NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Boosting COVID-19 Vaccination Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people


Boosting COVID-19 vaccination support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The Australian Government is further boosting the vaccination program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across 30 priority areas to ensure all Australians can access a COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the start of the vaccination program the Government has been working closely with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), states and territories and other Indigenous organisations to ensure every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person has the opportunity to get vaccinated. Now with increased supplies and in response to current outbreak situations the Government is significantly boosting efforts to expedite vaccination uptake.

In partnership with NACCHO, states and territories, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) and other Indigenous stakeholders, the Australian Government will immediately accelerate the vaccination program in 30 priority areas including:

  • Western Australia– Greater Geraldton, Swan, Gosnells, Derby – West Kimberley, Port Hedland – South Hedland, Kalgoorlie – Boulder, Goldfields Esperance Region.
  • Queensland – Brisbane, Bundaberg, Cairns, Fraser Coast, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Mackay, Mareeba, Mission River, Moreton Bay, Normanton, Palm Island, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Townsville
  • New South Wales– Central Coast and Wollongong areas
  • Northern Territory – Greater Darwin, North-East Arnhem Land and Barkly
  • South Australia– Port Lincoln

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said this builds on work done to date in partnership with NACCHO, the ACCHS, and the Royal Flying Doctors Service to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a culturally safe and appropriate way.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been a priority for vaccination since the beginning stages of the national vaccination program, considerable effort has been taken to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are readily and widely available for communities,” Minister Hunt said.

“We are absolutely committed to seeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vaccination rates meet, if not exceed, the national target.”

Minister Wyatt said there has been significant work done to date to work with communities to tackle their individual needs and concerns, including countering vaccine hesitancy, in order to boost vaccination uptake.

The Government will immediately provide an additional $7.7 million to NACCHO to amplify efforts to reduce the vaccination gap by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ACCHS and other organisations supporting the vaccination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This will include:

  • Additional vaccine liaison officers employed to work directly with remote and very remote communities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in discrete communities in other areas.
  • Boosting work alongside vaccine providers to support community engagement activities and providing culturally safe messaging, address vaccine hesitancy, facilitate informed consent and conduct health promotion activities.

This is in addition to $19 million provided to NACCHO to date, to support the crucial role of ACCHS in the pandemic response.

Chief Executive of NACCHO, Pat Turner AM, said working with communities was critical to ensuring a successful vaccine rollout for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and welcomes the Australian Government’s ongoing partnership with NACCHO and our sector.

“The recent outbreaks have demonstrated the need to accelerate the vaccine rollout for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. NACCHO continues to play a critical role in addressing hesitancy and ensuring timely and culturally appropriate information is provided to communities to encourage vaccinations,” Ms Turner said.

“This additional funding will further bolster our work in supporting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access a vaccine by the end of this year.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has worked in partnership with First Nations communication companies to develop editorial, social and advertising to reach the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audience.

To further boost these efforts, the Government will also fund First Nations Media Australia, the national peak body for the First Nations media and communications industry, to produce and distribute a package of culturally appropriate public relations content to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about the vaccine rollout.

The partnership includes a range of activities that are planned to support the vaccine rollout, aiming to broaden the conversation around vaccinations, address misinformation and build positive sentiment and intention toward vaccination by using local and trusted voices and sharing positive stories.

The work will be undertaken by a number of local Indigenous media organisations across the country, with a particular emphasis on the areas that are included in the acceleration plan.

Read the full joint media release by Minister Hunt, Minister Wyatt and NACCHO here.

Getting vaccinated is an act of love

Uncle Paster Ray Minniecon was a guest on the ABC’s The Drum on Monday (13 September 2021) talking about how misinformation has contributed to vaccine hesitancy among First Nations communities.

The segment on The Drum about vaccine hesitancy commences at 14:05 minutes, including Paster Minniecon speaking from 17:00 minutes.

Note: image source in feature tile – ABC Nightlife.

Surviving COVID-19 a tough road

When Joanne Bostock was admitted to Royal Prince Alfred hospital last month for a kidney infection, she was given antibiotics and discharged. But later that night she received a phone call from the hospital advising she had tested positive to COVID-19.

“I thought I just have a cold, I can deal with this. But the next morning when I woke up I couldn’t breathe,” she said. An ambulance was called and Ms Bostock was taken to the emergency department. Eventually, she had to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) where her condition would deteriorate over the next few days. Doctors told her family to expect the worst and the dire news was especially tough on her seven children and five grandchildren.

She described her time in the ICU’s pressurised room “like you’re in a sauna or a shower and you’ve got a plastic bag over your head and at the same time someone is sitting on your chest”. The 55-year-old avoided having to be placed in an induced coma and her vitals started to normalise.

Ms Bostock is still in a general ward almost a month later and she is still a long way from recovery. She said she hoped her experience would encourage others to take the virus more seriously. “I was one of those people who were like, ‘Oh, COVID, like this is a little cold’ … but that’s not what happens,” she said. “Be diligent, be safe because I don’t know where I got it.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

pop-up vaccination clinic at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern

The pop-up vaccination clinic at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. Photo: Dan Himbrechts, AAP. Image source: ABC News.

VIC vaccination rate for mob

The vaccination rate for Indigenous people in Victoria remains on track to have more than 80% of people receiving one dose by the end of next month, despite being revealed as less “outstanding” than previously thought.

Victoria was thought to be leading other states and territories in terms of Indigenous vaccination, but the adjusted data released by the Australian Immunisation Register reduced the figure for a single dose to 45%. The figure for fully vaccinated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria went from 30,951 to 12,209, a drop of more than 30%.

NACCHO medical advisor Dr Jason Agostino confirmed the error was due to a bug in a software program used by some GPs in regional Victoria. Dr Agostino said the problem was identified around late May when the numbers recorded in Victoria were higher than the Commonwealth and NACCHO expected, “It took a bit of detective work to figure out what was happening with this medical software and then to correct the records.”

“This is software that is not used much in Australia. It’s not one of the big ones that we use and particularly it is not used in our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. When it’s uploaded information to the immunisation register, if somebody hasn’t entered the recipient’s Indigenous status it just automatically changed it to ‘yes’.”

To read the full article in The Age click here.

Maria Galea being vaccinated by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service

Maria Galea was vaccinated last month by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. Photo: Justin McManus. Image source: The Age.

Orange’s vax rates skyrocket

Western NSW Local Health District (WNLHD) is calling the region’s vaccination rates the most-improved in the state across the last four weeks. Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said vaccination rates across the District have skyrocketed in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, “I’m really proud of our communities. They’ve heard the message that vaccination is the best way to tackle COVID-19 and they’ve stepped up.”

“We’ve seen the first-dose rate of COVID-19 vaccinations go from 17% to 56% for Aboriginal people and from 41% to 82% for non-Aboriginal people. The second-dose rate for Aboriginal people has gone from around 7% to almost 22%, and from 20% to more than 41% for non-Aboriginal people. While we’ve still got a long way to go to reach that 80% goal, the number of people with first doses on board puts us in a really good position.”

“I can’t stress this enough though – we can’t afford to think we’ve done enough.”

Orange is among seven local government areas in the District to have first dose rates at over 80%. The other six include Weddin, Dubbo, Coonamble, Parkes, Narromine and Mid-Western Regional Council.

To view The Central Western Daily article in full click here.

tile text 'I got my COCID-19 vaccine!' Orange City Council, vector of band aid folded in half, heart shape

Culturally appropriate mental healthcare vital

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has recorded a 31% increase in psychological distress for Indigenous adults. At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged between 15 and 24 are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people of the same age.

Reframing mental health care through a decolonised lens driven for and by Indigenous voices is the path forward to ensure sensitivity is delivered from diagnosis through to treatment and care. Psychologist and Palawa woman Jodi Jones says that culturally appropriate access to basic services is one of the biggest challenges impacting Indigenous youth mental health right now.

“Our First Nations people have historically experienced unacceptable levels of inequitable access to these services,” she said, describing the current options as an ‘invisible inequity’. “There is a lack, and significant lag time of young people having access to culturally appropriate health care services in Australia — in every state and territory”.

To view the full article in The Junkee click here.

Image source: Sharp Health News.

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 16 September 2021.

At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout. 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 Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mental Health, Department of Health.

This week’s GP webinar will have a slightly different look and feel as it will be held via webex. This will enable guests from other locations to join the GP webinar panel.

When you’re ready to join, use this link.

Vision impaired mob sought

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) would like to connect with people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who are blind or vision impaired and are happy to speak about issues important to them to assist BCA to find ways to connect with them and deliver information which is both relevant and important.

BCA holds regular forums to be more inclusive for our mob, and improve their connections. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be vision impaired are being invited to join an Aboriginal Blind Peoples Forum (ABPF) to have their story heard and understand how BCA can support them. The ABPF forum will be held from:

1:30 PM (AEST) Thursday 23 September 2020.

You can join the ABPF discussion meeting via this zoom link.

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

National Week of Deaf People

The National Week of Deaf People (NWDP) is a week-long national celebration of Deaf individuals and the Australian Deaf community, which includes celebrating the International Week of Deaf People (IWDP) and International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) which are initiatives of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).

These two events are traditionally held during September and are based on the founding date of the WFD (23 September 1951). The week is an opportunity for Deaf people to celebrate their communities, language, culture and history; make the public aware of their local, state and national Deaf communities; and to recognise their achievements.

Deaf Australia has chosen the same theme as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) International Week of Deaf People for 2021: ‘Celebrating thriving Deaf Communities’

For more information visit the Deaf Australia website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Vaccine conspiracies target vulnerable communities

feature tile text 'vaccine misinformation targeted at vulnerable communities' & image of Elder man receiving covid-19 vaccine

Vaccine conspiracies target vulnerable communities

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner called an emergency meeting with Mr Wyatt and 14 Aboriginal church leaders and remote doctors on Friday (3 September 2021) to discuss alarming numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are hesitant about whether they should be vaccinated as a direct result of misinformation that has targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The group of respected pastors and remote medical professionals confirmed conspiracies and misinformation were circulating in vulnerable communities, spreading fear of COVID-19 vaccines. “The meeting was about getting the advice of religious leaders on how to talk in a way that is respectful of people’s beliefs while keeping people safe from serious illness and death,” Minister Wyatt said.

To view Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.

elder without shirt outdoor setting receiving covid-19 vaccine from KAMS worker

Photo: Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: The Guardian.

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) has also written to local churches asking them to counter dangerous misinformation promoting vaccine hesitancy among Aboriginal communities. Vicki O’Donnell, the CEO of KAMS, said that while some communities in the area had high rates of vaccinations, there was “resistance in some communities due to religious groups and the misinformation that they’re providing”.

“We’ve always had issues around religious groups, ever since I can remember,” O’Donnell said. “This is the first time I’ve come across religious groups being very active around anti-vaccination. And I’ve been in Aboriginal health for 25 years now.”

To view the full article in The Guardian click here.

side profile of face of Labor Senator Pat Dodson

Labor Senator Pat Dodson has called on religious leaders of all denominations to condemn groups spreading anti-vaccine propaganda. Photo: Mick Tsikas. Image source: The Guardian.

Mallee District Aboriginal Services chief executive Jacki Turfrey told Sunraysia Daily says vaccine conspiracy theories have spread like wildfire among Sunraysia’s Aboriginal community. “There’s a lot of myths being circulated about there being metal and metal traces in the vaccines, about there being implants being put into people who get the vaccine, about fertility … they’re actually making our job much, much harder,” she said.

“The myths are out there – they’re ramping up. As a result, you’ve got a lot of people are nervous and afraid to get the vaccine. There’s no counter media that actually goes through and dispels the myths. That would have an amazing impact.” Ms Turfrey rejected the suggestion vaccination providers weren’t doing enough to get Aboriginal community members to roll up their sleeves.

To view the full article in the Sunraysia Daily click here.

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey

MDAS CEO Jacki Turfrey says incentives offered to Indigenous people are having a positive impact on vaccination rates. Photo: Ben Grose. Image source: Sunraysia Daily.

Yawning divide in vaccination rates

Nationwide, 60.5% of the population over the age of 16 have had one dose, while 36.4%  are fully vaccinated. In comparison, just 37%t of First Nations people have had one jab, and 20.5% both.

New data released by the federal government also exposes a stark divide between Australia’s towns and cities and regional and remote areas. NACCHO’s chief medical advisor Dr Jason Agostino said some of the figures are ‘alarming’. “You just need to look at what’s happened far western NSW to understand what can happen when just a single case of COVID-19 gets in,” he said.

“Without the protection of the vaccine, what’s happening in western NSW and Far West NSW Wales can happen anywhere, so we need to do whatever we can to address vaccine hesitancy and get doses out and into people’s arms.”

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal man receiving covid-19 vaccination

Despite the higher health risks, the national Indigenous vaccine rates are sitting well behind the general population. Photo: Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services. Image source: NITV website.

Elder praises community lockdown response

Indigenous people across western NSW are working hard to do the right thing in a COVID crisis that restricts their highly social lives and puts pressure on their emotional wellbeing, says one of the region’s best-known elders. First Nations people continue to make up the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 infections in western NSW.

In Dubbo, which has most of the state’s regional cases, Wiradjuri elder Frank Doolan — better known as “Riverbank Frank” — heaped praise on locals abiding by lockdown laws. “I feel a certain amount of pride in my people, even though their circumstances in many instances may not be conducive to this new phenomenon of lockdown (and) it may not agree with Aboriginal people or the lives they lead,” he said. “I have been amazed at just how people are trying to comply with the health laws at the moment.”

To view the full ABC news article click here.

Wiradjuri Elder "Riverbank Frank" Doolan

“Riverbank Frank” Doolan says lockdown restrictions are especially taxing on the Aboriginal community. Photo: Gary-Jon Lysaght. Image source: ABC News.

COVID-19 exposes Australia’s health inequality

Australians, on the whole, are fortunate when it comes to their health. Generally, people enjoy a high standard of living and access to universal health care, and Australia consistently ranks well on measures such as life expectancy and mortality rates.

But beneath gross measures of health and high OECD rankings lies deeply-entrenched, longstanding inequalities. The gap in health outcomes between Australia’s rich and poor is substantial, and has been laid bare for all to see over the course of the pandemic.

Social scientist Julie Leask from the University of Sydney says the fact poorer, more diverse communities are being most impacted by COVID-19 is not by chance, and reflects “deep inequities in society”. “[The pandemic] is an opportunity for all of the public to see the mechanism by which poverty and social exclusion actually influence health,” she says.

In Australia, health inequalities are felt most acutely by Indigenous people and those living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, including in rural and remote Australia.

To view the article in full click here.

CAAC vaccination outreach at Irrkerlantye

Central Australia Aboriginal Congress vaccination outreach at Irrkerlantye (White Gate) Damp. Photo: Kate Buckland, CAAC. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

WA releases Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy

The WA Government has released its first Closing the Gap Jurisdictional Implementation Plan together with its Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy – two important and strategic documents that will guide a future whole-of-government approach to Aboriginal affairs in WA.

This is the first Implementation Plan for WA under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap and was developed through collaboration across government departments and agencies, with crucial input and endorsement from the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA, as well as the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), the only WA-based member of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks).

Vicki O’Donnell, member of the Aboriginal Advisory Council of WA and Chairperson of the AHCWA said: “The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is strongly supported by Aboriginal people in WA as it defines the reforms that are absolutely necessary for improving the life outcomes of our people, and our communities. The four Priority Reforms require governments to change the way they work with us at all levels, and ensure that Aboriginal self-determination, leadership, and culture are the foundations for shared decision-making, partnership and service delivery into the future.

To view the media statement in full click here.

Hearing health outreach services report

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report Hearing health outreach services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NT July 2012 to December 2020.

The report presents information on hearing health outreach services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the NT. It shows that in 2020 there were: 2,010 audiology services; 701 ear, nose and throat teleotology services; and 1,004 Clinical Nurse Specialist visits. Among children and young people who received at least two services between 2012 and 2020, 61% had improved hearing loss and 71% had improved hearing impairment.

To view the report  click here.

Aboriginal toddler having a hearing test

Photo: Lauren Roberts, NT News. Image source: Menzies School of Health Research.

NDIS Access Program in Kimberley

The Rural Clinical School of WA, The University of WA have released an article about their study of the NDIS ‘Access Program’ in the Kimberley region. Their mixed methods study explores the barriers and enablers of the Access Program in­­­­­­­ linking remote Aboriginal residents with the NDIS. The study also reports on what types of disability people engaging with the Access program had, their age, gender, and if they lived in a town or a community.

The study found the Access program has provided support and assistance for Aboriginal people in accessing the NDIS. Continuation of the Access Program until 2022 will allow more people to receive the support they need to navigate entry to the NDIS. Provision of services for those who have received an NDIS plan requires ongoing advocacy and evaluation.

The research team wants to continue the discussion around the NDIS Access Program to ensure the rights of remote Aboriginal Australians with a disability are met, in ways that are strength based and culturally secure.

To view the Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the NDIS Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA article click here.

Seven-year-old Kelvina Benny in her wheelchair

Seven-year-old Kelvina Benny lives with her family in the Yungngora community on Noonkanbah Station, Kimberley region, WA. Image source: NDIS 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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

World Suicide Prevention Day 

One in four Australians report knowing someone who died by suicide during the past 12 months of the pandemic – the equivalent of 5 million people – with social isolation, the economy and jobs driving concerns, particularly amongst women. It comes as two-thirds of Australians (66%) back the Federal Government introducing a standalone national suicide prevention act requiring all government decisions to consider and mitigate suicide risks two years in a row.

The findings are from Suicide Prevention Australia’s second State of the Nation report, which will be officially released this week on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 – Friday, 10 September 2021. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said history showed major increases in suicide were linked to major social and economic events and there was none more concerning facing Australia than right now.

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.

This year, Suicide Prevention Australia is hosting a free webinar form 10:30AM – 11:30AM AEST Friday 10 September 2021 to bring together key members of government, the suicide prevention sector and recipients of our LiFE Awards which recognise work with significant impacts on reducing suicide.

To register for the webinar click here.

banner text 'shining a light on suicide prevention Friday 10 Sep 2021, world suicide prevention day' vector image of one female male & two males with huge yellow spot light

banner text ‘shining a light on suicide prevention Friday 10 Sep 2021, world suicide prevention day’ vector image of one female male & two males with huge yellow spot light

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: COVID-19 impact on young mob

COVID-19 impact on young mob

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner spoke with Dan Bourchier on ABC News about the COVID-19 outbreak in western NSW and the vaccination roll-out and uptake in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Ms Turner said that it was very concerning to see the average age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who contracted COVID-19 in NSW in the last day was 24 years old.

“I am really concerned about the impact it’s having on our young people and I implore you all to please stay at home,” said Ms Turner.

She also said she was very pleased to see that daily increases of the Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out in Western NSW.

“We really need all of the state health authorities to be working in partnership and collaborating with our community controlled health sector and making sure they have a constant supply,” she said.

You can view the interview below.


Culturally safe vaccination services crucial

Lieutenant General John Frewen, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly and CEO of NACCHO Pat Turner have co-signed a letter addressing COVID-19 vaccinations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The letter that will be sent to Australian COVID-19 vaccine delivery partners states that we all have an important role to play in providing culturally safe vaccination services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“For all Indigenous Australians to be vaccinated and bridge the current gap, we are asking the whole primary care sector to work together and ensure there is equitable COVID-19 vaccine uptake across Australia.”

You can download the letter here.

An article by Croakey Health Media addresses the same issue: Rushed efforts to halt the alarming spread of COVID-19 in Aboriginal communities in western NSW will fail if they do not have cultural safety at their core. That’s the warning from national, state and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders. Responses that are not culturally safe will risk adding to vaccine hesitancy and disengagement with public health orders and add to the trauma experienced by Aboriginal people amid a public health emergency.

Donna Murray, CEO of Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), said there are “huge risks” in “shipping out” mainstream health teams that have not worked before in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or done cultural safety training. Failure to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of “knowing, being and doing” often ends up in non-Indigenous people and services making uninformed judgements or blaming communities “and then that turns people off being vaccinated”, she said.

You can read the article in Croakey Health Media here.

Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service's Belinda Woodham, Scott Porter & Katrina Ward joined by volunteers from @Uni_Newcastle School Nursing & Midwifery Professors Amanda Johnson, Rhonda Wilson, Donna Hartz with Managers Sally Loughnan & Tabitha Jones of Royal Flying Doctor Service. Photo courtesy of Dharriwaa Elders Group, Croakey Health Media.

Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service’s Belinda Woodham, Scott Porter & Katrina Ward joined by volunteers from @Uni_Newcastle School Nursing & Midwifery Professors Amanda Johnson, Rhonda Wilson, Donna Hartz with Managers Sally Loughnan & Tabitha Jones of Royal Flying Doctor Service. Photo courtesy of Dharriwaa Elders Group, Croakey Health Media.


COVID-19 arrives in Bourke

The Army has been called into western NSW, and drive-through clinics are being set up in Dubbo, in a race to vaccinate the community as the COVID outbreak worsens. The outback town of Bourke had its first case confirmed earlier this week, along with further cases in Dubbo, Walgett and Mudgee.

“Nearly 40 per cent are kids between the ages of 10 and 19,” Western NSW Health’s Mr McLachlan said.

“This is a really serious warning for parents of kids running around everywhere at the moment. Please stay home.”

Mr McLachlan said there were low rates of vaccination among Aboriginal children and called on people to get vaccinated, and stressed that Pfizer is available. He urged residents to reach out to local Aboriginal Medical Centres, GP’s, vaccination hubs, respiratory clinics and prompted use of the Health Direct website.

You can read the article online at the NITV website.
To check where you can get your vaccine, visit the Health Direct website here.

Sign for Bourke Aboriginal Health Service. Image source: NITV website.

Sign for Bourke Aboriginal Health Service. Image source: NITV website.


Getting vaccinated as COVID-19 gets close

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Testing, vaccinations ramped up in Western NSW

Latisha Carr-McEwan (right) with her children Craig McKellar and Tashayla Eulo as they have COVID-19 tests at the Dubbo West walk-in clinic

Testing, vaccinations ramped up in Western NSW

COVID-19 in Western NSW continues to spread to some of the state’s most remote communities with first cases now confirmed in Narromine, Gilgandra and Broken Hill.

Testing and vaccinations are being ramped up across the region with additional support coming from the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Western NSW Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, said ADF personnel would be visible in the community from Wednesday. “We’re expecting around 25 personnel here in Dubbo just to assist police in some compliance tasks,” he said.

Mr Moore said the community was anxious with cases now confirmed, and the streets of Bourke were much quieter since the announcement. “There’s hardly any traffic around the town and I think people are slowly following the orders,” he said. “One of our biggest fears was that it would reach our small community, but sadly, now it has.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Image source: ABC News. Feature tile image: Latisha Carr-McEwan (right) with her children Craig McKellar and Tashayla Eulo as they have COVID-19 tests at the Dubbo West walk-in clinic on Monday 16 August, 2021. Photo: Kate Geraghty, SMH. Image source: 9 NEWS.

Regional Health Minister on COVID-19 cases

Minister for Regional Health, Dr David Gillespie MP was interviewed On Radio National Drive yesterday [17 August 2021] by Paul Barclay. Paul Barkley opened the interview saying “More than 450 COVID cases today in NSW, 24 in Victoria, 17 in the ACT, lockdowns extended until next month, numbers expected to continue to rise. I’m sure you’ve been asked this question before, but what more can be done to bring this under control?”

In response Minister Gillespie said ” Well, I think what we’re seeing now is the very nature of the Delta virus. It is incredibly easily transmissible.

The numbers are high, but I think particularly in NSW, the vaccination rate, which is ramping up incredibly over the last couple of days, it took four days to get a million jabs into people’s arms. You know, 1.6 million over seven days. That is going to have a huge effect, because as the community develops in these people, there are less people who are likely to get it, and lower if they do get it. It’s a mild illness and they spread it a lot less.

In Western NSW, it is a worry, because there is crowded accommodation in Dubbo, where the biggest numbers are. The smaller places, they’ve got so many extra vaccines and so much support there now. I think people will get on top of this. It will ramp up incredibly quickly.”

You can read the full transcript of the interview here.

Dubbo residents queue to be tested as Covid-19 cases grow in western NSW. Photo: Belinda Soole – Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Fast-tracked vaccines for Top End

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, and  Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Selena Uibo, say the vaccine rollout is speeding up in the Top End with a new COVID-19 Vaccine Pop-Up Clinic open in Katherine and more vaccine doses coming online. This comes as a 72 hour lockdown was declared for Greater Darwin and Katherine effective from 12pm, August 16 to slow any potential spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The clinic is operating at the old School Oval on the corner of O’Shea Terrace and Second Street, with parking available via O’Shea Terrace. An additional 1000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will be available over coming days for the Katherine community.

To view the media release in full click here.

The vaccine rollout in East Arnhem Land started in early April. Photo: Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News.

Caring for country-caring for self

A pilot program supporting the development of self-esteem, pride and confidence in Aboriginal youth is set to begin, leading to increased employability and job opportunities. Community-based Aboriginal organisation As One Nyitting has been engaged to help deliver the ‘caring for country-caring for self’ program, with a cohort of Aboriginal youth aged between 15 and 24 set to take part, further developing their cultural identity and knowledge.

The program is aimed at youths who are disengaged or at risk of disengaging from education, training and/or employment, with numbers limited to 15 to provide intensive and individual support over the course of the year.

As One Nyitting’s programs are holistic and recognise the valuable role of Elders in supporting young people to learn these skills. Fifteen Elders will also take part in the program, leading through action, providing cultural guidance and assisting in training and mentoring. By learning the skills to care for the country and self, and developing cultural identity, the knowledge and confidence gained from the program will support participants to engage in training and employment.

To view the media release click here.

Young people attending cultural camp at Alice Springs and Uluru. Image source: St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.

Research shows ear health an urgent priority

Principal Audiologist, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, Hearing Australia, Sam Harkus says for the majority of Australian children who experience it, otitis media or middle ear infection is a painful but relatively short-term condition, happily unlikely to impact children’s long term listening and communication skills development.

However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a significantly different experience of middle ear disease than non-Indigenous Australian children. They tend to acquire ear disease earlier, as young as six weeks old. It’s often without obvious signs. It’s more prevalent and more likely to become chronic: one in three children will have at least one type of middle ear condition and will experience middle ear disease over 10 times longer than non- Indigenous children. 1 More children experience the severest forms, at rates the World Health Organization call ‘a massive public health problem requiring urgent attention’. 2 Persistent otitis media is not confined to remote communities however, almost half of a group of Aboriginal babies in an ongoing Perth study had developed middle ear infection by the age of six months. 3

When otitis media presents like this, it impacts development and life trajectories. It often persists throughout the critical years when foundational listening and communication skills are learned, important for many reasons including literacy. Three Australian studies now show a link between chronicotitis media in early childhood and delay across a range of developmental domains at school entry. 4, 5

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are starting their formal education years at a disadvantage. Hearing Australia is committed to reduce the rate of hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by at least half by 2029.

To view the full article click here.

Image source: NITV News.

Redress for Stolen Generations

The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Cornforth spoke with Dan Bourchier, ABC News TV Afternoons about Reparations for Stolen Generations survivors in the NT, ACT, and Jervis Bay.

The Prime Minister last week announced redress payments to members of the Stolen Generations, who were taken from the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, and jurisdictions that were under the control of the Commonwealth Government at the time. It’s prompted renewed calls for redress for Stolen Generations members from Queensland and Western Australia. The Healing Foundation was created out of a recommendation of the 1997 Bringing Them Home Report. The organisation has been a powerful advocate of redress acknowledgement and healing. Chief Executive of the foundation Fiona Cornforth joins me now from Canberra. Good afternoon.

To read the full transcript of the interview click here.

Photo: Rebekah Ison – AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Literacy inquiry to hear from NACCHO

The House Employment, Education and Training Committee will hear evidence from key peak bodies and other organisations by videoconference as hearings continue for the inquiry into adult literacy and its importance.

Committee Chair, Mr Andrew Laming MP said, ‘the Committee has received a broad range of evidence on the need for improved strategies for supporting people with low English language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy to improve their skills and to access vital services.’

Mr Laming continued, ‘To help us investigate First Nations literacy challenges, we will hear from the Literacy for Life Foundation, Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and NACCHO.’

To read the article in full click here.

Literacy for Life Foundation Coordinator Mary Waites helping an adult student learn to read and write. Photo courtesy of Literacy for Life Foundation. Image source: NIAA.

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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

COVID-19 Update for GPs

Join Professor Michael Kidd AM from 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM (AEST) Thursday 19 August for the latest in their series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs. At the webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout. GPs and all health are welcome.

Professor Kidd will be joined this week by Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

Click on this link to view the webinar.

If you unable to view the webinar live, you can view it on -demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Raising COVID-19 vaccine awareness in Far West NSW

Raising vaccine awareness in Far West NSW

Far West NSW healthcare providers and residents in Wilcannia are looking to raise awareness about COVID vaccinations amid uptake concerns. Aboriginal healthcare provider Maari Ma said there were several areas where it would like to see vaccination numbers improve.

Primary Healthcare Services executive manager Linda Lynott said Wilcannia was of particular concern. “We’ve already had a number of meetings with the RFDS [Royal Flying Doctor Service], putting in place a whole range of strategies to get the information out to the community,” she said. “We’re working with them to provide the access to the Aboriginal community so people feel comfortable having the vaccine.”

To view the article in full click here.

Brendon Adams in Wilcannia River Radio studio

Brendon Adams says Wilcannia River Radio will try and raise awareness about getting vaccinated. Photo supplied by Wilcannia Central School. Image source: ABC News website. Feature tile image source: ABC News.

Additional vaccines for regional NSW

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, says in response to the current outbreak in Far North NSW, the Australian Government is providing an additional 7,680 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses immediately for use in the eight affected local government areas, including Walgett. “Expected to arrive in regional communities [today], the delivery includes 4,800 vaccines for use across general practices and Commonwealth Vaccination Clinics (CVCs) and 2,880 for use in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs). This includes activating three additional general practices and an additional ACCHO in Bourke. In line with the ‘NSW COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Plan’, the Government is working directly with the NSW Government, ACCHOs, NACCHO, local stakeholders and the local community.”

To view the media release in full click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in:

  • Bogan Shire
  • Bourke Shire
  • Brewarrina Shire
  • Coonamble Shire
  • Dubbo
  • Gilgandra Shire
  • Narromine Shire
  • Tamworth
  • Walgett Shire or
  • Warren Shire

DoH COVID-19 banner, vector images of Aboriginal dot art & 4 vials of vaccine with text 'COVID-19 vaccine' & orange tick

To protect our communities, the COVID-19 vaccines are now available in larger quantities in the area. Check with your local vaccine provider and book your appointment as soon as you can. And remember, getting the vaccine is one of the valid reasons to leave home but if you feel sick, please stay at home and get tested.

A related news article in The Sydney Morning Herald says protecting Indigenous Australians from COVID-19 has been one of our nation’s greatest successes during this pandemic but the outbreak in NSW is now putting that achievement at risk.

Since the start of the epidemic, it has been understood that Indigenous communities, especially in the outback, pose a unique health challenge because they lack basic health services and live in overcrowded housing. Indigenous Australians also suffer more from chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and cancer, which raise the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19. In the US, Native Americans who face similar challenges are seven times more likely to die of COVID-19 than average. No Indigenous deaths have been recorded in Australia so far.

Australian authorities have until now done a great job working with Indigenous communities to keep COVID-19 out of remote communities, using local knowledge and talking to local communities to spread culturally appropriate health messages. An outbreak at a gold mine in the NT in June was contained by contact tracing and testing.

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

Tharawal elder Uncle Ivan Wellington receives his first AstraZeneca vaccine from Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation GP Heather MacKenzie. Photograph: Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News.

My Health Record missing immunisation details?

A person’s immunisation information, including proof of vaccination and immunisation history, is available from the Immunisations page of a person’s My Health Record.

The immunisation information, including COVID-19 vaccination information, comes from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and other documents in a person’s My Health Record. For instructions on how to view the immunisation page click here.

If a person’s immunisation information is missing or seems incomplete, they may need to update their settings. For instructions on how to check the settings click here. This page includes a printable document with steps to check and change AIR settings in My Health Record.

Census 2021 – it’s not too late

Communities are being encouraged to make sure their Census form has been completed. Haidee Allan is a proud Kamilaroi woman from Tamworth NSW and a Census Communication Officer is reminding everyone to get their Census done as soon as possible. “We all need to be counted in the Census, so we can see how much our community has grown and what our strengths are.”

You still have time to complete your Census. You won’t be fined for completing now. You can do it online, by paper or with help from us. If you’re in a remote community, there are field staff available to help you complete your Census. If you can’t find your letter, that’s OK. You can request a Census number and complete online, or get a paper form sent to you.”

“We want all mob to be supported in filling out the Census. There’s so much help available from our staff – face to face, over the phone or online. Young mob out there – please help your Elders, Aunties and Uncles fill in the form, so they can get the services our communities need. If we don’t hear from you soon, you’ll get a reminder letter or a visit from our field staff.”

If a person hasn’t received their Census letter or form in the mail, they can go to the ABS census website  here and request a number to start their Census, or order a paper form by calling 1800 512 441.

To read the ABS media release click here.

ABS Census 2021 text 'It's not too late to participate' vector image of Aboriginal man & woman

Device set to reform stroke care

A healthcare technology company EMVision is aiming to change the stroke care paradigm. EMVision has developed a portable brain scanner for rapid, point-of-care stroke diagnosis and monitoring, which is set to transform stroke care, particularly for Australians living in regional areas, who are 17% more likely to suffer a stroke than those in metropolitan areas, and often unable to access specialised care.

There is a critical need to narrow the gap in stroke care between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living in regional areas, with First Nations Peoples having close to three times the rate of acute ischemic stroke incidence and mortality.

EMVision’s mission is to provide equal access to healthcare and EMVision’s technology is set to transform stroke care and diagnosis for rural and Australians.

To view the article in full click here.

EMVision’s portable, lightweight brain scanne

EMVision’s portable, lightweight brain scanner will bring vital stroke care services to Australians in regional areas.

Otitis media early intervention research

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones, from the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at the Telethon Kids Institute, has received an Emerging Leaders Fellowship for his vision to enable Aboriginal children to access the earliest and most effective interventions for otitis media – a common middle ear infection that is the leading cause of preventable hearing loss in this group.

The Closing the Gap Roadmap for Hearing Health recognises that hearing loss in Aboriginal children can lead to delayed speech and educational development, with substantial long-term consequences.

Dr Brennan-Jones’ research aims to create lasting change in the way the health system provides services, leading to better health and educational outcomes for these children.

The research will build on the Aboriginal ear health cohorts and telehealth programs Dr Brennan-Jones established during his NHMRC Early Career Fellowship and will enable clinical trials of international significance, examining both existing and novel interventions to treat otitis media and prevent hearing loss.

The research will be guided by a 12-member Aboriginal Community Advisory Group to ensure cultural governance and enable significant capacity building for Aboriginal researchers.

To view WA Minister Roger Cook’s media release click here.

health professional checking small Aboriginal boy's ears

Image source: Macquarie University website.

“This is my boy’s health! Talk straight to me!”

The International Journal for Equity in Health has published an article about the first study to explore barriers to accessing clinical genetics services among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The study found barriers to access and engagement were present at each stage of the patient journey. These included challenges in obtaining a referral, long waiting periods, limited genetic literacy, absence of Aboriginal support services, communication challenges and lack of adequate psychosocial support and follow-up after attendance. The experience of (and expectation for) recognition of cultural identity and provision of culturally safe care was low among participants. Unaddressed concerns continued to cause significant distress in some people years after their appointment took place.

The study concluded there is significant scope for improving the care provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at clinical genetics services. Immediate attention to minimising logistical barriers, developing relationships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and providing practical and specific cultural safety training for practitioners is required at the service-level. The study’s findings strongly support the development of guidelines or policies recognising the collective cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in relation to genomic health care.

To view the journal article in full click here.

mother holding baby, IUHI healthcare worker

Image source: IUHI 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.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NACCHO CEO fully vaccinated today

feature tile text 'ACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM receives seond dose of COVID-19 vaccine TODAY' phot of Pat Turner at Winnunga

NACCHO CEO fully vaccinated today

Our NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM, the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman, is fully vaccinated today!

Pat received her second dose of her vaccine at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services earlier today and urges all of you to follow up on your second dose of the vaccine in order to safely receive the level of protection from COVID-19.

“Please get your COVID-19 shots! It’s not just important for us as individuals but it’s important for all members of our families and our communities. The more people have the vaccination the safer we will be.

It doesn’t matter if you already have existing health conditions, don’t use that as an excuse not to have the COVID-19 vaccine. In fact it’s more important that you do have it! Any concerns that you have you must talk to the doctor at our health services.”

photo of Pat Turner, NACCHO CEO, receiving COVID-19 vaccine at Winnunga with text 'Pat Turner AM CEO, NACCHO' & COVID-19 VACCINATION footer with NACCHO logo

Diabetes Australia partners with ACCHO

Diabetes Australia is partnering with Carbal Medical Services (Carbal), a Toowoomba and Warwick based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisation, to reduce diabetes-related vision loss and blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Darling Downs. The Diabetes Australia – Carbal partnership involves the promotion of the national eye screening initiative for people with diabetes KeepSight. KeepSight is an eye check reminder program run by Diabetes Australia which encourages people with diabetes to have regular eye checks. The program will use locally developed, culturally appropriate resources and information.

To help raise awareness of this important program Diabetes Australia has partnered with Indigenous Hall of Fame star and Gamilaroi man Roger Knox. Roger is asking people to register with KeepSight to reduce their risk of diabetes-related blindness.

You can read more about the project here and sign up for KeepSight at here and never lose sight of future eye checks.

You can also access the Diabetes Australia and Carbal Medical Services joint media release herel.

country singer Roger Knox standing in front of Carbal Medical Services sign

Country singer Roger Knox.

Australia’s human rights response disappointing

Amnesty International Australis says the Australian Government’s decision to ignore key recommendations from UN member states aimed at improving its human rights record is extremely disappointing. The recommendations, made at the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Australia earlier this year, found that 31 countries called for the Government to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility, while 47 wanted Australia to stop offshore processing and mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees.

Amnesty International Australia is deeply disappointed the Australian Government has rejected both these recommendations and calls on it to immediately review its position. National Director, Samantha Klintworth, said: “In 2019–20, 499 children aged between 10 and 13 years were detained by Australia in the youth justice system – 65% of those children detained were First Nations children – even though First Nations children constitute only 5% of the population of that age.

To view Amnesty International’s media release click here.

The Law Council of Australia has also commented on this topic: “Australia’s appearance at the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday 8 July, in which a formal response to the recommendations received during the third cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR) will be presented, puts a spotlight on Indigenous rights during NAIDOC Week.

The Law Council of Australia believes that it is imperative that First Nations peoples are heard on the issues that affect them, particularly at the federal level, and calls on Australia to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution; take immediate measures to address the overincarceration of First Nations peoples; and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years. The Law Council urges the Australian Government to clearly commit to the constitutional entrenchment of the Voice, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the subsequent recommendations of the Referendum Council.”

To view the Law Council of Australia’s media statement click here.

Image source: Amnesty International.

Hearing Australia unites with First Nations people

This NAIDOC Week Hearing Australia is uniting with First Nations people across Australia to help heal Country and the hearing health of Frist Nations children. Kim Terrell, the Managing Director of Hearing Australia said: “Hearing Australia is dedicated to improving the hearing health of all Australians and preventing avoidable hearing loss in the community.

1 in 3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are affected by ear disease and hearing loss⁺. With the support of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services across Australia, we’ve helped over 8,000 First Nations children aged 0–6 in 240 communities over the past 12 months. This is a key priority for us given 30% of these children had undiagnosed middle ear infections, while 25% had some form of undiagnosed hearing loss and were placed into specialist referral pathways.

I’d like to thank the amazing ear health workers involved around the country for their support. It’s terrific for us to be able to work so closely with them. Together, we’re seeing great progress in helping more children to listen, learn and talk.”

To view Hearing Australia’s press release click here and to listen to HAPEE Community Engagement Program Officer Denise Newman, who knows from personal experience the importance of checking children’s hearing at an early age and has an important to message to share with the community click on the video link below.

New Indigenous medical scholarships

A $1million gift from generous benefactors to Flinders University will establish an Indigenous student scholarship to increase the numbers of medically qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals working in their communities. The Calthorpe Wong Indigenous Medical Scholarship has been established through the generosity of retired ophthalmologists Mary Calthorpe and George Wong, who previously worked at the Flinders Medical Centre, the Repatriation General Hospital at Daw Park and the Marion Road Eye Clinic.

The endowed gift donation is expected to provide $80,000 annually to fund up to four scholarships each to the value of up to $20,000 in an academic year (or in future years a mix of new and ongoing scholarships) to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates to study medicine.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling says it’s especially fitting that the scholarship has been made possible during NAIDOC Week: “We’re incredibly grateful to Drs Calthorpe and Wong for their determination to make a difference in this practical and meaningful way. It’s a deeply significant moment to be able to initiate a new scholarship that will be able to support so many Indigenous students simultaneously.”

To view the Flinders University media release here.

Associate Professor Simone Tur, George Wong, Mary Calthorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at Flinders University

Associate Professor Simone Tur, George Wong, Mary Calthorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at Flinders University.

CTG PBS Co-payment changes positive

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients registered under the Close the Gap (CTG) Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Co-payment program will now have easier access to subsidised medicines. Changes that came into effect on 1 July 2021 mean eligible patients will have access regardless of their geographical location, their chronic disease status, or whether their prescriber is enrolled in the Practice Incentive Program.

Professor Peter O’Mara, Wiradjuri man and Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, welcomed the changes as a ‘positive step forward’. ‘Expanding access to Close the Gap scripts for all patients regardless of where they live, where they got the prescription from and their chronic disease status will make a real difference,’ he said. ‘It is much more straightforward and that can only be a good thing.’

A centralised patient registration database has been developed to support the changes. Managed by Services Australia, the database allows for a one-off registration of patients via Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) and will cover the patient even if they move to a different clinic.

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Prof Peter O’Mara standing at a lectern,

Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Prof Peter O’Mara, Welcomes the fact ‘the process has been made simpler and less centralised’. Image source: newsGP.

First Peoples Health camp for teens

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students experienced a taste of university life and learned about possible allied health careers at Griffith University’s First Peoples Health (FPH) Aspiration to Health Programs Camp. In all, 19 students from grades 10–12 attended the three-day immersive camp, hosted by FPH in partnership with The Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH).

FPH Engagement Lead Chris Levinge said the camp showed students how people from all backgrounds could succeed at university and specifically, in the health sector. “We want to encourage the students to study a health program, as the evidence is already there that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people delivering health services, get better health outcomes for First Peoples,” Mr Levinge said.

“The camp is a really good way to bring the kids in so they can feel comfortable in a university setting and see for themselves that anyone can study here. You just need to work hard and find what you are passionate about learning in the health space.” IUIH academy manager Tracy Hill said the students were already completing a school-based traineeship for a Certificate III in Allied Health Assistance.

To view the article in full click here.

National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap update

Cancer Australia has released the second Roadmap Construction Update on the development of the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap. The National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap will identify key priority areas for action over the next five years to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer. In focus for this update are the literature review, mapping of treatment and care against the Optimal Care Pathway, and the analysis of characteristics of people with pancreatic cancer activities.

You can visit and interact with an infographic here.

“NACCHO continues to engage with Cancer Australia and other stakeholders on the Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap. If you have specific feedback or comments you would like to share please contact NACCHO Medical Advisor Dr Kate Armstrong here.

banner text 'National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap - have your say about pancreatic cancer' purple footer, yellow, orange, blue, green top half

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via NACCHO’s communication platforms.

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 to the NACCHO website and once approved it will go live.dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

National Diabetes Week

This National Diabetes Week ‘it’s about time’ we all took the time. That means it’s about time we took the time to learn the 4Ts, the early warning signs of type 1 diabetes. It also means it’s about time we took the time to get checked for type 2 diabetes.

Life is busy. Work, family, friends, chores, a social life. The days fill up quickly. Sometimes we’re so busy running around after everyone else, we don’t take the time to think about our health.

For many Australians, putting themselves at the bottom of their ‘to do list’ puts their health at risk. This could include being diagnosed with diabetes too late. This is true for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Not making time for yourself, or time to learn the early warning signs, can put you at risk of major life-threatening health problems. Both types of diabetes are more common than you think.

Take the time. You’re important, your family is important and it’s really important, we don’t waste any more time. It’s about time.

Did you know diabetes…

  • Is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults?
  • Is a leading cause of kidney failure?
  • Is the leading cause of preventable limb amputations?
  • Increase a person’s risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times?

It’s about time you made ‘me time’, took time out and put you first. There is no time to lose. The earlier type 2 diabetes is detected,  the more lives will be saved.  

For more information on National Diabetes Week click here.

vector image in navy, blue & white of alarm clock & text 'diabetes australia'

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Nations communities on high COVID-19 alert

feature tile test 'First Nations communities on high COVID-19 alert' circle images or Pat Turner & Dawn Casey having covid-19 vaccine, Pat with orange Aboriginal art dot on one edge of circle & Dawn with blue dots

First Nations communities on high COVID alert

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner has an opinion editorial published in today’s The Sydney Morning Herald. The below is an excerpt from Pat Turner’s article.

‘The Granites gold mine COVID outbreak is a reminder that we continue to be one spark away from a COVID-19 wildfire in Australia’s Indigenous communities. We know that COVID hits the elderly and those with underlying health conditions hardest. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more likely to live with cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or cancer and almost one-quarter have two or more of these chronic conditions.

These COVID risks are compounded by where we live. One in eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live in overcrowded housing, which means COVID-19 could spread rapidly through our communities. And overcrowding poses real challenges for isolating suspected cases. Poor health outcomes and overcrowding are worse in remote settings, making the Granites mine outbreak all the more dangerous.

It has been because of the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our community controlled health organisations that our peoples have been relatively unscathed by COVID-19 to date, with 153 cases nationally and no deaths. We need governments to step up on the vaccine roll out to keep it this way.’

To view the full opinion editorial click here. Note the 173 cases mentioned in the article should be 153.

clinic setting with man in mask holding cotton ball to arm, health professional in mask to front of photo

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Earlier this morning Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO of NACCHO spoke with Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast. Fran Kelly introduced the interview saying “as the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 threatens to cause a national outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are on high alert, particularly in the NT and north Queensland. Lockdowns in the NT and now parts of Queensland, including the Aboriginal community of Palm Island, have highlighted the vulnerability of First Nations people as vaccination levels remain low.”

Dr Casey responded saying that ACCHOs are very worried however are on high alert and have been since March last year. You can listen to the interview here.

screen shot ABC RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly audio Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO being administered the COVID-19 vaccine at Winnunga ACT

Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO of NACCHO. Image source: ABC RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly website.

RACGP calls for nation-wide COVID-19 campaign

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is strengthening its calls for the federal Government to urgently ramp up a campaign to boost vaccine confidence in the community. The RACGP has previously stressed the importance of national targeted messaging and advertising for specific cohorts to clear up mixed messages and encourage more eligible people to get vaccinated. This is particularly important in the context of recent changes to AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility and patient concerns about vaccine safety.

To view the media release click here.

red stop sign, grey background & black chalk font writing 'COVID-19'

Image source: WA City of Swan website.

No-fault vaccine injury compensation

Today during the National Immunisation Conference held by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, confirmed the introduction of a no-fault Vaccine Injury Compensation Scheme (VICS) for COVID-19 vaccines administered in Australia, a move that is strongly welcome to assist in Australia’s COVID vaccine roll out and boost public trust in the program.

A no-fault vaccine injury compensation scheme compensates individuals who have a vaccine injury following the correct administration of a registered vaccine. It is considered a vital component of a strong immunisation program by public health experts. PHAA CEO Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin commented, ‘This is a very welcome announcement.”

To view the media release click here.

medical professional with mask & gloves, in scrubs, drawing COVID-19 vaccine

Image source: Sharp Health News website.

New Minister for Regional Health welcomed

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) warmly welcomes the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP as Minister for Regional Health, and extends its gratitude to the Hon Mark Coulton MP for his service in this portfolio. PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, welcomed Dr Gillespie back to the portfolio and thanked Minister Coulton for his exceptional service to regional Australia.

“PSA congratulates Dr Gillespie on his appointment as Minister for Regional Health. His past experience in the portfolio, and as a clinician, will help drive innovation in the portfolio. PSA looks forward to working with him to improve health care and health outcomes for people in regional Australia.”

To view the PSA’s media release click here.

Dr David Gillespie blue shirt, elbow on wooden fence post in paddock with white black cow in the background

Dr David Gillespie. Image source: Port Macquarie News.

CoP priority reform video animations

The Coalition of Peaks has announced that all four Priority Reforms video animations are complete and available for Coalition of Peaks members use and community engagement. All members are encouraged to use the animations to help build awareness and ownership for the National Agreement and the Priority Reforms. The animations are available on the Coalition of Peaks website under resources or by using the below links.

Priority Reform One – shared decision making partnerships

Priority Reform Two – building community controlled sector

Priority Reform Three – improving mainstream services

Priority Reform Four – ensuring access to relevant data

snapshot from CoP priority 1 shared decision making partnerships animation 6 Aboriginal people, 4 women, 2 men, 2 children (boy & girl; centre Aboriginal woman shaking hands with an offical; top right CoPs logo

Image source: CoPs website, Priority Reform One – shared decision making animation.

$12.9m for PHC research

$12.9 million is to be invested into seven new research projects around Australia to use data to improve health outcomes for Australian patients. Funded through the 2020 Primary Healthcare Research Data Infrastructure grants, a number of research institutions will receive funding to undertake projects that use new and existing data sets to improve access, quality, safety and efficiency of our primary health care (PHC) system.

As part of the program, the South Australian Health Medical Research Institute Ltd will receive around $2 million for its Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA) project, which aims to expand the existing platform to understand emerging issues and continue ground-breaking research on key, and currently unknown, residential aged care impacts. ROSA’s efficient model leverages existing information, bringing together diverse datasets collected by different organisations throughout the country, to provide a whole picture of the ageing pathway.

The research will use new data gathered on immunisation, rehabilitation and social welfare to further research and embed ROSA as the only national data solution for policy and practice change in residential aged care.

To view the full article click here.ROSA logo text 'ROSA' in dark blue' Aboriginal dot art 6 circles yellow, aqua, yellow linked to inner circle

Hearing Loss Responsive Communications Training

Up to 40% of Indigenous adults in urban areas and 60% in remote communities have some degree of hearing loss. In some specific populations it is higher and in prison inmates over 90%. 79% of those affected are not aware they have hearing loss. Early onset hearing loss means bigger life impacts and unknown hearing loss has more impacts.

Below is a video giving information on Hearing Loss Responsive Communications Training for health professionals:

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via NACCHO’s communication platforms.

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 to the NACCHO website and once approved it will go live.dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

SNAICC’s latest campaign National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day will be held on Sunday 4 August 2021.

Children’s Day is a time to for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children. It is an opportunity for all Australians to show their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, as well as learn about the crucial impact that culture, family and community play in the life of every child.

The Children’s Day 2021 theme, Proud in culture, strong in spirit, highlights the importance of supporting strong family and community connections to help children achieve strong spiritual and cultural wellbeing and to form proud cultural identities.

SNAICC has produced and will distribute 15,000 fun Children’s Day bags to communities across Australia to help local communities and organisations celebrate. These bags, containing resources and activities for preschool-age children, are now on sale at the usual price of $6 per bag. Each bag will contain the Children’s Day 2021 Activity Sheet which you can also download.

contents of SNAICC Children's Day 2021 4.8.21 activity bag

Contents of the SNAICC’s Children’s Day 2021 activity bag.

Through SNAICC’s social media, website and email communications, they will also support people with online resources and ideas on how to celebrate and acknowledge this year’s Children’s Day. SNAICC also encourages people to register their events to showcase here.

SNAICC would love you to get involved in their promotions as they build momentum for Children’s Day on 4 August!

poster of National ATSI Children's Day 'Proud in Culture, Strong in Spirit - 4 August 2021 - SNAIC logo & Children's Day logo #ProudInCulture, #StrongInSpirit - Aboriginal boy with ceremonial pain & lap lap,& feather headdress standing on sandstone rock against blue background

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Mabo Day

Feature tile - Thu 3.6.21 - Mabo Day.

Mabo Day

Today, 3 June is Mabo Day.

Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo was a Torres Strait Islander who believed Australian laws on land ownership were wrong and fought to change them. He was born in 1936 on Mer, which is also known as Murray Island, in the Torres Strait.

In 1982 a legal land ownership case was lodged with the High Court of Australia by a group of Meriam from the Eastern Torres Strait Islands, led by Eddie Mabo.

The Mabo decision was a legal case that ran for 10 years. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia decided that ‘terra nullius’ should not have been applied to Australia.

Sadly, Eddie Mabo passed away in January 1992, just five months before the High Court made its decision.

The Mabo decision was a turning point for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights because it acknowledged their unique connection with the land.

It also led to the Australian Parliament passing the Native Title Act in 1993.

For more information about Mabo Day visit the National Museum of Australia website here.

Eddie Mabo NACCHO graphic. Original photo by: Jim McEwan

Eddie Mabo NACCHO graphic. Original photo by: Jim McEwan.


Mandatory reporting of influenza vaccinations

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) wants to remind all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services about the importance of checking expiration dates of vaccines, disposing of out of date stock and reporting accurate data to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

It is mandatory under the Australian Immunisation Register Act 2015 for all vaccination providers to report all influenza vaccinations administered on or after 1 March 2021 to the AIR.

A recent incident reported by a General Practice, where some 2020 influenza stock was found among 2021
influenza stock, prompted the Australian Government Department of Health (the Department) to investigate a range of circumstances that may have led to this, including checking data reported to AIR.

This investigation concluded that there was no 2020 stock in state and territory vaccine warehouses, however there were a high number of vaccines, with 2020 influenza batch numbers, reported to the AIR as being administered this influenza season (2021).

We ask that you remind all staff to double check expiration dates of vaccines prior to administration, dispose of out of date stock appropriately and that you encourage all staff at your practice to double check the information being reported to the AIR is correct prior to submitting it to AIR.

A letter with a copy of the above information can be downloaded here.

Please download a fact sheet outlining the mandatory reporting obligations for vaccination providers, and helpful tips for reporting to the AIR here.


Women living remotely must travel for birth

Heavily pregnant women living in remote and regional areas across Australia are being forced to pack their bags and head to hospital to wait for the birth of their babies, far away from family, culture, community, and connection.

Women’s health experts say this experience is traumatic for expectant parents and expensive for governments, but that the answer is simple: open more culturally safe birthing centres outside of big cities.

Women who live outside of the four major birthing hubs in the NT (Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy) need to travel to the nearest hospital at 38 weeks to wait for their baby to be born. For most of these women, English is not their first language, and some don’t speak English at all. Most women travel alone and although they are offered a translator in hospital, one is not always available.

Charles Darwin University professor of midwifery Sue Kildea labelled Northern Territory Health’s remote birthing policy as “outrageous”.

“Why do they send women by themselves? We don’t even let them take their kids with them,” she said.

“It’s the one thing that we should be so ashamed of.”

Experts are calling for more regional birthing hubs to fill the gap.

Read full story by ABC News here.

Judy Mununggrruitj lives in Galiwin'ku, a remote community in East Arnhem Land.(ABC News: Emma Vincent).

Judy Mununggrruitj lives in Galiwin’ku, a remote community in East Arnhem Land.(ABC News: Emma Vincent).


Expanding birth centres to remote NT 5+ years away

Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles says the government is looking at returning birthing facilities to remote and regional locations, and hopes to do so within the next decade.

“It’s a huge step to take forward, but I think it’s an important step,” she said.

Ms Fyles said investing in birthing on country services was a “priority” and NT Health was working toward developing a Territory-specific birthing on country model.

But not everyone’s convinced returning birthing to remote locations is the way forward.

Worimi woman Marilyn Clarke is the chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Health Committee.

She said returning low-risk birth to remote communities could “be a bit tricky”, because if there was an unexpected complication, mother and baby were far away from emergency care.

Dr Clarke also said staffing remote hubs would be challenging and the NT had long-running issues recruiting and retaining health workers.

Instead, she said governments should invest in strong, Indigenous-led pre- and post-natal care in remote and regional locations.

You can read more about this story on ABC News here.

Remote NT. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Remote NT. Image source: Croakey Health Media.


Remote ENT service delivery model

The Rural and Remote Health journal has done a rapid literature review aimed to inform the development of a new sustainable, evidence-based service delivery model for ear, nose and throat (ENT) services across Cape York, Australia. This work seeks to investigate the research question ‘What are the characteristics of successful outreach services which can be applied to remote living Indigenous children?’

A comprehensive search of three major electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL and MEDLINE) and two websites (HealthInfo Net and Google Scholar) was conducted for peer-reviewed and grey literature, to elicit characteristics of ENT and hearing services in rural and remote Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. The search strategy was divided into four sections: outreach services for rural and remote communities; services for Indigenous children and families; telehealth service provision; and remote ear and hearing health service models. A narrative synthesis was used to summarise the key features of the identified service characteristics.

In total, 71 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review, which identified a number of success and sustainability traits, including employment of a dedicated ear and hearing educator; outreach nursing and audiology services; and telehealth access to ENT services. Ideally, outreach organisations should partner with local services that employ local Indigenous health workers to provide ongoing ear health services in community between outreach visits.

The evidence suggests that sound and sustainable ENT outreach models build on existing services; are tailored to local needs; promote cross-agency collaboration; use telehealth; and promote ongoing education of the local workforce.

View the full article here.

On Duty: Kelvin Kong treats a patient in Broome in 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak.

On Duty: Kelvin Kong treats a patient in Broome in 2015. Picture: Simone De Peak.


Soft drink ads hit ‘vulnerable’

What keeps consumers hooked on high sugar soft drink? Advertising, of course. But why are some consumers more adept at ignoring these cues than others?

A new study from Flinders University, has found participants with an automatic bias towards soft drinks – or difficulty resisting sweet drinks compared to non-sweetened control beverages (e.g., water) – are more responsive to the advertisements than those without these tendencies.

The Australian study compared the ability of 127 university-age students (18-25 year olds) to withstand or succumb to the urge to reach for a soft drink when viewing television advertisements.

Not only can regular soft drink consumption lead to weight gain and tooth decay, with a typical 375ml can of soft drink contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar, but so can these ’empty’ calories reduce intake of calcium, fibre and other nutrients in a healthy diet.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) research estimated 50-60% of adolescent and young people consume soft drink every day.

“The cognitive vulnerabilities exposed in our study is an important lesson to future possible regulation of television advertising or public health campaigns,” says co-author Amber Tuscharski.

“After all, their exposure to soft drink cues will continue as manufacturers and marketers advertise their products in multiple locations – from TV commercials to in-store, service stations, public transport and billboards.”

Read full article in Science Direct here.

Lead Researcher Flinders University Professor of Psychology Eva Kemps on fizzy drinks.

Lead Researcher Flinders University Professor of Psychology Eva Kemps on fizzy drinks.


Ways to support healthy foods in remote stores

Monash University invites you to join in their HEALTHY STORiES = GOOD FOOD inaugural event to share remote community stores and takeaway advances through film for improved health. This live online series features stories from remote communities and leaders on ways to support healthy foods in remote community stores.

HEALTHY STORiES = GOOD FOOD addresses the issue of food security and aims to foster critical discussion towards health-enabling stores. It is a celebration and sharing of initiatives, whilst acknowledging barriers and having a focus on a food secure future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote communities.

Please share with other remote store owners, community leaders and members, government policy-makers, health workers, academics, and practitioners who have a passion for thriving and healthy community stores. 

You can download the event poster here.

The event themes and scheduled times are:

3 June (11:30am – 12:30pm AEDT) Webinar 1: Remote Stores: Healthy Takeaways I Employment opportunities
15 June (12:30 – 1:30pm AEDT) Webinar 2: Food supply, delivery, local food economies
16 June (12:30 – 1:30pm AEDT) Webinar 3: Food affordability and pricing for healthy food
17 June (12:30 – 1:30pm AEDT) Webinar 4: The 4P’s of marketing for healthy food in stores

Facilitator of the online series:
Ms Nicole Turner, Indigenous Allied Health Australia & NSW Rural Doctors Network

Please submit any questions to coordinator:

FREE registration here.

Food Dreaming by Jarrod Stain, Gamilaroi Artist

Food Dreaming by Jarrod Stain, Gamilaroi Artist.


BRAMS – May Newsletter

After a busy start to the year, Easter provided Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service’s (BRAMS) staff with the opportunity to take a break and refresh. BRAMS continues to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to the local community, and more than 150 patients have received the jab so far, with no side effects being reported. We strongly encourage all our patients to come into the clinic to discuss their vaccine, particularly if you have concerns or questions.

We are excited to announce yet another expansion of our disability services, through a supported mobile playgroup program for children aged 0-14.

We have also commenced the recruitment process for our Chronic Disease Program, and we look forward to updating you in our next newsletter on the newest members of the team.

Finally, look out for us on your TV screens – we recently filmed our first television advertisement, and can’t wait to see the final product. A big thank you to all staff and patients who took part in the filming.

Please view the latest edition of the BRAMS newsletter here.


BRAMS Newsletter – May 2021.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference

feature tile text 'Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media National Conference CONVERGE', image of Pat at lecture at conference with screen in background with words 'Coalition of Peaks Update from Pat Turner'

Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference

At the national CONVERGE Conference in Lismore organised by First Nations Media, Pat Turner Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO provided an update on the Coalition of Peaks work, and progress on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. You can access a transcript of Pat’s speech here.banner First Nations Media Australia logo map of Australia with Aboriginal painting dots aqua, black, ochre, dark yellow; First Nations Media National Conference CONVERGE Lismore 4 - 7 May in dark aqua, 4 dots orange, ochre, aqua, moss green

NDIS reforms will discriminate against Mob

John Gilroy, ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development, University of Sydney says although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the greatest human services reform in Australia’s history, and holds great promise in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, the federal government’s proposed “independent assessments” aren’t the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.

“I’m a Koori bloke from the Yuin Nation who lives with disability and has a research career spanning nearly 20 years. The biggest problem I have with the proposed framework is that it’s disrespectful and discriminatory towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rather than designing another layer of bureaucracy, I recommend the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) invests more resources into building and up-skilling the current NDIS planning workforce and the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector.”

To read the full article click here.

wheelchair sitting in a field at sunset

Image source: The Conversation.

Health leaders urge action on climate crisis

Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.

The letter says ‘write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government. Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.’ The letter calls on the Australian government to:

  • Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement
  • Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit
  •  Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine members march in nipaluna/Hobart in 2019, man is holding a sign with text 'Emergency Doctors diagnose Climate Emergency'

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has signed the open letter. Here its members march in nipaluna/Hobart in 2019. Photo: Amy Coopes. Image source: Croakey.

New Simon Says ear health booklet

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) has released Volume 3 of its Simon Says Ear Health series. This publication specifically looks at Swimmers Ear, what it is and how to prevent and treat it.

To view the booklet click here.ront of Aboriginal Health Council of WA Ear Health Simon Says booklet, title 'It's Summer Time!' cartoon drawing of Aboriginal family in a car with dog & roof piled with camping gear

NT budget and youth reforms flawed

AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service have issued a joint media release saying ‘The NT Government’s budget is framed in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of Territorians, hideously expensive and unlikely to be effective. It bolsters resources to allow the policing and surveillance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reduces funding where it is actually needed, in providing effective solutions when dealing with complex issues, like youth justice. The Government is moving to bring damaging and non-evidenced based youth reforms to parliament.

CEO of Danila Dilba Olga Havnen said “More prisons and jailing more people does not work. Even the USA has moved away from locking people up. It is costly and does not work. It is time for the Government and Opposition to listen to the advice at hand and look at alternative options that work.”

CEO of AMSANT John Patterson agreed “the proposed [NT Government] youth reform changes will likely lead to a surge in reoffending and offer nothing more than a path to jail. The complex health needs of our youth need to be taken into consideration. These reforms are not in the best interests of our youth or in the best interests of the Territory.”

“We call on the Government to reconsider the proposed youth reforms and talk to us. Punitive legislation does not rehabilitate young offenders or keep communities safe. We know the tough-on-crime approach only facilitates more crime and disadvantage for our community. It is time the NT government responded humanely and responsibly by addressing the real causes of youth offending and investing in these evidence-based approaches.”

To view the joint AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service media release click here.

AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service also joined CAAC, AMA NT Inc, The Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the AMA in an open letter to the NT Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing outlining concerns over the NT government’s proposed youth justice reforms.

To view the open letter click here.

The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has also condemned the NT Government’s youth justice reforms. NTCOSS CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said incarcerating more children will not reduce crime. “This legislation will reduce access to diversion programs and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction. It does not break the cycle of crime. It entrenches it.”

To view the NTCOSS media release in full click here.

rear view of 2 Aboriginal children on swings

Image from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report. Image source: Croakey.

Indigenous workforce needs better support

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is surveying its members on the impact of COVID-19 on their education, training and professional practice. Its findings to date hold important lessons for educators, employers and governments on how they can better support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and, ultimately, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, particularly in times of disruption and public health emergencies.

To view the full Croakey article click here.

Megan McIntosh & Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela & Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service office

Megan McIntosh and Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela and Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service’s offices. Image source: The Inverell Times.

AOD research – treatment, services, prevention

A number of papers and reports relating to alcohol and other drugs have recently been released.

The University of Sydney released a paper Alcohol consumption and dependence is linked to the extent that people experience need satisfaction while drinking alcohol in two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which argues that due to systematic disadvantage and inter-generational trauma, Indigenous Australians may be less likely to have satisfied basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). When people are need-thwarted, they may engage in compensatory behaviours to feel better in the short-term. Better understanding the functions that alcohol may play for some Indigenous Australian drinkers may aid communities, clinicians, and policy makers in improving programs for reducing drinking-related harms.

To view the paper in full click here.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: key findings, click here, and Patterns of intensive alcohol and other drug treatment service use in Australia 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, click here.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has also released a report Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, click here.

Aboriginal man painting at The Glen

The Glen Art program participant. Image source: The Glen website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: 107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines – Pat Turner

107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum

Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.

“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.

“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.

“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.

“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.

“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.

“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.

“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.

“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.

“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”

Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.

National Close the Gap Day 2021

“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.

“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.

“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

To watch the full episode of ABC The Drum click here.

General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout

More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.

Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program. This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.

Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.

This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.

Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.

This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.

To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.

ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine

Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.

The benefits far outweigh any unfounded links.

Read the ATAGI statement here.

gloved hand administering vaccine to upper arm

Image: SBS website.

Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?

The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?

The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.

Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.

To read the full article in the Conversation click here.

Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities

Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).

To view the journal articles click here.

Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation

This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.

To view the information click here.

medical tray of COVID-19 vaccine syringes

Image source: Surf Coast Times.

National Anti-Racism Framework plan launched

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.

The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.

To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework click here.

Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief

Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.

The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.

The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.

Read the Close the Gap policy brief here.

Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for FASD

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.

Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.

The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.

Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.

To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.

Aboriginal woman holding pregnant belly with hand on top and hand below

Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.

Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.

Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Read the full article here.

Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong

COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia

Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.

Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.

Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosby told ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.

“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.

Read the full story released in Croakey here.

safe effective free vaccines Department of Health banner orange tick in white circle, blue background, circles with vector image of different people's heads, text ' safe effective free

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Do you work with or employ AHWs or AHPs?

Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians.  The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.

Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners.  We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.

Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated.  The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.

Please click the link to the survey to get started here.


Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA 

The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.

‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.

‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.

‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.

‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.

AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.

Aboriginal painting by Adam Hill white hand reaching down to middle of page with words Close the Gap and black hand reaching up to the words

Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.

First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination

Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.

Read the full media release by Australian National University here.

vector image of microscope over female reproductive organs

Image source: MedPage Today website.

Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA

The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.

On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
by 2032.

The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.

“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.

“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.

Read the AMA media release here.

Images: mivision The Opthalmic Journal website and AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid.