NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NACCHO Medical Advisor on vaccine rollout

feature tile text 'NACCHO Medical Advisor Dr Agosinto speaks about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout' & photo of hands drawing vaccine from vial

NACCHO Medical Advisor on vaccine rollout

NACCHO Medical Advisor, Dr Jason Agostino spoke on National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS) on Thursday (15 July 2021) last week about the COVID-19 rollout. Dr Agostino said it is important to reinforce that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 16 years and over are eligible to get a vaccine now and that a lot is being done to make sure that both types of vaccines are available within Aboriginal medical services across the country and also via other GPs.

Up until now there has only been AstraZeneca within clinics, that’s the vaccine predominately for people over the age of 60, unfortunately more than 90% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are under the age of 60 and they’ve had to go to Pfizer which hasn’t been around. Dr Agostino said that in the last few weeks there has been more Pfizer getting into communities and health services in the city and the hope is to get more and more Pfizer out there into people’s arms as soon as possible. To listen to the interview in full click on the YouTube link below.

On Sunday 11 July 2021, Dr Agostino also spoke on 3RRRFM’s weekly medical show Radiotherapy with presenter Kent Goldsworthy about the vaccine rollout. You can listen to that interview here.

black & white photo of 3RRR radio presenter Kent Goldsworthy in studio & 3RRR logo 102.7 FM THREE R TRIPLE R R in red, black, white

3RRR presenter Kent Goldsworthy. Feature photo: The West Australian in NIT.

COVID-19 vaccine provider resources

The Australian Government Department of Health has prepared a suite of assets for vaccine providers. The main purpose of the resources is to support healthcare workers in their work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

The pack of resources includes:

  • updated guidance on TGA advertising restrictions, explaining how you can inform your patients about different vaccine brands availability in your clinic. This includes social, posters and web content
  • a video animation in plain English that could be sent to patients’ emails or used in clinic waiting rooms explaining what to expect on  vaccination day, side effects and the need for two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
  •  a suite of talking points talking points designed for healthcare workers to assist them with having conversations with patients about COVID-19 vaccines
  • updated social resources with suggested captions to use across social media networks
  • a summary of general COVID-19 vaccine communications available on the website that have been developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including social content, posters, fact sheets and videos
  • general Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources (social, posters and community announcement script), reminding people of the importance of following restrictions, staying home if feeling unwell, and getting tested

All resources are available for download here via WeTransfer.

You can browse other communication assets, such as videos with Indigenous community leaders and testimonials by real people, and many other resources here.

Health staff shortages in remote communities

COVID-19 border closures and lockdowns have caused a shortage of healthcare workers in remote Indigenous communities, fuelling fears the vaccine rollout to some of the country’s most vulnerable people is being slowed down. In northern WA the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) has been dealing with increasingly severe staff shortages as its retention rates plummet.

“In our remote communities we do tend to rely on nursing and medical staff being on a fly-in fly-out roster,” medical director, Palawa woman Lorraine Anderson said. “Generally those staff have not always come from WA, there have been people from all the states and territories across Australia and in a few cases even outside Australia.” Since the pandemic began KAMS’s staff attrition rate has more than doubled from 37–85%. In some of its clinics the figure is as high as 100%, meaning the entire original workforce has been replaced.

The number of job vacancies has also increased from an average of 10–50 – more than 10%of the total KAMS workforce. Dr Anderson said rolling lockdowns and constant changes to travel restrictions were taking a toll. “18 months down the track our staff are actually getting very tired of that, it’s wearing people down, it’s very difficult on family situations and relationships,” she said. Dr Anderson is hopeful staffing issues won’t affect the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley as KAMS prioritises the jab, but she says workers won’t be able to offer the standard of primary and preventative healthcare she would like as a result.

To view the full Brisbane Times article click here.

white vehicle on side of bitumen road through red dust landscape

Image source: Create website.

NDIS fighting trust deficit

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed last week that the controversial NDIS independent assessments proposed by the Federal Government are “dead”. Reynolds said she was sorry that some of Australia’s most vulnerable people had been stressed by the possible impact of the independent assessments, which disability advocates have fought hard against for months.

Associate Professor Jen Smith-Merry and Associate Professor Mary-Ann O’Donovan, from the Centre for Disability Research and Policy and Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Sydney commented on the issue. “The proposed implementation of the NDIS Independent assessments  has been abandoned in its current form and this is a great victory for all the people with disability and supporters who have campaigned against it.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which runs the NDIS, contracted our team from the University of Sydney to externally validate the findings of their pilot inf independent assessments. Our team included people with qualitative and quantitative methods expertise, lived experience of disability and understanding of the broader policy and service context around the NDIS. By requesting this validation work, the NDIA acknowledged that the process and findings of the evaluation they conducted may be questioned in terms of credibility and trustworthiness. This request for external validation reflects the need for the NDIA agency to counter the general mistrust towards it in the sector.

To view the full article in Croakey Health Media click here.

photo of word 'trust' written in the sand

Photo: Lisa Caroselli, Pixabay. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Indigenous bowel screening resources

The Australian Government Department of Health has a range of resources for families and communities regarding Indigenous bowel screening. Its collection contains resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) including information about bowel screening, video stories, community songs, fact sheets, posters and more.

You can access the collection of resources, including the SA Health Making tracks: Health Screening for Bowel Cancer video (below) here.

Closing the walkability gap

Indigenous inequality in Australia has long been known to the public and policy makers. Yet, successive local, state, and federal governments have failed to effectively make a noticeable change in Indigenous health and wellbeing. These inequalities include shorter life expectancy, poorer general health and lower levels of education and employment. Less known is transport inequality and its health implications for Indigenous people.

Walking is a healthy form of physical activity and is proven to reduce rates of chronic disease. Neighbourhood walkability is associated with the number of trips people can make on foot. People living in areas with lower walkability tend to walk less. University of New South Wales’ research shows that 70% of the Indigenous population in the City of Sydney live in neighbourhoods with lower-than-average walkability. This has the potential to aggravate Indigenous people’s health issues, potentially widening the health gap with non-Indigenous Australians, instead of closing it.

To view the full article click here.

woman in dark shadow walking past a wall with Aboriginal dot paintings of emu, kangaroo, dolphin, echidna, snake

Photo: John Pryke/AAP. Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom website.

Abstracts for rural health conference

If you are concerned about the health and wellbeing of people who live an work in rural or remote areas of Australia the 16th National Rural Health Conference will be of interest to you. The conference will be held in Perth next year from Monday 30 May to Wednesday 1 June 2022 with the theme is Bridging social distance; Rural health innovating & collaborating.

Abstracts close Sunday 8 August 2021. For more information about the abstract process click here.

For further information, including details about early bird registration which open on 4 October 2021, you can access the conference website here.

banner text '16th National Rural Health COnference 30 May - 1 June 2022, Perth, WA - Bridging social distance Rural health innovating & collaborating,' purple background, green & white font & logo white number '16' with green & purple heads represented by oval lines & purple and wavy lines representing arms, sitting over the number '16

New process for job advertising

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

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


dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

Stress Down Day

Stress Down Day, a fun and easy initiative designed to raise awareness around stress in the workplace, and an opportunity to raise vital funds for Lifeline locally. Lifeline relies on fundraising and donations to help cover the cost of providing local crisis support and suicide prevention services.

Research shows that 90% of Australians feel stressed – with 74% of people reporting being stressed from work.

For information about Stress Down Day click here.tile text 'Lifeline's Stress Down Day on 24/7' Lifeline logo, text in light blue, smiling face 2 blue dots for eyes, blue semi-circle for mouth, orange line overlapping corner of right side of mouth making intersection purple & longer yellow line overlapping corner of blue left mouth making green

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Decreased access exacerbates chronic illness

feature tile text 'First Nations Peoples' chronic illness over-representation exacerbated by decreased healthcare access' photo of Aboriginal man's hands in lap

Decreased access exacerbates chronic illness

Residents in Sydney, the NSW Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong will spend at least two more weeks in lockdown as authorities grapple with high COVID-19 case numbers. The growing cluster now centred in Sydney’s south west raises major health and wellbeing concerns for people living in larger households, with chronic health issues and more precarious jobs and incomes, and the urgent need for tailored communications and supports that are led by community.

The extension of the Greater Sydney lockdown to contain the latest outbreak of COVID-19 is expected to put added strain on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with implications for management of chronic health conditions, social isolation, and mental health, say community experts. A key concern for Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle, Associate Dean, Indigenous Health, Western Sydney University, is the interruption of the care of chronic conditions for south-west Sydney’s 6,000-strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. “This halt in day-to-day health business will have huge impacts down the road,” said Doyle, a Winninninni woman.

While she said phone consultations were valuable, there were limitations to this care. “You are less likely to go and do things that you need to do; like, do you need to have your blood taken for your diabetes? How’s your podiatry going?”, she said.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer disproportionately from lockdowns.

Dr Paul Saunders, a Biripi man, medical doctor and Research Fellow in Translational Health Research at Western Sydney University, said reduced access to care in a lockdown was an issue for the whole community, but its impact would be felt more acutely among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “Indigenous people have an over-representation of chronic illnesses, these are just exacerbated by this decreased access to health care,” he said.

To view the full article click here.

3 Aboriginal women sitting outside of Tharawal Clinic, all wearing different Aboriginal dot art shirts

Tharawal health clinic supporting community. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Strengthening mental health workforce

New research by Charles Darwin University (CDU) scholars suggests a strengthened Indigenous mental health workforce could effectively improve mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The report, written by Professor Dominic Upton, Associate Professor Linda Ford, Professor Ruth Wallace, Sarah Jackson, Jenna Richard from CDU and Dr Penney Upton from the University of Canberra, has found  that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led mental health workforce would promote self-determination and increase the reach of mental health services by providing culturally competent services. Mental health services delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals are considered more culturally safe and trustworthy.

For more information about the research click here and to view the Charles Darwin University media statement in full click here.

wall painted with Aboriginal flag layout with centre a yellow brain, shadow of bars across painted brick wall

Image source: VICE.

Challenges facing Aboriginal adolescents

In Australia, an understanding of Aboriginal adolescence is urgently needed to ensure equitable treatment. Not only must young Aboriginal people adjust to their changing bodies and minds, but they must also negotiate these changes in conflicting environments often characterised by racism and poverty.

A new book Indigenous Australian Youth Futures – Living the Social Determinants of Health edited by University of Newcastle medical anthropologist, Associate Professor Kate Senior, aims to provide better contextualisation around Aboriginal youth and the challenges they face in modern Australia.

The new publication aims to provide a greater understanding of the day-to-day lives of Aboriginal adolescents, and some of the adults who care for or neglect them. It seeks to provide better understanding of the circumstances, processes and factors that affect adolescent health, wellbeing and future prospects in their intercultural environments.

For a more detailed description of the book click here.cover of book text 'Indigenous Australian Youth Futures - living the social determinants of health - edited by Kate Senior, Richard Chenhall and Victoria Burbank' sepia photo of two young Aboriginal children in long grass, one attempting a hand stand

NDIS latest news

The July 2021 edition of the NDIS Latest news includes:

  • Home & Living and Support for Decision Making Consultations – have your say
  • Coronavirus information
  • Would We Fund It update
  • 2021–22 pricing update
  • Participant spotlight

To view the NDIS Latest news July 2021 edition click here.tile text 'ndis Latest news' along footer white text, purple background, phot of man in wheelchair on path with young boy holding man's hand and woman with young girl walking on the other side of the wheelchair

IAHP Yarnes evaluation update

An update of the Indigenous Australian’s Health Programme (IAHP) Yarnes Evaluation has been released. The update provides an overview of the progress made on the evaluation during the first half of 2021, including 17 sites (with 23 ACCHOs and 13 Primary Health Networks) formalising their participation as site partners in the evaluation and ethics approval allowing fieldwork to being in all 17 sites.

You can view the evaluation update here and access the evaluation website here.banner text 'IAHP Yarnes IAHP Yarning Action Reflection National Evaluation Systems' 5 Aboriginal art circles overlapping, blue, green, brown, taupe, white

NT GP training enrolments plummet

The difficulties of retaining medical practitioners in the NT have been laid bare, with a study showing a 50% fall in the number of junior doctors deciding to become GPs. The NT leads a national trend of declining enrolments in GP training, according to the Menzies School of Health Research. “This is a complex problem and there is no easy solution,” researcher Deb Russell said in a statement earlier this week.

Historically, the NT has struggled to attract and retain GPs, especially in remote areas. It relies heavily on locally training junior doctors to become GPs, however, between 2016 and 2020 new enrolments fell by 50%. The decline is far larger than the national average of 12%.

Dr Russell said graduating medical students and junior doctors need to be attracted to GP training as soon as they graduate. “Many are still making up their minds about their career path at this time,” she said. Training opportunities in remote areas should be offered, along with cultural awareness education and support to overcome the barriers to rural work. Also, intern and other hospital training positions should also be awarded to junior doctors who express an interest in rural general practice, Aboriginal health, remote medicine, and staying in the NT long term.

You can view The West Australian article in full here and a related ABC News article here.

Dr Melanie Matthews a GP at Mala'la Indigenous health service Maningrida sitting at her clinic desk with stethoscope around her neck

Dr Melaine Matthews, Mala’la Indigenous health service, Maningrida, NT. Image source: ABC News.

New Graduate Certificate available

A new Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management (Safety and Quality) is now available through the University of Tasmania.

This new course follows a collaboration between the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care with the University of Tasmania to introduce training on healthcare safety and quality, particularly the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. The course is part-time and is delivered fully online, with optional half-day masterclasses.

The Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management (Safety and Quality) is open for enrolment now, and for a limited time the University is providing a 100% HECS fee waiver. This is a fantastic opportunity for managers and clinicians across Australia to boost their skills and knowledge and get a qualification in this important area.

Course participants will get an in-depth understanding of how to apply NSQHS Standards and the National Model Clinical Governance Framework to improve the safety and quality of care in their health service. You can access a more detailed overview of the course here.

If you are interested in this course and have any queries, please contact the course coordinator, Professor Melanie Lauva here.

banner image of torso of woman holding stethoscope towards camera, overlaid with medical vector images e.g. medical chart, thermometer, ambulance contained within hexagons, blue white

Image source: Future Health Skills website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Mills makes Indigenous hoop dreams a reality

Feature tile text 'NBA star Patty Mills makes hoop dreams a reality with the launch of Australia's first Indigenous Community Basketball League', image of Patty Mills taking a shot at the hoop

Mills makes Indigenous hoop dreams a reality

NBA star, Patty Mills is providing pathways for young Indigenous talent as a way to give back to the game in Australia. Patty Mills hopes the new league he has launched will give more Indigenous children the chance to not only play basketball at high levels but to achieve better educational and health outcomes. Mills said “Basketball as a sport has brought me happiness, joy, education and a real sense of purpose and perspective. It has changed my world and shaped the person I am today. However, not everyone has had the same opportunities as I have, which is why I’m so dedicated to using my platform, my profile and my voice to develop innovative programs like the Indigenous Basketball Association, which will allow my people to really own their story. I have spent over 10 years in the NBA, an organisation that has not only supported and championed me as an athlete, but celebrated my cultural identity as an Australian, an Indigenous man of the land.”

Yesterday NACCHO Chairperson Donnella Mills gave an address at the opening ceremony of the Indigenous Community Basketball League at the Cairns Basketball Stadium. Donnella addressed the teams gathered saying “I don’t know as much about basketball as you all do, but I can share with you a few observations about health and how important sport is in keeping us all fit and healthy. Playing sport is not just good fun. Sport has a huge impact on a person’s daily life and health. Sport improves your heart function; reduces the risk of diabetes; lowers stress; and improves your wellbeing and strength of mind.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people usually fare pretty badly in the statistics and the press tends to focus on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. You are all living-and-breathing examples of what we can achieve and you should all be proud. In fact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do particularly well in sports statistics. Look at the amazing international career of Patty Mills, it speaks for itself.”

To access the article ‘We’re creating history’: Mills making Indigenous hoop dreams a reality click here, to view the NBA endorses Mills’ Indigenous Basketball Association news item click here, and to read Australian Men’s Health‘s glowing endorsement of Patty Mills’ initiative click here.

Far North Queensland teams sitting in rows on basketball court at opening ceremony of Indigenous Community Basketball League

Far North Queensland teams at the Opening Ceremony of the Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) on Sunday 7 February 2021.

Bill passed to decriminalise public drunkenness

The Victorian Lower House has passed a bill  to decriminalise public drunkenness, 30 years after it was first recommended by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Upper House is expected to vote on the bill in coming weeks and if approved being drunk in a public place will no longer be treated as a criminal offence but rather a health issue, with reforms to be implemented over the next two years.

The move was triggered by the death of 55-year-old Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who was asleep on a V/Line train before she was arrested and taken to the Castlemaine Police Station in 2017. Ms Day was left unattended in a holding cell where she fell and hit her head at least five times, causing traumatic brain injuries which later ended her life.

Ms Day’s death was a haunting reminder of a strikingly similar tragedy that could have been prevented if public drunkenness offences were repealed decades earlier. On a winter afternoon in 1987, Gunai man Arthur Moffatt, 51, boarded a regional train from Moe to Morwell in eastern Victoria after spending the day enjoying a few drinks with friends. During his trip, Mr Moffatt suffered a diabetic hypoglycaemic attack (low blood sugar levels), which was a mixed reaction to the alcohol in his system and a lack of food, according to a federal inquiry into his death. He then fell unconscious and missed his stop but was soon carried off the train and taken by officers to Warragul Police Station where he died hours later in a cell.

Tanya Day with small girl on indoor play equipment

Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day. Image source: ABC News website.

App tackles women’s health risk factors

Associate Professor Gillian Gould and her all-women team comprising Aboriginal researchers, non-Indigenous researchers and experts have secured a $50,000 grant to support development of the MAMA-EMPOWER App. The app provides tailored support for women to tackle risk factors affecting their health. The funding from the NSW Government’s Investing in Women funding program allows for further development of the system designed to address the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal women during preconception or pregnancy.

Associate Professor Gould is based in Coffs Harbour, where she has established a University of Newcastle-affiliated research hub. Team member and University of Newcastle based Research Manager for the project, Dr Nicole Ryan said, “This funding will help in incorporating feedback from local women to not only make it culturally appropriate but to include evidence-based guidance for the individual person.”

The app provides tailored support to women to tackle four risk factors impacting their health – smoking, alcohol, physical activity, and low fruit and vegetable intake. It will incorporate behavioural change techniques such as goal setting and reminders and has an interface that is easy to connect with.

To view the Coffs Coast News of the Area article click here.

Associate Professor Gillian Gould standing on tree lined path

Associate Professor Gillian Gould. Image source: The University of Newcastle Australia.

Making diabetes care culturally safe

Gulumerridjin Traditional Custodian and Karrajarri man Christopher Lee is taking action to support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with Diabetes. Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement at Diabetes Australia, Lee was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2014. “I was diagnosed around 2014 out in Toowoomba. I went in for the Deadly Choices check, then they rang me back and said doctor needs to see you. I rock up and he tells me I have Type 2 Diabetes. I had no idea what it was, was it poor lifestyle choice? Was my upbringing wrong?”

Now, seven years on, Lee has a lot more knowledge around Diabetes but has faced ignorance and adversity. “We are genetically predisposed to getting Diabetes,” he said. “I went through four or five different Aboriginal Medical Services in southeast Queensland. In one of them, the doctor said it was my fault, I had made poor lifestyle choices and brought it on myself.”

Researching on the internet and sifting through resources, it wasn’t until Lee got to yarn with a friend did he find confidence. “It wasn’t until I found a brother that we got to sit and yarn. We spoke about his Type 2 Diabetes and what I needed to know,” he said. “A yarning conversation with someone I respected, someone I trusted, and in a language I understood. From that point, I had a basic understanding and through talking with some fantastic health professionals, I’ve built up the trust to ask why this happens.”

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

Diabetes Australia's Indigenous engagement manager Christopher Lee standing on an oval with large green trees in the background, wearing black yellow and red t-shirt

Diabetes Australia’s Indigenous engagement manager Christopher Lee. Image source: NITV website.

1,000s of US marines coming to Darwin

The Australian Department of Defence has confirmed that 2,200 US marines, in batches of 200–500, will arrive in Darwin between now and June this year as part of an annual training rotation. Earlier this year, the use of a Darwin CBD hotel as a quarantine facility for international military arrivals was the subject of significant criticism from health groups, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).

Western NSW Local Health District Board vacancies

The NSW Minister for Health is inviting applications from persons interested in becoming a member of the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Board

There are a number of vacancies opening up on the board due to the retirement of members. WNSWLHD Board Chair Scott Griffiths explained “The Board is responsible for overseeing an effective governance and risk management framework for the district, setting its strategic directions, ensuring high standards of professional and ethical conduct are maintained, involve providers and the community in decisions that affect them, monitoring the service delivery and financial performance of the district against its targets and holding the chief executive accountable for their performance.”

NCSR release Healthcare Provider portal

The National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) has released a Healthcare Provider portal and is integrating the Register with Clinical Information Systems. This new functionality creates a new channel for users to interaction with the Register online at a time convenient for them.

In collaboration with the Department of Health, the NCSR is providing a Communications Toolkit to increase awareness of the Healthcare Provider Portal and integration with Clinical Information Systems. NCSR have worked closely with Best Practice and MedicalDirector to develop an API which will be shared with more vendors throughout the year with the intent to integrate with as many vendors as possible. The Best Practice integration recently went live and NCSR are working with MedicalDirector to finalise the necessary steps to integrate.

The toolkit provides links to supporting collateral to assist in raising awareness of the new ways to access and submit data to the NCSR. The supporting assets include:

  • A media release
  • Social media creatives
  • Awareness raising animations
  • Key messages
  • A Healthcare Provider Portal demonstration video (split into chapters)
  • A promotional PowerPoint resource

To access an overview of the NCSR Communications Toolkit – Healthcare Provider Portal and Clinical Software Integration click here.

orange background, text 'Australian Government, National Cancer Screening Register, Healthcare Provider Portal Logging in and your acc, vector image of female & male health professionals

AMA comment’s on draft National Workforce Strategy

The AMA recently provided feedback to the Department of Health on the Draft National Medical Workforce Strategy. The AMA was broadly supportive of the five priority areas and most actions outlined by the Draft Strategy. If executed well in concert with other major health reforms already underway, the Strategy should provide a solid platform to ensure that the medical workforce sustainably meets the changing health needs of Australian communities.

Some key points of the AMA’s response included support for the development of functional and reciprocal links between tertiary, regional and rural hospitals, Aboriginal health services, universities, medical colleges, and regional training providers, and the integration of prevocational and vocational training pathways within these networks as a priority. This will ensure trainees undertaking generalist training have adequate access to relevant terms in larger urban hospitals.

To view the article regarding the AMA’s comments on the draft click here.

banner, text National Medical WOrkforce Strategy, collage of photos, doctor with stethoscope, group of nurses, older couple, Aboriginal woman and young girl, male doctor, farmer

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Transitioning to PHC community control

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) play a critical role in providing culturally appropriate, accessible primary healthcare (PHC) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. The success of many ACCHSs has led to increased policy support for their growth and development, including the transition of state government administered PHC services to Aboriginal community control in select communities. However, there is minimal published literature available which evaluates such transitions. A research paper reports on an evaluation of the experience of one ACCHS (Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service) of transitioning local PHC services to community control in Yarrabah, Queensland, with a focus on the processes and strategies which were implemented to achieve successful transition.

Achieving successful transition to community control of PHC for Gurriny entailed a lengthy process of substantial, ongoing organisational growth and development. Gurriny’s experience provides a framework for both governments and the ACCHS sector to inform future transitions of PHC services to Aboriginal community control.

To view the research article in full click here.

outside shot of Gurriny Yealamucka Primary Health Care Service

Image source: Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Diabetes Australia recognises the outstanding contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse Diabetes Educators for World Diabetes Day

Diabetes Australia recognises the outstanding contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse Diabetes Educators 

Based on self-reported and measured results, Indigenous Australians are almost three times as likely to have diabetes as their non-Indigenous counterparts.  According to the ABS 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey around 64,100 of Indigenous Australians had diabetes

Tomorrow is World Diabetes Day and the NACCHO would like to highlight the disproportionate rates of diabetes amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In 2020, the theme ‘nurses make the difference for diabetes’ focuses on promoting the role of nurses in the prevention and management of diabetes. This is particularly important and necessary with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are at risk or living with diabetes. 

Diabetes Australia marked World Diabetes Day and NAIDOC Week celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse Diabetes Educators.
The theme for World Diabetes Day 2020 is Diabetes: nurses make the difference and the theme for NAIDOC week in 2020 is Always Was, Always Will Be. This theme recognises the fact that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent and themselves for over 65,000 years this. An important reminder for health organisations.

Diabetes Australia, CEO Professor Greg Johnson said First Nations nurses are playing a major role in helping to meet the challenges of the diabetes epidemic.

“First Nations Peoples in Australia are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and much more likely to develop serious diabetes-related complications. The gap in health outcomes for indigenous Australians is greatest in diabetes,” Professor Johnson said.

“Despite the size of the challenge, we should take heart that we have a growing First Nations health work force who are working hard every single day caring for, and supporting, people with diabetes.

“There are approximately 3000 First Nations nurses in Australia, and I take this opportunity today to recognise their contribution and, on behalf of people with diabetes, say thank you.”

Download the Diabetes Australia media release for World Diabetes Day here.

Dr Charles Perkins oration

Speaking at the 20th anniversary of the Dr Charles Perkins Oration and Prize, hosted by the University of Sydney, Aboriginal leader Pat Turner AM said governments must continue to prioritise working in partnership with Indigenous organisations to achieve positive outcomes for First Nations people. Ms Turner used her keynote address to outline a blueprint for how Australia could move towards a future of greater acceptance and equality, saying “We have a shared future — Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, together — and the two sides must come together to deliver lasting equality and recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”.

The Dr Charles Perkins Oration provides an esteemed platform for the discussion of race relations in Australia. In 2020, the theme is still relevant with the broader Australian public forced to once again reconcile with uncomfortable truths, just as it did in 1965 when Charles Perkins led a bus tour across NSW, known as the Freedom Rides. Over the past 12 months, issues such as the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, an ineffective Closing the Gap strategy, and examples of blatant disregard for culturally significant Aboriginal sites have laid bare the inequality still experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Ms Turner said. “Lasting change can only come when it is embedded in the culture of organisations and traditionally Australian governments are … slow to adapt,” Ms Turner said. Ms Turner said Dr Perkins had led the fight against racial discrimination and segregation by mobilising the mainstream media and Aboriginal communities in unprecedented ways. “He wanted Aboriginal people, his people, to see that we deserved more, should demand more, and could be more,” she said.

To view a transcript of the Dr Charles Perkins Oration delivered by Patricia Turner AM at the University of Sydney on 12 November 2020 click here.

Pat Turner AM at lectern at The University of Sydney delivering the Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2020

Pat Turner AM, delivering the Dr Charles Perkins Memorial Oration for 2020. Image source: ABC Sydney.

 

First Nations health champion

When she was growing up, Ngaree Blow used to read statistics about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and wonder, “does that mean I’m going to die early?” The figures showed First Nations people had, on average, had a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the population. They showed increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, renal disease and a host of other health issues. “That’s where my passion led to uncovering what those statistics actually mean, and how that links into our knowledge and understanding of health and wellbeing as Aboriginal people,” Dr Blow said.

To view the full article click here.

photo of Dr Ngaree Blow looking into distance in garden setting

Dr Ngaree Blow, director of First Nations health at the University of Melbourne’s medical school. Image source: ABC News.

Culturally trained female clinicians needed

More culturally trained female clinicians are needed to help reduce cervical cancer rates in remote Indigenous communities, a Mount Isa nurse says. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2019 report found the incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was more than double that of non-Indigenous women.

The age-standardised incident rate for Indigenous women aged 20–69 was 22.3 new cases per 100,000 compared to 8.7 new cases per 100,000 for non-Indigenous women according to data from 2011 to 2015. The report also said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were three times more likely to die from the disease. Clinical nurse consultant Rachel Tipoti said a lack of testing put Indigenous women at higher risk.

To view the full article click here.

portrait shot of Rachel Tipoti against wall with Aboriginal ard

Rachel Tipoti is the only female Indigenous clinician trained in cervical screening, servicing NW Qld remote communities. Image source: ABC News.

Antenatal care links to baby outcomes

This report explores the factors associated with antenatal care use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, and how these may relate to baby outcomes – including how this varies spatially across the Indigenous Regions (IREGs) of Australia. Having no antenatal care was associated with increased odds of pre-term birth and perinatal death and late antenatal care was associated with increased odds of low birthweight and NICU/SCN admission. In 2016–2017 63% of Indigenous mothers attended antenatal care in the first trimester, up from 55% in 2014–2015. IREGs with higher rates of antenatal care were more likely to have lower rates of adverse mother and baby outcomes.

To view the Antenatal care use and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their babies report click here.

Aboriginal baby in hessian & orange wool in a basket sitting on paperbark

Photo by Aboriginal photographer Bobbi-lee Hille.

Best Practice decision-making

There are thousands of agreements in place between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, covering wide-ranging issues including land use, mining exploration and the provision of health services. But these agreements don’t always work, particularly where parties have little regard for formal agreement provisions, community standards or the spirit of ‘partnership’ with Traditional Owners. Agreement making processes must reflect that Indigenous Australians are more than ‘stakeholders’ and have a special relationship to Country as Traditional Owners. This includes ensuring appropriate representation in negotiations and transparency, as well as effective mechanisms for compliance and review.

The recent National Agreement on Closing the Gap sets out processes for representation, consultation and shared decision making. This demonstrates a commitment to improved partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people.

Once the relevant groups are identified, it’s essential that resources are invested to ensure that the relevant Indigenous organisations can participate meaningfully in negotiations, and the subsequent implementation of agreements, including acting as a liaison between the parties.

To view the full article click here.

NACCHO COE Pat Turner AM at a Partnership Agreement on CTG meeting

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Nidjalla Waangan Mia celebrates 10 years

The Nidjalla Waangan Mia team only conducted 24 Aboriginal health checks in its first year of operation. However, 10 years on the service completed 312 health checks in the past year and helps 964 active clients. Celebrating the milestone anniversary during NAIDOC Week, Aboriginal community leader George Walley made a speech and played didgeridoo at the event. “Nidjalla Waangan Mia is quite an extraordinary place because it allows us to now work with families and clients to help them manage their own health – we’ve come a long way,” he said.

“Access is a big issue in terms of health and it’s important to break down the barriers that stop people accessing the health services they need,” she said. “So we have a transport service here, we have outreach services, and we do offer rapid appointments – all the eligible people that come here are offered an Aboriginal health check, offered prevention measures and health promotion measures to live the best lives they can. “Nidjalla now has 964 active clients, which is 56 per cent of the Aboriginal community in Peel based on the last census.”

To view the Mandurah Mail article click here.

Elder, client and GP cutting 10 year anniversary cake

Aboriginal community leader George Walley, GP down south chief executive Amanda Poller, and Nidjalla Waangan Mia client Keith Savage celebrating the organisation’s 10 year anniversary. Image source: Mandurah Mail.

Joe Williams promotes mental wellbeing

Focusing on what matters and reflecting on the ‘small victories’ could be the key to lessening the impact of COVID-19 on our mental health, according to former NRL player and mental health advocate, Joe Williams.

Joe has managed his mental wellbeing during the current global pandemic by focusing on some of the positive aspects to emerge from the significant and sudden changes to everyone’s life. He uses the extra time at home to connect more closely with family. 

“It was my sign to slow down,” says Joe. “I don’t want to say it’s been a positive, but the whole experience has taught me the importance of family. Living more closely with each other and spending more time at home means thinking more about our own words, actions and behaviours.”

For further information click here.

portrat shot of Joe Williams navy suit jacket and grey t-shire

Joe Williams. Image source: 33 Creative.

Eliminating Hep C webinar

EC Australia is hosting a webinar from 12.00 pm-1.30 pm (AEDT) on Wednesday 18 November 2020 presenting the latest hepatitis C data from a national sentinal surveillance network of ACCHOs (ATLAS network) and the results of The Goanna Survey 2; a study of knowledge, risk practices and health service access for sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs) among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Findings from a recent study on the barriers and enablers of hepatitis C treatment among clients of urban Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in SE Queensland and how the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUHI) have translated these research findings into service delivery. The webinar will also showcase micor-elimination approaches from two local ACCHOs based on outer regional and urban settings and one peer-based model of service delivery.

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

image of hepatitis C cell

Image source: NPS Medicinewise.

Strong Brother Strong Sister partners with Surfing Victoria

Surfing Victoria and the Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program have signed a strategic partnership with Victorian based Indigenous Youth Organisation, Strong Brother Strong Sister. The organisations have been working closely together since Strong Brother, Strong Sister was founded in 2017 by Cormach Evans, and have now formalised the partnership to continue surfing as a key part of their program.

The Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program is the key initiative of Surfing Victoria’s Indigenous Strategic Pillar and is one of the longest running Indigenous engagement programs in the country. Now in its 23rd year, the program uses Surfing as a way to connect Indigenous Victorians with the ocean while learning new skills, water safety knowledge and healthy habits.

Evans notes “Strong Brother Strong Sister and Surfing Victoria’s partnership will allow the two organisations excellence to grow further and thrive, ensuring First Nations children, youth and their families have the opportunities to connect with community, culture and positive health and wellbeing and a love for the ocean through surfing.”

To view the full article click here.

two male adults and two Aboriginal children surfing

Image source: Australasian Leisure Management website.

Birthing in the city redesigned

Murdoch researchers are redesigning health care for Aboriginal people and the results may radically improve life outcomes for many. Healthy mothers, on the whole, give birth to healthy children and healthy mothers are supported physically and mentally by not only their communities, but their health practitioners and the health systems they deliver.

But what happens when the health system, which has been designed as a one size fits all approach, doesn’t fit?

Murdoch University’s Ngangk Yira Research Center, led by Professor Rhonda Marriott, has been working with Aboriginal communities throughout WA to identify the needs of Aboriginal women giving birth in metropolitan and regional centers. The project, Birthing on Noogar Boodjar, was conceived during a trip Rhonda took to Alice Springs in 2012 to discuss Australian country maternity services for Aboriginal women. The words Noongar Boodjar mean ‘the land that the Noongar people live on,” which is the SW corner of WA.

To view the full article click here.

Minister Wyatt, two researches & two Aboriginal mums and bubs

Image source: Murdoch University.

IAHP Yarnes restart

The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme (IAHP) Yarnes (Yarning Action Reflection National Evaluation Systems) Team enacted a decision to pause engagement with potential evaluation partners on 31 March 2020 because of COVID-19 and agreed to restart once pandemic conditions permitted safe engagement. Over the last six months, the team remained in contact with potential partners, and requested advice about when and how it would be appropriate to recommence planning workshops.

Over this period, the IAHP Yarnes team facilitated a series of three evaluation-specific webinars with potential partners. The webinars provided an opportunity for two-way knowledge exchange. They enabled potential partners to engage more in-depth with the evaluation values, scope, proposed approaches and methods, and for the team to better understand the concerns and needs of partners and test different approaches for future engagement. The team is confident that planning workshops, to discuss and reach agreement on partner participation and the implementation of the evaluation in individual sites can be successfully delivered virtually.

For further information about the IAHP Yarnes restart click here.IAHP Yarnes logo

NSW – Sydney – The George Institute for Global Health

PT or FT Research Associate – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program (identified position)
There is a very exciting opportunity for a Research Associate (project Manager) to join The George Institute for Global Health’s ‘Safe Pathways’ team that will work in partnership with families to focus on developing a discharge planning and delivery model of care that will: address institutionalised racism; facilitate access to ongoing specialist burn care; and enhance communication, coordination and care integration between families, local primary health services and the burns service at Westmead.
 
The George Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program cuts across content areas and is conducted within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing, with a focus on social determinants of health, health systems and healthcare delivery. We maintain an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander paradigm of health and healing (physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual) and a commitment to making impact through translation that influences policy.
 
For further information about the position and to apply click here.The George Institute for Global Health logo - white background, name in black font, purple sound waves across bottom

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Cultural approach tackles mental health shame

Feature tile 2.11.20 - young Aboriginal children Quinton and Jasalia Williams with face, hair, hands & chest paint, cultural day on country

Cultural approach tackles mental health shame

Small-town living can have its benefits, like knowing your neighbours, but when it comes to accessing help and support, it can be a barrier. Colleen Berry, who lives in the small inland community of Leonora in WA’s Goldfields, said people often felt “shame” in asking for help — and she wanted to do something to change that. So the proud Wongutha woman founded Nyunnga-ku, a community group for the women of Leonora where they can chat, sew, drink cups of tea and speak freely. As more women came to the group, Ms Berry said she realised how many were struggling with mental health and other issues. “Mental health has become something really big in our communities” she said.

To view the full article click here.

Young Aboriginal children Quinton and Jasalia Williams with face, hair, hands & chest paint, cultural day on country

Quinton and Jasalia Williams enjoy a cultrual day on country at the Nyunnga-Ku women’s camp. Image source: ABC News website.

Program aims to improve medication access

Metro North Hospital and Health Service is launching a pharmaceutical program that will allow greater access to medications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients visiting its facilities. The Better Together Medication Access program will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients have access to any medications needed upon discharge from hospital with no out-of-pocket expense.

Redcliffe Hospital Director of Pharmacy Geoffrey Grima said the program would improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who have an increased susceptibility to chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. “First Nations Australians have a disease burden 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians, which means they may require more medications to treat more illnesses,” Grima said. “We know medications can be expensive, and when a number of medications are required to treat various illnesses, this can add up quickly, making the process burdensome for patients.

To read the article in full click here.

Aboriginal hand holding different coloured pills

Image source: Australian Pharmacist website.

New support for NSW people impacted by suicide

The NSW Government is investing $4.54 million in post-suicide care to provide a range of practical and psychological services to NSW residents bereaved or impacted by suicide. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the state-wide services will range from one-to-one counselling and family therapy, to supporting grieving loved ones to liaise with police, the coroners and media. “It is estimated that up to 135 people can be impacted by a single suicide,” Mrs Taylor said. “We’re building a specialised workforce that can provide both practical and emotional support – from accessing existing services to explaining a suicide death to young children.” $4.2 million will be invested in StandBy Support After Suicide to enable the leading post-suicide support service to expand its footprint and range of services across NSW.

To view the media release  click here.

Aboriginal flay painted on a wall with shadows of two people holding hands

Image source: SBS NITV website.

Become a SOCKSTAR for kidney health

Kidney disease is a deadly disease and there is currently no cure. 1.7 million Australians are affected by the disease and it can have an enormous impact on people’s physical and mental health, family lives and livelihood. There are currently 25,000 Australians living with kidney failure. Dialysis or kidney transplant are needed for them to stay alive. For those on dialysis, they spend an average of 60 hours a month hooked to this life-saving machine, which cleans their blood of toxins. Dialysis can make them feel cold so blankets and warm socks are a must.

Kidney Health Australia has launched a brand new fundraising campaign – the Kidney Health Red Socks Appeal, to take place over the month of November. Participating in the Kidney Health Red Socks Appeal is a great way to show people living with kidney disease that you care. Solo or together with friends, everyone’s effort counts. It is easy to get involved – register as an individual or a team, grab some red socks and get going.

For more information about the Kidney Health Red Socks Appeal click here.

Kidney Health Red Socks Appeal banner - picture of red socks against background of pink and blue kidney vectors & words 'I'm wearing a pair to show I care'

ABS health surveys – have your say

Last year, the Australian government announced a new health study called the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study (IHMHS). The IHMHS will run over three years from late 2020 to 2023 and comprise surveys of health, nutrition and physical activity, and an optional biomedical survey. Similar to the Australian Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2011–13, the IHMHS will provide an opportunity to measure Australia’s health, including providing a picture of the health and wellbeing of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The results will be useful in helping to inform policy, services and programs supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to live healthier lives. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) needs your participation to help them shape the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander components of the IHMHS. The ABS want to talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to ensure their surveys are done in a culturally appropriate way and reflect the priorities, values and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Sign up here to participate in an upcoming webinars and have your say!

There is also an online survey on the ABS website that can be completed at any time.

The survey closes on Monday 30 November 2020.ABS tile 'help shape the upcoming ATSI Health Survey, two Aboriginal women sitting at outside tableyoutube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_jpsVuTR3w&w=560&h=315

Research centre targets regional Victorian health disadvantage

A new research centre at Federation University will work to reduce the health disadvantage of regional and rural residents. The Health Innovation and Transformation Centre, will develop innovative, multidisciplinary solutions for patients and the general community, spearheaded by the digital, genomic and data revolution. It will focus on areas including aged care, cardiovascular health, digital health interventions, workforce development and patient safety, ensuring the right care, in the right place at the right time.

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

entrance to Federation University Australia - sign on sandstone wall and brick university buildings in background

Image source: magiqsoftware website.

Calls for action on NT mental health neglect

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Northern Territory Branch has called on the NT Government to take a cue from Churchill and ‘action this day’ the rescue of NT Mental Health Service funding from decades of neglect.  ‘Northern Territorians have been short-changed on investment in mental health services for decades now and this becomes starkly apparent when we compare NT funding with that of other states and territories,’ said RANZCP NT Branch Chair, Dr David Chapman.

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

Aboriginal hands holding

Image source: St Vincent de Paul Society website.

Cashless Debit Card to be made permanent

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, Linda Burney, says the Government decided to make the Cashless Debit Card permanent, despite the Minister for Families and Social Services Senator Anne Ruston admitting at Senate Estimates that she hadn’t read the long-awaited review of the card. The card is currently being trialed in four sites: Ceduna; the Goldfields and East Kimberley; and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay. As well as this, the Government has also revealed it had set up a formal working group with the big banks and Australia Post to work on making the Cashless Debit Card part of mainstream accounts and point of sale technology – revealing their real plan to roll this technology out more broadly.

To view Linda Burney’s media statement in full click here.

Aboriginal hands holding the cashless debit card

Image source: The Morning Bulletin.

HealthInfoNet has new sexual health portal

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has added a new sexual health portal to its website. Through engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts in the field, topics for the sexual health portal will focus on the aspects of sexual health that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and their communities. These topics include safe sex, healthy relationships, sexuality, sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses, sexual disorders and reproductive health. Funded by the Australian Department of Health, the portal has information about publications, policies, health promotion and practice resources, organisations and workforce information to provide up-to-date relevant information for those working in this important area. 
 
PVC Equity and Indigenous at Edith Cowan University Braden Hill, says of this important topic ‘This is a wonderful addition to HealthInfoNet’s already important work in ensuring the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The focus on sexual health is of vital importance and will enable an evidence informed approach to health care in relation to this sometimes complex area of health’. HealthInfoNet Director Neil Drew says, ‘There is a need for trusted evidence based information that is freely accessible in one place and this portal like our others delivers that’.

To access the new sexual health portal click here.

two pairs of legs sticking out from under a doona

Image source: Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences – University of Queensland website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: CPR during COVID-19 – Guidelines

feature tile CPR training

CPR during COVID-19 Guidelines

CPR training hands on dummy & National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce logo

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce has recently issued guidance on CPR during the pandemic. Healthcare workers and trained first aid responders are being urged not to delay commencing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Taskforce, in partnership with the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG), have published new clinical flowcharts to guide clinicians and first aid responders in delivering potentially lifesaving CPR as safely as possible.

View the new flowcharts and the Australian guidelines for the clinical care of people with COVID-19 here.

NACCHO CEO 2021 Australian of the Year nominee

Pat Turner had been nominated for Australian of the Year in the ACT!

An Arrernte and Gurdanji woman, Patricia Turner AM has successfully negotiated with all levels of government to ensure that the concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are given respectful consideration. As CEO of the NACCHO, and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat has an invaluable record of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes. Pat’s leadership at NACCHO is creating real, meaningful and lasting change that will strengthen and support community-based Aboriginal health services.

She is the driving force behind a partnership between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks to facilitate shared decision making. One of the key outcomes from this partnership is a new national network funding agreement on Closing the Gap, which will help keep Aboriginal health in the hands of our communities. For her outstanding contribution to public service, Pat has been awarded the Order of Australia.

To read the full article in the Canberra Times click here.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turne sitting in a chair smiling with woven dog sculptures on a small table behind her & an a colourful Aboriginal painting of a bird

Portrait of Patricia Turner AM in her office in Canberra. Picture by Sean Davey.

SWAMS Mental Health Awards finalist

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service are celebrating being named a finalist for the Even Keel Bipolar Support Association Diversity Award at the 2020 WA Mental Health Awards. The award aims to recognise organisations that make an outstanding contribution to mental health. The medical service’s mental health team, called Kaat Darabiny (What you thinking?) senior prevention worker Lisa Collard said they were excited about the announcement. “We are excited and honored to be finalists for this award and very grateful that we are able to connect with and care for our wonderful local Aboriginal Community,” she said.

The team has also launched a new Tools in Schools Program for at risk children and teens. “The Tools in Schools Program is especially designed to support and engage directly with students who are struggling emotionally or behaviorally,” Ms Collard said. “It is an early intervention program to give these kids tools and skills they need to deal with their emotions. We want to give them a safe place to have a yarn about their issues, feelings and let them know they have somewhere to go and someone to talk to.” “So far, the response from schools and students has been very positive. The way the program is structured and delivered in small groups allows us to really connect with and empower the students,” Ms Collard said.

To see the full article click here.

the Kaat Darabiny team at South West Aboriginal Medical Service

Image source: Bunbury Mail.

Architecture awards for Puntukurnu AMS

Kaunitz Yeung Architecture won four awards at the 2020 International Architecture MasterPrize (AMP) including three awards across Healthcare, Green Building and Best of the Best, for Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Services (PAMS) Newman clinic. The Architecture MasterPrize is an international competition that honours designs in the disciplines of architecture, interior design and landscape architecture across the world.

The Newman clinic was commissioned by the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Services (PAMS) and called for a state-of-the-art, regional primary health care facility to be the physical embodiment of the ethos of PAMS – community focused, connected to country, incorporating culture and providing the highest standard of primary health care.

To view the full article click here.

external view of Puntukurnu AMA WA

Image source: Architecture & Design website.

Melioidosis warning for Top End

Residents and visitors to the Top End need to be aware about the increased risk of getting the potentially deadly disease, Melioidosis, following recent wet weather. Dr Vicki Krause Director of the NT Centre for Disease Control said increased rainfall expected this year due to an active La Niña event meant there would be a greater risk of Melioidosis, a disease caused by the bacteria called Burkholderia pseudomallei that lives below the soil’s surface during the dry season. Territorians are urged to take precautions to avoid Melioidosis this wet season, with about 50 cases reported in the Top End between October and May each year. “Melioidosis can lead to severe pneumonia and blood poisoning with 10-15 per cent of infections in past years leading to death, even with the best medical care,” Dr Krause said. “Cuts and sores are the perfect entry point for the bacteria to invade the body, but it can also be inhaled if it gets stirred up by wind.”

To view the Northern Territory Government’s media release in full click here.

muddy legs with rubber sandals walking across muddy grassy wet ground

Image source: Katherine Times.

Intentional self-harm a leading cause of death

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that intentional self-harm is the fifth leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians. The data also highlighted the alarming reality that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Indigenous males, with individuals aged between 15–24 years-old over four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people in the same age bracket. The data also revealed suicide was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–17-years-old between 2015–2019.

Leilani Darwin, Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience at the Black Dog Institute, says Australia needs to put suicide prevention on the agenda as a priority, as well as being a self-identified priority in communities, “Indigenous people are overrepresented in the worst ways.” 

To veiw the full article click here.

Aboriginal arms around child - torsos only set against wooden framed windows

Image source: NITV News website.

Latest COVID-19 update for Mob

The latest COVID-19 and other health updates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities newsletter produced by the Australian Government Department of Health has been released and can be accessed here.

35 year-old Larrakia man Jonathan sitting cross-legged on carpeted floor surrounded by study/work papers

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

PHC worker engagement with screening programs

The University of Melbourne in the Department of General Practice is seeking primary healthcare workers to take part in a qualitative study they are undertaking to evaluate ways to engage with primary healthcare workers about national screening programs (bowel, breast and cervical). The evaluation has been commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Findings thus far from this study have led to the development of communication materials to assist in boosting participation, education and engagement.  

They researchers recognise the importance of the whole clinic in improving cancer screening and would like to invite GPs, practice managers and practice nurses to participate in a focus group discussion (via Zoom) to review and provide feedback on the developed communication materials. The focus group discussions will occur in early December, with all participants receiving a $50 gift card for their time. 

To view the advertisement for the focus group click here.

Aboriginal Health Worker at ATSICHS Brisbane sitting at her desk

Tereina Kimo, Aboriginal Health Worker at ATSICHS Brisbane. Image source: NATSIHWA.

Remote community COVID-19 vulnerability

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It can infect and affect anyone, regardless of age, location, socioeconomic status or other health circumstances. Unfortunately though, it can be more devastating for some sections of the community than others. The situation in Victorian aged-care facilities has been a tragic reminder of the way in which this virus affects our most vulnerable in the community. That’s why, when COVID-19 first hit Australia, it was so important — and remains just as important — that strong measures are taken to protect remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people living in remote communities are at greater risk of COVID-19 due to higher rates of other health issues in these communities, difficulties accessing health care, people often being very mobile and travelling often, and in many cases relying more on outreach services. When COVID-19 hit, the message from many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations was clear: protecting these remote communities was of the utmost importance. On 20 March, Pat Turner — CEO of NACCHO told the ABC that it would be “catastrophic” if COVID-19 got into remote Indigenous communities, not only because of the potential loss of life, but also the loss of cultural heritage.

To view the full Hospital and Healthcare article click here.

WA remote community buildings against bald rock hills

Image source: ABC News website.

RACGP and ACRRM GP training collaboration

A joint statement from The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) has outlined the cooperative approach they will take ahead of the transition to college-led training. The statement reaffirms that the Federal Government is also committed to reforming the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) model, which will see the colleges become directly responsible for training registrars.
 
RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said the colleges are committed to making general practice and rural generalist training the ‘career pathway of choice’ for prospective students. ‘The return of general practice training to the RACGP provides a unique opportunity to drive further excellence in general practice training, and align it to workforce-distribution strategies that satisfy the healthcare needs of the diverse communities we serve,’ he said as well as pointing out that ‘This is a complex and multifaceted set of reforms that will require extensive consultation and collaboration with all of our stakeholders.’

To view the GPNews article in full click here and to access the RACGP media release click here.Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine world leaders in rural practice logo, vector of orange snake wound around windmill

New England health unit awarded for CtG Framework

To view the full article in the Newcastle Herald click here.

stethoscope on centre of Aboriginal flag

Image source: PHN Hunter New England and Central Coast website.

2021 GP Fellowship Training

The Remote Vocational Training Scheme Ltd (RVTS) is an established training provider with 20 years’ experience delivering GP Fellowship Training across Australia. Its AMS training stream, now in its 7th year, has positions available for doctors to train towards Fellowship qualifications of the RACGP and/or ACRRM. Training with RVTS allows registrars to stay in the one AMS location for the duration of training and offers structured distance education and remote supervision. Registrars receive comprehensive support from a dedicated Cultural Mentor, Medical Educator Mentor, and Training Coordinator throughout the duration of training and have access to Cultural Orientation Resources developed by the RVTS Cultural Educator and Cultural Mentor Team. The RVTS has a high fellowship achievement rate.

To check your eligibility for the AMS stream and to apply click here.

GP Fellowship Training applications are open now until 11 November 2020.

Dr Dharminder Singh who trained with RVTS at Mallee District Aboriginal Services

Dr Dharminder Singh who trained with RVTS at Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) and still works at MDAS.

Indigenous voice critical in government program evaluation

The Productivity Commission today released a proposed Indigenous Evaluation Strategy. The Strategy, which has been delivered to the Government, sets out a new approach to evaluating Australian Government policies and programs. Policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not working as well as they need to. Evaluation can play an important role filling this gap, but regrettably it is often an afterthought and of poor quality, Commissioner Romlie Mokak said. Importantly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are rarely asked about what, or how to evaluate, or what evaluation results mean, Mr Mokak said. The Strategy puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at its centre.

To view the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s media release in full click here.

8 Aboriginal hands around quit smoking badges

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

NSW – Wyong – Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited

Executive Assistant to the CEO

Suicide Prevention Worker

To access the Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services website and the job descriptions for these positions click here.

Applications for the EA to the CEO position close at 5.00 pm on Wednesday 11 November 2020 and applications for the Suicide Prevention Worker position close at 5.00 pm on Tuesday 11 November 2020.


Yerin Eleanor Duncan AHS logo

ACT – Canberra – National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA)

NATSIHWA is an association founded on the cultural and spiritual teachings of our past and present leaders, which best serves our members in their important role in achieving physical, social, cultural and emotional wellbeing for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They are currently seeking applications for the following senior level positions within the organisation:

Manager Executive Services

Teacher – Manager Professional Development

Manager – Policy, Projects and Research

For job descriptions click on the title of the job above. Applications for each position must be received by midnight Monday 2 November 2020.NATSIHWA logo

NSW – Sydney- Kirketon Road Centre

Senior Aboriginal Health Project Officer

The Kirketon Road Centre (KRC) is a primary health care facility located in Kings Cross, which is involved in the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS and other transmissible infections among ‘at-risk’ young people, sex workers and people who inject drugs. Working across KRC’s three clinical sites and extensive outreach program, this position is responsible for addressing the needs of Aboriginal people among KRC’s target populations, including ‘at risk young people, sex workers and people who inject drugs. The position also provides cultural expertise within KRC. 

For more information about the position and to apply click here.

Applications close Sunday 8 November 2020.Kirkton Road Centre logo, white letters KRC against green background

Across Australia – Remote Vocational Training Scheme Targeted Recruitment

General Practitioners – multiple positions

The Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS) is assisting the recruitment of doctors to targeted remote communities with high medical workforce need by including the RVTS GP Vocational Training program as a component of the doctor recruitment package. In 2018-20 the RVTS Targeted Recruitment Strategy successfully secured the services of 11 full-time doctors to 13 rural and remote communities across Australia. RVTS Training is a four-year GP training program delivered by Distance Education and Remote Supervision leading to Fellowship of the ACRRM and/or RACGP. RVTS Training is fully funded by the Australian Government.

Tor further information about the Targeted Recruitment positions click here.RVTS logo, vector of white sun rising or setting yellow sky, red earth

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

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

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

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

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

 

Feature Image - Aboriginal boy head in hands

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Survey to review mental health youth services

Mental health youth services survey

If you work or volunteer with an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations you are invited to participate in a short headspace online survey and share your views on issues of access, engagement and cultural safety of mental health supports for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All participants go into the draw to win a $100 voucher!

To view a survey flyer click here and to access the survey click here.

Young Aboriginal girl crying

Image source: newsinmind.com

NT outreach services improve hearing impairment

Ear and hearing health is vital for overall health and quality of life. Ear disease and associated hearing loss can have long-lasting impacts on education, wellbeing and employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely than non-Indigenous children to experience ear and hearing problems.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has shown positive results are being achieved by hearing health outreach services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the NT. The report shows that in 2019, 2,156 audiology; 770 ear, nose and throat teleotology; and 1,119 Clinical Nurse Specialist services were provided. Among children and young people who received treatment, 61% had improved hearing loss and 71% had improved hearing impairment.

To access a more detailed summary of the report click here.

Health professional checking ear of Aboriginal boy

Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.

National cancer screening health worker engagement project

The University of Melbourne is undertaking a project to understand how the primary healthcare workforce engages with the national cancer screening program (bowel, breast and cervical). Findings from the study will lead to the development of materials and initiatives to assist in boosting cancer screening participation.

During the first phase of the project the researchers are interested in interviewing nurses, GPs and Practice Managers to understand more about their role, their go-to-resources when they need more information about the screening programs and resources they would like to have access to.

Everyone that will be interviewed will be reimbursed with a $50 Gift Card. We intend to carry out interviews during the month of September. The interviews will be recorded with your permission.

For information about how to become involved in the project please contact Ebony Verbunt, Research Assistant, University of Melbourne email ebony.verbunt@unimelb.edu.au or phone 0429 928 039.

Aboriginal male & female cartoon figures with ages for breast, bowel, cervical cancer screening tests

Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

COVID-19 information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities survey

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, it has been extremely important to make sure health information about the virus reaches people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Australian Government Department of Health has worked with Indigenous communications agencies to produce a range of communications materials to help share information about the virus and inform communities about how they can stay safe.

You can provide feedback on how effective these campaign materials have been in reaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by taking this survey.

7 Keep Our Mob Safe resource images e.g. posters

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Residential aged care risk assessment urgently required

The AMA has warned urgent improvements in aged care and a coordinated response from all levels of government are needed to prevent the pandemic outbreak in Victorian aged care homes spreading into residential aged care nationwide. The AMA has called for every residential aged care home in Australia to be urgently and comprehensively assessed for its ability to safely care for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Elders hands in carer's hand

Image source: Aged Care Guide.

ACT paves way for raising incarceration age

The Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly has voted to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, paving the way for other jurisdictions to reform an outmoded law which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

To read the related Amnesty International Australia media release click here.

Aboriginal child's hands on jail barred overlaid with Aboriginal flag.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

COVID-19 vaccine will not be compulsory

Health Minister, Greg Hunt has confirmed that although any potential coronavirus vaccine will be strongly encouraged, it will not be made compulsory.

To read a transcript of Minister Hunt’s interview with David Koch on the Sunrise program click here.

QLD – Cairns or ACT – Canberra

PT Cultural Lead x 1 (Identified Position)

CRANAplus, the peak professional body for health professionals working in remote and isolated areas across Australia, has a vacancy for a Cultural Lead. This identified position, available to Aboriginal, First Nations, and Torres Strait Island people, will collaborate closely with internal and external stakeholders to develop and drive priorities supporting CRANAplus’ Organisational Strategic Plan.

You can view the CRANAplus website here and find details of the Cultural Lead position here.

CRANAplus logo & image of 4-wheel drive in outback

ACT – Canberra

FT Flexible Education Classroom Teacher  x 1 (Identified Position) – 6 months with the possibility of permanency

The ACT Education Directorate is seeking a reflective practitioner who: is able to create dynamic learning environments and authentically personalised education programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; has a demonstrated understanding of trauma and neuroscience informed education practices; and is passionate about inclusion, social justice, innovation and equity. Flexible Education is a community of schools/settings for students with complex and challenging needs including Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre, Muliyan, Boomanulla, the Hospital School, the education program at The Cottage and Distance Education.

For more details about the position click here.

Aboriginal youth and teacher against graffitied wall

Image source: School News Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Research Health News : New @NHMRC project to implement and evaluate 715 annual health checks interventions designed to help Close the Gap

 “The prevalence of most chronic diseases increases with age and affects not only physical health, but also the broader contributors to the well-being of older Aboriginal people, including participation in family, community and cultural leadership roles and connection with community networks.

Aboriginal people often receive a diagnosis at a more advanced stage of chronic disease, which means there’s less opportunity to prevent their condition and health deteriorating “

Professor Sanson-Fisher said chronic diseases continue to be a major contributor to unhealthy ageing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Timely diagnosis and appropriate management was vital to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. See Website

Consider these facts

  • In 2016-2017 just 27 per cent of Indigenous adults aged 15 to 24 had an annual health assessment.
  • Only 30 per cent of 25-to 54-year-olds, and 41 per cent of Indigenous adults over 55 had one.
  • Around 37 per cent of the burden of disease in Aboriginal people could be prevented by reducing risk factors

Read previous NACCHO 715 Health Check Articles

Download resources to boost the rates of the 715 health check. Information available for patients and health professionals!

An intervention designed to help Close the Gap, by increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who receive an annual health check by their GP, will be implemented and evaluated by a new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project.

Renowned population health researcher, Laureate Professor Rob Sanson-Fisher of the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, will lead a team of expert Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers in the five-year research project – which was awarded $745,056 following a Targeted Call for Research** for Healthy Ageing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Indigenous people die about eight years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians born in 2015-17, the life expectancy is 71.6 years for men and 75.6 years for women – about 8.6 and 7.8 years less than non-Aboriginal men and women respectively.

Twenty-two mainstream general practice clinics within the central Coast and New England regions will participate in the research project.

The intervention package will comprise strategies such as continuing medical education, recall and reminder systems, and mailed invitations to patients.

The project will also test whether the intervention increases doctors’ adherence to best practice care and improves patient outcomes.

More than 60 per cent of Indigenous people regularly visit mainstream general practice services – a key opportunity to deliver an annual ‘715’ health assessment, which forms an integral part of the Australian Government’s Closing the Gap commitment.

The aim of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Assessment (Medicare Benefits Schedule item 715) is to help ensure Indigenous Australians receive primary health care matched to their needs, by encouraging early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions that cause morbidity and early death.

The health assessment is an annual service and covers the full age spectrum..

Key contributing chronic conditions include cardiovascular diseases (19 per cent of the chronic disease prevalence gap), mental and substance use disorders (14 per cent), cancer (9 per cent), chronic kidney disease, diabetes, vision loss, hearing loss and respiratory, musculoskeletal, neurological and congenital disorders.

Around 37 per cent of the burden of disease in Aboriginal people could be prevented by reducing risk factors.

The risk factors causing the most burden are tobacco use (12 per cent of the total burden), alcohol use (8 per cent), high body mass (8 per cent), physical inactivity (6 per cent), high blood pressure (5 per cent) and high blood glucose levels (5 per cent).

“Mainstream general practice is a crucial setting to impact on prevention, timely diagnosis and appropriate management of chronic disease for Aboriginal people, which is imperative to help Close the Gap,” Professor Sanson-Fisher said.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #NAIDOC2019 News 4 of 5 : New @OzProdCom Productivity Commissioner @RMokak talks about what #NAIDOC #VoiceTreatyTruth means and invites input into a new #Indigenous Evaluation Strategy

” Implementation matters, and considering likely implementation roadblocks – such as capability and culture in agencies and service delivery organisations, data availability, and knowledge translation – will be key considerations for the strategy.

We are also encountering many positive examples from outside government of how evaluation can be used to improve decision making and program implementation.

We have much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations – such as the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in South East Queensland.

IUIH has been active in commissioning and conducting research and evaluation to build the evidence base on what works, and demonstrate its impact to the community and government.

Last week, we published an issues paper, which outlines some of the key questions we’d like your help to answer.”

Commissioner Romlie Mokak delivered a speech for a NAIDOC event at the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Canberra July 2019

Download 58 page Indigenous Evaluation Strategy issues paper 

indigenous-evaluation-issues

Make a submission HERE

Today, I stand here on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people. I am deeply grateful for the warmth and the generosity in allowing this country to be home for my family over the past 20 years. I honour your ancestors, your Elders and your young ones yet to come. I honour your sacred places and the wisdom and teachings held and shared in these places.

I aim to speak to two things today – NAIDOC and the Indigenous Evaluation Strategy.

NAIDOC theme — Voice, Treaty, Truth

This year’s NAIDOC brings into focus the theme of Voice, Treaty, Truth: let’s work together for a shared future. The NAIDOC theme, by definition, seeks for all Australians to work together to build our nation’s future. Voice, Treaty, Truth puts forward a proposition to the Australian people – not just to parliament, but to the Australian people — about a shared future.

These three elements from the Uluru Statement from the Heart speak to the call by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a greater say in their lives.

I quote:

When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish.

They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution….we seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.

NAIDOC week is a time to commemorate, as well as a time to celebrate. It is a time to remember and honour those who have come before.  To honour those who have worked tirelessly and endlessly for our benefit. NAIDOC week is a time to place our — Indigenous — knowledges, our cultures, our science, our strength, our achievements – at the centre.

NAIDOC invites you into this space – beyond raising flags, beyond exhibiting art, beyond consuming native foods. NAIDOC is not just about NAIDOC week. In fact, the spirit of NAIDOC really is about what we do during those remaining weeks of the year.

25 years in policy

This week begins my 12th week at the Productivity Commission – it is still very much early days for me.

My road to the Commission has been travelled via community, state, Commonwealth and Indigenous organisations. From beginnings in the NSW public service 25 years ago as a junior policy officer in ageing and disability. To the Commonwealth Department of Health — working in Indigenous policy and program areas such as health inequality, substance use and financing.

For the past 14 years heading up national black organisations:

  • nine as CEO of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association
  • the last five as head of the Lowitja Institute (Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Research).

The learning over these years – that those who are most invested and most impacted must not be assigned to policy render. They must also be designers, architects, builders and evaluators for impact and change.

Indigenous Evaluation Strategy

The Productivity Commission has been asked to develop a whole-of-government evaluation strategy to be used by all Australian Government agencies, for policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The project will have three main components. The commission has been asked to:

  • establish a principles-based framework for the evaluation of policies and programs
  • identify priorities for evaluation
  • set out its approach for reviewing agencies’ conduct of evaluations against the strategy.

The commission has a broad remit to recommend changes to improve the use and conduct of evaluation in Australian Government agencies. This goes beyond guiding stakeholders during the commissioning and conduct of evaluations.

The evaluation strategy should also make recommendations on how evaluation and evidence-based decision making can be embedded into policy development and program delivery. The problems with existing evaluation practice that have motivated this project are not just that evaluations have been rarely or poorly conducted, but stem from the lack of influence of evaluation practice and results on policymaking.

It is clear that the value of evaluation will be limited in the absence of strong and sustainable mechanisms to feed evaluation findings, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, perspectives and priorities, into the policymaking process.

The evaluation strategy must cover both mainstream and Indigenous-specific policies and programs if it is to properly examine those that have most impact on, or potential benefit for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We will make recommendations on how evaluation efforts should be prioritised, both within agencies and across the Australian Government.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples perspectives on what policies and outcomes matter most will be vital when identifying priorities for evaluation.

Early insights

Our project is in its early stages:

  • we will deliver a draft report in February next year
  • and a final report to government in around 12 months from now.

However early discussions around the country have provided insights into the challenges we may face when developing the strategy, and the areas where the strategy can add the most value. The dearth of evaluation of policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been well-documented. It is clear that evaluation practice in Australian Government agencies varies considerably.

Existing evaluation efforts are often narrowly focused rather than systematic, and many agencies do not publish evaluation reports in a timely manner (if at all). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and voices have been largely absent from evaluation design and conduct. Even where there has been leadership and considerable resources devoted, experience shows that changing the evaluation culture in government agencies is hard.

The then Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (now National Indigenous Australian agency) and the Department of Health are two agencies that have made inroads into better incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and priorities into their evaluation efforts.

Implementation matters, and considering likely implementation roadblocks – such as capability and culture in agencies and service delivery organisations, data availability, and knowledge translation – will be key considerations for the strategy.

We are also encountering many positive examples from outside government of how evaluation can be used to improve decision making and program implementation. We have much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations – such as the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in South East Queensland.

IUIH has been active in commissioning and conducting research and evaluation to build the evidence base on what works, and demonstrate its impact to the community and government.

Last week, we published an issues paper, which outlines some of the key questions we’d like your help to answer.

These include:

  • How can Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges, priorities and values be better integrated into policy and program evaluation?
  • What principles should guide Australian Government agencies’ evaluation efforts?
  • What should be the priority policy areas for future Australian Government evaluation efforts?
  • How can evaluation results be better used in policy and program design and implementation?
  • What ongoing role should the Productivity Commission have in monitoring agencies’ implementation of the strategy, and in evaluating policies and programs affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more generally?

Further engagement

We are seeking submissions from interested parties between now and 23 August.

You can send us a written submission, make an oral submission or leave a brief comment on our website: www.pc.gov.au/indigenous-evaluation

In the second half of the year we will be engaging widely across Australia to inform the development of the strategy. We will travel to urban, regional and remote areas, to hear from individuals, groups and organisations.

We hope to hold a series of roundtable discussions on topics related to the evaluation strategy. This will be to draw on the experience and expertise of people and organisations who have been involved in evaluation or have insights into how policy making and program implementation can be improved.

In closing

As NAIDOC’s impact must surely go well beyond a single week in July.

So to a future Indigenous Evaluation Strategy must have value in a lasting way.

I invite each and every one of you to be an active part of the discussion, debate and design to make this a reality.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingTheGap @nhmrc and @UniCanberra Project : Commissioning stronger evaluations of Indigenous health and wellbeing programs

 ” Billions of dollars are spent annually on Indigenous programs, services and initiatives yet, despite the need, there is limited evidence on what programs are effective for improving Indigenous health outcomes.

The Productivity Commission has called for ‘more and better’ evaluations of Indigenous programs and commissioning processes that engage Indigenous communities, organisations and leaders.

The commissioning of evaluations plays a significant role in the way program evaluations are carried out. It is through the commissioning process that the budget is set, the evaluators are identified, the aims and objectives of the evaluation are set, and many other aspects of the evaluation are determined.” 

See University of Canberra website 

This National Health and Medical Research Council funded project (GNT1165913) responds to a call from Indigenous leaders for opportunities to influence decision-making processes within the health system and across sectors for the commissioning of health programs to reflect their needs, priorities and views on program design, delivery and evaluation.

This project aims to identify how government (federal, state/ territory) and non-government (not-for-profit, corporate, foundation, philanthropic) commissioning practices can better support Indigenous engagement and leadership in the evaluation of health and wellbeing programs in Australia.

To achieve this aim, this project will address the following objectives:

  1. To characterise the spectrum of commissioning practices of government and non-government organisations in contracting evaluations for health and wellbeing programs particularly the role of Indigenous engagement and leadership during, and resulting from, the commissioning process.
  2. To identify the issues, challenges and opportunities for Indigenous engagement and leadership across the spectrum of commissioning practices from the perspectives of: (a) commissioners/policy makers; (b) service providers; and (c) the Indigenous community.
  3. To translate the findings into resources to support Indigenous engagement and leadership in the commissioning of program evaluations.

The project will be supported by an advisory group, chaired by Professor Tom Calma AO.

The project is funded until October 2022.

Research team

Contact

For more information on the project, please contact Margaret Cargo at margaret.cargo@canberra.edu.au.