leadership opportunities of the Indigenous health workforce.
• Understanding and addressing racism is a key to increasing the uptake of health services and improving health outcomes.
• Transformational change can only be achieved when Indigenous knowledge and cultures are acknowledged and recognised and services are co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.

The statement says the ONRHC will work towards dismantling racism in the health sector by working closely with Indigenous leaders and peak health organisations to advise Governments, medical institutions, colleges and universities to ensure racism is acknowledged and addressed.

You can access the ONRHC Position Statement in full here.

Image source: New Scientist.

Creating equitable access to hearing healthcare

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have among the highest rates of otitis media and hearing loss in the world – and social determinants of health such as hygiene, nutrition and overcrowding of housing are key risk factors for otits media. From the start of their lives, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander children experience inequity in hearing health – Indigenous children aged up to 14 years are three times as likely to have otitis media as non-Indigenous children, and are twice as likely to have a long-term ear/hearing problem. Hearing loss can have a catastrophic effect on the lives of Aboriginal children and their families, impacting the life trajectory from childhood development to academic outcomes through to over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Early intervention is critical to diagnosing and treating ear disease and improving the quality of children’s lives. However, despite decades of research demonstrating that early detection and timely intervention are key to diagnosing and treating ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, not enough progress has been made in providing culturally safe, accessible and equitable hearing health services.

The interview conducted by the Director of the HEAR Centre at Macquarie University, Professor Catherine McMahon, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, Professor Tom Calma, Professor Kelvin Kong and Associate Professor Boe Rambaldini examined the problems and solutions for creating better, culturally appropriate services to meet the needs of communities where hearing health problems are being neglected.

To read a transcript of the interview click here.

Image source: Macquarie University website.

Hidden e-cigarette dangers awareness campaign

Young people are urged to quit vaping and know the facts and dangers of e-cigarettes, which can contain harmful substances found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell have launched Get the Facts – Vaping Toolkit and NSW Health awareness campaign.

The campaign, which is aimed at secondary students, reminds parents, carers, young people and teachers vaping is not safe and can have harmful, long-term effects to the physical and brain development of young people. Minister Hazzard said that research has proven that e-cigarettes are just as addictive and harmful as regular cigarettes. “It makes it pretty obvious as to the harm it can cause to youngsters’ lungs.”

Many vapes contain nicotine, some at extremely high concentrations, even if they are not labelled as such, and evidence suggests they can lead to a lifelong nicotine addiction. NSW Health has worked with the NSW Department of Education to develop the Vaping Toolkit, which contains evidence-based resources and educational materials for parents, carers, young people and schools, to combat the rising number of children and young people who are trying or taking up vaping.

To view The Pulse article in full click here and the NSW Government NSW Health Do you know what you’re vaping? website page here.

Image source: The Guardian.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in the series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for Primary Care, providing the latest information on the vaccine rollout will now be held from 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 17 March 2022.

The panel this week will be Australian Government Department of health staff, Professor Michael Kidd AM (Chair), Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, and Professor Nigel Crawford, Chair, Vaccine Safety, Special Risk Group, Austrlaian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, who will discuss updates on vaccines and the new COVID-19 oral anti-viral medications.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

banner DoH Primary Care COVID-19 update Dep CMO - image of DCMO & COVID-19 virus cell

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO on ABC Four Corners

feature tile text 'four corners investigates RHD - the hidden killer in remote Australian communities' & image of young Aboriginal boy have heart scan

Feature tile image of RHD patient, Trey, receiving a handheld echo scan in Manigrida. Image source: Katherine Times.

NACCHO CEO on ABC Four Corners

Right now, in Australia there are young people dying from an easily preventable medical condition and an appalling lack of healthcare. This should be a national scandal. ABC Four Corners has investigated the shameful and, until now, hidden failure in public health taking place in remote Australian communities in it’s episode Heart Failure: An investigation into the hidden killer in remote Australian communities.

During the episode NACCHO CEO Pat Turner talks about the serious health crisis of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and exposing the many unique issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Heart Failure, reported by Louise Milligan, goes to air on Monday 7 March at 8.30 PM. It is replayed on Tuesday 8 March at 11.00 PM and Wednesday 9 March at 10:00 AM. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10 PM AEST, ABC iview and here.

You can view the trailer to the Heart Failure episode here.

tile of 4 Corners episode text 'heart failure', image of graves with heart headstones; 4 corners logo

Celebrating the Women of Yarrabah

There’s no mistaking the contribution that women make in our lives and their importance in community. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service (GYHS) are publishing and saluting 31 outstanding women from the Yarrabah Community.

The ‘Women of Yarrabah’ project is an important recognition of the incredible contributions to family and community these inspiring women have made over the past 70 years. From CEO’s through to health workers and community elders the ‘Women of Yarrabah’ will shine the spotlight strongly upon a very humble and unassuming section of the Yarrabah Community.

Each day during March GYHS will publish a new ‘Women of Yarrabah’ profile. GYHS CEO, Suzanne Andrews praised the contribution that community members, “We have so many incredible and truly inspiring women in Yarrabah. They are mothers, daughters, grand-mothers first and foremost, but for many they also many of the key workers that keep our community moving forward. Like women everywhere, they are mothers first and workers second. They contribute to the financial security of the family as well as running the family and in many cases, they are the glue the binds the family. We are so proud to bring these stories forward, to give a voice to these silent community champions. As a community we acknowledge the tremendous contribution that our women make.”

To read the GYHS media statement regarding the Women of Yarrabah project click here. The ‘Women of Yarrabah’ profiles can be found of the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service website here.

From top L–R GYHS staff: Renee Grosso, RN Public Health; Suzanne Andrews, CEO, Tamar Patterson; SEWB Manager; Paula Burns, EN, member of the Community Recall team; Lucresia Willett, Cultural Mentor & Youth Wellbeing Program Manager; and Belita Kynuna, Health Worker.

NACCHO pharmacy scholarship update

Last month NACCHO has announced the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship. The Scholarship provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the pharmacist workforce amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NACCHO would like to thank everyone who has submitted applications for the scholarship and we’re excited to be able to announce the successful applicants in the coming weeks.

Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists and pharmacy students are significantly underrepresented in the pharmacy profession. Building leadership and skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals is a critical enabler in supporting cultural safety in the health sector. This financial support combined with mentorship will provide a tangible way to help students to thrive in their professional training and stands to build confident and self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy sector leaders.”

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and Pharmacist said, “Another example of the outstanding leadership of NACCHO and the commitment to the future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy workforce through the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship. So delighted to see scholarships supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students.”

For more information on the scholarship, visit the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship webpage here.

* If you had hoped to apply, but didn’t get the application in on time, please contact NACCHO as soon as possible on 02 6246 9304 or via email here.

* proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi.

Aged care culture and connections

Wiradjuri and Wongkumara woman, Alynta, considers herself fortunate to have landed her dream job as an aged care worker, caring for older Australians in their homes. Working with clients, Alynta treasures the relationships she gets to build, learning from them, hearing their stories and experiences. “I’ve always wanted to look after Elders, that’s just what you do in an Aboriginal community. Being able to give back to those who’ve cared for others, provide for them, it’s just something I’ve always felt obligated to do,” Alynta said.

With an ingrained drive to care for others it is little wonder Alynta found herself working in aged care. With family from Bourke, far west NSW, Alynta grew up in Condobolin and was raised in a large family of twelve by her Aunty, who she calls Mum. At aged sixteen, Alynta became a young mum herself to a beautiful baby girl. Finishing high school with a newborn was no easy feat, but Alynta was determined to do so. Support from family played a large part in her successfully completing high school and commencing university studies in nursing.

However, Alynta decided that, with a young family, it wasn’t the right time to juggle university and family life. She moved back home to Condobolin where family support and some inspirational Aunties encouraged her to study a Certificate III in Individual Support, starting her career in aged care. “Working in aged care has taught me patience, to be kind and open minded. I feel it has made me a better person in general, but definitely makes me a better mum. Our older people, they impart a lot of knowledge, and because I live so far away from my family, they teach me the things I need to know to approach certain things in life,” Alynta said, reflecting on her role.

“Having more Indigenous people working in the care and support sector motivates the younger generations too. It would be great to have a higher percentage of Indigenous people working in the sector, caring for mob” Alynta said. One thing is certain, working in aged care has provided Alynta with many opportunities for growth and insight into others and herself. In every way it reflects – A Life Changing Life.

You can access the Alynta’s case study in full here.

aged care worker Alynta McKellar, Wiradjuri & Wongkumara woman

Wiradjuri and Wongkumara woman, Alynta McKellar.

CATSINaM marks 25 years of activism

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) has launched a campaign to celebrate its 25-year anniversary and its powerful history of collective and individual activism. The #CATSINAM25Years campaign was launched this week in a national online webinar with messages of support from founding and current members, former and current board members, the nursing and midwifery union and the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Alison McMillan.

CATSINaM CEO Professor Roianne West, a descendant of the Kalkadoon and Djaku-nde peoples, said Indigenous nurses and midwives drew on the strength of the organisation’s founders to face current challenges. “Our model of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community control that our Elders and ancestors envisaged 25 years ago provides a strong foundation and the words ‘Unity and Strength through Caring’ gifted then have guided us through these turbulent times,” Professor West said in a statement.

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.CATSINaM logo - text 'CATSINaM ltd Congress of ATSI nurses & midwives - unity and strength through caring'

Campaign to tackle smoking rates

Carat Adelaide has launched a new campaign for SA Health – Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA) titled “Give Up Smokes”. The challenge faced is that although there has been a decrease in Aboriginal smoking prevalence, tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of ill health and early death among Aboriginal people. Smoking-related illnesses cause half of all deaths in Aboriginal people over the age of 45.

This campaign focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal South Australians by reducing the impact of tobacco smoking. The message is ‘live for the moments’, i.e. moments enjoying more quality time with children and family as a key motivator to quit.

Working with creative agency WDM and DASSA, Carat has rolled out a strong multi-channelled campaign using custom DSP targeting in the digital space to convert to site with high impact assets, while balancing the need for broadcast media for awareness in the outdoor space. WDM have overlaid QR codes on street and retail panels in suburbs that have the highest smoking rates in Adelaide, providing quick access to sites for ways to quit, and how to get support while doing so.

Manager of the Tobacco Control Unit in DASSA, Clinton Cenko, said this was a campaign formed from the leadership and vision of Aboriginal community leaders, with guidance from communities. “The campaign’s purpose is to reduce the gap between Aboriginal smoking prevalence and that of the rest of the SAcommunity,” he said. “Smoking is four times more prevalent in Aboriginal communities than in the overall SA population, so this messaging is really important.”

To view the Carat article in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl with arms around father text'quit smoking and live for the moments'

Image source: Carat website.

To Hear for Life: Listen with Care

World Hearing Day held yesterday, had the theme “To Hear for Life: Listen with Care”. The specific focus was on what it feels like to be hearing impaired. In 2021 the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the World Report on Hearing that highlighted the increasing number of people living with and at risk of hearing loss. It found that hearing loss in on the rise, with over 1.5 people worldwide affected by hearing loss. Early detection and intervention programs offer the best outcomes.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) is proud to be able to offer a range of audiometry screening services to identify children who may be hearing impaired to allow for early intervention, including the Statewide Infant Screening for Hearing (SWISH) program, whereby all newborn babies born in the MLHD are offered a non-invasive hearing screen. The screening is done very soon after birth so that families and babies can receive early treatment if required.

Audiometry screening is also available at selected Community Health sites including Deniliquin, Wagga Wagga, Young, Cootamundra, West Wyalong & Tumut. GP Referral for Audiometry services is required and received through the Community Care Intake Service (CCIS). MLHD Aboriginal Health Services run the Otitis Media (OM) Screening Program where Aboriginal Health Staff attend schools and preschools to perform Otitis Media screening and education. The screening includes otoscopy, tympanometry and audiogram.

MLHD Director of Clinical Governance, Jill Reyment is using World Hearing Day as a platform to further educate staff about their interactions with co-workers and consumers who may present with deafness. “We are fortunate to have community nurse Anna–Maree Bloomfield working with us. Anna-Maree is deaf and she will be delivering a webinar to staff about communication and sharing her lived experience,” said Ms Reyment.

“Anna-Maree has worked within a variety of roles for NSW Health for over the past 20 years and has to overcome many communication barriers and obstacles around communicating effectively within the workforce. The past two years have posed a significant challenge for Anna-Maree, as she relies on lip-reading to communicate, and mask wearing mandates associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic meant we had to rethink ways to facilitate her ability to communicate with staff and patients.

You can view a video of Anna-Marree below and view the NSW Government Health MLHD article in full click here.

Eye and Ear survey launched

About 5,000 people are expected to participate in Australia’s first national survey combining ear and eye health, launched yesterday to coincide with World Hearing Day. ‘The Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey’ is a national study that will assess the prevalence of eye and ear conditions, as well as risk factors and impacts of vision and hearing loss in the community. It will be the country’s first hearing national survey, and its second vision study building on the National Eye Health Survey in 2016.

Director of Westmead Institute for Medical Research (WMIR) Vision Research Professor Paul Mitchell is leading the study, and inaugural cochlear chair in hearing and health at Macquarie University Hearing, Professor Bamini Gopinath, is leading the ear health component. Gopinath said vision and hearing loss were key health issues in Australia, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. “Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and older, more than 11% have a vision impairment or are blind, and up to 82% have some form of hearing loss,” she said.

“Our researchers will be door knocking in eligible communities in city, regional and remote areas to invite people to take part, with the focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 40 and older and non-Indigenous Australians aged 50 and older. Participants will have their vision and hearing tested, and will be surveyed to help us build up a picture of what sort of factors are influencing hearing and vision loss, and how these impairments affect people.”

For further information about the survey you can access the full Insight article here.

Aboriginal dark grey, white, orange art with hands ear, eyes & text 'Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey'

Image source: Insight website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March June Oscar, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner is inviting you to listen to and celebrate First Nation’s women by watching and sharing a beautiful animation featuring the real-life voices of First Nations women and celebrating their ongoing contributions to their communities.

  • Watch our animation – Yajilarra Nhingi, Mindija Warrma (From Dreams, Let’s Make it Reality).
  • Share the animation – on social media or by screening it at your workplace or school.
  • Take action to support First Nations gender justice and equality.

“Women are the social fabric of our communities and the glue that holds everything together. We are sovereign women. It is time to listen to our voices now.”  Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) is a ground-breaking report and project, driven by First Nations Women and Girls across the nation. Now in its implementation stage, Wiyi Yani U Thangani is building towards a national summit and framework to advance First Nations gender justice and equality. This International Women’s Day, celebrate the strength of First Nations women. Watch, listen and support women’s voices and Wiyi Yani U Thangani.

tile: vector image of Aboriginal women & text 'International women's day Tuesday 8 March 2022'

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Anti-viral treatments an important tool

feature tile text 'NACCHO MA says new oral covid-19 treatments important for immunocompromised' & photo of white red capsule

Anti-viral treatments an important tool

North Queensland will be first in line to receive two new oral COVID-19 treatments made available in Australian this week. The drugs, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) are an additional treatment for vulnerable Australians who contract COVID-19. NACCHO Medical Advisor, Dr Jason Agostino spoke on ABC North Queensland Local News this morning, saying the drugs will be an important tool for immunocompromised patients in addition to already approved intravenous medicine. “Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have risk factors that mean they are more likely to get severe COVID-19, things like kidney disease, heart disease and lung disease,” Dr Agostino said. You can listen to the ABC North Queensland Local News segment here.

First Nations children’s hearing health

Hearing Australia’s Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) is collaborating with First Nations communities across Australia to raise awareness of the importance of ear and hearing health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with the launch of a new storybook and series of events centred around the ‘Spirit of Sound’.

The new children’s book the ‘Spirit of Sound’, is a collaboration with artist Davinder Hart, of the Noongar nation and will be made free to organisations who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across the country in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of regular hearing checks early in life.

“I’m very proud to work with Hearing Australia to highlight the importance of sound to myself and to Indigenous people,” said Davinder. “When we hear sound it travels through our ears into our bodies and wakes up our feelings. In this book you can see the spirits of sound and how it moves around like a message being sent. When we start to listen, we can start to learn.”

To coincide with World Hearing Day today, the Spirit of Sound will be released as an eBook on the Hearing Australia website, along with a suite of new resources and a Q&A for parents and community with Worimi man and ear, nose and throat surgeon Professor Kelvin Kong.

Professor Kong is joined by First Nations HAPEE spokespeople from across the country, Wiradjuri man and father Luke Carroll, Gumbaynggirr, Dhungatti, Torres Strait Islander mother Elsie Seriat, and Noongar mother and grandmother Daniella Borg. Professor Kelvin Kong says the issue is close to his heart. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids and our mob are more likely to get affected by hearing issues and their effects,” said Kelvin. “The problem with that is that it means our language, our development, our speech, and our progression through life can be hampered. I encourage all our community to take that first step, book in and get your kids, your nieces, nephews or grandkids a hearing check so they can be ready to listen and learn.”

For further information about the HAPEE Ears For Early Years Hearing Assessment Program click here.

Aboriginal artist & storybook illustrator Davinder Hart holding up two copies of The Spirit of Sound storybook

Aboriginal artist and storybook illustrator Davinder Hart. Image source: Hearing Australia.

Connecting culture to cancer care

Family, culture, strength and support are at the heart of a new artwork welcoming Aboriginal people to the Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre. Titled ‘Battle Against Cancer’, the art is the creation of 19-year-old local artist, Aiesha Pettit-Young, a proud Wiradjuri and Wongaibon descendant. The artwork is a particularly personal creation for Ms Pettit-Young, who says, “Cancer has affected my family these past three years. This artwork is for my family and others who are experiencing this too.”

“I hope my art encourages Aboriginal patients to keep fighting and stay strong. To know they’ve got a thousand ancestors walking behind them and they can come in here and feel comfortable culturally,” Ms Pettit-Young says. Ms Pettit-Young created her artwork in response to an invitation from the Nepean Cancer & Wellness Centre, who sought submissions from local Aboriginal artists to help create a more positive, welcoming and culturally appropriate environment for patients, carers and visitors.

As the winning artwork, elements of Ms Pettit-Young’s piece have also been incorporated into the facility’s wayfinding features that help guide patients to their appointments. Inclusive initiatives such as this can help make a difference to the experience of Aboriginal people accessing health services, the young artist says.

You can view the full story and watch a video featuring Aiesha Pettit-Young talking about her artwork click here.

Nepean Cancer & Wellness Centre staff (3 women) with Aboriginal artist Aiesha Pettit-Young holding artwork

Victorian Stolen Generations redress scheme

The Andrews Labor Government has today unveiled its landmark Stolen Generations Reparations Package, recognising the lasting suffering caused by the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Members of the Stolen Generations will be able to access financial reparations, an apology from the state and healing support, with applications opening on Thursday 31 March 2022.

The package has been designed by and for Aboriginal people, backed by an investment of $155 million from the Labor Government. The Stolen Generations Reparations Steering Committee engaged with more than 400 members of Victoria’s Stolen Generations and their families during the consultation process in 2021. Those who are eligible can apply to receive financial reparations of $100,000, as well as a personal apology from the Government, access to healing and reconnection to Country programs, and an opportunity to share their story.

To view Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ media release in full click here.

Kutcha Edwards hugging tearful Eva Jo Edwards & Mick Edwards

A tearful Kutcha Edwards, Eva Jo Edwards and Mick Edwards said the redress scheme was about righting past wrongs. Photo: Simon Schulter. Image source: The Age.

Midland mental health centre opens

A new Midland Head to Health adult mental health centre has opened its doors for the first time this week to people seeking support for mild to moderate mental health concerns, including stress and anxiety, in Perth’s eastern suburbs. It provides a new approach in the mental health system and removes some of the traditional barriers for people seeking support for mental health concerns by offering a free, community-based walk-in service available from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM every day of the year.

Midland Head to Health is part of an Australian Government initiative to trial a number of adult mental health centres nationally, to improve access to mental health services for people experiencing distress and who condition may be too complex for many existing primary care services, but don’t meet the criteria for acute services.

With input from members of the community with lived experience, it has been co-designed to feel welcoming and safe for everyone who visits, including LGBTIQ+ people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

To view the PHN Perth North Midland Head to Health media release in full click here.

Minister Ken Wyatt &* Senior Whadjuk man Vaughn McGuire in front of mental bin with smoking gum leaves

Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP and Senior Whadjuk man Vaughn McGuire at opening of Midland Head to Health.

$10.7m for NT FV services

Funding under the National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence responses will be tripled to boost frontline services in the NT in response to the chronic rates of violence and to work towards our Closing the Gap commitments. Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston has announced an additional $10.7 million on top of the funding being provided under the $260 million National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Responses. “The rates of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children in the NT are devastating and must be urgently addressed,” Minister Ruston said.

To view Senator Ruston’s media release in full click here.

card with cartoon drawing of Aboriginal man punching woman, kids crying

Image source: ABC News.

Solutions to accessing rural health care

A specialised roundtable discussion with rural health consumers has resulted in recommendations to help address gaps in accessing health services in rural, regional and remote Australia. The recommendations contained in a report published this week were made by participants of the Rural, Regional and Remote Roundtable on Health Service Access. The roundtable was facilitated by Consumers Health Forum (CHF) and the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) in December 2021.

The roundtable brought together rural consumers and experts across a range of medical and allied health disciplines to discuss issues that impact the most significant health challenge facing rural and remote communities – the equity of access to affordable, quality treatment and services. CHF and NRHA are leading advocates for improving rural health services and consumer health outcomes and say it is unacceptable that between city and rural there is a great divide in health service availability, choice, access and affordability.

Ten recommendations came out of the roundtable discussions, including changing Medicare to allow rebates for more than one health consultation or medical procedure per day and increasing the rebate for mental health care; funding local community groups to improve digital health literacy; developing a vocational (VET) training course for a health care coordinator role focusing entirely on patient navigation of the healthcare system; and advocating for the Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations  (RACCHO) model of primary health care services.

To view the NRHA and CHF media release in full click here.

highway road sign Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Wyndham

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day in Australia is held on 3 March each year to raise awareness of how to prevent deafness and hearing loss, and to promote better ear protection and health across the world. The global theme of this year’s World Hearing Day is ‘To hear for life, listen with care’.

Hearing loss costs the Australian economy more than $15 billion a year. Then there’s the personal cost that we can’t put a dollar figure on. Hearing is vital for people’s communication abilities, quality of life, social participation, and health.

For more information on World Hearing Day 2022 visit the WHO website here.

tile text 'world hearing day 3 March' & outline of ear, sound waves & globe with Australia visible at top of the ear

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Community calls to drop proposed beer tax cut

feature tile text 'NACCHO CEO one of 80 signatories to open letter asking government to abandon beer tax cut

Calls to dump proposed beer tax cut

More than 80 community leaders and organisations have asked the Government to abandon reported plans for a beer tax cut in the upcoming budget. NACCHO CEO Pat Turner is one of the signatories, and has warned the price reduction would cause serious harm to Indigenous communities. Ms Turner said “Alcohol already has a huge impact on the health of our communities from family violence, injuries, road accidents, to cancer and chronic diseases, and this has been compounded by COVID-19 where we have seen increased use of alcohol among our people. So we are very concerned that making alcohol a lot cheaper and more readily available for people will increase consumption and therefore the ongoing harm that alchol causes our people and we can ill-afford to do that.”

You can view the open letter to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg here and listen to Pat Turner’s nine minute interview on ABC RN Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas here.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) have joined more than 80 community leaders and organisations in signing an open letter calling on the Morrison Government to abandon its irresponsible plan to make alcohol more accessible.  The letter urges the Government to prioritise the health, wellbeing and safety of families and communities given the significant increase in alcohol sales during the pandemic. Alcohol misuse in Australia costs a staggering $36 billion per year, touching every part of our community, economy, and health system. In 2019-2020, alcohol-induced deaths increased by 8.3 per cent and calls to the national alcohol hotline have doubled since 2019. Alcohol retail sales have grown substantially over the course of the pandemic – with alcohol companies raking in an additional $3.6 billion in 2021, compared to 2019.

To view the ADF’s media release in full click here and the FARE media release here.

How COVID-19 is affecting mob

Some of Australia’s most vulnerable people are in the midst of dealing with a widespread outbreak of COVID-19, as the virus spreads in the Northern Territory. Soon WA, where there are 200 remote Aboriginal communities, will open its border. So, two years since the start of the pandemic, how have Indigenous Australians been impacted? And how are communities coping with Omicron?

Donna Ah Chee, CEO, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Jason Agostino, GP and epidemiologist, ANU Medical School, medical advisor to NACCHO spoke with Hilary Harper on ABC On Life Matters earlier this morning. You can listen to the 19 minute interview here.

SAWCAN runs booster campaign

Over the next three months South Australian West Coast ACCHO Network (SAWCAN) will launch a series of TV adverts to be run across the Eyre and West Coast. Childhood vaccination (5–11 years) adverts (English and Pitjantjatjara versions below) will be running from February to April. Booster adverts will be launched in March and run on local TV until May. Finally, the ‘my why’ campaign showcasing Aboriginal people across communities sharing the reason they chose to get the vaccine will be launched in April and run on local TV until June.

First Nations’ proactive pandemic response

The Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP) has published an article with the title Aboriginal communities need to be at the forefront of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. The authors of the article say the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential devastating impact on First Nations people has been extensively contemplated and the potential devastating impacts on First Nations people due to health and social justice issues widely postulated. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health organisations in Australia were proactive in trying to plan for the pandemic and mitigate any adverse outcomes.

The results of this foresight and preparedness were that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were spared any significant impact during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. A significant reason for the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in warding off the impacts of COVID-19 was that each community and often the ACCHO understood how to effectively communicate health information and health risks to community members in a manner that was meaningful.

To view the full Australian Journal of General Practice click here.

health professional in PPE administering covid-19 vax to Aboriginal man Katherine clinic

A COVID-19 clinic in Katherine, NT. Photo: Katherine Morrow, AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Disability research agenda for Australia

Researchers from Ninti One are working with researchers from the University of Sydney to develop a disability research agenda for Australia for the next 10 years. The Ninti One team is seeking the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help Ninti One develop the agenda.

Ninti One is inviting you to participate in a survey which aims to understand your thoughts and priorities in relation to disability research in Australia. Ninti ONe would like to hear from as many people as possible from a very broad range of backgrounds so they can understand the areas that people think are important for research. This research has been developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Please share this email with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people you know who might be interested in participating. Click here to access the survey and the project participant information sheet.

wheels of wheelchair of Rex Mumumgurr on uneven ground

Rex Munungurr, Garrthalala, East Arnhem Land. The wheels of Rex’s wheelchair are unsuitable for uneven ground. Photo: Tamara Howie. Image source: The Guardian.

RACGP-endorsed otitis media guidelines

Each year, the RACGP approves and endorses a range of clinical resources and guidelines that are produced to National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines standard. Approved resources are regarded as a distinguished mark of approval by the Australian health professional community. These guidelines provide best-practice recommendations for the diagnosis and management of otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

With rates of ear disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children declared a ‘public health emergency’ the guidelines aim to guide prevention of the life-long impacts that undetected otitis media and hearing loss have on these high-risk children. Developed by Menzies Health, the guidelines follow the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

Aboriginal girl having ears checked by health professional

Image source: Office of the Auditor General.

Support for parents experiencing trauma

A webinar developed by Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) and Emerging Minds draws on the voices, experiences and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners to explore how services can work through the perinatal period to support the social and emotional wellbeing of infants and their families.

The webinar will support practitioners to:

  • extend their awareness of the historical and contextual factors impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • increase their understanding of intergenerational trauma on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • understand the important role of service providers during the perinatal period for parents experiencing complex trauma
  • outline key principles and practice approaches for fostering safety in perinatal care.

This FREE online webinar being held from 1:00–2:00PM Wednesday 9 March 2022 will be of interest to professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children in health, education, social and community service settings.

For more information about the webinar and to register click here.

Aboriginal mum and toddler sitting in red sand of outback

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Trusted COVID-19 portal supports sector

Trusted COVID-19 portal supports sector

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet was quick to develop a COVID-19 updates and information section. This went live in March 2020. Since then, users from across the country have been able to find the latest information and resources available on COVID-19 from the Australian Department of Health and NACCHO. Relevant information about infectious diseases and respiratory health was also available here.

Two years on there is a wealth of authoritative information available and the COVID-19 section has now expanded to become a HealthInfoNet Portal, making it easier for health practitioners to find what they need. HealthInfoNet Portals are designed to provide information that is timely, accessible, and relevant to the everyday practice of the health sector workforce. Using the portal will save time and enable users to search within their state and territory for relevant resources. With booster vaccines now available, the subtopic of vaccinations for COVID-19 allows for quick access to information on this crucial element of the fight against COVID-19.

There is also a section dedicated to workforce information including jobs and events. An information section provides links to state and territory government and NACCHO websites along with links to support for people who may need assistance with accessing help if needing to isolate via the healthdirect website. Users can now search an  interactive map to find resources relevant to their state and territory. Many of these are translated into Aboriginal languages providing health staff with the tools to get the most up to date information to their communities.

HealthInfoNet Director, Neil Drew says ”With most of Australia now open to the world, the need to ensure our most vulnerable populations are vaccinated is even more urgent. This portal will be an invaluable support to those working around the clock with community members to combat COVID-19”.

To view this article in full click here.

Calls for new regional health service model

The National Rural Health Alliance – an umbrella body which represents 42 national health organisations, including NACCHO, is calling for a stop funding of “small, fragmented initiatives that merely plug gaps” in the rural health system. “After years of well-intended, ad hoc support, it is evident that a holistic and strategic approach is necessary to address the fundamental systemic issues of workforce shortages, lack of access to services and the affordability of rural health care,” CEO Dr Gabrielle O’Kane said.

The group is pushing for a new regional health service model, Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations (RACCHOs), which would have a completely different funding structure. The Alliance says at the moment there are not enough healthcare services to support the seven million people living in rural, regional and remote communities.

The structure and governance of RACCHOs – which would complement the existing network of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) – would be flexible to accommodate local community circumstances. RACCHOs would differ in each community, with strong community input and service planning and delivery based entirely on local needs.

To view the South Burnett news item in full click here. You can view a video about the RACCHO service model by clicking on this link.

In a related news article in the Sydney Morning Herald says RACCJPs would be modelled on Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, which have operated since the1970s and were recently lauded by PMScott Morrison for their role in protecting Indigenous Australians from COVID-19. To view the SMH article click here.

image of Carbal AMS, Toowoomba Qld

Carbal AMS, Toowoomba, Qld. Image source: NRHA.

Australia-first healthy skin project

A PhD student from Telethon Kids Institute and The University of WA has been awarded WA’s only 2022 postgraduate scholarship by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). In an Australian first, dermatologist and skin health researcher Bernadette Ricciardo will use her NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship – one of just 65 awarded across Australia in the latest funding round – to better understand and describe the skin health needs of urban-living Aboriginal children and adolescents in major and regional cities.

Dr Ricciardo said skin infections and associated complications were common in remote-living Australian Aboriginal children, with untreated skin infections often resulting in hospitalisation, life-threatening bloodstream infections, and chronic heart and kidney disease. “But despite more than 60%of WA’s approximately 40,000 Aboriginal children living in urban settings, a knowledge gap exists for the burden of skin infection in these children,” Dr Ricciardo said.

Dr Ricciardo, who also works at Fiona Stanley Hospital, is undertaking the Koolungar Moorditj Healthy Skin project as her PhD. The project has been co-designed with Nyoongar Elders embedded within the Telethon Kids Institute, in collaboration with the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service and the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) – enabling development of an evidence-based research-service program.

To view The University of WA article in full click here.

Dr Bernadette Ricciardo

Dr Bernadette Ricciardo, Telethon Kids Institute. Image source: ACE NTD website.

HAPEE Ears for Early Years program

One in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience chronic ear disease in Australia. Poor hearing can make it difficult for kids to engage and learn at school and Hearing Australia is encouraging parents and carers to get their kids checked for the 2022 school year. To reach communities across Australia, Hearing Australia’s HAPEE Ears for Early Years program is partnering with local spokespeople and community services to improve the hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

New HAPEE Spokesperson Elsie Seriat, is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman and mother and says early hearing checks are critical. “It’s really important that kids get their ears checked early at the start of the school year which we know is a critical time for them to learn and grow,” she said.

Regular hearing checks can ensure kids and bubs have good hearing and are able to listen, learn, play and fully participate in life.
Hearing Australia’s HAPEE. You can choose a telehealth or a face-to-face consultation, depending on which best suits you and your bub’s needs. Call Hearing Australia on 134 432 for a free* hearing check today or visit us at here for more information.

Elsie Seriat OAM with her two sons

Elsie Seriat OAM, (with yer two sons) has joined the HAPEE program to promote hearing health in Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait.

National study of mob’s wellbeing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for a long time that strong culture is related to good health and wellbeing. Mayi Kuwayu, the National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing is a comprehensive longitudinal study into how culture impacts health and wellbeing. The research team will follow a large number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over time. Any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person from 16 years of age can participate. The study aims to survey a large number of people, ensuring there is national representation to gain a highly detailed understanding of the relationship between culture and wellbeing.

The Mayi Kuwayu Study will examine how wellbeing is linked to connection to country, cultural practices, spirituality, language use and other factors. This is the first time a national study of this type has been conducted. It will create an evidence base for the creation of better policies and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Mayi Kuwayu study has partnered with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, including NACCHO. W

To learn more about the study, click here.

tile text 'culture isn't a risk factor. It's a protective factor. Mark Wenitong Kabi Kabi' & portrait shot of Mark Wenitong

 

AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship

As the Friday 18 February 2022 closing date approaches for eligible medical students to apply for the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship, the 2021 recipient, Destiny Kynuna, has been featured in an ABC radio program interview with AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid.

Listeners to ABC Life Matters program last Friday heard a compelling and moving discussion between Dr Khorshid, Destiny Kynuna and ABC presenter, Hilary Harper. Destiny told listeners she was motivated to study medicine and specialise in psychiatry so she could “help heal her mob” – as she saw too often the effects of intergenerational trauma in her community and in her own family.

During the interview, Dr Khorshid mentioned the importance of cultural awareness for non-Indigenous doctors to engender good doctor-patient relationships. He also said studying full time and keeping a roof over one’s head was tough for anyone and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often had to move away from family and culture to undertake study. He said the $10,000 given every year to a medical student during their study could help a great deal.

To view the article in full click here.

Destiny Kynuna receiving AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship

Destiny Kynuna receiving 2021 AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship. Image source: AMA website.

Help AIDA celebrate 25 years

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is celebrating its 25th year anniversary this year and have several exciting events and projects planned for 2022. The first event to be hosted by AIDA will be an International Women’s Day Breakfast on Tuesday 8 March 2022 at the National Arboretum, Canberra.

Join AIDA to reflect and celebrate 25 years of supporting our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women through a robust panel discussion, featuring Associate Professor Jaquelyne Hughes, Ms Rachelle Towart OAM, Associate Professor Lisa Whop, Aunty Pat Anderson AO and Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA. Facilitated by ABC’s Dan Bourchier.

You can register for this exciting event today here.

AIDA logo 25 years text 'Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association Celebrating the past challenging the future' stethoscope with Aboriginal dot art for silver circle

New process for job advertising

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

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

Digital Health Week

Digital Health Week (15–17 February 2022) is an opportunity for anyone interested in digital health to participate in a program of virtual events and share research and ideas. It is designed to be both informative, provocative, and a showcase of the innovative work being undertaken in digital health across the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and beyond. Digital Health Week 2022 will bring together researchers, health services, industry, and the community to build person-centred eHealth collaborations.

This year’s theme Reality check: how do we make technology work in real life? will have a focus on discussing how we can make technology truly work as a support tool for people in life and across health care systems. The mismatch between real life and the potential of technology to support health and wellbeing will be explored. A diverse range of speakers will challenge us and spark discussions that might help us all to harness technology in different ways for more inclusive healthcare and support.

For more information about Digital Health Week 2022 click here

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Experts on closing the gap in health equity

feature tile text 'Expert panel discusses ways of CTG in health equity' & blurred image of health prof hand holding A boriginal hand

Image in feature tile from The George Institute for Global Health.

Experts on closing the gap in health equity

Universal healthcare is built on the principle that every Australian should have equal access to quality healthcare based on medical need, not the size of their wallets, their postcode or their ethnicity. However, it’s estimated that 80% of health outcomes are affected by social, economic, and environmental factors.

Professionals in the medical and healthcare sector have exclusively shared their views on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on health equity in Australia. The panel interview covered issues of access, affordability, data, and the collaboration required to close the growing gap.

Although the issue of health equity has existed long before the emergence of COVID-19, the pandemic brought mainstream attention to the problem, amplifying the profound impact that social, economic and environmental factors can have on our health and wellbeing.

One of the panelists, Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners, says the pandemic has brought the systemic racism and inequality that exists within our country back into the spotlight.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have been raising the issue of health and equity, and the need for holistic joined-up approaches to address the social, cultural and environmental determinants of health and wellbeing for many, many decades.”

To view the Medical Director article in full click here and to access the panel interview and transcript click here.

diagram showing 3 vector images running around a race track; first image they all start from the same line - equality; second image they start from different start points - equity

Image source: CQU Australia website, Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research page.

Two outback NT clinics in dire situation

The chief executives of two outback Central Australian clinics say they are in an “absolutely dire” situation as the neighbouring Indigenous communities battle COVID-19 outbreaks with dwindling supplies, skeleton staff, flooded roadways — and no phone service.

Utopia and Ampilatwatja, 350 kms north-east of Alice Springs, have been without road access and a reliable landline or mobile phone service for more than a week following heavy rain. Both communities are managing their first coronavirus outbreaks.

Ampilatwatja Health Centre CEO Riek Luak said the clinic’s job had become “extremely difficult” because of flooded roadways, poor telecommunications and an unusable, flooded air strip.

To read the ABC News article in full click here.

A Urapuntja clinic vehicle became bogged while trying to access patients

A Urapuntja clinic vehicle became bogged while trying to access patients. Image source: ABC News website.

Tackling COVID-19 misinformation

The Korin Gamadji Institute, Richmond Football Club’s centre for Indigenous youth, is receiving $80,000 from the Federal Government to help address vaccine hesitancy and ensure factual COVID-19 information reaches Victoria and Tasmania’s young people. Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said the digital education campaign will engage reliable sources to share evidence-based information and will run until 30 June 2022.

“With the support of the Morrison Government, the Korin Gamadji Institute is stepping up and developing a range of creative messages across various social media platforms to engage and educate young people about the safety and effectiveness of available vaccines.”

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

word 'misinformation' in black font, vector covid-19 virus wrapped around first 3 letters: m, i, s

Image source: The Atlantic.

The Federal Government is also providing $55,000 to Indigenous radio station, 3KND “Kool N Deadly”, to support the development and broadcast of reliable COVID-19 information through to June 2022. Minister Wyatt said the funding will help dispel myths and encourage greater vaccination uptake. “3KND is a stalwart in the Victorian Indigenous community, and with their audience reach, we can combat vaccination hesitancy and misinformation in a culturally safe way,” Minister Wyatt said.

To view Minister Wyatt and Senator Hume’s joint media release in full click here.

Vic 3KND radio station GM Gerry Lyons in studio

Indigenous man from Aotearoa and 3KND General Manager Gerry “G-Man” Lyons . Image source: Community Matters Radio website.

Future-proofing our medical workforce

What number, skills and distribution of doctors are needed in Australia? How can health systems give doctors flexibility to have lives as well as work, and how can more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors be encouraged into medical careers?

An approach to answering these questions has been agreed to by Australian health ministers, and has now been launched as the National Medical Workforce Strategy. The Strategy sets out how organisations that impact on the medical workforce will work together to provide Australians with access to medical services.

Actions will incorporate three overarching themes, including: improving the health care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce, by working to provide more culturally safe environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical practitioners and patients.

To view the Insight+ article in full click here.

KAMS students in class learning child-health checks

KAMS students in class learning child-health checks. Photo: KAMS. Image source: NIT.

New CDU audiology course

A new Master of Clinical Audiology course is rolling out at Charles Darwin University (CDU) this year to train much-needed audiologists focused on improving Australian First Nations hearing health.

The two-year postgraduate degree at CDU will equip the learner with the essential knowledge and skills to become a qualified audiologist in Australia. The NT has the highest percentage of hearing loss and ear health issues in Australia.

To view the CDU media release in full click here.

rear view of audiologist checking Aboriginal child's ears, image on computer screen

Image source: Remote Area Health Corps.

East Kimberley celebrates PwD

In the same week the nation celebrated wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott being named Australian of the Year, the East Kimberley held its own party to celebrate its community of people living with disability.

Dozens of people gathered at the Kununurra Leisure Centre on Friday for the region’s first International Day of People with Disability event, which aims to challenge the way people think about disability and help grow a more inclusive Australia.

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service (OVAS) support coordinator Tobi Macnamara said the event was building on the region’s growing efforts to provide a more inclusive community, with more consideration for the almost 200 people living with a disability.

While International Day of People with Disability is celebrated on 3 December each year, Kununurra service providers joined to put on their own event on Thursday 28 January after receiving a $1,000 grant to mark the occasion.

To view The West Australian article in full click here.

Ivy, 3, Robyn, & Tarna Waters, 3, at Kununurra’s International Day of People with Disability event

Ivy, 3, Robyn, and Tarna Waters, 3, at Kununurra’s International Day of People with Disability event. Photo: Stephanie Sinclair, The Kimberley Echo.

Dubbo’s first MD student intake

24 ATSI med students standing in a group outside

The first 24 students to begin a full four-year Doctor of Medicine at University of Sydney’s Dubbo campus, began their studies this week. Image source: Daily Liberal News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Voter ID rules will disenfranchise mob

Image source: Kalgoorlie Miner.

Voter ID rules will disenfranchise mob

NACCHO is deeply concerned by the proposed voter ID changes in the ‘Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021’. We urge all parliamentarians to oppose this unnecessary measure. We do not want to see vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disenfranchised.

The Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills, speaking from Cairns today said, “Australia has a sorry history in voting eligibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It took until 1962 to secure the right to vote in the first place. It took until 1967 for us to be counted. Today, in 2021, we are at a critical time in our efforts as a nation to act upon the Uluru Statement from the Heart and secure an Indigenous ‘voice’ to Parliament. Yet this proposed Bill sets us back on our journey. I have no doubt that this Bill will discourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from voting.”

There is no case for introducing these measures. NACCHO understands that the Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed that there was almost no voter fraud at the last federal election and that the introduction of voter ID requirements is unnecessary. There were no prosecutions for multiple voting at the last election, so there seems to be no problem to address here. Yet, if the Bill is introduced, significant damage will be done.

To view the NACCHO’s media release in full click here.

Senate & House of Reps voting boxes

Image source: The Guardian.

Improving disability support for mob

A group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations across Australia are receiving a total of $1.27 million in grants to improve the delivery of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support services.
The $22,000 Indigenous Business Support Funding grants have been awarded to 57 organisations.

Awarded for the first time this year, the scheme was administered by NACCHO which represents 143 community controlled health organisations. The grants are being provided as part of the Federal Government’s NDIS Ready project.

Minister for the NDIS Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the funding would strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in the NDIS – as well as increase the number of culturally-appropriate service providers. “We can improve the lifetime wellbeing and quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view Minister Reynolds’ media release in full click here.

Image source: Synapse website.

First Nations Services Unit for hearing

Hearing Australia has established a First Nations Services Unit to better meet the hearing health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. “With our dedicated First Nations team, we’re making it easier and faster for children, families and communities to get the hearing help they need,” says Mr Kim Terrell, Managing Director, Hearing Australia.

The Unit will bring together the delivery of Hearing Australia’s three Australian Government funded programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) program, the Community Service Obligations (CSO) component of the Hearing Services program and the recently established Listen to Learn program.

“This will help us collaborate with our partners to provide more effective, coordinated, and culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia, regardless of their age, location or hearing need,” says Kim.

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

Image source: Katherine Times.

School not prison for kids under 14

ACOSS, the AMA along with NSW community, legal, and First Nations justice organisations have condemned the decision of the Meeting of Attorneys General to “support developing a proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 including with regard to any carve outs, timing and discussion of implementation supports” as completely inadequate and failing to improve the lives of children and young people.

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that this proposal would not change the situation for more than 90% of children under 14 in prison. ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said: “this is not even a decision, it’s plan to develop a plan that will do nothing to save hundreds of children under 14 from languishing behind bars.”

To view the ACOSS media release in full click here.

Image source: Pro Bono Australia.

Cultural safety education for pharmacists

The Australian Pharmacy Council is exploring how to enhance cultural safety education of Australian pharmacy students. They have produced a podcast with pharmacists, Chastina Heck, a Nywaigi, Mamu, Bidjara woman, in conversation with Associate Professor Faye McMillan AM, a Wiradjuri woman, discussing Indigenous and western perspectives of health, global policies, and the benefits of embedding cultural safety in pharmacy education. A patient, Dr Jane Havelka, also talks about her experience with the health system as a First Nations woman.

For more information click here.

Image source: Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

A third miss school due to menstruation

Did you know, over one-third of young Australian women have missed at least one class in either school or university due to the pain of menstrual cramps and fatigue? And the stats begin to get much worse when Indigenous Australian communities come into play, hindering their chance to live life to the utmost fullest.

Research suggests this is due to the increasingly high cost of hygiene products and the embarrassment some young people feel when they’re on their period. Periods may seem like a physical phenomenon, and while it inherently is, the lack of sanitary items can seriously start to affect one’s mental health as they’re unable to cope with the profound shame and embarrassment they’re made to feel.

Last year, Victoria was the very first state in Australia to offer free sanitary items in all government schools. Commencing in term three in 2019, the $20.7 million initiative saw dispensing machines installed in every school. SA followed closely behind, announcing in February of this year that will also be providing free sanitary products to all female students in year five and above.

To view the full Pop Culture article click here.

Image source: Imperial College London.

Diabetic foot complications webinar

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). has hosted a Diabetic foot complications webinar. This webinar recording brings together experts from the five regions of the Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Sector (SA, NT, northern WA and Far North Queensland) to discuss the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Diabetes-related Foot Complications Program.

To access the webinar click here.

Image source: Diabetes Queensland.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day is observed on 17 November each year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide.

For information about preterm births in Aboriginal populations click here and for more information about World Prematurity Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Mob at increased risk as borders open

Image in feature tile from The Guardian.

Mob at increased risk as borders open

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities are at increased risk as Australia opens up, due to dangerously lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates.

As the holiday season approaches and people start moving around the country and mingling more, vaccine coverage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continues to lag behind non-Indigenous populations. While currently 80.6% of all Australians aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 89.4% have had one dose, that figure sits at 54.5% fully vaccinated and 66.2% one dose for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To view the RACGP media release in full click here.

Image source: ACCAN website.

AMSANT vax count concerns

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT is calling on federal health authorities to pressure the territory government into changing how it measures the local coronavirus vaccination rollout. The government counts the number of  “jabs in arms” whereas the federal government data uses the Australian Immunisation Register data, which is based on addresses registered with Medicare.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the NT is just days away from reaching the 80% double dosed milestone and that the region will reach 90% by the end of the year. Federal data suggests the double dose rate currently sits at 66.9%.

Medical advisor for Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) John Boffa says the figures the NT government are relying on are inaccurate. “Miscounting vaccine coverage could have dangerous consequences,” Dr Boffa said. “Every other jurisdiction in the nation is using the legitimate way to measure vaccination coverage.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Dr John Boffa

John Boffa says the NT needs to rely on “legitimate data”. Image source: ABC News.

NT vax target ‘not ideal’

Health experts say the NT’s new target to vaccinate 80% of remote residents aged five and older “isn’t ideal” and the goalpost must be shifted closer to 100%. “To have an 80% vaccine callout for [people] over five years, it isn’t ideal,” UNSW epidemiologist and Yawuru woman Kalinda Griffiths said.

“Even with 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of five years vaccinated, the risk of death is still a little over 30 people per 100,000 people in the population,” Dr Griffiths said. “But if the uptake is 95% in those under five years old then the risk of death is near zero.”

The NT’s widespread and remote Aboriginal communities are home to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people. Many battle chronic health conditions and it’s common for a dozen people to live under the same roof. In remote Aboriginal communities managed by NT Health, 55% of residents are fully vaccinated.

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Vaccination rates in remote Aboriginal communities lag behind the NT capital. Photo: Hamish Harty, ABC News.

Cervical screening self collection option

The Australian Government has announced that self-collection will be an option for all participants under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) from 1 July 2022.

Offering self-collection to all screeners is a game changer for the NCSP. It provides greater choice in screening options and is expected to increase participation in cervical screening and support better outcomes in under-screened women.

Expanded self-collection has the potential to remove some cultural and personal barriers that may discourage some women from screening, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse women, and gender and sexually diverse people.

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

Self-collection can offer an alternative pathway to overcome barriers some women experience to having a clinician-collected cervical screening test. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Discovery could help save kid’s hearing

Bacteria found in children’s upper respiratory systems could help fight chronic middle ear infections, the leading cause of preventable hearing loss and deafness in Indigenous communities. The University of Queensland’s Dr Seweryn Bialasiewicz said this discovery helped explain a long-held mystery, while providing hope for potential treatments.

“We’ve been puzzled for years now, trying to work out why some children never develop chronic ear disease, despite being in a high-risk category for contracting it,” Dr Bialasiewicz said. “By focusing on the microbiomes in the upper respiratory tracts of disease-resistant kids, we could investigate the ecological networks of bacterial interactions that seemed to be working together to protect against the condition.

Dr Bialasiewicz said they were hoping to use this information to figure out what the exact mechanism of protection is, and then mimic it in the very young children, as a therapy or a preventative measure.

“Chronic middle ear infections can affect between one third to one half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is far above the 4% threshold that the World Health Organisation considers as a disease needing urgent public health action,” Dr Coleman said.

To view the UQ News article in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Thirrili October Newsletter

The latest Thirrili newsletter has been published. The October issue includes some amazing news from Thirrili advocates, job opportunities and much more.

To view the newsletter click here.

Katherine dialysis services to continue

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles, says Fresenius Medical Care has been awarded a tender to continue to provide dialysis services in the Katherine region for five more years. “This extension of services delivers certainty for staff and current patients that the service will continue to operate as normal.

Fresenius Medical Care is operated through a public-private partnership with the NT Government. The 16-chair clinic provides haemodialysis treatment for a total of 30 patients per day. Over the next five years more than 42,300 treatments are expected to be provided at the Fresenius Medical Care clinic.”

To view Minister Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Image source: Katherine Times.

New process for job advertising

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

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

COVID-19 vaccine update for GPs webinar

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health’s series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs webinar will be held from: 11:30am–12:00pm (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 11 November 2021.

This webinar is part of a series on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout. At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout and the panel will provide key updates and answer participants’ questions. GPs and all health professionals are welcome.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM this week will be Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health and Dr Antonio Di Dio, GP in Canberra.

When you’re ready to join, use this link, and to catch up on previous webinars click here.

Conquering Cancer virtual screening

A special virtual event screening of Conquering Cancer will be held at 7:00PM AEDT Wednesday 17 November 2021.

By supporting Conquering Cancer, you’ll be joining the global movement to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide. This is a huge moonshot but it is possible – and by doing so, it’s estimated that the lives of 62 million women will be saved. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

For now, all you have to do is grab some popcorn, put your feet up and enjoy the film on November 17 (tissue box optional). So spare yourself from the last minute scramble and secure your spot today.

The screening will be followed by a special Q&A panel with Professor Karen Canfell, Professor Marion Saville, Professor Yin Ling Woo and filmmaker Sue Collins. The panel is being moderated by Cate McGavin.

You can check out the official trailer of Conquering Cancer below, and book your $5USD ticket click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: BUStopping the Pandemic campaign

feature tile text NT ACCHOs launch BUStopping Pandemic Campaign,' & vector bus with covid virus wallpaper in background

BUStopping the Pandemic campaign

Danila Dilba and AMSANT along with Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAAC) in Mparntwe / Alice Springs, have launched a new look to their bus services.

“As we all step up our efforts to vaccinate as many people as we can, we figured our messages should be taken to the streets,” AMSANT CEO John Paterson said today.

“Our messages are clear: we want to protect our Elders, our Kids and our Communities. We urge everyone in Darwin to take a look at the buses, and go and get the jab.” The BUStopping the Pandemic campaign was part of the blitz to increase vaccination rates in the Greater Darwin region and central Australia.

“We are aiming high, we want to achieve 90%+ double vaccination for everyone – with a particular push on getting to the most vulnerable in our community,” said Mr Paterson. John Paterson also welcomed the involvement with BUStopping the Pandemic through Congress. “Cuz Congress features prominently on two buses in Mparntwe / Alice Springs – with the same message: “Get Vaccinated!”

To view AMSANT’s media release click here.

Health on Wheels covid vax clinic van & sign

The Health on Wheels truck also offers vaccinations and messaging in the NT. Photo: NT Department of Health. Image source: ABC News.

NACCHO PHMO speaks with Officeworks GM

Jason Mifsud, Head of First Nations Affairs and Enterprise at Wesfarmers and Alex Staley, General Manager Corporate Affairs at Officeworks, have spoken with Dr Jason Agostino, GP, Epidemiologist, Medical Advisor at NACCHO and Shaun Burgoyne, former AFL player about COVID-19 vaccines and misinformation, making an informed choice, Officeworks staff and the future.

You can watch the video below:

Smile Squad dental vans used in vax push

Minister for Health, Martin Foley, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, say some of Victoria’s ‘Smile Squad’ dental vans will be used to support targeted vaccination efforts, in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), community leaders and mainstream health services.

The first of three dedicated COVID-19 Vaccine Vans will hit the road this week, travelling to the City of Greater Shepparton, with another van travelling to the City of Latrobe later in the week. The mobile vaccination units will be staffed and run by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and mainstream partners to remove transport and geographic barriers to access among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians. Over the last several weeks, vaccination in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has been increasing week on week as further clinics continue to open.

To view the Min Foley’s media release in full click here.

Victoria's fleet of orange Smile Squad dental vans

Victoria’s fleet of dental vans to be used as part of a mobile vaccination drive across the state. Image source: The North West Star.

Key issues impacting ear health care

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia experience some of the highest rates of ear disease and associated hearing loss in the world. This has been and continues to remain a significant health issue. In the 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), the proportion of Indigenous Australians with measured hearing loss (43%) was higher than self-reported hearing loss (12%) among those aged seven and over.

Additionally, in some remote NT communities, studies have found rates of ear disease and hearing loss in children be as high as 90%. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers a4% prevalence rate of Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (CSOM) as a “public health emergency” requiring immediate attention. Whilst the rate of CSOM among Indigenous children has declined 24% in 2001 to 14%in 2012, these prevalence rates remain extremely high with profound, long-term impacts for Aboriginal children and
adults.

The report Needs analysis: key issues impacting primary health care sector capacity to improve ear and hearing health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander children in the NT prepared by AMSANT’s Ear Coordination Program can be accessed here.

Dr Kelvin Kong examines a child’s ear. Photo: Simone De Peak. Image source: GPNews.

Kicking Australia’s smoking addiction

From 1 October 2021, Australians who use e-cigarettes and other vaping products containing nicotine will need a doctor’s prescription to buy them from a local pharmacy or to order them from overseas.

But there’s another evidence-based way to help more smokers quit, which Australia is yet to act on: reducing the nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels. And e-cigarettes could play an important role in this policy.

If you know someone who’s ever tried to stop smoking and failed, nicotine addiction is likely the reason they found it so hard. While nicotine itself is not a significant direct cause of the health harms from smoking, it makes tobacco products highly addictive.

To view the full article in The Conversation click here.

man with smoke coming from nose, mouth, cigarette wrapped around his neck

Image source: K-72, Canada.

Healing Foundation CEO interview

Intergenerational trauma is a massive problem for Australia’s First Nations people. There are efforts being made, though, to heal that trauma so that people living can actually move on with their lives without being anchored to the horrors of the past. Three Torres Strait Island communities have actually taken some really significant steps in regard to this.

Dauan, Saibai, and Kerriri islands have all been involved in conversations around healing with The Healing Foundation to try and create a roadmap towards improvement in their health.

The Healing Foundation’s CEO, Fiona Cornforth recently spoke with Adam Stephen about the journey that these islands have taken, their residents, and what this roadmap will actually look like and what it might achieve for those that have been hurt.

You can view a transcript of the interview click here and watch a short video about the Torres Strait Island (Kerriri) Healing Forum below.

Sport important to mob, but barriers

Physical activity and sport are important in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Traditional activities like hunting and caring for Country are still practised today. These activities require physical exertion and have cultural significance.

Organised sport is important in many regional and remote communities where higher numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live. This can be seen through competitions like the NSW Koori Knockout and the NAIDOC Netball Carnival.

Many factors influence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in physical activity and sport. These can be classified as facilitators, that enable participation, or barriers, that can make participation more challenging.

Data from the  Australian Bureau of Statistics show fewer than 4 in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are doing enough physical activity. This is despite high Indigenous representation in professional sport, for example in Rugby League and AFL.

To view the full UNSW Sydney article click here.

Aboriginal All Stars at Football Park, Darwin - rear view of players with arms around each others waist, neck

Aboriginal All Stars at Football Park, Darwin. Photo: Stephen Cherry/AAP. Image source: UNSW Newsroom.

Food security grant round open

Applications for the $5 million Strengthening Remote Communities – Food Security Grant Opportunity have now opened.  The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, said ensuring a reliable supply of essential goods, groceries and other critical supplies in remote communities is a high priority.

“In the 2021-22 Budget we committed to invest in remote stores to improve food security and strengthen supply chains. This grant delivers on our commitment,” Minister Wyatt said. “There are over 200 community stores providing food and essential groceries to remote Indigenous communities on a daily basis. These stores provide a crucial community service but can face significant barriers, including poor road access, seasonal isolation, cold supply chain interruptions and inflated maintenance costs.”

To view the media release here and find additional information about the grants, including Grant Opportunity Guidelines on GrantConnect here.

Image source: Outback Stores website.

New process for job advertising

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

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