NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Transforming First Nations nursing education

The image in the feature tile is of midwives Mel Briggs and Kady Colman wearing Sister Scrubs, a new uniform for First Nations midwives to create awareness about the unacceptably high mortality rate of First Nations women and babies. Image source: NITV Radio website.

Transforming First Nations nursing education

Bold recommendations for transforming nursing and midwifery education will be unveiled in a new report to be launched at the 25th Anniversary National Conference of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM). The report, ‘gettin em n keepin em n growin em’ – Strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Education Reform, will include strategies to privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery knowledges and embed Cultural Safety across all domains of nursing and midwifery education.

“Its recommendations are bold and practical, emphasising who should act and how,” says Professor Roianne West, the CEO of CATSINaM, a descendant of the Kalkadoon and Djunke peoples. Since the release of the first iteration of this report in 2002, Professor West says there has been negligible improvement in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registered nurses and midwives. “We are far off the necessary numbers completing tertiary programs to ensure parity is reached in the near future,” she said.

Significantly, the conference will also include a National Apology from the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery about the role of nursing and midwifery education and research in contributing to the harm and ongoing suffering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

To view the CATSINaM media release CATSINaM making news at 25th Anniversary National Conference in full click here.

Image source: Northern Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery career pathways webpage.

Improving health research experiences for mob

Yesterday the University of Newcastle launched a new national study Murru Minya that aims to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences and involvement in health research. The Murru Minya project is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers with the desire to improve the way all research is conducted with, and for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. You can find more details on the project’s website here.

Dr Michelle Kennedy, Wiradjuri woman and lead researcher said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the knowledge holders, it is our job to appropriately capture their voices, experiences and directives to improve the conduct of health research into the future”.

The project has launched a short community survey for Aboriginal Community Organisation’s to share their experience of research. Communities can also opt in to hold Yarning Circles with the research team over the next 12 months to share more details and directives for research into the future.

The Murru Minya survey can be accessed here.

Members of Murru Minya research team. Image source: Murru Minya website.

Push to ban junk food adverts aimed at kids

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) have welcomed the push for the Federal Government to ban junk food advertising aimed at children by Independent MP Dr Sophie Scamps. The RACP have been recently advocating for this through the Kids COVID Catch Up campaign which is calling for mandatory regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy diets to children and young people.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says, “The widespread advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks is strongly linked to high child obesity rates. In 2017 to 2018, almost one quarter or Australian children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese. This is a concerning statistic. The Federal Government must recognise this and take immediate action to establish formal standards to protect children and young people from unhealthy food marketing.”

To view the RACGP media release Physicians support push to ban junk food advertising aimed at children click here.

Last year NACCHO made a submission, available here, to the Department of Health on the National Obesity Prevention Strategy supporting efforts to restrict/ban advertising and marketing of unhealthy food, especially to children.

Image source: Priceless SA website.

GP in training returns to Central Australia

For Dr Ellie Woodward, the first time she experienced the landscape and community of the NT was enough to bring her back. Originally from NZ, Dr Woodward moved across the Tasman Sea in 2012 to study medicine in Sydney. It was during this time she was given the opportunity to travel to the NT or an elective placement with the Royal Darwin Hospital physician outreach service. ‘I was immediately drawn to the incredible country and cultures of the Territory,’ Dr Woodward said. “I came back as soon as I could.”

After working as a registrar in medicine and public health in Darwin, she began her GP training in Alice Springs in 2021. Since then, there has never been a dull moment for the GP in training, who this year is splitting her training between the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and the Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control, in addition to completing dual training on the Australian GP Training (AGPT) and an Extended Skills Post in Public Health with the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

All the while she is being enriched by what her surroundings offer. “It’s a privilege to live and work on Arrernte Country, and I’ve been fortunate to engage in two-way learning with patients and colleagues here to learn more about central desert cultures,” Dr Woodward said. “I’ve been hooked by the close-knit community, natural surroundings and unique medicine of Central Australia, and look forward to continuing my practice here after finishing training.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article ‘I came back as soon as I could’: Why this GP in training is staying rural in full click here.

Dr Ellie Woodward is a GP in training and public health registrar at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

COVID casts doubt on trachoma target

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malandirri McCarthy is having ongoing discussions about the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025, as the COVID pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Senator McCarthy told ABC News that overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities, but she would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. She said she would be talking to experts to see what could be done to eradicate the eye disease, which has been successfully eliminated in countries including Cambodia, Ghana, and Mexico, but not yet in Australia.

“I’m incredibly mindful we’re still in a pandemic with COVID, and I know that many communities across the country were isolated and the ability for trachoma and any other health programs to be carried out was severely limited, if not completely stopped, and we have to recognise that,” McCarthy said. “What I would like to see in my role as Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health is to ensure that we pick it up again and run with it, to get rid of trachoma in our country.”

To view the Insight News article COVID casts doubt on target to stamp out trachoma in full click here.

More severe cases of trachoma are treated with antibiotics or surgery but the best way to prevent the disease is better hygiene. Photo: The University Of Melbourne. Image source: The Guardian.

Wounds conference – First Nations focus

After a temporary move online in 2020 due to COVID-related restrictions, Wounds Australia’s biannual wounds conference is returning to Sydney this September. To be held at the ICC Sydney from 14–17 September 2022, the conference will bring together leading experts and clinicians to share their insights and experience in working with wounds.

Presentations in the program will explore this year’s theme: ‘Time to unite, time to heal, time to innovate’, with a special focus on Indigenous health care, in recognition of the need to close the gap between the quality of wound care provision in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Keynote addresses by James Charles and Lesley Salem will discuss Indigenous healthcare initiatives.

Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan said, “As the peak body for wound prevention, diagnosis, treatment and healing in Australia, we are committed to ensuring that Australians receive the best possible wound care. Our national conference is one part of that commitment, helping our hardworking healthcare professionals stay up to date with technological advances and scientific innovations in the area.”

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article Wounds Australia Conference — keynote speakers announced click here.

ANU cybernetics scholarships for mob

The ANU Master of Applied Cybernetics is the world’s first graduate program focusing on the challenges of ensuring AI systems are safe, sustainable and responsible. Masters students participate in a range of educational experiences and research projects at the School of Cybernetics and beyond to consider: who is building, managing and decommissioning our AI-enabled future?

The the School of Cybernetics sees equity of access to their education programs as important. They believe diversity and inclusivity are a MUST if we are to build the future. People from all walks of life are needed to build that future. A future that is safe, responsible and sustainable for all of humanity. With this in mind, and to increase diversity within the School, new scholarship opportunities, named in honour of Florence Violet McKenzie, Australia’s first female electrical engineer, and the founder of the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps in the Australian Defence Forces in 1939, are being offered, including a targeted Florence Violet McKenzie Indigenous scholarship opportunity for the 2023 Master of Applied Cybernetics program.

You can access an information sheet on the Florence Violent McKenzie Master of Applied Cybernetics scholarships for Indigenous students here.

Image source: University of Texas website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

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

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

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

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

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

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

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

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

First Nations aged care voice boosted

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

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

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

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

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

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

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

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

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

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

The survey covers the following topics:

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

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

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

headspace Grad Program applications open

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

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

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

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

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

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

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Homelessness Week

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

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

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

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

Image in the feature tile is from the ABC News website.

NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

NT health experts say they are “alarmed” about a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, saying the territory’s infection rate is growing at a higher rate per capita than the national average. Their warning comes as coronavirus cases rise across the country, marking the start of what Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has described as the start of a new Omicron wave. Professor Kelly said the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the COVID-19 Omicron strain were highly infectious, and that cases were expected to surge in coming weeks.

Data shows that surge may have already started in the NT, which recorded 671 cases on Tuesday — the highest daily caseload since February and a dramatic jump from 469 cases on Monday. That’s higher percentage per capita than the national average, according to John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliances of the Northern Territory (AMSANT). “[The figures] make us 22 per cent above the national per capita average on a seven-day rolling average, which is alarming and concerning for our members,” he said. “So, we’ve got to seriously consider perhaps some mandatory public health measures, especially for our most at-risk population and our community members. This is alarming for us.”

To view the view the ABC News article COVID-19 cases are rising in the Northern Territory as Australia approaches a new Omicron wave in full click here.

Territorians are being encouraged to wear face masks to combat the virus’s spread. Photo: Che Chorley, ABC News.

Telehealth cuts leave remote patients behind

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has once again urged the federal government to make Medicare rebates for longer telehealth phone consultations a permanent fixture of the nation’s telehealth scheme so that patients living outside of major cities can get the care they need when they need it. It comes following reports of a study, which found that 40% of people living in rural and remote areas had internet speeds that were less than 28 kilobits per second. This makes conducting telehealth video consultations challenging, if not impossible, given that the minimum recommended speed for video calls is 600 kilobits per second. In addition, other people are not confident using the technology or find the cost of purchasing a smartphone or laptop prohibitive.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett  said “Removing Medicare rebates for longer consults is not only particularly detrimental for patients in the bush but also older patients across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with disability or limited mobility. This is troubling as these patient cohorts already have poorer health outcomes than the general population. We are effectively denying healthcare access to those who need it most.”

To view the view the RACGP media release Rural and remote patients left behind by telehealth cuts in full click here. The AMA has also raised concerns in a media release, available here, that the dropping of a number of telephone Medicare items by the Government on 1 July has left vulnerable people at risk.

Image source: Hospital + Healthcare.

Grants to improve cancer outcomes

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy today announced that nine grants totalling over $1 million have been awarded to improve cancer outcomes, including three aimed at reducing the impacts of cancer on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Senator McCarthy said that Cancer Australia’s Supporting people with cancer grants will fund locally-based programs to make a much needed difference in regional and remote Indigenous Australian communities. “These grants are a step in the right direction to improve wellbeing, provide support and increase equitable cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

To view Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release New opportunities to improve Indigenous cancer outcomes click here.

Cancer Council SA’s Yarning Circles provide a way to comfortably connect with the community and break down any barriers or fears that may exist with regards to cancer. Image source: Cancer Council SA website.

Remote areas lack quality drinking water

Australians in more than 400 remote or regional communities lack access to good-quality drinking water, while about 8% of Australia’s population is not included in reporting on access to clean water, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). The researchers reviewed public reporting by 177 water utilities to measure gaps in drinking water quality in regional and remote Australia.

They assessed water quality performance against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), which provide guidance to water regulators and suppliers on monitoring and managing drinking water quality. The researchers found at least 25,245 people across 99 locations with populations of fewer than 1,000 people had accessed water services that did not comply with the health-based guideline values at least once in 2018–19.

They also identified 408 regional and remote locations with a combined population of 627,736 people that failed to measure up to either health-based guidelines or the ADWG’s aesthetic determinants of good water quality across taste, colour and odour. Furthermore, 40% of all locations with reported health-based non-compliances were remote Indigenous communities. Lead author of a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature Partner Journal Clean Water, Dr Paul Wyrwoll said their research also shows Australia’s national reporting of drinking water quality is not fit-for-purpose.

To view the ANU media release Aussies living remotely lack access to quality drinking water in full click here. You can also access a related Nature article Measuring the gaps in drinking water quality and policy across regional and remote Australia here.

Beswick’s water is very high in calcium. Photo: Isaac Nowroozi, ABC News.

Cervical cancer self-screening resources

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have produced a range of National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) resources, including videos (such as the one below), posters, brochures and fact sheets. The resources, available here include ones specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women:

  • a visual guide to help understand Cervical Screening Test results
  • an A3 poster to promote the National Cervical Screening Program
  • visual guide to help understand how to take a vaginal sample for a Cervical Screening Test
  • a video (below) explaining how to take a Cervical Screening Test sample if self-collection is chosen as a screening option for their Cervical Screening Test.

PrioritEYES survey participants thanked

This year in JulEye, NACCHO wants to give a shout out to all ACCHOs that completed the PrioritEYES Survey open from 8 April to 20 May 2022. The information gathered will help us tackle gaps in eye care for our ACCHOs and their communities.

80% of all ACCHOs provided a response to the PrioritEYES survey – a huge achievement and information that will help us progress ACCHO eye care needs.

We learnt, 81% ACCHOs that responded are interested in greater ACCHO ownership and leadership in eye care. We are excited to work towards this as ACCHOs are best placed to support eye and vision care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs will hear from us soon about the findings from the survey and what’s next.

JulEye is also a good reminder to get your eyes tested, wear eye protection, and eat well to maintain healthy eyesight.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The scheme provides scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people studying an entry level health course.

The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to First Nations Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). A NACCHO News special tribute edition available here provides an insight to Puggy and his tireless efforts to improve Aboriginal health.

PHMSS will open for applications on Monday 29 August 2022 for studies undertaken in 2023, closing Monday 10 October 2022. Online applications will be available from this website once the scheme opens.

If you would like to be sent the link to the application once the scheme opens, please register for application updates, click here.

PHMSS Deadly Health Professions recipient Shaydeen Stocker (pictured above with her husband and three children) has started her RN Grad program at SJOG in Midland. Image source: Australian College of Nursing First Nations health scholarships webpage.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: JulEYE champions eye care

Image in feature tile is of Dean Saffron; courtesy of Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source Optometry Australia website.

JulEYE champions eye care

JulEYE is National Eye Health Awareness Month. Led by the Eye Surgeons Foundation of Australia, this campaign aims to: raise community awareness of eye health issues; raise funding for vision research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness; and support international and domestic development projects whose goals are aligned with those of the Foundation. The campaign promotes six top tips to maintaining healthy eyesight: 1) wear sunglasses 2) get regular eye tests 3) eat right 4) wear eye protection 5) don’t smoke, and 6) don’t strain your eyes.

The are a range of initiatives in the eye health space in relation to First Nations peoples. The Royal Australian and NZ College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), for example, maintains a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Committee, which brings together ophthalmologists from across Australia who have particular experience in service provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including via innovative service delivery models. The Committee informs RANZCO’s projects, policies, and advocacy work in this area.

RANZCO works in close collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, including via Vision 2020 Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee which has developed a Strong eyes, strong Communities 5 year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision 2019–2024. RANZCO is also one of the original endorsers of the Roadmap for Closing the Gap for Vision. RANZCO also works in close collaboration with Indigenous medical education organisations (such as the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association – AIDA, and the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education – LIME) to ensure cultural competency is best embedded into the RANZCO Vocational Training Program.

RANZCO, in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation, recognises that we need practical steps towards reconciliation and closing the gap in eye health. In a 2020 joint statement, available here, the two organisations called on the eye health sector to prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health in practical ways such as bulk-billing, patient-centred approaches to care and equity of access to essential eye surgery.

‘Shameful chapter’: NT Intervention ends

The end of the Howard-era ‘Intervention’, which saw unprecedented government control over First Nations communities in the NT, has been welcomed by advocates. Human rights law centre director and Arrernte man Nick Espie described it as “a shameful chapter” in the treatment of First Nations people in the Territory, which began in 2007. “This is a time for reflection, on an era of systemic failures, the disempowerment of Aboriginal people in the NT and the silencing of our voices,” he said.

“During these 15 years, we have seen the demonising of Aboriginal people and culture and the erosion of self-determination.” While most Intervention laws ended on Sunday, Commonwealth legislation enabling compulsory income management continues. “The Albanese government has promised to abolish the Cashless Debit Card Scheme and all forms of compulsory income management, which still live on in other legislation. These are some of the last paternalistic hangovers from the Intervention and should have been scrapped years ago.  The prime minister must keep this promise,” Mr Espie said.

To view the SBS NITV article ‘Shameful chapter’: Intervention ends in the NT after 15 years in full click here.

The infamous blue signs at the entrance to communities became a symbol of the intervention. Image source: Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias.

Mental health a silent diabetes complication

For 19-year-old Sebastian Harris, the constant pressure to be carefully managing his type 1 diabetes can feel overwhelming. “I sometimes feel that no matter what I do, my diabetes can be extremely hard to control,” Mr Harris said. “Some weeks my blood glucose levels can be unreasonably low or unreasonably high and it doesn’t make any sense, no matter what you do. “It makes me question whether I am managing it well. I know in the long run it will be fine but, in that moment, it’s hard not to feel defeated.”

Mr Harris, from the Gold Coast, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years after his younger brother learned he had the same condition. “You want to switch off and forget about it, but you can’t do that with diabetes,” Mr Harris, an ambassador for Diabetes Queensland, said. “There’s no holiday from it. The consequences if you do try to ignore it can be life-threatening. “We need to make sure people are aware of the issues, both physical and mental.”

According to data from Diabetes Australia, almost 700,000 people in Australia living with diabetes experience a mental or emotional health challenge every year. Diabetes Australia Group CEO Justine Cain said diabetes mental health was the most prevalent, yet least recognised, diabetes complication.

To view the Narromine News article Mental health the silent complication of diabetes epidemic in full click here.

Image source: Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program website.

Youth vaping a serious concern

Physicians and paediatricians from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) say that the rise in youth vaping, exposed in a recent ABC Four Corners report available here, is seriously concerning. The RACP says the Federal Government should consider strengthening importation laws and their enforcement to reduce the growing black-market supply of vaping products to children and young people.

Professor Emily Banks, a public health physician and RACP Fellow, says: “the rise in vaping that we’re seeing in young people is extremely concerning. All nicotine e-cigarette use that is not on prescription is illegal, yet there are massive volumes of high concentration nicotine vaping products being imported into Australia for use by young people.”

To view the RACP media release Physicians and paediatricians say rise in youth vaping is seriously concerning – calls for urgent strengthening of importation laws in full click here.

Image source: Toronto Star.

NT alcohol bans end

Laws banning alcohol from Aboriginal communities across the NT expired at the weekend, making liquor legal in some areas for the first time in 15 years. Some advocates and politicians say the laws were racist, and removing them is an important step towards self-determination. Others – including Aboriginal health groups – say the changes have been rushed and will create more alcohol-related harm.

To listen to the ABC News PM segment NT alcohol bans end click here.

Alcohol was often smuggles into remote NT communities. Image source: ABC News PM.

Service helps reduce number of kids in care

Data from WA’s Department of Communities has revealed a 20% drop in the number of Wheatbelt children in care since the same time last year. There were 242 children in care last June and that has fallen to 194. The department’s executive director of service delivery Glenn Mace said the reduction is a sign prevention programs are working. “Up until the last couple of years we’ve seen year-on-year increases of children entering care, so these latest figures are really pleasing,”

He said in the past year almost all regions have seen a reduction of children in care. Mr Mace said the department’s wraparound services play a vital part in making families stronger. “It’s really aimed at trying, where we can, to build safety within families, building their own capabilities and capacities so that their children don’t have to come into the care system,” he said. Mr Mace said Aboriginal children were over-represented in the care system and there were many reasons for that. “But generally, and in part, Aboriginal children tend to come into care as part of the larger sibling group,” he said. “They tend to enter care at a younger age and they stay in care.”

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal support service shown to help reduce the number of children in care, department says in full click here.

Image source: Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) website.

Raising criminal responsibility age only first step

In some Australian states, children can legally be detained from the age of 10 years old. This has led to over- policing and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. First Nations children represent 50% youth incarcerated during 2021. Incarcerating children can cause irreparable harm, particularly for those who have complex health and social needs. Children who are removed from their families and communities during crucial stages of development and placed in youth detention are exposed to a form of social control, stigmatisation and criminalisation that in many cases inflicts lifelong harm.

Indigenous voices are seeking not just to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years. but to implement an Indigenous-led model of care that provides culturally appropriate early childhood holistic care. In addition, addressing social issues of poverty, employment and access to health and housing would help provide stable lives for otherwise at-risk children.

You can read The Conversation article Raising the age of criminal responsibility is only a first step. First Nations Kids need cultural solutions in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

The image in the feature tile is of Professor Louise Maple-Brown (with a patient) who was a Chief Investigator leading a qualitative study, supported by Central Australia Academic Health Science Network (CAASHN) with a Medical Research Future Fund grant to better understand the experiences of Aboriginal youth in Central Australia living with type 2 diabetes. Image source: Australian Health Research Alliance, 16 December 2021.

National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

National Diabetes Week 2022 is on from Sunday 10 July to Saturday 16 July. This year’s awareness week will focus on the emotional health and wellbeing of people living with diabetes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Improving the lives of people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a priority for Diabetes Australia. You can view the Diabetes Australia webpage specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

You can also access online e-Learning diabetes modules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) website here.

SWAMS to extend programs and services

The City of Busselton has announced the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS), an ACCHO that provides holistic wrap around services to the Indigenous community in the South West, as the new lease holder for a campsite at Locke Estate in Siesta Park. SWAMS have demonstrated experience in setting up new clinical services, drive, passion and professionalism, across the South West region and across their 35,000sq km footprint.

SWAMS has exciting plans for the campsite and proposes to develop a community hub with family units, dorm buildings, common areas, a caretaker’s residence and a fire pit. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson said it proposed to use the campsite as a culturally safe place to deliver social, emotional and physical health programs. “We’re excited for what’s to come, intending to offer a diverse range of services, including youth camps, Elders groups, men’s and women’s groups, cultural immersion and health related programs,” she said.

You can read the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article City of Busselton partner with South West Aboriginal Medical Service with a lease on Locke Estate in full here.

Representatives from SWAMS Board, CEO Lesley Nelson, SWAMS team and community; along with Busselton City Councillor Anne Ryan, Acting CEO Tony Nottle and City Officers. Image source: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

Hearing on NDIS in remote communities

A Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in remote communities began yesterday at the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Convention Centre. The hearing will explore barriers to accessing the NDIS and disability services faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in remote and very remote communities.

The recent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey determined that more than one in ten of the 66,000 First Nations people with profound or severe disability live in remote or very remote locations. The hearing will examine to what extent inaccessibility to services cause or contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of Indigenous people with disability. During a previous public hearing, Dr Scott Avery gave evidence that disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was twice as prevalent, more complex and “compressed within a shorter life expectancy” compared to other Australians.

Pat Turner, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks will be speaking at the public hearing this Thursday alongside representatives from the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and other community-controlled organisations on specific barriers they’ve seen getting in people’s way over and over again when they try to get NDIS disability support.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Disability Royal Commission turns spotlight on Indigenous people in remote communities in full click here.

Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the NDIS in remote communities. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Minister Burney on First Nations suicide

The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP, has described the Labor Government’s suicide prevention approach, saying it would focus on, “self-determination, respect for First Nations knowledge systems, restoration of culture and First Nations leadership of programs and services.”

In her first major speech about suicide as Minister, Ms Burney told a national webinar audience of mental health leaders, convened by the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate, “hurts me every time I see it. It hurts all of us. These statistics hurt because they represent people in pain, people we know, families who need to put the pieces of their lives back together.” Indigenous adults die by suicide at twice the rate of other Australians, while for children and teenagers the rate is four times as high.

Ms Burney, a Wiradjuri woman who represents the electorate of Barton in southern Sydney, described her own 2017 loss of her son to suicide, saying he was, “in his 30s and a beautiful young man who found this earth a very difficult and cruel place.” She said suicides were connected to the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives. “Too many experience poverty, trauma, marginalisation and discrimination,” she said. “We know we must make progress on all these fronts if we want to see the future First Nations people deserve.”

To view Minister Burney’s media release Minister Burney speaks out about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide in full click here.

How dietitians can make a stronger impact

Diet, nutrition, exercise advice and community programs are as important in rural and metropolitan settings as regional and remote areas, and peer support for health professionals can help deliver better results particularly if resources are limited. A new study from Monash University and Flinders University academics has identified what Australian dietitians and nutritionists need to do to make a stronger impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the communities they serve.

The study of Australian health workers, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (Association of UK Dietitians), looks at how a peer mentoring process, or ‘community of practice’, can support dietitians to work more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The majority of dietitians in Australia are non-Aboriginal people, with only 32 individuals of more than 7,500 full members and students self-identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in 2020, according to Dietitians Australia’s annual report.

To view the Flinders University media release Building peer support for dietitians published yesterday in SCIMEX in full click here.

Nicole Turner, one of only five qualified Aboriginal community nutritionists speaking at the Food Governance Conference 2019, University of Sydney. Image source: Twitter.

UQ academic on incarceration of youth

Lorelle Holland describes herself as a disruptor. The proud Mandandanji woman and University of Queensland (UQ) PhD candidate is relatively new to academia but is already making her mark. Last month, prestigious medical journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health published a commentary piece written by Mrs Holland and her PhD supervisory team from the UQ school of Public Health on the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

It is a topic Mrs Holland cannot discuss without getting emotional. “It’s a national crisis,” Mrs Holland said. “These vulnerable, marginalised children are in youth detention at a rate 17 times higher than all other ethnicities combined – during a critical period of child development. How people cannot be outraged by this escapes me.”

Her paper called for a community-led response to the issue and for Australian policy to conform to UN guidelines to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years.

You can read the University of Queensland UQ News article From nurse to UQ academic: A journey to create change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in full here.

Lorelle Holland, above right, in the NT with colleague Antonella Martin. Image source: UQ News.

Deadly Vision Centre CTG on eye health

Shaun Tatipata, the founding Director of Australia’s first Aboriginal-owned optical and eye care provider, Deadly Vision Centre, has a strong vision for the future of Indigenous eye health. The goal of the business is to contribute to closing the gap in eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by providing access to culturally safe and socially responsive eye care.

Mr Tatipata, who is of Wuthathi and Ngarrindjeri descent, has gained extensive experience in delivering primary health care and designing and implementing outreach programs in Indigenous communities. He is passionate about ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to access eye care services that are delivered to them by their community.

You can read the mivison (The Ophthalmic Journal) article Celebrating Founder of Deadly Vision Centre in full here and listen to an Shaun Tatipata in conversation with Karl Briscoe about Indigenous eye health below.

First Nations member sought for AMC

The Australian Medical Council Ltd (AMC) is currently seeking applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, who has experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, position on Council.

You can view the EOI notice, providing additional information on the selection process here. Further information and the nomination form are available through the AMC website here.

The application deadline is Friday 19 August 2022.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

Earlier this morning NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills addressed The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2022: Advancing Multicultural Australia conference. The event is Australia’s premier conference on multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion, and migration and hosts multicultural communities, policy makers, service providers, academics and many more over two days of presentations, speakers and topics.

Ms Mills said, “It is important that when we are talking about today’s systemic racism in the health system, we understand two fundamental points. The first is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are foremost and always Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have our own distinct identities, languages and beliefs about what contributes to health and wellness and what causes sickness. Australia’s health system, however, is built around the identities and beliefs of the white settler and their western model of health and wellness and causes of sickness. This immediately puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the back foot in accessing health care in Australia. For us to access mainstream health services, we are required to suspend our own beliefs and cultures and adopt or accept the western model of health.”

You can access Ms Mills’ speech in full here. For more information about the FECCA2022 conference click here.

ACCHO CEO awarded honorary doctorate

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has issued a media release saying it is proud to acknowledge the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Arts to its Chair and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Congress (CAAC) CEO, Donna Ah Chee, by Charles Darwin University yesterday. The award took place at a ceremony in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) where she has lived and worked for the past 30 years.

AMSANT CEO, Dr John Paterson congratulated Ms Ah Chee on her well-deserved honour in recognition of her significant contribution to the health of First Nations peoples. “Donna has distinguished herself through the outstanding leadership she has provided to the Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHS) sector, including many years as CEO of CAAC and as Chair and Director of AMSANT”, Dr Paterson said.

“Her leadership has also been recognised through many high-level appointments to boards and advisory bodies in Aboriginal health and related areas, including the NACCHO, the NT Aboriginal Health Forum and the NT Children and Families Tripartite Forum. “Donna has been a driving force in the development and expansion of the model of Aboriginal comprehensive primary health care delivered by our ACCHSs and broader reforms of the health system that together are required to achieve better health outcomes for our people. Her passion and significant contribution in the areas of early childhood development, education, health research and reducing alcohol harm have been widely recognised.”

To view AMSANT’s media release AMSANT Chair, Donna Ah Chee, awarded Honorary Doctorate in full click here.

Donna Ah Chee. Image source: Health Voices Journal of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

Remote houses are dangerous hot boxes

In remote Indigenous communities that are already very hot and socioeconomically disadvantaged, climate change is driving inequities even further. New research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows how higher temperatures in remote Indigenous communities in the NT will drive inequities in housing, energy and health.

Existing housing in remote areas is old and poorly constructed. In many remote Indigenous communities in the NT, you don’t need a building permit or even a qualified builder to build a house. Houses have missing doors, boarded-up windows, no air conditioners, are often un-insulated, have failed plumbing and have been poorly maintained over decades. These houses become dangerously hot as climate change bears down.

The researchers conclude the solution is Indigenous communities need a say; buildings need to be climate resilient; energy needs to be safeguarded and houses need to be maintained.

To view The Conversation article How climate change is turning remote Indigenous houses into dangerous hot boxes in full click here.

Shoddy NT remote homes lethal

Indigenous Australians living in remote, shabby housing with unstable electricity connections in the NT’s extreme heat are enduring life-threatening conditions. A research paper published this month in the Medical Journal of Australia found that Indigenous Australians with chronic diseases who depend on cool storage and electrical equipment are vulnerable to dying earlier.

The study was conducted by the ANU in partnership with the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation in the NT, where extreme heat stress has become a reality in the past few years. ANU researcher Simon Quilty says excessive heat, poor housing, energy insecurity and chronic disease have reached critical levels and a multi-sector response is needed to avert catastrophe. He says a constant electricity supply is often a luxury, rather than a right.

“Most houses in remote communities are old, poorly constructed and poorly maintained,” Dr Quilty said. He said tenants pay rent for houses with no doors, no windows and no insulation in the ceiling, falling well below national building codes. “All of the houses in these communities rely on pre-paid power cards and as a result there are extreme rates of electricity disconnection, making those with chronic disease particularly vulnerable,” Dr Quilty said.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Shoddy homes lethal to Indigenous patients in full click here.

Unserviced shacks in Tennant Creek shelter some people on the public housing waiting list. Photo: Samantha Jonscher. ABC News.

Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia

The latest health research has shown type two diabetes in remote Aboriginal communities has reached epidemic proportions, with children as young as four diagnosed. The rates of type 2 diabetes in remote communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse, according to new research released by the Menzies School of Health Research.

Menzies researchers examined seven years of health data from 21,000 Aboriginal people across 51 remote communities in the NT. It found a staggering 40% of adults in Central Australia now have the condition, which can cause kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections. 29% of the Aboriginal adult population in the rest of the Territory are also living with the condition. In 2020 it became the leading cause of death in communities, and those diagnosed with it are getting younger.

Shiree Mack and her family have lived with type two diabetes for years and many of her extended family are also battling the condition. With younger generations increasingly affected, she says the time for change is now. “The effects are huge and our little people are getting diagnosed at five and six,” she said. Ms Mack said any proposed solutions need to come from the community. “Let’s listen to the community let them tell us what will work. They know.”

To view the SBS NITV article Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia in full click here.

The Mack and Ross families from Alice Springs are all living with type two diabetes as the number of cases in the Centre skyrocket. Image source: NITV.

Integrating kidney health into patient care

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects one in 10 Australian adults. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the prevalence is even higher, affecting nearly one in five adults. CKD contributes to 11% of all deaths and is associated with 37% of all cardiovascular deaths in Australia. However, the asymptomatic nature of CKD means it can be difficult to diagnose unless there is targeted screening for it. Timely management can slow or even prevent the deterioration in kidney function, and improve cardiovascular outcomes. GPs are in a prime position to detect and diagnose CKD early. This involves targeted screening and performing investigations that are mostly already part of regular clinical practice.

Dr Tim Senior, GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney Medical School and CKD expert in general practice says that “Rather than seeing the kidneys as a single, separate, complex and difficult organ, it is straightforward to integrate them into the overall care of your patients along with other organ systems. You’ll find, for instance, that what’s needed to diagnose CKD is largely already what you’re doing for other conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So when you assess your patients for risk factors and test for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you should also think of their kidneys.”

To view the NPS MedicineWise article CKD – Integrating kidney health into patient care in full click here.

Dr TIm Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Indigenous assistant minister sworn in

Indigenous Australians assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy has vowed health outcomes for First Nations people will be placed at the forefront of the Albanese government’s bid to close the gap. The NT senator was sworn into the ministry by Governor-General David Hurley at Government House on yesterday.

Senator McCarthy said commitments taken to the election campaign focused on health policies, but also included improving access to education and job opportunities for people in regional and remote communities. A key focus would be closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with better health outcomes being essential to improving the lives of First Nations people.

Senator McCarthy said she will be working closely with Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney – who was appointed to cabinet – on progressing a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament in the government’s first term.

To read Yass Tribune article Indigenous assistant minister sworn in in full click here.

Malarndirri McCarthy with her partner Richard and their children following her swearing-in at Parliament House. Photo: AAP, Image source: SBS News.

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

Health leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who recently attended a national eye health conference, called on non-Indigenous Australians to support efforts to establish an Indigenous led approach to closing the gap in eye health. The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC22), co-hosted by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) at the University of Melbourne and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), took place on Larrakia country in Darwin from 24–26 May 2022.

The conference theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, was reflected in a consistent call for “greater leadership and ownership of eye health by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, along with the shift in power that is necessary to produce the outcomes that we are all working towards”.

One of the conference co-chairs, Anne-Marie Banfield, who is the National Manager of Engagement and Awareness at Hearing Australia said that while First Nations peoples must play a key role in leading eye health initiatives that improve outcomes in their communities they cannot do this on their own – non-Indigenous people are needed as allies to “amplify the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Making Change: Indigenous Eye Health Conference in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mob more likely to die in car accidents

Mob more likely to die in car accidents

In a 2021 submission to the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, the National Aboriginal Community Contorlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 2.7 times more likely to die, and 1.4 times more likely to suffer serious injury because of a vehicle crash compared to other Australians.

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO says, ‘this year’s National Road Safety Week is an important reminder that significant and sustained action must be taken to improve road safety outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The level of fatalities is unacceptable for our people. It is also unacceptable across the board for all Australians.’

In a 2021 policy submission, NACCHO outlines key recommendations for improving road safety outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community including, the need to fund Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and other community-controlled organisations to develop and deliver targeted road safety campaigns to their local communities, and to provide post-accident and trauma care, including training, medicines, and equipment.

Other recommendations include, subsidising public transport options for regional and remote communities to reduce the need for people to drive when it is unsafe to do so; developing and implementing road safety programs, including those that target prevention and early intervention; and, ensuring that any road enforcement policies do not disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘These recommendations must be addressed in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and local communities and made widely accessible,’ Pat Turner stated.

Donnella Mills, Chair of NACCHO further commented, ‘government must take immediate action to improve road safety outcomes and reduce fatalities and injuries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in alignment with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the four Priority Reforms. These responses must be holistic and consider the social determinants of health.’

The policy submission can be accessed on the NACCHO website here and this media release here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT

A new paper published this week shows rates of diabetes among Aboriginal people in remote NT communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse—with the condition affecting more people, year after year. The research shows the prevalence of diabetes is currently 17% (of which 99% is classified as type 2 diabetes)—up from 14.4% recorded in 2012. When focusing on the adult population, the findings show a massive 29% of Aboriginal people in remote NT communities have diabetes, with the burden highest in the Central Australia region, where a staggering 40% of adults now have the condition. Diabetes is a leading contributor to kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections.

The study analyses seven-years’ worth of health data relating to over 21,000 Aboriginal people from 51 remote communities across the NT. It was published in the online open access journal BMJ Open. Lead author Endocrinologist Dr. Matthew Hare said the burden of type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal people in remote communities of the NT is among the highest reported of any population globally, and there is an urgent need to introduce preventative strategies to address the crisis. “Type 2 diabetes is not due to ‘lifestyle choices.’ This epidemic is strongly related to the impacts of colonisation and the ongoing social and economic disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginal people in the remote NT.” “Holistic prevention strategies need to be developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal community members, alongside better resourcing of clinical care for chronic conditionsin remote communities,” Dr. Hare said.

To view the Medical Xpress article Growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT communities by Menzies School of Health Research click here.

Keen basketballer Kudin Brogan and her mum, Gemma Brogan, both live with diabetes. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

Dramatic increase in RHD funding needed

A dramatic increase in funding will be needed to eradicate a disease which stems from poverty in Australia’s Indigenous community, according to a leading paedeatrician. The federal government has committed to ending rheumatic heart disease (RHD) by 2030, but advocates are adamant the goal will not be met unless there’s a major increase in investment and a radical shift in the way overcrowding is tackled in remote communities.

The disease starts with repeated strep A infections which damage the heart over time, leading to serious illness and death. While the disease is no longer an issue in mainstream Australia, it disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, particularly women, in places like the Kimberley, NT and outback Queensland and SA, where overcrowding and poverty are entrenched. Experts warn the current trajectory of new diagnoses means more than 8,000 Indigenous people are expected to develop the disease in the next decade, leading to the deaths of about 600 people.

Commonwealth funding is largely targeted towards treatment, a task made difficult by cultural barriers and logistical challenges. Remote health workers and specialists who research the disease nationally say overcrowding and poverty among Indigenous Australians must be tackled meaningfully if the 2030 goal has any chance of being achieved.

To view the ABC News article Rheumatic heart disease funding needed to help Indigenous communities in full click here.

Curtis and Trey Brown travelled from Maningrida, NT, to Canberra in 2018 to raise political awareness of rheumatic heart disease. Photo: Josh Francis. Image source: ABC News.

Sign up to join the LIPPE family

The Leaders in Indigenous Pharmacy Profession Education (LIPPE) Network” is a partnership of the Australian Pharmacy Council, and the Council of Pharmacy Schools Australia and New Zealand. Under the leadership of Indigenous pharmacists, and in collaboration with other individuals and organisations, LIPPE will foster transformational change in the pharmacy workforce beginning with the recruitment and retention of students to the provision of care in practice settings.”

And “Sign up to join the LIPPE family – You will be part of a dynamic and growing community who are committed to making a difference through the work that pharmacists do. You will receive news on our progress, be invited to take part in events, including sharing your knowledge and expertise.”  You can watch a short video below of Wiradjiri woman Associate Professor Faye McMillan AM welcoming you to LIPPE, and find further information on the LIPPE Network website here.

New NT liquor laws process “shameful”

A coalition of peak Aboriginal and community bodies have ramped up their attack on the NT Government over its decision to allow booze to be sold in remote communities again for the first time in 15 years. The NT Government on Tuesday passed amendments to the Liquor Act allowing the sale of takeaway booze into hundreds of alcohol protected areas from mid-July. More than 200 remote communities and homelands will be able to decide for themselves whether they remain dry. About 100 will revert to old restrictions.

Aboriginal health, housing and justice organisations have panned the government’s lack of consultation before implementing the changes, arguing the move risked opening the floodgates to booze in remote communities. And now the Territory’s police union and council of social services have added their voices to the chorus of criticism, urging immediate consultation to avoid a looming booze-fuelled disaster. NT Police Association president Paul McCue said frontline police held “significant” concern about the reforms. “The passing of this legislation goes completely against what the Government claims to be achieving in relation to reducing alcohol-related harm,” he said. “Our already stretched resources will now undoubtedly suffer further strain, not to mention the risk to them, other frontline workers and the wider community as a result of alcohol related harm, “Residents in communities and town camps will now likely be subject to an increase of violence and isolation.”

NT Council of Social Services chief executive Deborah Di Natale said the legislation was rushed and done against the advice of ACCOs. The coalition is calling for a moratorium on takeaway alcohol sales until transparent negotiations have taken place, and for more funding for alcohol harm programs to manage increased needs. Concerns have also been raised about the impact of the policy on already-stretched Aboriginal medical services. AMSANT CEO John Paterson said the legislation’s process was shameful.

To view the National Indigenous Times article A relic of NT Intervention is being lifted, but peak Aboriginal groups are furious in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Initiative allows vision-impaired kids play football

Blind and vision impaired Aboriginal children from some of Australia’s most disadvantaged and remote communities will be able to participate in the transformational program through the use of audible balls. A new partnership between two of Australia’s most prolific sporting initiatives will provide football opportunities for children with eye and vision problems, currently the most common long-term health conditions experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The program established by John Moriarty Football (JMF) and Australian Blind Football (ABF) will help facilitate education and knowledge to coaches which will allow for children to enjoy the social benefits of the sport. Yanyuwa man John Moriarty AM, the Co-Founder of JMF and the first Indigenous man to be selected for the Socceroos, claims that the new partnership will be “game changing. Improving access to the game of football is paramount to us at JMF,” he said.

To view the SBS Sport article Game-changing initiative allowing blind, vision-impaired Aboriginal children to play football in full click here.

Vision impaired JMF participant, Alyawarr boy Tarrant Jackson (16 years), celebrates a goal in Tennant Creek, NT. Image source: SBS Sport website.

Chance for 2 years of PIHW membership

Want to be more LGBTQ inclusive in your care?

Through the Coles Grant Scheme, two 2-year Pride in Health + Wellbeing Memberships are available to help smaller organisations provide more LGBTQ inclusive care. These memberships will allow these organisations to not only review and upskill on their care for gender and sexuality diverse patients/service users but also to measure this change through the free annual Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) benchmark and surveys.

For further details about the grants and to access an EOI form click here. EOIs close Wednesday 1 June 2022 – so get in QUICK!

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Road Safety Week

Every year, approximately 1,200 people are killed and another 44,000 are seriously injured on Australian roads. Traffic injury is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15 and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged between 15 and 24. These numbers are growing every year but are preventable if we choose to Drive So Others Survive!.

National Road Safety Week is an annual initiative from the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group, partnering road safety organisations and Government. The week highlights the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it.

You can access the National Road Safety Week 2022 website here, as well as view a short video below:

HIV&AIDS Sexual Health conference scholarships deadline extended

The deadline for Scholarship applications for HIV Clinicians to attend the Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences 2022, has been EXTENDED to this Sunday 22 May 2022.

HIV Clinician scholarships include:

  • Return economy flights to the conference
  • Accommodation
  • HIV&AIDS Conference registration

View the Scholarships webpage here for more information on eligibility and priority.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO joins pre-election health discussion

Image in feature tile, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2022.

NACCHO joins pre-election health discussion

Yesterday Dr Norman Swan, who hosts the ABC Radio National Health Report, said as it has been a long election campaign with not much on health it had been decided for last Health Report before the election to try and cover health issues that have not been covered in the campaign by the major parties. Dr Norman Swan has hosted the pre-election health discussion with four experts talking about the pressing issues: what are the most pronounced problems, what type of care is the most effective, how should rebates work, and what health questions have not been raised at all.

The discussion begins with Dr Swan asking NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM about the recent study done of the economics of health care in Aboriginal communities. Ms Turner said that NACCHO commissioned Equity Economics to look at the gap in health expenditure in terms of what is paid by the government for all Australians and for Aboriginal people. It was found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people require an additional $5,042 per head of population which equates to a $4.4 billion shortfall in funding Aboriginal health in this country – $2.6 billion from the Commonwealth and $1.8 billion from the states and territories in terms of what they should be inputting.

Ms Turner said the figures had been adjusted for the health status of Aboriginal people, who have, on average, over two times the burden of disease that other Australians with a life expectancy still 8–9 years below that of other Australians. Ms Turner then outlined some horrific statistics: Aboriginal people are 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease, 3.3 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to suicide as youth, 2.1 times more likely to die in infancy and youth are 55 times more likely to die from RHD. What is driving this is, Ms Turner said, is the overall lack of equal funding to make up for the health gap, “we can’t close the gap between the life outcomes of our people until we get at least equal funding as other Australians do, on basis of need.”

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Considering health issues ahead of an election of the Health Report with Dr Norman Swan here.

Nigel Morton and half of the 500 residents of his town, Ampilatwatja, NT have diabetes. Image source: ABC News website.

Remote communities pay 39% more for food

Residents in remote Aboriginal communities pay the highest average price for food in Australia. Advocates say the next PM must act to ensure affordable, healthy food is available for all Australians. The local supermarket is the heart of Wirrimanu, a remote Aboriginal community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in WA’s Kimberley region. It’s the only shop of its size for 300 kms and it’s only open limited hours each day, supplying fresh and dry food, as well as clothing, basic furniture and some white goods.

Plastic curtains hang over the front door to keep dust and flies out, as residents enter to pick up their goods and use the ATM. But what’s really surprising about the store are the prices on the shelves. When SBS News visited the Wirrimanu Community Store, a 380g jar of Vegemite was selling for $13.25; a plain loaf of white bread for $4.99 and a two litre bottle of orange juice was priced at $7.20. A 500g bag of San Remo pasta cost $4.40 while a 250g packet of Arnott’s biscuits cost $5.85.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency estimates that residents of remote communities pay 39 per cent more for supermarket supplies than consumers in capital cities, and the gap could be widening. Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito was browsing the aisles, and told SBS News the community has little option but to pay the prices. “If people are desperate and hungry, they will buy whatever they must,” he said. Ronald has diabetes and said he’s trying to improve his diet, but the availability of fresh, affordable food is a major problem.

To view the SBS News article Remote communities pay 39 per cent more at the supermarket checkout than city shoppers. Here’s why that’s a problem. in full click here.

Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito says the community has few other options but to pay the prices. Image source: SBS News website.

Opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health

One of the most important presentations at this year’s 52nd RANZCO Congress was the launch of the college’s Vision 2030 and Beyond plan to overcome Australia’s long-standing and complex eye health equity issues. One of the presenters Dr Kristen Bell called for an Atlas of healthcare delivery to help address healthcare variance, depending on where people live. In her presentation on service delivery issues, Dr Bell – the Vision 2030 and Beyond clinical lead – said ophthalmology differs from other specialties, with 80% being outpatient care-based and 20% surgical. Chronic sight threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration make up the bulk of ophthalmic service delivery, with acute care often bypassing surgery and emergency to the outpatient setting.

Dr Bell presented maps of Australia showing very few public care areas outside of urban areas. NT and WA fund outreach from Darwin, Alice Springs and Broome, respectively, while Tasmania has recently started funding an additional service in the NW of the state, giving these three jurisdictions the best regional coverage. But across Australia, 30% of entire population and 65% of Indigenous patients have no or limited access to a publicly funded local outpatient service.

To view the Insight article A pivotal opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health in full click here.

Auntie Emily at the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, Darwin Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source: Optometry Australia.

TIS National Coordinator on new vaping laws

In the below video, National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Professor Tom Calma AO answers questions including:

    • What is vaping?
    • What are the current laws around nicotine vapes?
    • Can nicotine vaping help me stop smoking?

This video forms part of a campaign created by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking. You can view other resources, including a brochure and posters, developed for the campaign here.

NPS MedicineWise low literacy consumer resource

NPS MedicineWise has developed a number of low literacy consumer resources, which aims to support conversations between a Health Care provider and patient (or patient representative) regarding medicine choice for treatment of mild COVID illness in people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are at higher risk of disease progression.

The medicines mentioned in the resources are the two oral antivirals and the monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab. There are also FAQs for prescribers and dispensers working in ACCHOs for these same three medicines. The links below to the low literacy factsheets for use in ACCHOs and remote communities can be found on the NPS MedicinesWise website.

Paxlovid, Lagevrio (Molnupiravir), Sotrovimab (Xevudy). Image sources: FirstWord Pharma+, Medical Update Online, The Guardian, GSK UK Products.

Health services need to cater for the whole person

The University of Melbourne on-line Pursuit magazine has published an article Embracing Queer Indigenous Australia – Health services need to cater to the whole person as a human right, and that includes Indigenous LGBTIQ+ Australians by Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and University of Melbourne.  In the article, Todd Fernando says: I’ve been fortunate in my life to build a strong sense of pride in my identity as a queer Wiradjuri man. Despite this, my intersectionality – the way different identities can marginalise people or expose them to discrimination – is sometimes misunderstood, particularly in health settings.

This experience rings true for many queer Indigenous people, as evidenced in my recently submitted doctoral thesis exploring health equity for queer Indigenous people. The findings of my own and previous research highlight the need for services to understand the importance of catering to the full person. Because as humans, we don’t divide easily. Without further data that truly captures the lived experience of queer Indigenous people, no effective changes to systems can be lobbied for. The belief that heterosexuality is the preferred or ‘normal’ sexual orientation is as much a direct threat to the survival and advancement of queer Indigenous people as racism is.

To view Todd Fernando’s article in full click here.

Image source: 2SER Breakfast radio.

Keep mob healthy this winter with flu vax

The Lung Foundation of Australia are conducting a campaign from mid-May to June to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be vaccinated against respiratory diseases this flu season. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are eligible for a free flue vaccination. You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website for more information here.

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.

Arthritis Australia National Grants Program

Arthritis Australia has long been a leader in funding nationally and internationally based research programs to find solutions in the management of Arthritis. In the past three years Arthritis Australia has awarded many research projects, fellowships, scholarships, project grants and grant-in-aid projects from an annual donation sum of $7m.  Arthritis Australia’s National Grants Program is currently accepting applications for 2023. This year we are welcoming applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship sponsored by Janssen.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship is for research to be undertaken in 2023 for a duration of 12 months, in the field of Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Fellowship will be awarded to a researcher who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who has a team member who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The researcher must be currently undertaking post-doctoral work or following a recently completed Rheumatology Advanced training.

Applications are open until Friday 8 July 2022.

The can access further information about the National Research program here and the Fellowship Application form here. Applications should be forwarded to Arthritis Australia using this email link. If you have any further queries, please email Arthritis Australia using the email address here or call the Arthritis Australia office on 02 9518 4441.

Image source: Merri Health.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: $4.4 billion gap in funding for First Nations health

$4.4 billion gap in funding for First Nations health

An Equity Economics report commissioned, and released today, by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has identified a $4.4 billion gap in Commonwealth, State and Territory Government and private health expenditure.

The report’s findings are alarming and highlight some of the obstacles to improving the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Conservative estimates indicate there is a gap of $5,042 in health expenditure per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person.

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO, said, ‘It is no wonder that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to live lives 8-9 years shorter than other Australians. It is no wonder that our children are 55 times more likely to die of rheumatic heart disease than non-Aboriginal children.’

The report’s calculations account for the burden of disease being more than twice the rate for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than for the non-Aboriginal population, which translates to at least twice the cost-of-service provision.

Donnella Mills, Chair of NACCHO said, ‘I am disturbed by the findings of this report and how extensive the funding gap is. How can we improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when there is a $4.4 billion funding deficit? Structural reform and substantial funding investment is required and we have shown how this process can commence in our last pre-budget submission.’

Pat Turner said, ‘The Commonwealth has had the opportunity to fix its share of the funding gap in three big-spending budgets focused on stimulus measures during the pandemic. If it had invested in our sector, it could have delivered, at the same time, financial stimulus to the 550 local economies where our services are located.’

‘NACCHO calls upon all governments ahead of the election to close the funding gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

The full report can be accessed on NACCHO’s website here.

NACCHO’s media release can be viewed on the NACCHO website here and two related infographics are available here.

Image of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM in The OZ article It’s time to close the health gap between Australians. 9 May 2022.

NACCHO CEO contributes to The Policymaker

The James Martin Institute for Public Policy (JMI) has today launched The Policymaker, a new digital publication for policymakers across Australia, profiling policy innovations and new insights on significant and hard policy challenges. From public health to education reform and the circular economy, The Policymaker covers a wide spectrum of contemporary issues. To tackle these challenges, contributing authors present new, practical, insights drawn from their expertise or experience. Launch authors include: Laureate Professor Peter Doherty AC, (Melbourne) Nobel Prize-wining immunologist and pathologist, Professor Ian Hickie AM, (Sydney) Co-Director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, Professor Veena Sahajwalla (UNSW), 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, and Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

The articles written for the launch of The Policymaker represent the range and ambition of JMI which aim to give policymakers in NSW and across Australia easy access to leading thinkers from a diverse range of disciplines and areas of practice, in order to propel the policy discussion forward.

To view the JMI media release Peter Doherty AC and Pat Turner AM among those contributing ideas to shape the future of Australian Public Policy in full click here.

Doctors struggle to communicate with mob

Doctors at Royal Darwin hospital struggle to communicate with Aboriginal patients, and that shortcoming can sometimes be fatal. A podcast featuring Aboriginal elders answering doctors’ questions aims to help better deliver culturally safe care.

On Health Report with Dr Norman Swan on ABC Radio National How doctors communicate with Indigenous patients hosted by Tegan Taylor with guest Vicki Kerrigan, a  from the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin.

In the Royal Darwin Hospital there is a well documented divide, the majority of the patients are Aboriginal and the majority of the healthcare provides are not and the culture and language barriers wrapped up in this have real health implications for patients. Vicki Kerrigan, a researcher in intercultural communication at the Menzies School of Health Research has found that doctors really want to deliver good care to Aboriginal people but they aren’t always sure how to, so she and her colleagues have created a podcast that brings together common questions that healthcare workers have and put them to the experts in this case Aboriginal leaders. The podcast is called Ask the Specialist – Larrakia, Tiwi Yolgnu stories to inspire better health care.

You can listen to the ABC Radio National Health Report episode here.

Photo: Johnny Greig, Getty Images. Image source: ABC Rational National website.

PrioritEYES survey closes this FRIDAY!

Attention all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations. The PrioritEYES eye health and vision care survey is CLOSING THIS FRIDAY!  

A link to complete the survey has been sent from NACCHO to all member services CEOs and Practice Managers via email.   

We need to hear from you to help us determine the priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye care. 

The survey closes on Friday 13 May 2022, have your say!

$6.1m boost for Preventing FASD Project

Mental Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the McGowan Labor Government is expanding WAs successful Preventing FASD Project with a $6.1 million funding boost to be included in the upcoming State Budget. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) describes a range of permanent and lifelong conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, including physical, mental and behavioural disabilities. Developed as part of the McGowan Government’s Commitment to Aboriginal Youth Wellbeing in 2020, the Project aims to reduce the incidence of FASD by raising awareness that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent damage to the brain of the developing baby.

To view the WA Government’s media release $6.1 million to boost to Preventing FASD Project to change lives for the better in full click here.

Image source: The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education website.

Living with COVID-19 resources for mob

A range of COVID-19 resources list below have been developed by the Australian Government Department of Health specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, covering the following topics:

  • I have COVID-19. What should I do?
  • Get tested if you feel unwell
  • COVID-19 can affect everyone in our community
  • I have COVID-19 and feel really sick. When should I call 000?
  • Look after yourself while you’re isolating at home
  • Don’t be shame
  • Easily spread
  • Keep 2 big steps away from people
  • Stay at home. Stop the spread.

You can download all of these resources from the Department of Health’s website here.

Don’t be shame tile from Department of Health website.

National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

As part of the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians, the Attorney-General’s Department commissioned an extensive empirical examination of elder abuse in Australia, the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study. The report notes that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, the understanding of elder abuse is situated within the history of colonisation and its consequences, including dispossession from traditional lands, removal of children and the disruption of cultural norms in relation to respect and care for elders. Research on elder abuse among Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities is scarce but existing sources have drawn attention to cultural norms concerning resource sharing being distorted as a lever for financial abuse. The ‘I never thought it would happen to me’ report concluded that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people are at ‘greater risk’ of elder abuse and that it may occur at a younger age for these groups.

Further research on elder abuse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups outside of WA is also required, including research that takes into account the diverse circumstances of communities in rural, regional and remote areas in keeping with recognition of the need for policy and services to be developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a culturally safe way such research should be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

You can view the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study: final report on the Australian Institute of Family Studies website here and watch a No More Humbug animation illustrating the negative effects of financial abuse of Aboriginal elders below, from the Kimberley Community Legal Services website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

 

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Image in the feature tile is from the Brian Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) website.

Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience three times more vision loss than non-Indigenous people, creating a concerning gap for vision. Associate Professor Hessom Razavi from The University of WA explains that much of this is due to diabetic macular oedema (DMO).  Macular oedema blurs the central vision, diminishing the ability to recognise people’s faces, to drive and work, and perform other essential tasks. DMO affects around 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with most of them of working age.

The good news is DMO is treatable, with medications known as anti-VEGF agents. A world-first clinical trail has been undertaken to test longer-acting DMO treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people patients find it impractical, for complex and varied reasons, to attend 10–12 appointments a year. There is, therefore, a need for an alternative. Longer-acting medications do exist. One example is a dexamethasone implant, a steroid injected into the eye which only needs to be dosed every three months.

You can view the Longer-acting eye treatment could reduce vision loss for Indigenous Australians article in full here and a short video from The Fred Hollows Foundation website explaining the prevalence of eye problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Help stop the flu in 2022

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause widespread illness and deaths every year. This year, it’s even more important to get the influenza vaccine as we are more vulnerable to influenza. This is due to lower recent exposure to the virus and lower uptake of influenza vaccines in 2021. With international borders reopening, it’s likely we will see more influenza in 2022.

Who should get an influenza vaccine – vaccination experts recommend influenza vaccination for all people aged 6 months and over. Under the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccines are provided to the following groups who are at higher risk of complications from influenza:

  • children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe influenza and its complications
  • pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
  • people aged 65 years and over.

Influenza vaccines are available NOW – FREE influenza vaccines under the National Immunisation Program became available this month and can be administered by GPs, community health clinics, and eligible pharmacies. To locate a service in your area you can search the National Health Services Directory. Book your appointment to get vaccinated to ensure you have the best protection at the peak of the season (usually June to September). However, it’s never too late to get  vaccinated as influenza can spread all year round.

For further information you can access the Department of Health’s Help stop the flu in 2022 website page here.

Telehealth’s role in modern health care

In recent years teleconsultations have played a growing role in the delivery of healthcare and support services across Australia. Far from a stop-gap measure, these services are set to become one of the standout legacies from the global pandemic. The government has announced it will invest AU$100 million towards making telehealth a permanent option in the healthcare system. This comes on the back of consistent research indicating confidence in the method and a lasting appetite for its convenience. A recent white paper by Deloitte, Curtin University and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia found that seven in 10 Australians are willing and ready to use virtual health services.

The research also found that geographical disparity is one of the biggest causes of inconsistent patient outcomes across the country. With the availability of videoconferencing services, people no longer need to leave their homes to receive care, and providers can ensure those in inaccessible areas aren’t left behind. We saw an example of this in the remote aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara in WA, which, during March 2020 and January 2021, faced a shortage of healthcare professionals due to a state border closure with SA. Following the introduction of telehealth services, the 160 residents had reliable access to virtual care for chronic conditions and mental health issues.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article The role of telehealth in modern health care click here.

welcome to Tjuntjuntjara hand painted sign beside outback red sand road

Image source: ExporOZ.

New COVID-19 oral treatment on PBS

From Sunday 1 May 2022 the second, prescription-only, COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed the oral anti-viral medicines if:

  • they are 65 years of age or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 years of age of older only need to have one other risk factor)
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

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

Image source: ABC News.

AIHW releases mental health papers.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have released two important publications:

Employment and Indigenous mental health

  • this paper provides an overview of policies and programs that address Indigenous employment and mental health and evaluates the evidence that labour force outcomes can improve Indigenous mental health.

Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention

  • this article provides a synthesis of the information about Indigenous self-governance in relation to mental health and suicide prevention. It explores the ways in which Indigenous organisations embody and enable processes, structures, institutions, and control associated with self-governance and how these contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and suicide prevention.

You can view the Employment and Indigenous mental health paper in full here and the Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention article here.

Aged and dementia care scholarships 

Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships.  Applications for studies in 2022 are open until 5 May 2022 to nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals.

The  Department of Health’s Ageing and Aged Care Sector Newsletter article Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships available here includes comments from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Adjunct Professor Alison McMillian, Chief Allied Health Officer Dr Anne-marie Boxall, and previous scholarship recipients.

Additional information about the scholarships is available on the Australian College of Nursing website here.

Kurranulla’s Aboriginal aged care and disability worker Larissa McEwen with her client, Aunty Loyla Lotaniu. Photo: John Veage. Image source: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

$25m to fix ‘dehumanising’ Banksia Hill conditions

The Banskia Hill juvenile detention centre will receive a $25.1 million upgrade after it was slammed by a Perth Children’s Court judge as a “dehumanising” space. The money will go towards a $7.5 million crisis care unit, improvement to the centre’s intensive supervision unit, in-cell media streaming for education and therapeutic purposes, and a new Aboriginal services unit.

While sentencing a 15-year old boy for a range of offences, in February, Perth Children’s Court President Judge Hylton Quail said “if you wanted to make a monster, this is the way to do it”.

To view the ABC News article Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre gets $25 million to address ‘dehumanising’ conditions, cut incarceration rates in full click here.

parents of children inside Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre protesting

Parents of children inside Banksia Hill have recently spoken out about conditions inside the centre and are considering a class action. Photo supplied by Megan Krakouer. Image source: ABC News.

In a related story Condobolin Health Worker Ellen Doolan says while people have got to feel safe in their own homes, sending more Indigenous kids into juvenile detention is not the solution. Elderly Aboriginal people in Condobolin are just as frightened as elderly whites, she says. Many of the kids ­involved have grown up in ­“extremely tough circumstances” and are being raised by elderly grandmothers. “We’ve already got the highest rate of incarceration of any people in this country and so a lot of the fathers are in jail and now a lot of the mothers are too,” ­Doolan says. To view Ellen Doolan speaking click here.

Condobolin AHW Ellen Doolan

Condobolin health worker Ellen Doolan. Image source: The Australian.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 3:30 PM–4:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 21 April 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on the panel this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

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