NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

The image in the feature tile is of Palm Island cemetery. Image source: ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island, Wednesday 21 September 2022.

Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

People on Palm Island cannot find room to bury their loved ones as increased deaths from suicide and chronic disease prematurely fill the island’s cemetery. Authorities are concerned people on the remote island in north Queensland missed out on essential care when healthcare workers were diverted to the COVID effort.

Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam said it led to a rise in preventable deaths in the Indigenous community of roughly 3,000 people. “I have one of the busiest cemeteries in this nation,” he said. “Having at least 50 funerals a year, those kinds of stats are unheard of in communities of a similar size.” Mr Sam said there had been a funeral on the island near Townsville almost every week for the past two years. “When you’re constantly lining up and paying your respects, it’s taking a toll,” he said.

Like many Indigenous communities, residents on Palm Island are more than two-and-a-half times more susceptible to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. NACCHO senior medical advisor Jason Agostino said treatment was made harder due to severe health staff shortages. “If it’s harder to get an appointment and it’s more difficult to see people that know you … then managing your chronic disease becomes more complicated,” Dr Agostino said. “So what we’re concerned about is people won’t have chronic health concerns picked up earlier and they might have them picked up later when they’re already a bit sick.”

To view the ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island in full click here.

Gavin Congoo says the frequency of funerals on Palm Island is taking a toll on the community. Photo: Jade Toomey. ABC News.

Jalngangurru Healing in Kimberleys

On the banks of the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley’s central desert, a group of women gather. They run their hands over the knee of a patient and sing an ancient song. Their meeting is part of a program called Jalngangurru Healing — a pilot project that works with cultural healers to treat patients in the outback Kimberley. The women’s practices are slow and meditative, and among the people of Fitzroy Crossing are said to be effective.

Jalngangurru Healing was developed in 2019, and was aimed at engaging cultural healers to help patients who were complaining of ailments beyond the reach of other health providers. While some families in the Kimberley have their own private access to traditional healers, Jalngangurru tries to “bridge the gap” for those who don’t. The project was put on pause during the COVID pandemic but has recently returned in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing.

Work is also underway to develop a model on how the program can be rolled out across the Kimberley. The pilot is funded by the WA Primary Health Service and is supported by the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service as a part of its suicide prevention strategy. It is auspiced by the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre with Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation and is being evaluated by the Nulungu Research Institute to improve access to services like bush medicine, songs, smoking, maternal health, and palliative care.

To view the ABC News article Jalngangurru Healing links cultural healers with patients in outback Kimberley in full click here.

The women tend to aches and pains, as well as mental illlness. Photo: Andrew Seabourne. ABC Kimberley.

Gel to improve chronic would care

The pigment that gives plums, grapes and berries their deep purple hue could be a key to better health care for people living in remote Australia. That’s the focus of University of Southern Queensland student Dinuki Seneviratne’s PhD project, which involves developing gel wound dressings using the anthocyanin pigment. Ms Seneviratne is investigating using anthocyanins as pH indicators, meaning the dressings would change colour to show whether a wound is healing or deteriorating.

She said the project aims to create better chronic wound care for people in remote areas, particularly Indigenous Australians, who may live far from health services. Several Australian studies have shown First Nations people are more likely to have amputations after suffering diabetes-related chronic wounds than those who are non-Indigenous. “Chronic wound care is an area of great concern when it comes to First Nations’ health,” Ms Seneviratne told AAP. “People often can’t achieve the same type of care they would get in a metropolitan area. I want to make a hydrogel dressing that is effective in healing and preventing chronic wounds and is self-applicable, so there’s no worry about coming into a clinic.”

To view the Bendigo Advertiser article Purple patch to help remote health care in full click here.

Uni student Dinuki Seneviratne wants to improve chronic wound care for people in remote areas. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Our Vision in Our Hands

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit at University of Melbourne refreshed its Advistory Board this year to have majority Indigenous membership chaired by the esteemed human rights leader Pat Anderson AO, who is an Alyawarre woman. It is one step in a move towards Indigenous leadership throughout the organisation. Another significant shift saw the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group that led the organisation and development of the 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference.

This year’s conference saw a significant shift, with the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group (CLG). This transition should be seen in the wider context of the long, ongoing journey to expand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and self-determination into eye care. This shift in leadership is strongly reflected in this year’s theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, set by the CLG, which represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and ownership of eye health.

This year’s theme is significant as it shows in clear and plain terms the centrality of self-determination to any effort to improve eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Moreover, this year’s theme is written from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective for the first time, which also indicates the internal shift in the leadership of the conference, to the all-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CLG.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Our Vision in Our Hands: eye health conference highlights shift to First Nations leadership in full click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to suffer blindness than the general population. Image source: The Senior.

Mob invited to speak about medicines

NPS MedicineWise are inviting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to speak about medicines. This will inform the MedicineInsight system and tools that doctors and some ACCHOs can use to improve medicines use.

NPS would like to invite you to help them know what they need for these tools. Once they have made some new tools, they would like to ask you whether they should change them. This will mean online meetings to talk about what they should do. These meetings will happen between September and November.

Your comments will help improve the tools and ensure that they reflect the point of view of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The resources will be used for MedicineInsight and published online.

For attending the meetings NPS can give you a gift voucher of $50 per meeting, up to $200.

To express your interest in taking part in this project contact Shannon Barnes, MedicineInsight Program Governance Officer, using this email link.

You can find out more about MedicineInsight by clicking here and here.

Image source: The Senior.

Scholarships for women in health sector

Women & Leadership Australia is dedicated to supporting women leaders to achieve their leadership potential, and they are pleased to be able to offer scholarships of up to $5,000 for women working in the Health Sector. When it comes to career advancement, for many women, gender inequity is still a barrier. More than 8 in 10 of women leaders surveyed by Women & Leadership Australia were concerned about dealing with gender bias in the workplace, and more than 7 in 10 were concerned about their limited opportunities for promotion.

By supporting more women to step into leadership positions, Women & Leadership Australia hope to improve opportunities for women in the workplace. They have programs designed for women with limited leadership experience through to executive leaders and scholarships are available across four key levels.

You can access more information about the scholarship here and APPLY for a scholarship here.

Participants in Indigenous leadership course ACU. Image source: ACU website.

National Birthing on Country Conference

The Best Start To Life: a national gathering is an initiative of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. First Nations women, community advocates, scholars, researchers, health service providers and clinicians will attend the conference from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 October 2022 to reflect on the achievements and challenges of returning maternity and childbirth services to First Nations communities.

It follows on from the first Birthing on Country meeting, held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) 10 years ago, where the Australian Maternity Services Inter-jurisdictional Committee, in collaboration with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), held the first national workshop to progress Australian Government commitment to Birthing on Country.

The conference provides an opportunity for delegates from across Australia to showcase new research and ideas, and to network and invest in a shared vision to address inequities in birthing services for First Nations mothers and babies.

For more information about the conference click here.

Image from the Best Start to Life: a national gathering website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Alzheimer’s Day

Today is World Alzheimer’s day.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs memory and other mental function. It is the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities causing difficulties with daily life. Raising awareness for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families is an important part of the work done by Alzheimer’s charities all over the world.

You can access Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Dementia: A Review of the Research – A Report for Alzheimer’s Australia, Paper 41 October 2014, by Professor Leon Flicker and Kristen Holdsworth here.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease click here. and for more information about world Alzheimer’s Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: How poor housing affects health

The image in the feature tile is of Shannon Urban is camping in a derelict building with no power and water connected while he waits for new houses to be built. Photo: Che Chorley. Image source: ABC News article Feeling again forgotten at a federal election, remote voters lament empty promises to close the gap, 5 May 2022.

How poor housing affects health

The housing crisis is currently a hot-button issue making headlines Australia-wide. But it’s been endemic in Central Australia for decades. A chronic shortage of available housing in remote Indigenous communities has significant consequences, with unintended household crowding ultimately contributing to the poor health of residents.

University of Queensland anthropologist and architect Professor Paul Memmott has been visiting the Barkly region in the centre of the NT for decades. He’s part of a multi-disciplinary team of five UQ researchers who collaborated with local medical service, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, to examine the link between housing and health for Indigenous people living on remote Country. The resulting study, Pilyii Papulu Purrakaj-ji (Good housing to prevent sickness), won a UQ Research Partnerships and Translation Award (RPAT) on Friday (16 September 2022) last week.

“We co-designed a research project to investigate the relationship between housing, crowding and infectious diseases,” Professor Memmott said. “But importantly, it also collated an evidence base to advocate for change.”

To view The University of Queensland Australia article How housing affects health on remote Country click here.

Tin houses on the outskirts of Tennant Creek, NT, that are used informally as spillover accommodation. Image source: The University of Queensland Australia UQ News webpage.

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

A breakthrough treatment for tuberculosis and ways to prevent dementia were unveiled last week at the Cairns Hospital annual research and innovation symposium. The annual event featured more than 40 presentations from the Far North Queensland medical and allied health research community. The symposium heard about research into harnessing the power of immune cells for treating tuberculosis (TB), one of the world’s deadliest diseases, causing more than 1.5 million deaths a year.

Doctor Saparna Pai, from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University, said his team had discovered immune cells called Q+ cells, which could help fight TB. TB risk is low in Queensland, but it’s frequently reported in Papua New Guinea and health authorities are concerned about potential spread through Torres Strait to mainland Australia.

To view the Tropic Now article Far North research to treat tuberculosis and prevent dementia click here. Note, a more detailed article on preventing dementia was published in the in the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander News on 16 September 2022 , available here.

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

Over 200 Aboriginal women have convened on Eastern Arrernte Country to finalise a 4 year effort in designing an NT wide network aimed at supporting each other in the face of urgent issues impacting their communities. The Strong Women for Healthy Country (SWHC) Forum takes place this week at Ross River where women caring for Country across the NT will continue driving the network.

The forum has once again drawn hundreds of women to make the journey from over 30 remote towns and communities, to continue to build a strategy to realise their vision. “We are strong Indigenous women of the NT. We stand united as one strong voice. We commit to a network that gives equal power to the rights of all our women. Strong Women means Healthy Country.” (SWHC Vision Statement). The Strong Women for Healthy Country Network, with the support of Mimal Land Management, was initiated by women involved in ranger programs, who quickly invited Aboriginal healers, artists, and community workers to join the conversation.

To view the SWHC Network media release NT’s First Nations women take their futures into their own hands in full click here.

2021 Strong Women for Healthy Country Forum. Image source: Indigenous Carbon Industry Network website.

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

A research article Roadmap to incorporating group A Streptococcus molecular point‐of‐care testing for remote Australia: a key activity to eliminate rheumatic heart disease (RHD) has been published today in the Medical Journal of Australia. Strep A Point Of Care Testing (POCT) is a critical element in preventing acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and will contribute to the elimination of RHD in Australia.

Group A β‐haemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep A) most commonly causes superficial infections of the throat (pharyngitis) and skin (impetigo). In Australia, one‐third of primary school aged children have an episode of pharyngitis each year, with Strep A identified in about 20% of children with symptomatic pharyngitis and 10% of asymptomatic children. Superficial Strep A infections are the sole precursor of ARF and RHD. The burden of ARF and RHD in remote Australian communities is high and disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the reported mortality rates of RHD in Aboriginal populations are among the highest worldwide. This is despite ARF and RHD being preventable through the early treatment of Strep A. I

Given the increasing pipeline of POCT and momentum to expand decentralised testing across Australia, evaluations are urgently needed to determine the population benefits, health service impacts and costs associated with integrated multi‐pathogen POCT. These will ensure that adequate frameworks including workforce planning and funding models are in place to support further scale up. The infrastructure, rationale and need for Strep A molecular POCT in remote Australia, where prevention of ARF has the highest economic and societal benefit, is crucial.

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

New research shows that people released from prison who sought help for their mental health or substance use problems were more likely to end up back in prison, prompting calls for an overhaul of the system to allow quicker and more consistent support. The study, published in the Journal PLOS ONE, examined the link between contact with mental health and substance use treatment services and reincarceration rates among 1,115 adults released from prisons in Queensland, Australia.

Lead researcher Professor Stuart Kinner, from the Curtin School of Population Health, said despite widespread belief that access to substance use treatment and community mental health services after release from prison can reduce reincarceration rates, this study actually found the opposite. “Globally, more than 11 million people are incarcerated on any given day, and many of these individuals experience significant mental health and substance use issues. In our study, we found that more than half of the people released from prison had been diagnosed with a mental illness or a substance use disorder, and 21% had been diagnosed with both,” Professor Kinner said.

“In Australia, more than 60,000 people are released from prison each year and the incarceration rate is increasing rapidly. Almost one in two people released from prison is back in custody within two years. “Although you might expect that treating substance use and mental health issues would result in better outcomes, our study found that people who accessed these services after release from prison were actually more likely to be reincarcerated.”

To view the Curtin University article Inadequate post-release support drives up reincarceration rates: study click here.

Photo: Jono Searle, AAP. Image source: The West Australian.

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

Over five years, $5.6 million will be invested to support the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program which provide training courses and professional development opportunities for Aboriginal people who wish to work in the mental health sector. The state government said the program provided more than a dozen scholarships for students attending RMIT and Deakin Universities in semester one this year. “A mental health and wellbeing system that provides culturally safe and inclusive care ensures the best possible support for every Victorian with mental illness,” mental health and treaty and first peoples minister Gabrielle Williams said.

“Our dedicated mental health workers are the backbone of our reformed mental health system – supporting them through study and work is the best way to support every Victorian that needs help.” The program also allows our mental health services to learn from trainees about Aboriginal culture and gain knowledge and perspective, so they can develop more holistic and well-informed supports and care programs for all Victorians.

To view the Star Weekly article Funding for Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program in full click here.

Aboriginal Health Practitioner Stevie-Lee Ryan with a client. Photo: Justin McManus. Image source: The Age.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

Dementia impacts close to half a million Australians and almost 1.6 million Australians are involved in their care. The number of people living with dementia is set to double in the next 25 years. With so many people impacted now and into the future, it is vital we clear up some of the prevailing misconceptions about dementia. People living with dementia can live active and fulfilling lives many years after diagnosis. Despite this, they often experience discrimination. In a Dementia Australia survey, more than 70% of people believed discrimination towards people with dementia is common or very common.

The concept for Dementia Action Week was developed in consultation with Dementia Advocates, who have a lived experience of dementia. The ‘A little support makes a big difference‘ campaign demonstrates that many people living with dementia can continue to live well for many years after their diagnosis. In 2021, the focus was also on supporting and celebrating carers of people living with dementia.

Dementia Australia has a range of resources for: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, available here, Aboriginal workers, available here, and Aboriginal health workers, available here.

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

The image in the feature tile is of the entrance to Doomadgee’s hospital emergency department. The photo is from an NCA NewsWire article Teenager given ‘shut-up pill’ before death, 7 March 2022.

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

Speaking earlier this week at the the inquest of three young Indigenous women from Doomadgee who died with rheumatic heart disease between 2019–2020, Queensland health chief operating officer David Rosengren told the Queensland coroner health service in the town was too complicated. Gidgee operates branches across Queensland’s north-west and works with Doomadgee Hospital and the State’s health service, which the inquest heard could confuse patients on where to go for help. Earlier this week former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman said she faced significant barriers during her time in Doomadgee.

The coroner heard those roadblocks included gaining ACCHO accreditation, recruiting, securing premises for operation and a fractured relationship with the local state hospital. Similar concerns had been echoed by witnesses during the week. The court heard difficulties obtaining medical notes between services complicated the treatment of one of the women at the centre of the inquest in the months leading up to her death.

Ms Blackman’s said Gidgee used a seperate platform for lodging patient records to the state hospital leading to constraints accessing information. The court heard a laptop was provided to the hospital for access to Gidgee’s notes when needed. But evidence presented to the coroner suggested there was a strained relationship between the two providers which may have affected collaboration. Ms Blackman said without a positive relationship people “will fall through the cracks”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Ex-health boss backs inquest calls to overhaul fractured QLD Aboriginal health service delivery in full click here.

Former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

A team from NACCHO had an awesome time last week in Darwin for the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference 2022 (NATSIEH). The team hosted an Aboriginal-led workshop to identify longstanding issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environmental health and new solutions through Closing the Gap.

This marked the beginning of NACCHO’s consultation for a National Strategic Roadmap on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Environmental Health Workforce with the NACCHO team excited to continue working closely with experts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health sector.

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

NACCHO presentation at 13th NATSIEH Conference in Darwin, 5-8 September 2022.

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

NACCHO held a meeting in Darwin last week with the first group of ACCHOs receiving funding through their new RHD program. This was a great opportunity to come together to discuss the program and hear from the participating ACCHOs and all the awesome work they are doing in community.

Organisations that attended included:

  • Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS)
  • Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation

as well the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) and Gurriny Yealamucka (Good Healing) Health Services Aboriginal Corporation who  as joined the meeting online.

ACCHO representatives who met with NACCHO staff in Darwin to discuss their participation in an RHD program.

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness, but a lack of funding, affordable housing and crisis accommodation remain bigger problems, a new report has found. Research by the University of SAhas revealed the homelessness rate for Aboriginal Australians is 10 times that of other people.

It found that dispossession of land, racism, profound economic disadvantage and cultural oppression continue to shape the lived experience of many Indigenous communities. And it identified poor literacy, education, criminal histories, domestic violence and lack of sustained tenancies as leading to a “revolving door” of homelessness among Aboriginal people in cities.

“Homelessness among Indigenous people arises from a clustering of vulnerabilities that easily spiral out of control,” the authors said in the report, commissioned by the Australian Housing and Urban Institute.

To view the Inverell Times article Funding call for Aboriginal housing in full click here.

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP . Image source: The Inverell Times.

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

During a visit to Broken Hill on 14 September 2022, the President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat said the remote area needs an alternative approach to making its community safer. She told ABC local radio “I was keen to get out here and particularly to some of the other regions that are further away from Sydney to just see what is going on and to really listen to some of the practitioners … to see what they’re facing in terms of their daily practice.”

Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows rates across multiple offence categories in Broken Hill sit at two and three times the state average. “With illicit-drug offences in Broken Hill in the year to March 2022 at about double the state average, and bail breaches at almost three times the average NSW rate, it’s clear that current approaches are not working,” van der Plaat said.

President of the Far West Law Society Eric Craney said establishing health and culturally safe treatment services for drug and alcohol use in Broken Hill would be a major step in helping to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. “Additionally, the Government should extend the Dubbo Aboriginal Bail Pilot across regional areas including Broken Hill, to reduce the incidents of technical bail breaches that cause no safety risk to the community, but that can result in unnecessary incarceration of vulnerable defendants,” Mr Craney said.

To view the NSW Law Society Journal online article Calls for better drug treatment and rehabilitation in NSW’s far west in full click here.

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

More than half of Indigenous dementia cases in far north Queensland could be prevented after scientists identified a series of risk factors linked to the condition. The James Cook University study found 11 risk factors contribute to up to 52% of dementia cases in its sample population. “Dementia is an emerging health issue among Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal peoples in Far North Queensland,” lead researcher Fintan Thompson said.

“We thought it likely that historically recent exposure to modifiable risk factors was contributing, and that a large proportion of dementia could potentially be reduced or delayed.” Analysing health data from more than 370 First Nations people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula, the research team identified risk factors that could be modified. “The most important dementia risk factors are already public health priorities in this population. Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were important contributors, which is somewhat similar to other populations,” the report said.

The study suggests rates of dementia could decline if these risk factors were reduced at a population level. The study also shows dementia risks in the Torres Strait region may be comparatively less certain. “Risks, such as social isolation and heavy alcohol consumption, contributed less to dementia in the Torres Strait region, which is great news,” Mr Thompson said.

To view the Pilbara News article Scope to lessen Indigenous dementia: study in full click here.

A study has found more than half of dementia cases in the Torres Strait region could be avoidable. Photo: Tracey Nearmy, AAP. Image source: Perth Now.

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

Three young people are taking on the Queensland government with a legal case claiming their human rights were breached when they were locked up in police watch houses. An anti-discrimination and human rights legal challenge is currently before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

The police cells are meant for some of the state’s worst criminals, including adults accused of murder or sexual abuse. Katie Acheson, the outgoing CEO of the Youth Advocacy Centre, believes the case will shine a light on the practice which she believes should end. “It should be a wake-up to the Queensland government and the Queensland population,” she said. “I think many of us don’t realise that there are children right now in an adult watch house. “They’re scared and alone and they’re children and we have a responsibility to take care of them and not be further traumatising them.”

One organisation is trying to keep kids out of custody. Five nights a week the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane outreach team, lead by Pita Taimani, head to areas where at-risk young people like to hang out. They check on their safety and offer them a lift home before there’s any trouble. “We see that there’s a need to support young people that are in the CBD, where they’re not in the eyes of the police, not getting into the watch house,” Pita Taimani said. Mr Taimani’s team also offers crucial support to young people, like access to health care and vocational education.

To view the ABC News article Young people taking legal action against Queensland government after being held in watch houses in full click here.

Pita Taimani’s outreach team is focused on keeping at-risk youth out of police custody. Photo: Michael Atkin, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Including and sharing with mob essential

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks Pat Turner AM. Image source: Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) Facebook page, 1 April 2021.

Including and sharing with mob essential

Earlier this week NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks Pat Turner AM delivered a keynote address – Including and Sharing with Us: The only way forward – at the Voices for the Bush Conference 2022. Ms Turner shared some reflections on key policy opportunities and ideas about ways of working together for the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, saying “As specified in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, responsible decisions at every level must be made in partnership. At this conference, I encourage you to glean best practice and commit to change. Expand your discussions with a positive acknowledgement of community control, and the rights we have as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to shape our own destiny, to partner with you as equals in innovation, technology and service delivery.”

“In the twenty-first century, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not asking for anything more than what mainstream Australians already take for granted. We seek re-entry into knowledge from which we have been structurally excluded. We deserve to make decisions in partnership about policies and programs directly affecting us. We don’t need rescuing. We don’t need another thought bubble dreamt up by people who don’t know us and who don’t partner with us.”

“We WILL get better health by improving housing, water quality, water quantity and environmental health programs. BUT these improvements require a significant shift in how decisions are made, how policies are funded and how programs are designed. Australia’s Gross Domestic Product puts us in the top 10% of all the world’s countries. We have the economic and financial resources to do this. We can close this gap.”

You can read Pat Turner’s keynote address Including and Sharing with Us: The only way forward in full here.

Image source: Australian Communications Consumer Action Network website.

Systemic racism in prisoner healthcare

The death of a 19-year-old Aboriginal man in a West Kimberley prison has been labelled “preventable” by the West Australian Coroner. Miriuwung and Gajerrong man Mr Yeeda died from a heart attack at Derby Regional Prison on 3 May 3 2018. Mr Yeeda had rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and was overdue to see a cardiologist for assessment prior to his sentence beginning in 2017. However, the referral from the Prison Medical Officer didn’t progress to an appointment. If Mr Yeeda had seen a cardiologist, it’s believed he would have received urgent cardiac surgery to replace his aortic valve, a surgery the coroner found could have been lifesaving.

The Principal Solicitor and Director of the National Justice Project George Newhouse, who is representing the family of Mr Yeeda, said the coroner had failed to address the contribution of systemic racism in his death. “The coroner has failed to address the systemic racism in WA’s justice and healthcare systems which led to Mr Yeeda’s death,” he said. “Unless culturally-appropriate healthcare delivered by Aboriginal medical services is provided to prisoners, we will see more needless deaths like that of Mr Yeeda.”

To read the SBS NITV article WA Coroner finds Mr Yeeda’s death in custody ‘preventable’ in full click here.

Miriuwung and Gajerrong man, Mr Yeeda. (Photo approved and supplied by Mr Yeeda’s family.)
Image source: SBS NITV website.

Mob with disability face racial-ableism

In an article published in The Conversation earlier this week, John Gilroy, an ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development at the University of Sydney said, “the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has not properly focused on the ideological foundations of the NDIS for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities. Instead, government has been heavily focused on actuarial studies of the “market” to ascertain where disability service gaps exist in these regions.”

“The NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme] is a model that attempts to blend the “for profit” values of the business sector with the “not for profit” values of the charity sector. Business profits are only achieved where there exists a “supply” and “demand”. Reports have repeatedly shown the NDIS has not yet fairly benefited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote, rural, and regional communities because the absence of local services. This is because there is no “business market” compared to the metropolitan regions and can be seen in provider shrinkage in areas such as East Arnhem land. This is geographic discrimination and racial-ablism.”

“All of the money spent on the Royal Commission should have been spent on grounded community initiatives under the NDIS in regional, rural, and remote communities. These could have included advocacy programs, secondary and tertiary education programs, long-term government service funding agreements, training of NDIA and allied health staff, Aboriginal employment in the NDIA, and Aboriginal-owned and operated disability support programs. It is not time for another inquiry and another report. It’s time for action.”

To view The Conversation article Indigenous people with disabilities face racism and ableism. What’s needed is action not another report (which includes the video below) in full click here.

Palliative care kits for on Country care

Culturally-appropriate palliative care kits will be rolled out across Australia to help Indigenous families care for their dying loved ones on Country. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from remote, rural and urban areas will be more able to die at home while maintaining a connection to their community. “First Nations people’s culture involves complex social structures with strong links to their homeland,” Professor Liz Reymond, director of Caring@home, said yesterday.

“Most Indigenous Australians tell us they would prefer to finish up on Country in their local culture with those they love. This kit will help them realise this outcome with more access to symptom control.” Reymond said it would also allow dying people to be with their mourning families during end-of-life care, instead of in a hospital, often 100s of kms away.  The Palliative Care Clinic Box contains information packs for medical professionals, and a training video to teach carers how to safely give pain relief medicines.

To read the Aged Care News article Indigenous palliative care kits to be distributed for on Country care in full click here.

Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet.

Increased stroke awareness needed

The Stroke Foundation is calling for increased stroke awareness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to bridge the divide in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. As part of National Stroke Week (8–14 August 2022), Stroke Foundation is highlighting the inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples who are impacted by stroke. Stroke Foundation CEO Sharon McGowan said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are twice as likely to be hospitalised from stroke and 1.3 times more likely to die.

“The statistics are quite shocking when it comes to stroke in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and that’s why we need to share them in order to make a change,” Ms McGowan said. “Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in Indigenous Australia, and the burden of disease for stroke is 2.3 times as high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. One-third to a half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their 40s, 50s and 60s are at high risk of stroke, that’s despite 80% of strokes being preventable through managing your blood pressure and adopting a healthy lifestyle.”

To view The National Tribune article Shining spotlight on Indigenous Australians health outcomes during National Stroke Week click here. You can also access the Stroke Foundation’s Our Stroke Journey – Helping our mob after stroke booklet here.

Raise the Age petition – add your voice

Across Australia, children as young as 10 can be arrested by police, charged with an offence, brought before a court and locked away in a prison. Every day a child spends in prison can cause lifelong harm to that child’s health, growth and development. First Nations children are even more at risk.

Children belong in schools, playgrounds and with their families, not behind bars.

The Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) is a member of the Raise the Age alliance. Alongside 120 other member organisations, they support raising the minimum of age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years.

It’s been two years since the launch of a national campaign to raise the age and calls on state and territory leaders to act continue. Make a difference and sign the Raise The Age petition here.

Enhancing digital health tools for NT mob

A new project led by NT Health and the ​Menzies School of Health Research aims to develop virtual care models that meet the specific needs of Indigenous communities in the NT. The three-year project under the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) will evaluate how existing and emerging technologies could be best deployed in remote Indigenous communities.

It will identify the preferences of consumers and healthcare providers regarding virtual care, as well as address the lack of knowledge in deploying digital tools. “Recommendations will be based on needs and preferences identified by both consumers and health professionals, with a particular focus on integrating multiple professional groups working in remote [primary healthcare service],” explained Menzies professor John Wakerman.

To read the Healthcare IT News article Northern Territory project to enhance digital health tools deployment in indigenous communities in full click here.

An example of a digital health tool is iBobbly, a social and emotional wellbeing self-help app for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over. Image source: Black Dog Institute website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Improved environmental action needed to CTG

The image in the feature tile is of artwork that appears on the cover of the Australia State of the Environment Report 2021. The painting We All Share Water 2001 is by Gertie Huddleston, Wandarang/Mara peoples.

Improved environmental action needed

Earlier today the Coalition of Peaks (CoPs) issued a media release saying: as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we have been saying for a long time that we need to have a much greater say in how programs and services are delivered to our people, in our own places, and on our own country. The Australia State of the Environment Report 2021, released last week, reiterates the importance of this.

“The State of the Environment Report’s findings are shocking, but they’re not surprising”, says CoPs Lead Convener Patricia Turner AM. “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations see the impacts of colonisation on our Country every day. Our people aren’t involved enough in decision-making on key environmental and heritage issues, to the detriment of the environment. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap outlines formal partnership and shared decision-making, and clearly this mindset needs to be extended to environmental and heritage issues as well”, Ms Turner said. “The report found that Australia’s environment is poorer because of lack of Indigenous leadership, knowledge, and management. We’ve been caring for Country for 65,000+ years – it’s time to listen to what we have to say”, said Ms Turner.

The report also found that ongoing and intergenerational impact and trauma of colonisation continues to adversely affect Indigenous people’s connection to Country and manifests in unacceptable rates of imprisonment, suicide, and unemployment. “This report shows unequivocally that our connection to Country is vital to our wellbeing. We will never close the gap and reach the socio-economic targets in the National Agreement without governments acknowledging our deep, cultural connections to Country”, Ms Turner said.

To view the CoPs media release State of Environment Report highlights need for improved action under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in full click here.

The devastating 2020 bushfires killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals. Photo: James D Morgan. Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Elder reveals mental health demons

A stolen generation survivor has revealed his own mental health demons as he pleads for his community to rally around those with suicidal thoughts. Uncle George Ellis is a “third-generation dispossessed person”, his grandmother brought to Sydney from Tennant creek as a child, his mother growing up at Cootamundra Girls Home and father at Kinchela Boy’s Home. Uncle Ellis was taken to Marella Mission in Kellyville as a boy.

Speaking at the Cox Inall Ridgeway Connect, Reach Out, Heal our Way suicide prevention campaign launch on Wiradjuri land Tuesday, Uncle Ellis spoke of his plight and decision to make a change. “I never thought I’d say this out to people, I’m actually seeing a psychologist,” Uncle Ellis said. “And that’s made a big difference in addressing issues that I’ve had.” Uncle Ellis shared his lived experience and its impact on life, parenting and his own father’s “big decline” later in life from similar tolls from dispossession.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in suicide statistics, accounting for 5.5% of all deaths compared to 1.9 % of non-Indigenous Australians according to the Governments Institute of Health and Welfare’s most recent reporting period.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Stolen Generations Elder bravely reveals mental health demons in rallying cry for community support in full click here.

Uncle George Ellis – Dubbo Suicide Prevention campaign launch. Photo: Brycen Horne. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Australia urged to join NZ tobacco ‘endgame’

Leading tobacco-control experts have urged the federal government to join NZ in pursuing “endgame” reforms that could eliminate smoking and dramatically close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and white Australians. As the Ardern government introduced legislation designed to make tobacco products non-addictive and prohibit the sale of cigarettes to future generations, anti-tobacco campaigners said the Australian government needed to shake a decade of complacency and resume its global leadership role.

While adult smoking rates in Australia are among the lowest in the world, rates among Indigenous Australians remain lethally high. Tobacco-related disease kills more than one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “We are talking about a significant opportunity for change,” said ANU researcher Raglan Maddox. “If we are talking about closing the gap, eliminating or reducing as far as possible tobacco use is a massive step in the right direction.”

Tom Calma, an Aboriginal social justice campaigner whose work led to the Closing the Gap movement, praised NZ’s ambition and lamented our own. “The New Zealand parliament has embraced this target of a smoke-free Aotearoa. The Australian government hasn’t been so interested.”

To view the WAtoday article Australia urged to join New Zealand in tobacco ‘endgame’ in full click here.

Photo: Dave Hunt, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

VIRAL: Are You The Cure? film launched

Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s VIRAL: Are You The Cure? is a  deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C. Originally staged as a play which toured in 2018 and 2019, VIRAL is a short film made by Australia’s longest running First Nations theatre company, Ilbijerri, about navigating hepatitis C. The film is one of a suite of works tackling health and social issues, commissioned by Ilbijerri’s long term partners of 15 years, the Victorian Government’s Department of Health. These works are specifically designed for First Nations audiences and are performed and distributed in community spaces, prisons, and health centres across Victoria. Now, in film format, VIRAL is set to reach broader audiences, available via Ilbijerri’s website, and will be further disseminated by myriad partners across the health and justice sector, and many First Nations community groups.

This project has been commissioned by the Victorian State Government via the Department of Health. With special thanks to Liver WELL incorporating Hepatitis Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), Justice Health via Department of Justice and Community Safety, Thorne Harbour Health, the Burnet Institute, and the Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health (CERSH).

You can view the Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s media release VIRAL: Are You The Cure? A deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C here and the film here. The film below is one of the true stories you can access on the Ibijerri Theatre Company Are You The Cure? webpage.

ACT overincarceration funding ‘not enough’

Faced with disproportionate numbers of First Nations people in prison, the ACT Government has announced it will spend more than $20 million to reduce overincarceration and to improve health services for inmates. But Julie Tongs, head of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS), which runs a clinic in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), Canberra’s prison, thinks more must be done.

For perhaps the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia, the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison figures are concerning – as the government recognises. Indigenous people make up less than 2% of the ACT’s population, but nearly a quarter (24.4%) of AMC detainees, January’s Report on Government Services stated. The ACT has the lowest adult imprisonment rates in Australia – but Indigenous people in the ACT are incarcerated at 19 times the rate of the general population (well above the national average of 16 times). And 91% of Indigenous detainees have been imprisoned before.

To view the Canberra Weekly article ACT’s $20M response to Aboriginal overincarceration ‘not enough’ in full click here.

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services. Photo: Kerrie Brewer. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Preserving language a matter of life and death

With a history stretching back more than 60,000 years, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, have one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures. But that long history — centuries and generations linked by the common thread of shared languages — is at risk. For thousands of years, Indigenous languages relied on storytelling to pass down historical accounts, and with them a sense of nationhood. In 1788, there were approximately 250 languages and 800 dialects spoken. Today, estimates suggest that just  120 languages are in use.

That number is likely to decrease as more Indigenous communities across the globe lose their languages due to the consequences of colonisation: changes to way of life, land dispossession, assimilation policies and migration, as well as the death of native speakers resulting in the loss of intergenerational transmission of Indigenous language.

As language declines, so too does its associated culture and all the knowledge it has acquired over countless generations. It is yet possible, however, to preserve these ancient languages and cultures — and in doing so, improve medical outcomes for Indigenous communities who have too often missed out on the extraordinary medical advances of recent years and decades.

To view the World Economic Forum article For Australia’s Indigenous communities, preserving their languages is a matter of life and death in full click here.

The Sea of Hands exhibit was part of Australia’s National Reconciliation Week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Image source: World Economic Forum website.

Calls to pause post-intervention alcohol laws

Alcohol bans, first introduced by the Commonwealth during the NT intervention in 2007, lifted in some remote communities after federal legislation expired earlier this month. The end to the bans has coincided with reports from frontline services of a spike in alcohol-related incidents and health presentations, as well as a rise in liquor sales. Independent MLA Robyn Lambley said the end to alcohol restrictions in some remote communities was fuelling domestic incidents in Alice Springs. “What we’re seeing in Alice Springs is the rolling out of an absolute disaster,” she said.

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) CEO John Paterson has previously said the organisation had concerns about the “hasty” transition process following the end to the legislation and that more consultation was needed. “We’re predicting that there will be an increase in emergency department admissions, alcohol-related injuries, domestic violence, child safety,” he said in April. Earlier this year, Mr Paterson said he had written to the federal and NT ministers requesting a delay to allow Aboriginal organisations to prepare. He said he could see a future where the alcohol bans were lifted, but that “we’ve got to have good regulations”.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory government facing calls to pause new post-intervention alcohol laws in full click here.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has defended the lifting of alchohol restricitons in dozens of remote communities. Photo: Hamish Harty, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Michael Amendolia (2014) featured on the Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The new federal minister responsible for Indigenous health has stopped short of backing the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025 as the pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Australia is the most developed country in the world where trachoma — which causes blindness and is linked to poor face hygiene — is still prevalent. New Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy has declared overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities in the job, but said would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. “This is going to be an absolute priority for me and I will be travelling the country to talk to those experts to see what we can do to eradicate this scourge.”

Asked directly whether she backed the 2025 target, Senator McCarthy replied: “I’m having ongoing discussions, I’ve only been in this role a matter of weeks.” In 2009, the Rudd Labor government pledged to eliminate the eye disease by 2020. Since then, Cambodia, Ghana, Mexico and more have achieved the feat. But in Australia, the disease persists. The target was pushed back to 2022, but it is now clear Australia will not meet the commitment. The previous Coalition government announced a new target of 2025 to eliminate all avoidable blindness in Indigenous Australians, including beating trachoma.

To view the ABC News article Goal of eliminating eye disease trachoma by 2025 under threat as pandemic bites in full click here.

The Indigenous Eye Health unit travels to remote communities and teaches face hygiene. Photo: Jack Snape. Image source: ABC News.

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

ACT Government says it is prioritising funding for community sector organisations that provide essential services and programs to Canberrans in crisis. Some the programs and organisations that will receive funding through the 2022–23 ACT Budget include: meeting health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). The ACT Government will provide $9.40 million dollars over four years to continue a holistic model of health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. The funding will support the continuation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services’ model of care at the AMC.

To view the ACT Government website page More funding for the ACT community sector in full click here.

AMC cell converted into an Australian-first Indigenous health clinic in 2019. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Canberra Times.

First Nations aged care voice boosted

The Federal Government has appointed Yugambeh woman Jody Currie to the National Aged Care Advisory Council. The appointment of Ms Currie, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, is part of efforts to close the gap in design and delivery of aged care programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said First Nation voices were vital in the implementation of aged care reforms.

“For far too long older First Nations people have experienced barriers to accessing aged care services in their homes and communities,” she said. “To address service gaps and improve access to care, we must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the design, discussion and implementation of aged care reforms.” While 27% of non-Indigenous people participate in the aged care system’s key programs, only 17% of Aboriginal Elders participate.

In WA’s south-west, including Perth, the gap is the largest in the country, with only 8.6% of Elders participating in aged care programs. Aboriginal Community Elders Aged Care Partnership for Perth and South-West WA chairman Jim Morrison said there was discrimination in the ability for Aboriginal older people to access culturally appropriate aged care services. “All Stolen Generation people will be (at least) 50 next year, and we will qualify for aged care,” he said. “We want to consider our elder care and look after our older people…and it might be that our elder care centres be healing centres where our Elders can depend on their culture.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Jody Currie gains Federal appointment to tackle ‘discrimination’ in aged care system in full click here.

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

First Nations Victorians are being restrained and secluded at a higher rate than the general population, a shocking new report by the state’s peak mental health advocacy body has revealed. The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) third Seclusion Report found more than 5% of people admitted to Victorian mental health facilities subjected to seclusion were Indigenous, despite First Nations people making up just 3.5% of total people admitted. The rate of restraint among Indigenous patients was also higher at 4.6%. The findings come one year after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found poor mental health and substance use disorders accounted for as much as 14% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the new data made it clear why First Nations people might be apprehensive to seek help. “It’s these mental health services and the acute units where people are supposed to go to feel safe,” he said. “And then they’re being harmed by these practices, and traumatised by these practices. That makes people really concerned about seeking help in the future, knowing that these things have happened to them or could happen to them.” Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) social and emotional wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said the figures revealed in the report the tip of the iceberg. “(The figures) indicate that people might have been secluded twice in their stay,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Restraint, seclusion of Indigenous mental health patients in Victoria laid bare in damning report in full click here.

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

NACCHO is conducting a consultation survey to better understand the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services, support and coordination provided to communities by Affiliates and ACCHOs. The survey has been developed in partnership with Professor Pat Dudgeon from the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project, led by the University of Western Australia. Responses to this survey will help to build a national picture of what SEWB services and support are currently available, help to map SEWB services nationally, and identify service gaps. This evidence base will inform NACCHO’s advocacy to government for improved support to Affiliates and ACCHOs to deliver SEWB services and inform policy development.

The survey covers the following topics:

  • SEWB services and support
  • SEWB workforce and training
  • barriers to providing SEWB services or support
  • other SEWB activities that your organisation may be involved in.

NACCHO members should have received a link to the survey, and we are keen to hear from all of you! The survey will be open until Sunday 7 August 2022. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to Sasha Banjavcic-Booker, Senior Advisor Mental Health Policy and Programs via email or call 0409 919 398.

VACCHO Biannual Statewide Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering. Image source: VACCHO website.

headspace Grad Program applications open

Applications for the headspace Graduate Program 2023 have now opened for First Nations Allied Health Graduate roles.

These rewarding positions will be situated in a clinical team at a headspace centre and closely linked to the First Nations Wellbeing & Healing Division at headspace National. You’ll work alongside passionate people and make a real difference to young people, families, and communities. Where you’ll hit the ground running and continue developing your skills and career in youth mental health/social and emotional wellbeing. Find your place at headspace.

These graduate positions are designed to provide social work, occupational therapy and psychology graduates access to a two-year comprehensive youth mental health training and development program with support of cultural supervision.

Further information about this opportunity, including our First Nations information and yarning session, can be accessed at the headspace Graduation program website available here.

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

Two-thirds of Indigenous children in Victoria are meeting encouraging levels of key wellbeing indicators, according to a report from a pair of leading health researchers. The results, courtesy of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) found the vast majority of 9–12 year olds are getting enough sleep, practice a healthy diet with 84% meeting physical activity guidelines.

VACCHO and IHT also found relatively low levels of excess screen time, and a correlation between eating well and higher social and emotional wellbeing. Their Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together report surveyed primary school students in 18 local government areas of the state’s Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions in 2019.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria,” VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said. “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Encouraging data reveals Indigenous Victorian children picking up healthy eating, excercise habits click here.

The Deadly Koolinga Chef Program involves cooking classes that teach skills in food and nutrition essential to improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Image source: Murdoch University Research Tweet 4 March 2021.

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.

National Homelessness Week

Homelessness Week is held annually across the nation to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also a time reflect on the collective action needed by community and all levels of government to help break the cycle of homelessness. In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events, including providing information on the importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a difference.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. For further information about Aboriginal homelessness in Australia click here.

The theme for Homelessness Week 2022 is To end homelessness we need a plan. A range of resources are available on the Homelessness Australia website here including social media tiles, web banners, email signatures, posters and messaging to support your advocacy. One on the website you can also register for the Homelessness Week 2022 launch from 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Monday 1 August 2022.

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

Image in feature tile is from today’s ABC News COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians article. Photo source: Pfizer via AAP.

COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

From today, more Australians will be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral drugs in an attempt to reduce the number of people in hospital. Health Minister Mark Butler said he was hopeful expanding the eligibility would help ease pressure on hospital systems. “COVID cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,” he said.

Under the current rules, the drugs are restricted to Australians who are 65 years or older with particular risk factors, but from today any Australian who tests positive to COVID-19 and is over the age of 70 will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Known as Lagevrio and Paxlovid, the drugs cost about $1,000 but because they are on the PBS they are reduced to $6.80 for a concession card holder. People aged over 50 with at least two risk factors that could lead to severe disease, as well as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and older with at least two risk factors will also be eligible.

A broader range of chronic respiratory conditions have been added to the risk factors list. They include moderate or severe asthma, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, demyelinating conditions and renal impairment. Risk factors already on the list and that will remain include neurological conditions, such as stroke and dementia, cirrhosis, kidney failure, obesity, diabetes type one or two, and anyone who lives in remote areas and doesn’t have access to higher level healthcare.

To view the ABC News article COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians in full click here.

Paxlovid will be one of the antivirals available to more Australians under the scheme. Photo: AAP. Image source: ABC News.

Winnunga health service comes a long way

From its humble beginnings as a temporary medical service set up at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy site, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga) has grown into an important part of the health services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national capital. WNAH&CS have recently moved into a new, purpose-built facility in Narrabundah, enabling the service to do more. 

Julie Tongs’ vision as CEO, a role she has held since 1997, has always been for Winnunga to be a leader in the provision of primary health care. “All Winnunga wants to do is give people an opportunity to be better, to feel good about themselves, and to start to work through some of the layers of trauma that Aboriginal people have experienced,” Tongs says.

Winnunga was established in 1988 by local Aboriginal people inspired by the national mobilisation of people around the opening of the new Parliament House in May and the visit by the Queen.  Since then it has grown into a pivotal healthcare service, which last year saw some 7,000 clients. Providing around 60,000 occasions of service to its clients annually, Managed by the local Aboriginal community, Winnunga takes a “holistic” approach to health care offering clinical and medical services, and social health programs.

To view the Canberra  City News article Winnunga health service comes a long way from the Tent Embassy in full click here.

Outside the new health centre in Narrabundah… “We managed the project, built it on time and on budget, without any government involvement apart from the funding,” says Julie Tongs. Photo: Holly Treadaway. Image source: Canberra City News.

Changing First Nations birth narrative

Shanara Fourmile wakes with a small pain under her belly. It’s seven in the morning and the sun is pouring through the window of her home in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah. As she opens her eyes, her water breaks. Shanara, an Irukandji woman from far-north Queensland, knows the baby is coming.

She texts her sister, who calls an ambulance. Yarrabah women are directed to birth in Cairns Hospital — an hour’s drive through rainforest, winding coastline and cane paddocks. Shanara knows she won’t make it so she’s taken to Yarrabah’s small emergency department. It doesn’t have a permanent obstetrician. There’s no anaesthetist or resourcing for an emergency caesarean. No access to epidural or equipment to resuscitate a newborn if the baby is struggling to breathe. And no blood bank in case women haemorrhage after birth.

Kaurna and Narungga woman Tayla Smith, Yarrabah’s first Indigenous midwife who works at Gurriny Yealamucka Aboriginal-controlled Health Services says women some women wait until it’s too late to go to Cairns as they want to have their baby on Gunggandji Country. Local health workers call these women “the naughty mummies” of Yarrabah. While there are benefits for having the baby close to home, in Yarrabah it comes with serious risks. The clinic is just not set up to deliver babies. And if there are complications during the delivery, the consequences could be dire.

To read the ABC News article Meet the Black matriarchs changing the narrative of First Nations births in full click here.

Irukandji woman Shanara Fourmile gave birth to her baby girl Keilani in Yarrabah’s small emergency department in June. Photo: Kristy Sexton-McGrath, ABC RN.

NT mob worse GI cancer survival rate

Survival rates for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer among Northern Territorians have improved in the past 30 years but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the Territory still have worse survival outcomes, a new analysis has found. “We need a concerted effort aimed at investigating the existence of modifiable sociodemographic factors underlying these disturbing trends,” Savio Barreto, Study Senior Author and Associate Professor, General Surgeon, Flinders Medical Centre and Researcher, Flinders University

“There is a need to enhance preventative strategies, as well as to improve the delivery of cancer care and its uptake amongst Indigenous peoples.”

The study, published in the journal Cancers, reviewed data from the NT’s Cancer Registry between 1990 and 2017, looking at adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and pancreas, which are collectively known as GI cancers.

To read the News Medical Life Sciences article GI cancer survival rates improving among Northern Territorians except for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in full click here.

Image sources: News Medical Alert, heal+h plus.

Palm Is receives grant for youth program

Palm Island youth who have disengaged from the formal education system are the target of program to be delivered by the Palm Island Community Company in partnership with the state government. The Bwgcolman Youth Program will support local 13-to-17-year-olds by linking them with training, education and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “It will also respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said.

“Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.

To read The National Tribune article Palm Island Community Company secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to develop youth training program in full click here.

Queensland Maroons legends visiting Palm Island youth. Photo: Siobhan Heanue, ABC North Queensland.

Docker River aged care facility upgrade

Culturally safe aged care sites and face-to-face support for older First Nations people are being invested into by the Australian Government. The programs are anticipated to cost a combined $221 million and will be delivered over four years.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Malarndirri McCarthy, said First Nations communities experience many barriers when accessing aged care services. “Lack of culturally safe care, a complex system, ongoing trauma, and social and economic disadvantages all contribute to older First Nations people accessing aged care services at a rate lower than needed,” she said. “The government is committed to delivering aged care and health services that meet the needs of our Elders and enables them to remain close to their homes and connected to their communities.”

Four National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC) services in SA, the NT and Queensland will receive funding to construct culturally safe, purpose-built facilities. Among them will be the rebuilding of Kaltukatjara’s Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care, which which will provide care for First Nations peoples at Docker River.

Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) general manager, Wendy Hubbard, said the location for the rebuild will be close to the existing Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care service. “That means our residents can stay where they are at Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care and we can continue providing services without disruption, and watch our vision come to life,” she said.

Better mental health for Minjerribah youth

Better mental health and life outcomes for young people on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) is the target of the Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health in partnership with the Queensland state government. The North Stradbroke Island Indigenous Youth Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program will facilitate after-hours activities and yarning circles with Elders, offer counselling sessions and specialist services, and provide a safe place for young people to go when feeling overwhelmed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “it will respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said. “Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.”

To view the Queensland Government media release Yulu-Burri-Ba Corporation secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to improve mental health for Minjerribah youth in full click here.

Image sources: logo from Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health website, ORIC.

Ex-NRL star tackles mental health challenges

Owen Craigie was a teenage Rugby League prodigy. The only player to make the Australian Schoolboys team three years straight. While blitzing at schoolboy level, Craigie signed his first professional rugby league contract with Newcastle Knights in the early 1990’s, when he was just 17, and bought a house.

After leaving the club two years later, he had stints at the Wests Tigers, the Rabbitohs and Widnes in the English Super League. When he retired in 2005, things got tough. Craigie has previously spoken of how he turned to drugs, alcohol and gambling, and said he lost an estimated $2 million to his addiction. And three years ago, he said he entered the darkest phase of his life. Craigie went through rehabilitation, and says he’s now been able to recover.

“I am a different person than I was three years ago … I see my kids now. Life’s good. I am working on a couple of businesses.” Craigie said his biggest achievement over the past three years is that he has “found himself”. “I have mates that couldn’t,” said Cragie, who’s now determined to help those in the community who face similar challenges. He has just opened a gym; his charity, the Big OC Foundation, and his Chase the Energy initiative both aim to help people who’re battling addictions and mental health challenges. “I am passionate about [helping people] because I want to help the next Owen Craigie.”

To read the SBS NITV article How former NRL star Owen Craigie turned hardship into happiness in full click here.

Owen Craigie’s Chase the Energy initiative aims to help people battling additions and mental health challenges. Image source: SBS NITV.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Cervical screening self-collection now an option

Image in feature tile from Cancer SA.

Cervical screening self-collection now an option

As of last Friday 1 July 2022, anyone eligible for a Cervical Screening Test under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) (i.e. women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 years who have ever had any sexual contact) will have the choice to screen either through self-collection of a vaginal sample using a simple swab or clinician-collection of a sample from the cervix using a speculum.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care says the launch of self-collection for cervical screening is a game changer in the fight to eliminate cervical cancer.

You can access an information sheet with the title National Cervical Screening Program launch of self-collection eligibility expansion, including the following headings listed below, here.

  • Where to get more information
  • What you can do
  • Key messages for healthcare providers and laboratories
    • availability and procession of self-collected vaginal samples
    • important considerations
    • broad awareness of pathway changes
  • Want to know more or have any questions?
In addition, you can watch a video (screenshot below) of Minister Kearney, who is also a nurse, on the launch of self-collection including who can access self-collection, where you can access it and how to do it, using this link.

Screenshot of Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care video on Facebook about the launch of the self-collection cervical screening.

ACCHOs celebrating NAIDOC Week 2022

National NAIDOC Week celebrations are being held across Australia this week to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC Week 2022’s theme Get Up, Stand Up and Show Up with pride and respect for your culture is something Aboriginal leader Lizzie Adams, CEO of  Goolburri Aboriginal Health in Toowoomba, wants to scream from the roof tops.

“When I was born, I wasn’t even registered as a human being. I was born as flora and fauna,” she said. “In the march, other people see us doing this, and it’s us doing it in a way that our ancestors would like us to do it. “Be proud, be energetic and get our message across that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

To view the Chronicle article NAIDOC WEEK: untied effort in working for change click here.

Lizzie Adams in the NAIDOC Week march in Toowoomba. Monday, 4 July 2022. Photo: Nev Madsen. Image source: The Chronicle.

Ungooroo Aboriginal CEO Taasha Layer said NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.

“The theme for NAIDOC Week this year  Get Up, Stand Up, and Show Up can take many forms. It might be pushing for systemic change to help Close the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, it might be calling out racism or working to improve access to health and social services, individuals and organisations all have a part to play,” explained Ms Layer.

Ms Layer said “The recent Ungooroo Health & Wellbeing Community Expo at Singleton Centre attracted hundreds of visitors and showcased a range of Ungooroo services and local organisations who work with Indigenous communities to improve health, social, education and employment outcomes. Our Community Expo is the perfect example of how we can work together to improve the lives of Indigenous communities and help people learn more about Aboriginal culture and tradition.”

To view the Hunter Valley News article NAIDOC WEEK: untied effort in working for change in full click here.

The Ungooroo Health & Wellbeing Community Expo at Singleton Centre attracted hundreds of visitors and showcased a range of Ungooroo services. Image source: Hunter Valley News.

Elders play critical community health role

In many parts of Australia – where a recent royal commission revealed a broken aged care system – we could do better with the way we treat our elders. So is there something to be learned from the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — cultures where where eldership is highly respected?

Worimi man Paul Callaghan says there is. He knows first-hand the essential role Elders play in their communities. His Elders gave him “solace and support” when he endured racism growing up in Karuah on the NSW coast, and urged Callaghan to continue his education when he felt like quitting. “They have always encouraged me to bridge two worlds,” he says.

Research shows eldership is critical to creating healthy Indigenous communities. A 2017 study identified the pivotal role Elders play in critical Indigenous issues such as health, education, unemployment and racism. “By empowering Elders with the support necessary to address issues in their communities, we can make a positive step in helping close the gap and transferring sacred spiritual knowledge,” said Dr Lucy Busija, one of the study authors.

You can read the ABC article What Indigenous culture can teach us about respecting our elders in full here.

Elders teaching culture to children. Image source: Katherine Times.

Racism barrier to healthcare participation

Challenging how health services might better meet the needs of Aboriginal people was the focus of NAIDOC Week activities at The Alfred this week Addressing a roomful of staff, the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and descendant of the Kalarie peoples of the Wiradjuri nation, Todd Fernando, said within a decade we will weed out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Victoria.

“We will not achieve the same for racism. And that’s because of how the system is set up,” Mr Fernando said. Asking the audience to consider what changes they could make within their own work areas, Mr Fernando said that systemic and historical factors impact how Aboriginal people participate in health and that dismantling these barriers must become a priority. “We need to look at how services support Aboriginal people, particularly those from the LGBTIQ+ community, rather than contribute to feelings of marginalisation and isolation.”

To view the Alfred Health article Special guests call for change click here.

Antivirals key to fight next COVID-19 wave

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) National President Dr Fei Sim is calling on governments to do more to protect the community and prepare for an increasing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations by improving access to antiviral medicines.

Dr Sim says that governments – at both state/territory and federal levels – must take a pragmatic approach to ensure high-risk patients have timely access to antivirals, to avoid the shortages and last-minute policy-making that Australia saw with the rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines and Rapid Antigen Tests. “We cannot sit and wait for infections and hospitalisations to rise further – governments must act now. Timely access to antivirals is critical to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection and limiting complications.”

To view the PSA media release Access to antivirals key to tackling next COVID-19 wave click here.

Image source: NPS MedicineWise.

Brisbane leaders keeping culture alive

From learning the traditional name of your suburb, to joining in the fight for Indigenous rights and constitutional recognition, there are steps you can take to be an Indigenous ally this NAIDOC Week and beyond. Seven of Brisbane’s Indigenous leaders have explained how they are keeping their culture alive and how the whole country can help them.

One of the leaders, Dharumbal and South Sea Islander Jacob McQuire, a National Indigenous Radio Service and ABC journalist, said “These days I’ve been doing all that I can to be a healthier and better blackfulla for my family, my mob and my community. I’ve had struggles for a long time now with my mental health and making better choices around my health more generally. This year I’ve made it a goal of mine to improve myself so I can be stronger and better for the mob around me. There’s no keeping my culture alive if I’m not alive.”

When asked about whether he sees a shift toward non-Indigenous Australians wanting to respect and learn about Indigenous culture, Mr McQuire said, ” I think whatever change we see now is a part of a much longer, gradual shift, and that shift is the result of years of fighting and advocacy on the part of mob to make this place more hospitable for blackfullas. With that being said, wanting to learn and respect our culture is much different than wanting to fight with us and help dismantle racism and the institutions which uphold it in this country.”

To view the ABC article NAIDOC Week 2022: How Brisbane Indigenous leaders keep culture alive and how you can help click here.

Jacob McQuire, National Indigenous Radio Service and ABC journalist. Image source: ABC News.

Importance of cancer support for mob

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! promotes a systemic change to close the health inequities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still face today. Cancer Council Queensland and BuAkoko Mabo (Bua/ Benny Mabo Jr), third-generation Mabo, are working together to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are impacted by a cancer diagnosis to access Cancer Council Queensland’s various support services.

Benny, a professional translator and advocate for the preservation of the Torres Strait Island Meriba culture, was diagnosed with oesophageal and tonsil cancer in November last year, and subsequently underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Recently, Benny stayed at Cancer Council Queensland’s Gluyas Rotary Lodge in Townsville and took advantage of their Transport to Treatment service. He has been known to ‘light up the room’ and never turns down the opportunity for a chat with friends and strangers.

Cancer Council Queensland General Manager, Cancer Support and Information, Gemma Lock, said  “In 2021, our accommodation lodges provided 17,823 nights of accommodation and our Transport to Treatment services travelled over 195,676 kms to connect cancer patients and their carers to the support they needed. Patients like Benny often need to travel from regional and remote areas to access vital cancer treatment that they wouldn’t otherwise receive. The lodges provide support to those who need to travel for cancer treatment, offering practical services like transport to treatment.”

To view the Senior AU article Benny shares the importance of cancer support this NAIDOC week in full click here.

Benny Mabo Jr. Image source: Torres Strait Islanders Media, Association, Radio 4MW.

Better childhood disability management

Dr Gaj Panagoda is a paediatric rehabilitation physician and general paediatrician, Gaj who has worked at Queensland Health and Queensland Children’s Hospital for 10 years. Over that time, Gaj began to believe that childhood disability, injury and chronic disease could be better managed through the community rather than a hospital.

“I wanted childhood disability to be better managed in the community and I knew I had to jump out of the public health sector and set up this model of care myself,” he said. “It’s an innovative approach that meets the needs of young patients and their families while utilising their local community for management. Local organisations like schools, sports clubs and allied health therapists in their area are engaged to support the management of the disability to decrease reliance on hospital-based services.”

To deliver the new model of care, Gaj launched ‘Superkid Rehab’, a rehabilitation service aiming to maximise the potential of children and young adults with disabilities, injuries and chronic diseases. In addition to Superkid Rehab, he is now also the Lead Paediatrician at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, where the team provides paediatric and disability medical services across 20 Aboriginal health clinics.

To read the MBA News article MBA Student Sets Out to Change Healthcare System and Improve Outcomes for Kids with Disability click here.

Paediatric Disability Specialist and QUT MBA student Dr Gaj Panagoda. Image source: MBA News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO welcomes aged care funding

Image in feature tile is from The Daily Beacon.

NACCHO welcomes aged care funding

Yesterday The Hon Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care and Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a joint media release Support for First Nations Elders to Access Aged Care available here. In response NACCHO has issued the following media statement:

NACCHO welcomes the funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Workforce

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) welcomes the announcement from Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, on the $86 million funding support for the Trusted Indigenous Facilitator–Aged Care Workforce program.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO said, ‘We are grateful to receive this investment that will help us deliver much better outcomes for our Elders. Over the life of the program, we will see 250 staff, predominately drawn from local communities, onboarded across our sector nationally to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders.’

The ACCHO sector are best placed to deliver this program because, ‘We have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for decades on matters that are important to our people and are best placed to represent areas like health, aged care, early childhood, education, land and legal services,’ stated Pat Turner.

‘The program will be developed and implemented in genuine partnership, where equal weight is given to the sector’s voice at the table alongside that of governments and agencies, ensuring equal decision-making authority with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This aligns with our goals in the National Agreement of Closing the Gap, to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

Overseeing the program will be our established NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Advisory group consisting of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) nationally who are currently involved in aged care or wanting to become a provider. This group will be responsible for advising NACCHO on implementing the program, including informing the development of a model of care, service linkages, and workforce training requirements.

You can view the NACCHO media statement NACCHO welcomes the funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Workforce on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: 3 Bridges Community websie.

NITV Big Mob Brekky host NACCHO CEO

Earlier this morning NACCHO CEO Pat Turner appeared on NITV’s Big Mob Brekky show, providing an update on COVID-19 and urging people to get their vaccines and/or booster shots as well as a flu shot. Ms Turner also reflected on what the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week means to her.

Humour to destigmatise palliative care 

Indigenous comedian Sean Choolburra is the voice behind a new Queensland University of Technology (QUT)-led animation series that uses humour to help demystify and destigmatise palliative care and dying for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The QUT-based Indigenous Program of Experience in Palliative Approach (IPEPA) developed the animations to educate and entertain communities and health professionals in a grass-roots way about palliative care, serious illness, grief, feelings and pain management.

The IPEPA project director, Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates is a world-renown nurse and recognised leader in palliative care research said content for the IPEPA animations was led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and drew on cultural strengths and perspectives. “Using humour to communicate about dying was a risk, but communities let us know it played an important role in their resilience and was the best way to engage people,” Professor Yates said.

You can view the Queensland University of Technology article Humour used to destigmatise death and promote community healing here. As well the video below on pain management you can view four other videos available here.

Rapper Adam Briggs on NAIDOC Week theme

Rapper Adam Briggs said “I was thinking about the slogan they’ve got [for NAIDOC Week] this year – the theme ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’ For me, it’s a reminder that we can’t be complacent. Many blackfellas have been doing this fight and this work for a lot longer than I’ve been alive, so I’m not allowed to be tired yet. It’s not about fighting all the time, but it’s about support and get up, stand up and show up for ourselves and for each other.”

NAIDOC Week encourages all Australians to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to acknowledge our history and to realise that acknowledgement is a crucial unifier. “I think a lot of the willingness to not engage with it, that White Australia has, comes from the top-down – it’s that Howard-era of ‘I refuse to look at the past with a black armband’, and so that tells people ‘that’s not my fault, why should I have to do anything?’” said Briggs.

Briggs continued, “It’s like ‘Mate, I’m not asking you to go and volunteer or give up your time’, but acknowledge – wholeheartedly and truthfully – what went on and how this manifested and how we’re here and what that disadvantage is. For the regular Joe, it might not be your job to close the gap on Indigenous health; these are complex, sophisticated issues, but acknowledgement that it’s an issue and that the people, whose job that is, should be doing something about it and fixing it. For the average Karen or Darren on the street, I’m not asking you to fix it – I’m asking you to understand that it’s an issue, wholeheartedly and truthfully.”

To view the Beat article Briggs: ‘It’s not about fighting all the time, it’s about support’ in full click here.

Rapper Adam Briggs. Image source: Beat.

Period care product access needed for all

In Australia, most states have introduced initiatives to provide people who menstruate with free period care products in public schools. However, there is value in enhancing the program by providing reusable products to reduce waste to landfill, by educating boys and other students who don’t menstruate, and tailoring this initiative appropriately for remote and Indigenous People who menstruate.

Australia has come a long way since The Conversation published an article in 2017 article about Indigenous girls potentially missing school in remote communities each month due to a range of period care challenges. The article began an important and ongoing Indigenous health collaboration towards ensuring all Indigenous and remote people who menstruate have access to information and products every month.

To view The Mandarin article Free period care products in Queensland schools is just a first step. Remote communities need access to these items as well in full click here.

Young girls learning about how to manage their menstrual cycles with confidence. Photo: Central Australian Youth Link Up Service. Image source: ABC News website.

UON students experience cultural immersion

A University of Newcastle (UON) scholarship program looks very different this year, with students swapping China for cultural immersion in Indigenous Australia. UON has run since 2018 the Ma and Morley Scholarship Program, which aims to provide students with an eye-opening and life-changing opportunity to travel.

Previously this has been to China, but this has not been possible for the past three years due to COVID-19. Instead, the 2020 scholars left Newcastle on Monday for Broken Hill, for a trip that will focus on Aboriginal connections to people, place and spirituality or purpose. Wiradjuri man and UON Pro Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, said the trip showcases the commitment UON has to Aboriginal communities and to learning and respecting traditional culture.

To view the Newcastle Herald article University of Newcastle Ma and Morley Scholarship Program participants explore Indigenous Australia in full click here.

Images from University of Newcastle Ma and Morley Scholarship Program 2022. Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Unintended pregnancy data for mob missing

Yesterday The Medical Journal of Australia published an article about the need for data about the prevalence, experiences and outcomes of unintended pregnancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (acknowledging that unintended does not necessarily mean unwanted), including issues relating to pregnancy intentions, decision making, and health care access.

Up to 40% of women in Australia have experienced an unintended pregnancy, which can be associated with suboptimal pre‐conception health behaviour and reproductive health care engagement and adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of pregnancy risk factors, adverse perinatal outcomes, and adolescent pregnancy compared with non‐Indigenous women. However, little is known about the prevalence and impact of unintended pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

This knowledge gap must be addressed.  Meaningful engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and researchers are required to confirm priority issues, design culturally appropriate data collection processes, and achieve a nationally representative sample. Data sources such as those held by primary health care providers and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations have an untapped potential to highlight the needs and priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, should they be used with appropriate consultation and respect for Indigenous data sovereignty.

You can read The Medical Journal of Australia article Unintended pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: where are the data? in full here

Image source: MCWH website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Reflecting on moments mob stood up

The image is the feature tile is of an Invasion Day rally in Sydney on 26 January 2018. Image source: Illawarra Mercury.

Reflecting on moments mob stood up

Alexis Moran has written an article for NITV reflecting on this year’s NAIDOC theme — Get Up, Stand Up, Show Up — reflection on some significant moments where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have shifted history by fighting for their community. Ms Moran says “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people always stand up. It’s nothing new to our communities. Since colonisation, Indigenous people have fought against oppression. And that continues every day — whether it be on January 26, to march against deaths in custody and other wrongdoing, or just to speak up for what we believe in and what’s right. It’s because of this activism — getting up, standing up and showing up — that history can and has been changed.”

Ms Moran goes on to discuss specifically the frontier wars; land rights: Mabo and Wik vs. Queensland; deaths in custody; sports; establishing essential First Nations services; the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and the Koori Mail during the NSW floods.

To read the SBS NITV article 7 historical moments where mob Got up, Stood up and Showed up click here. You can also watch LaVerne Bellear, CEO AMSC Redfern in the video below as she explains the story behind the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) established in 1971, Australia’s first ACCHO.

Register for CTG scripts BEFORE 1 July

As of 1 July 2022, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be registered correctly with Services Australia Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) to continue to claim benefits for their medicine scripts, through the Closing the Gap (CTG) Pharmacy Benefits Scheme (PBS) program.

Unfortunately, not all patients who previously received CTG prescriptions were transferred to the new database, resulting in some people paying more for their medicines.

Check with your local doctor or health service today, to help register you as soon as possible to avoid paying full price for medicines from 1 July.

Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO NACCHO said, “We welcome the reforms to the CTG PBS database but are concerned not all eligible patients have been correctly registered. Potentially thousands of patients may have to pay more for medicines on 1st of July, so please check your registration with your pharmacy and doctor now.”

For further information about the CTG PBS program click here.

The Department of Health reminder letter regarding the CTG PBS program can be found here.

You can download a poster here to put up at your service as well as images for Facebook/Twitter here and Instagram here.

We urge you to please do share this across all your networks.

NACCHO Medicines Team

Intergenerational toll of nuclear tests

Three generations of First Nations survivors of historic nuclear tests have told the United Nations (UN) that Australia must do more to address the devastating impact the tests have had on their families. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) invited survivors to address a conference in Vienna, more than 60 years after nuclear bombs were detonated in the SA outback.

Yankunytjatjara woman Karina Lester, Kokatha elder Sue Coleman-Haseldine and her granddaughter, Mia Haseldine, shared their experiences via video link from Port Augusta. The women told the conference how the tests conducted by the British government at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s had affected the health of successive generations of Aboriginal families from the region. They called on the Australian government to sign the UNTreaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which came into force in January last year.

To read the ABC News article Nuclear test survivors’ plea for Australia to sign treaty, as they speak at UN meeting in full click here.

Submissions to the UN from Port Augusta were part of the first meeting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Photo: Bethanie Alderson, ABC North & West SA.

AMA calls for telehealth extension

The AMA today called on the federal government to extend patient access to Medicare funded COVID-19 telehealth services beyond June 30 2022 Under a decision taken by the former Government, from 1 July access to both GP and non-GP specialist telehealth services will be cut back, particularly telephone consultations.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said patients cannot afford to lose access to COVID-19 telehealth as it will make access to medical care more difficult, particularly for vulnerable populations and those who might not have the access or skills to use other IT platforms. “Broad access to Medicare funded telehealth services has been a key part of our pandemic response by reducing patients’ exposure to the virus and helping people in self-isolation to access critical medical care,” Dr Khorshid said. Dr Khorshid said governments needed to be responsive to the ongoing situation and adapt as circumstances change.

To view the AMA’s media release AMA calls for telehealth funding extension as COVID-19 pandemic continues in full click here. You can watch an Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) video of a telehealth consultation below.

Minds need decluttering too

Accredited mental health social worker Kym Marsden’s article Decluttering isn’t just a house job, our minds need it too was recently published in the National Indigenous Times. Ms Marsden asks readers to “Picture a cluttered area in your home, now think about how all that clutter makes you feel as it grows, you start tripping over things and are unable to locate things you need. She admits to initially trying to ignore it, which is a short term solution, but as the clutter remains, or continues to grow so does the ability to ignore it.

Ms Marsden says the same applies when our minds are overloaded resulting in persistent overwhelming thoughts, regrets, worries or concerns. While we will all respond differently when our cluttered minds have reached capacity, for Ms Marsden it is disturbed sleep, feeling anxious and being unable to concentrate as she is fixated on certain thoughts and worries that are like a whirlwind in head head that won’t shut off, particularly at night.

To read the article in full, including strategies to help declutter your mind, click here.

Image source: iStock by Getty Images.

Preventing falls at any age

Falls are common. Each year 2 in 3 people aged over 65 will fall. Around 1 in 10 falls lead to serious injury. The most common serious injuries are fractures and brain injuries. Falls can also result in a loss of confidence, which can lead to restriction of activity and a lower quality of life. Many older people never regain their pre-fall level of function and might even struggle to keep living by themselves.

The consequences of falls cost Australia a staggering $4.3 billion every year. The good news is 20–30% of fall among older Australians can be prevented.

To view The Conversation article I’m getting older, how can I prevent falls? in full click here.

According to recently published Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data falls are one of the leading causes of hospitalisations for older Aboriginal people In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people there were 7,000 hospitalisations and 45 deaths due to unintentional fall with rates of fall hospitalisations being highest among people aged 65 and over. During that period Indigenous Australians were 1.4 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised due to a fall injury. For the majority of causes, the most remote areas had the highest rates and the least remote areas had the lowest rates.

It has been proven that once someone has suffered a fall, they are at a higher risk of another injury. A free, culturally safe, falls prevention program, IRONBARK, run by South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and Curtin University has seen great success. Y ou can read more about the IRONBARK program here.

Image source: Health Times.

Noongar version of Baby Ways book

An award winning early years literacy program has been expanded to include the Noongar language, with the launch of the first dual language Baby Ways book. Maawit Mart/Baby Ways will be given to Aboriginal families living on Noongar land and aims to help narrow the gap between literacy rates for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

The Baby Ways book is an engaging and fun-to-read book that features WA babies sitting, bathing, reading and playing. It is included in the Better Beginnings pack that is presented to all new families in WA at birth as part of a wider program that encourages parents to read to their children.

To view The National Tribune article Noongar version of Better Beginnings Baby Ways book launched in full click here.

Image source: Better Beginnings Indigenous Program State Library of WA webpage.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Continence Week

World Continence Week (WCW) is a health campaign run by the World Federation For Incontinence and Pelvic Problems (WFIPP) to raise awareness of incontinence related issues. This year it takes place from the Monday 20 to Sunday 26 June and during the week the WFIPP highlights the impact urinary incontinence can have on our life and encourages those living with it to seek help so they no longer have to suffer in silence.

For more information about WCW click here.

You can also access a range of resources developed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by the Continence Foundation of Australia, here.