Pat Turner addresses First Nations Media conference
At the national CONVERGE Conference in Lismore organised by First Nations Media, Pat Turner Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO provided an update on the Coalition of Peaks work, and progress on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. You can access a transcript of Pat’s speech here.
NDIS reforms will discriminate against Mob
John Gilroy, ARC Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Disability and Community Development, University of Sydney says although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one of the greatest human services reform in Australia’s history, and holds great promise in improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disability, the federal government’s proposed “independent assessments” aren’t the way forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability.
“I’m a Koori bloke from the Yuin Nation who lives with disability and has a research career spanning nearly 20 years. The biggest problem I have with the proposed framework is that it’s disrespectful and discriminatory towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Rather than designing another layer of bureaucracy, I recommend the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) invests more resources into building and up-skilling the current NDIS planning workforce and the Aboriginal community-controlled services sector.”
Sixty health and medical organisations – including Indigenous health groups, service providers, the Australasian College of Health Service Management, the HESTA Super Fund and the Australian Society for Medical Research – have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister urging climate action for health.
The letter says ‘write to you as a coalition of climate concerned health organisations in Australia that wish to see the threat to health from climate change addressed by the Australian Government. Climate change is described by the World Health Organization as “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Yet, climate action could be the greatest public health opportunity to prevent premature deaths, address climate and health inequity, slow down or reverse a decrease in life expectancy, and unlock substantial health and economic co-benefits.’ The letter calls on the Australian government to:
Prioritise health in the context of Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement
Commit to the decarbonisation of the healthcare sector by 2040, and to the establishment of an Australian Sustainable Healthcare Unit
Implement a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing for Australia
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicehave issued a joint media release saying ‘The NT Government’s budget is framed in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of Territorians, hideously expensive and unlikely to be effective. It bolsters resources to allow the policing and surveillance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reduces funding where it is actually needed, in providing effective solutions when dealing with complex issues, like youth justice. The Government is moving to bring damaging and non-evidenced based youth reforms to parliament.
CEO of Danila Dilba Olga Havnen said “More prisons and jailing more people does not work. Even the USA has moved away from locking people up. It is costly and does not work. It is time for the Government and Opposition to listen to the advice at hand and look at alternative options that work.”
CEO of AMSANT John Patterson agreed “the proposed [NT Government] youth reform changes will likely lead to a surge in reoffending and offer nothing more than a path to jail. The complex health needs of our youth need to be taken into consideration. These reforms are not in the best interests of our youth or in the best interests of the Territory.”
“We call on the Government to reconsider the proposed youth reforms and talk to us. Punitive legislation does not rehabilitate young offenders or keep communities safe. We know the tough-on-crime approach only facilitates more crime and disadvantage for our community. It is time the NT government responded humanely and responsibly by addressing the real causes of youth offending and investing in these evidence-based approaches.”
To view the joint AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service media release click here.
AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Servicealso joined CAAC, AMA NT Inc, The Royal Australian & NZ College of Psychiatrists and the AMA in an open letter to the NT Minister for Health, the Minister for Police and Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing outlining concerns over the NT government’s proposed youth justice reforms.
The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has also condemned the NT Government’s youth justice reforms. NTCOSS CEO, Deborah Di Natale, said incarcerating more children will not reduce crime. “This legislation will reduce access to diversion programs and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction. It does not break the cycle of crime. It entrenches it.”
To view the NTCOSS media release in full click here.
Image from the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory final report. Image source: Croakey.
Indigenous workforce needs better support
Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is surveying its members on the impact of COVID-19 on their education, training and professional practice. Its findings to date hold important lessons for educators, employers and governments on how they can better support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and, ultimately, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, particularly in times of disruption and public health emergencies.
Megan McIntosh and Tara Price with (front) Brock Kinchela and Lucy Ridds in one of Armajun Aboriginal Health Service’s offices. Image source: The Inverell Times.
AOD research – treatment, services, prevention
A number of papers and reports relating to alcohol and other drugs have recently been released.
The University of Sydney released a paper Alcohol consumption and dependence is linked to the extent that people experience need satisfaction while drinking alcohol in two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitieswhich argues that due to systematic disadvantage and inter-generational trauma, Indigenous Australians may be less likely to have satisfied basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness). When people are need-thwarted, they may engage in compensatory behaviours to feel better in the short-term. Better understanding the functions that alcohol may play for some Indigenous Australian drinkers may aid communities, clinicians, and policy makers in improving programs for reducing drinking-related harms.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: key findings, click here, and Patterns of intensive alcohol and other drug treatment service use in Australia 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019, click here.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee has also released a report Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, click here.
The Glen Art program participant. Image source: The Glen website.
We are excited to announce that the NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant round will be opening soon!
IBSF offers funding to eligible ACCHOs to help address:
basic establishment costs, and/or
business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS.
Grants of $20,000will be available for up to 100 member ACCHOs. ACCHOs will be contacted shortly via email with information about the grants and how to apply.
Image source: AbSec website.
Outcry over fifth death in custody in a month
The fifth Indigenous death in custody in a month has provoked an outcry by Aboriginal leaders after a 45-year-old maximum security inmate died in a WA prison. The prisoner from WA’s Casuarina Prison, who has not been publicly identified was taken to the secure wing of Fiona Stanley Hospital in southern Perth where he underwent a medical procedure and was placed in intensive care where he died.
Among the outcry from Indigenous leaders, Victoria’s first Aboriginal politician, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe posted on Twitter that the man was “the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country’s criminal legal system since the start of March. The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!,” she wrote. Since 1991, almost 500 Indigenous Australians have died in prison or in the custody of police.
Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe (above at an Invasion Day rally in January) has protested at the fifth death in custody in a month. Picture: Darrian Traynor. Image source: news.com.au
Fears new NDIS assessments not culturally safe
Submissions to a parliamentary inquiry have raised concerns that controversial proposed changes to the NDIS will not serve people from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. A parliamentary committee examining controversial independent assessment reforms under the NDIS has been warned about the potential impact of changes on Indigenous and culturally diverse communities.
The inquiry is looking into the proposed changes intended to overhaul the evaluation process for determining an individual’s eligibility for support and funding under the disability support scheme. Currently, people with disability are required to submit evidence from their own experts such as specialists for evaluation by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
The reforms would instead see participants undergo an “independent assessment” from an allied health professional employed by contracted providers – paid for by the Australian government. Critics claim the move is a cost-cutting exercise that will leave participants worse off and undermine their control over the support they receive – a claim strongly denied by the government.
Ngarrindjeri Wirangu woman and artist Jackie Saunders lives with FASD. Image source: SBS News website.
Funding boost for Indigenous healthcare provider
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing has received nearly $2 million to expand its services. The Frankston-based Indigenous healthcare provider’s CEO, Karinda Taylor, said the funding would “ensure that first nations’ people are provided with culturally safe services that meet the health and wellbeing needs of local communities”. The funding was secured through the federal government’s Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme. and is expected to fund service expansion and minor capital costs until 2023.
Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said, “the City of Frankston is home to one of the fastest growing indigenous populations in Victoria. This funding will allow First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing to continue their crucial work and expand their local services. I’m proud to have lobbied the federal government for this additional funding”.
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing’s Naaz Stojkova & Karinda Taylor with MPs Peta Murphy & Paul Edbrooke. Image source: Bayside News.
Crusted scabies NT study
Scabies is listed as a neglected tropical disease by the World Health Organization. Crusted scabies affects vulnerable and immunosuppressed individuals and is highly contagious because of the enormous number of Sarcoptes scabiei mites present in the hyperkeratotic skin. Undiagnosed and untreated crusted scabies cases can result in outbreaks of scabies in residential facilities and can also undermine the success of scabies mass drug administration programs.
Crusted scabies became a formally notifiable disease in the NT in 2016. A 2-year prospective study of crusted scabies cases notified between March 2016 and February 2018, with subsequent follow up for 22 months has been conducted. Demographics, clinical and laboratory data, treatment and outcomes were analysed, with cases classified by severity of disease.
The study concluded that crusted scabies can be successfully treated with aggressive guideline-based therapy, but high mortality remains from underlying comorbidities. Reinfection on return to community is common while scabies remains endemic.
Sarcoptes scabiei mite under a microscope. Image source: Managing Crusted Scabies in Remote Communities 2017 Edition.
The Lucky Country – but not for all
Australia’s lack of action on climate change, treatment of Indigenous people and the ongoing detention of refugees have been singled out for criticism in Amnesty International’s annual report into the state of human rights around the world: Amnesty International Report 2020/21 – The State of the World’s Human Rights. The report highlighted widespread public support for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and Australian law makers reluctance to move on an important reform which would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children. “Australians like to see ourselves as living in the lucky country, and that’s true for the privileged among us, but there are swathes of our community who are unable to access justice and the basic rights to which we’re all entitled,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Samantha Klintworth, said.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Street Smart Action Against Homelessness website.
Check yourself, before you wreck yourself
A major push to improve the health of the Indigenous community was launched by the Australian Government last month, with a focus on increasing Annual health checks. Backed by a new radio advertising campaign delivered in five Aboriginal languages: Kriol, Yolngu Matha, Warlpiri, Arrernte and Burarra, the Government is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their GP and have a 715 health check.
The health check, listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, is tailored specifically to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages. It is free and available every nine to twelve months. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the health checks are an opportunity for early intervention, prevention and chronic disease management for all age groups.
In one of the campaign’s latest resources comedian Sean Choolburra urges mob to get a regular 715 health check. After completing his 715, Sean says there’s nothing to be afraid of. “It was what I expected – I had my hearing checked, my eyesight checked, and I thought my eyesight has been getting worse, but apparently Dr. Prabash says I have great eyes. No joke, I do have great eyes,” says Sean. “I’d love to bring my kids in because they seem to not hear me. And they don’t seem to see their clothes all over the floor and their empty cups. I think they’re the ones who need their eyes and hearing checked!” Sean jokes.
Further information, including resources for patients and health practitioners is available here.
To view the Minister for Health’s media release click here and to view the Sean Choolburra case study click here.
Comedian Sean Choolburra. Image source: Department of Health.
Suicide rises linked to disasters
NSW suicide deaths data released today highlights the need for immediate action to address distress in our community and future-proof against disasters. According to the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System there have been 104 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 31 January 2021. This is significantly more than the number of deaths reported within the same period in 2019 (75) or 2020 (81). Suicide Prevention Australia, CEO, Nieves Murray said, “Any increase in deaths by suicide is a tragedy. The ripple affect across families, workplaces and communities is unfathomable. “The past year has presented many trying circumstances across NSW communities including droughts, bushfires and COVID-19. This has increased risk factors for suicide such as financial distress and unemployment.
To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.
Image source: Psychiatric Times.
COVID-19 vaccine priority groups
In this video, Professor James Ward explains why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be some of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Ward says he’s heard some concerns regarding which vaccine people will get and why the vaccine is being rolled out to our mob first. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like other Indigenous peoples around the world, will be some of the first to receive the vaccines. This is solely to protect our Elders and those in our communities with underlying health conditions. Without the vaccine, our population will remain susceptible to COVID-19. When it’s your turn to be vaccinated, you’ll have access to whichever vaccine is available at that time. There’ll be enough vaccine doses for everyone in Australia.
VIC or ACT – Melbourne or Canberra – Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health x 1 PT (4 days/week)- Melbourne or Canberra
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of over 28,000 physiotherapists in Australia. It does so by advocating for access to quality physiotherapy services, providing leadership in the wider health landscape, creating lifelong learning opportunities for members, and promoting the value of physiotherapy to the community.
The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.
To view the job description and to apply click here. Applications close Wednesday 14 April 2021.
NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney
Senior Ad (identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney – CLOSING DATE EXTENDED
The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.
This role is primarily located at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney but will be required to spend short periods in rural and regional Australia.
To view position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close midnight Sunday 18 April 2021.
While Liverpool became a COVID-19 hotspot during the pandemic, not one case was recorded at the Gandangara clinic. Medical adviser to NACCHO, Jason Agostino, said Indigenous leadership was critical in this achievement. “All the ACCHOs across the country have just been really incredible in getting messages out to their communities about how to stay safe in the initial part of the pandemic and in those spots where there have been outbreaks, places in Melbourne, in Brisbane, have just been exceptional in supporting their communities and keeping them safe,” he said. “So it’s been a whole bunch of things all put together but at the heart of it is leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
The second phase of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started today with 33 ACCHOs being the first to administer the jab, including the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council’s health service in Liverpool, in Sydney’s south-west.
But questions remain within the community about the vaccine. “A lot of them are saying yes, a lot of them are just not sure,” said Dunghutti elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Aunty Gail, who’s worked in the health industry for almost 40 years, said despite the community’s low case numbers the pandemic had had a huge impact. “It was a big strain because they couldn’t go out or meet their families, a lot of us come from country areas we couldn’t go there as well,” she said. “I think it’s been tough across the board for everybody… but now we’re slowly getting back to it. I encourage everyone if they could, it’s up to them, [but] if its gonna help our community and our people, why not, because we’re survivors and we want to survive for our next generations as well.”
Dunghutti Elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Image source: ABC News website.
Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance launched
Kimberley-based Aboriginal community-controlled and government health services, research institutes and universities have united to form the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance (KAHRA) with the objective of improving and promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley through the development and application of practical health research. This collaboration combines the power of research to drive evidence-based change, the commitment of regional health services, and the vast cultural knowledge and strength of communities.
The development of collaborative projects utilising the strengths of the Alliance will seek to drive change to health outcomes, policy and services within the Kimberley and ultimately improve health outcomes of Kimberley Aboriginal community members. KAHRA has already seen unprecedented collaboration across health services in the region, with a collective voice advocating for better use of data to inform health service delivery in the region. Work has begun on a project to enable health services and researchers to see the full picture of disease burden in the region.
KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell speaking at the launch of KAHRA.
Rhetoric and action gap needs to close
As communities across Australia mark National Close the Gap Day, leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have come together to call for enduring reforms to support self-determination and tangible outcomes for First Peoples. According to Pastor Mark Kickett, UAICC Interim Chair, “after 13 years of Closing the Gap, it is time to turn rhetoric into real action that genuinely empowers First Peoples and delivers lasting benefits.
Pastor Kickett continued, “the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has the potential to be a gamechanger. But we are yet to see the structural change and funding commitments needed to achieve real reform, and pressure needs to be kept on governments to maintain their commitments and to apply the principles of reform that they signed off in 2020. Real change requires more than words and minor policy tinkering. It requires closing the gap between rhetoric and action. And it requires enduring structural and constitutional reform to empower First Peoples to take leadership in their affairs, in true partnership with government. The response of our communities to COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of community-led action and the enduring resilience, creativity, and decisiveness of First Peoples leaders and governance.”
Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church lamented with First Peoples the ongoing health inequality, lack of self-determination, experiences of racism, high incarceration rates and the tragic prevalence of preventable deaths in custody. Dr Palmer said investing in solutions led by First Peoples was key to Closing the Gap.
Mutitjulu elders at Uluru. Photo by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Image source: BBC News.
Aged care fails remote communities
For the last five years, Mary Dadbalag, aged in her 90s and confined to a wheelchair, has been living in a tent on a verandah in the NT remote community of Jibena. For the last three years, her granddaughter Jacqueline Phillips has been knocking on every government service provider’s door she can think of asking for help to get her grandmother a bedroom built with a toilet attached. She said her grandmother is living in the tent at the edge of what she described as a “chicken house” because she can’t get to the nearest toilet 20 metres away over grass in her wheelchair, but she can shuffle to the edge of the verandah.
“It’s upsetting, not healthy and not hygienic. Like, her tent is just right next to where she does her toilets. She’s a great, great, great-grandmother, one of the last elders of our region and she’s just not being respected.” Ms Phillips is worried her grandmother may continue to fall through the cracks. “There needs to be better aged care services, especially for the people on the homelands,” she said. “We really need the federal government to listen to the very remote communities and provide that service, it’s human rights.”
Mary Dadbalag has been living in a tent on the veranda of a makeshift home. Image source: ABC News.
High youth detention FASD rates acknowledged
Danila Dilba Health Service has welcomed the release of the Senate’s report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (17 March 2021). Danila Dilba provides comprehensive primary health services within the Darwin/Palmerston region, including to many children and families impacted by FASD or other neurodevelopmental impairments. The release of the Senate’s report the day before National Close The Gap Day provides a timely reminder of the tangible ways the government can fulfil its commitment to address the health gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.
The report highlights the need to incorporate FASD prevention, assessment, and management into a comprehensive primary health care model. In particular, the Senate Committee recognises the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) like Danila Dilba in delivering culturally appropriate, holistic care to families affected by FASD.
Danila Dilba’s Head of Clinical Governance, Dr Andrew Webster, gave evidence to the inquiry about the lack of culturally appropriate assessment, therapeutic interventions, and support for children with FASD and their families, “ACCHOs can provide a ‘one-stop shop’ within a trusted service rather than families having to go through the process of diagnosis and therapy with multiple providers. Sadly, due to the barriers to assessment, many children suffering from FASD or other impairments do not get a diagnosis, and so are unable to receive the supports that they need. It is these children that we then unfortunately see coming to the attention of the child protection and justice systems.”
To view Danila Dilba’s media release in full click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Yesterday the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called upon Canberrans to reflect on their personal responsibility in combatting racism. “This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against Racism’, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the power that young people have in shifting narratives and creating change, both online and in person,” said ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racism to the forefront of global conversation. In Australia it drew attention to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system, and reignited conversations about racism and implicit bias more broadly.”
To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.
Diabetes management in Aboriginal communities webinar
The first webcast session of a four-part series of interprofessional webinars focusing on Diabetes management in an Aboriginal community will be held from 12:30–1:30 PM this Thursday 25 March 2021.
The webcast, Prevention and Control of Type-2 Diabetes in Aboriginal Communities: Changing Dietary, Activity and Lifestyle Patterns will explore evidence-based approaches and practical strategies for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behaviour changes to support the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people. Barriers and solutions to improving engagement with Aboriginal communities will also be discussed.
Diabetes is a complex condition that can impact people in different ways. It has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This webcast provides an overview of the prevalence of diabetes in the Aboriginal population, discusses risk factors for early diabetes detection and focuses on the key lifestyle behaviours for the prevention and management of diabetes. Key nutritional considerations relating to the use of whole foods, fibre, carbohydrates and how to shop on a budget will be discussed. Further to this, stress management, importance of sleep, exercise, flexibility and ways to reduce sedentary behaviour will be covered. The presenters will also discuss their local Aboriginal community group programs, including culturally safe practices.
For more information you can download an event flyer here and register here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit
NACCHO and the Department of Health (DoH) are excited to share with you, COVID-19 vaccine providers, new resources and materials to roll-out Phase 1b, due to start week commencing 22 March.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit includes a series of templates and materials that both vaccination clinics and non-vaccination clinics will be able to use and adapt for their sites. All resources feature the beautiful work of Aboriginal artist Jordana Angus,“Stand Together For A Healthy Future”.
This kit will help you work through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s regulatory guidelines for advertising COVID-19 vaccinations.
Here is a formal letter providing an approval for your organisation and its members and its members to adapt Government campaign materials as necessary.
The TGA or the Department of Health can look over draft materials or ideas if ACCHOs have concerns.
There are several resources that you may find helpful as you roll-out vaccinations through your clinic/practice – you can find more on the DoH website.
We can’t thank you enough for your support and partnership in helping us keep our communities safe and healthy! #OurJobToProtectOurMob
There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there: newsGP reports
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts speak to newsGP about steps to address misinformation and hesitancy ahead of phase 1b.
As Australia prepares to move into phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are buckling down on tackling vaccine hesitancy.
GP Dr Tanya Schramm is a Palawa woman and Chair of the Expert Committee behind the COVID-19 clinical recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
‘There’s been a huge social media campaign in general with … the anti-vax movement putting a lot of stuff out … and that has obviously just overflowed into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
GP Dr Jason Agostino is the Medical Advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19: ‘There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, [but] I don’t think we have an anti-vax movement.
‘What we have is hesitancy around this vaccine and a lot of misinformation going around to people [who have] reasonable questions that they want answered.
‘We’ve got a specific factsheet about vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about the experiences of other First Nations [people], and really clarifying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t guinea pigs here.
‘The reason that they’re priority populations is because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders have fought hard to make sure that they have access to vaccines early.’
2021 Close the Gap Campaign Report celebrates strengths-based examples
As one of the members driving the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO invites you to read the 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021 titled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe.
Connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the CTG annual reports they often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood.
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap said, “New formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.”
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 quoted in the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021
“ACCHOs know where our mob are and how to get the right message out.”
“I feel proud of the community controlled sector. It’s great that there’s been that recognition of how responsive and how flexible our sector could be. You could see firsthand how, if you work with ACCHOs on the ground they will deliver an effective response that’s appropriate for their setting.”
“You don’t get the same care for our people in mainstream health organisations, you don’t get that recognition of the social determinants of health or of the way colonisation impacts on our health as you do with ACCHOs.”
Indigenous birthing services vital to health of mothers and babies
Charles Darwin University midwifery researchers are calling for Indigenous-led birthing centres to expand across Australia after a seven-year study found a decrease in preterm births and an
improvement in breastfeeding and antenatal care for First Nations families.
The paper “Effect of a Birthing on Country Service redesign on maternal and neonatal health outcomes for First Nations Australians: a prospective, non-randomised interventional trial published today in The Lancet Global Health revealed preterm births were 50 per cent less likely in women accessing a designated Birthing on Country service in Brisbane’s south.
The study reported an almost 40 per cent increase in breastfeeding after discharge from hospital and an 80 per cent increase in women attending more than four antenatal sessions in pregnancy.
Most Australians support raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, according to research commissioned by Amnesty International Australia.
The current minimum age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions is just 10 (the age of a child in year three in primary school), a fact only one in 10 Australians could identify. In 2019 the Committee of the Rights of the child recommended Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 in line with international standards.
Australia also came in for criticism from the international community during the recent Universal Periodic Review where 31 countries recommended Australia address its treatment of Indigenous people and raise the age. “The tough-on-crime rhetoric is a false economy – all the evidence shows that locking kids up doesn’t work,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said.
Before claiming any of the COVID-19 Telehealth items, GPs are reminded that it is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.
Patients are eligible for GP and OMP telehealth services if they have an established clinical relationship with a GP, OMP, or a medical practice. This requirement supports longitudinal and person-centred primary health care that is associated with better health outcomes.
How Australia’s vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities will work
An Indigenous-owned remote dialysis clinic in Alice Springs is working to make COVID-19 vaccine information more accessible to people living in remote communities.
At 71 years old, Barbara Nampitjinpa is the perfect candidate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the next phase of the rollout.
Ms Nampitjinpa, who uses an oxygen tank to help herself breathe, is not only getting the jab for her own health, but to encourage other people in remote communities to do the same.
Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, which begins on 22 March, will focus on vaccinating Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, people over 70, and those who are immunocompromised, as well as some emergency services personnel including the remainder of the health workforce not included in Phase 1a.
Barbara Nampitjinpa wants people in remote communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: SBS News
Wunan to run headspace Kununurra
East Kimberley organisation Wunan has been appointed as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra. headspace Kununurra will bring a much-needed resource to the area, offering young people support with their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs issues, and work and study.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the operator of the Country WA Primary Health Network, awarded the contract to Wunan following an open tender procurement process.
For nearly 20 years Wunan has been successfully delivering services and programs across the East Kimberley, including delivery of clinical services to Kununurra and surrounding communities.
Young people aged 12 to 25 can contact headspace Kununurra directly or be referred by their GP or mental health professional.
Illustration source: Chris Johnston, Eurekastreet.com.au
The outstanding health outcome Indigenous communities have produced
The fact Indigenous communities kept COVID-19 infection rates six times lower than the rest of Australia without a single death is proof that when they have control and autonomy over policies and programs, success follows.
That’s the message from June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the co-chair of the annual Close the Gap campaign.
The pandemic and the bushfires of 2020 reinforced the need for large-scale reform and “a paradigm shift to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, Ms Oscar said.
Chief executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Vicki O’Donnell said avoiding COVID-19 deaths was a triumph.
“Our mob live together, eat together, work together, they kiss and they hug – so the spread was a huge risk for us.
“No Aboriginal person died. Does that not tell you something about what we do?” she said.
In 2019, suicide was the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to 17 years. Suicide rates among adults are at least two to three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
Yet the lack of resources and funding to train Aboriginal people in mental health and suicide prevention was “incredibly frustrating” for Thomas Brideson, the chief executive of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, a newly established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention organisation.
Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar. Source: Australian Human Rights Commission
Close the Gap report says 2020 reinforced need for large-scale systemic reform
Australian governments at all levels must adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and should take strengths-based approaches to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples, according to the Close the Gap Campaign.
The campaignis made up of 54 organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and aims to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In its 2021 Close the Gap report (not to be confused with the federal government’s Closing the Gap initiative), the campaign noted that the events of 2020 have reinforced the need for large-scale systemic reform and a “paradigm shift” in Australia’s approach to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Indigenous leadership in pandemic delivers a blueprint to Close the Gap
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people have been hailedfor their world-leading response to the coronavirus pandemic which left First Nations communities largely unscathed.
As leading Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, Director of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and former Australian of the Year and health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley wrote this week: “Little did anyone know that just a few years after the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian government (and rejected), the First Nations leadership would be able to show just how powerful having a voice could be for their health and wellbeing.”
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
Country and culture are central to the report and the Kimberley is one of the regions highlighted for the leadership shown by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people during the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people six times lower than for other Australians, no cases in remote communities, and not a single death recorded.
As Oscar wrote in the report: Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia.”
The relative safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also ranked as a global success, said Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, the only Aboriginal member of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, who was a panellist at the Close the Gap event, which also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Sir Michael Marmot, former head of the WHO Social Determinants Committee.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
Halls Creek leaders recall day COVID-19 came to town
When coronavirus came to the small outback town of Halls Creek in WA it was “like a bomb went off”, according to Brenda Garstone, CEO of the Yura Yungi Aboriginal Medical Service. “We all had to run for cover,” she said. “We were scrambling. We didn’t know where to go, or what to do.” The WA Department of Health had warned that any community transmission in towns with remote communities would be devastating for the populations. When four healthcare workers at the local Halls Creek hospital returned positive tests, all at once, residents refused to attend the healthcare clinic for fear of picking up the virus, local shops emptied and Aboriginal men from the town’s night patrol went door to door, trying to communicate the seriousness of what was unfolding. While the outbreak was quickly contained, tensions in the small town have still not eased, with the community now fully aware of the threat COVID-19 poses.
Long wait times and centralised specialist doctors have left families in rural and remote areas waiting up to three years for a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). But now a group of doctors, academics and Indigenous elders have come together in north-west Queensland to create a unique diagnostic tier system for the disorder. Local Indigenous leaders and Mount Isa rural doctor Marjad Page, a Kalkadoon, Waanyi and Ganggalidda man, wrote a dreamtime story to explain not only the disorder but the medical process to local Indigenous families. “The program is run from the Aboriginal medical service here in Mount Isa called Gidgee Healing, so it’s run out of a culturally appropriate medical service for the region,” Dr Page said.
Dr Marjad Page. Image source: ABC News – ABC North West Queensland.
Six steps to stopping germs video launch
Australia is the only developed country still with high levels of trachoma and almost all cases occur in remote Aboriginal communities. The Ending Trachoma project, which is run out of the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA at Curtin University, aims to reduce the incidence of trachoma and skin infections in ‘trachoma at risk’ Aboriginal communities in remote WA through implementing environmental health strategies. They have developed a short video (see below) showing the importance of personal hygiene using ‘Milpa’s Six Steps to Stop Germs’ message. The video features women from the Nollamarra Football Team together with their children. It was developed by the Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, with extensive input from Aboriginal community members and services in WA, SA and the NT. The message aims to encourage everyone, particularly kids, to stay healthy and strong and eliminate trachoma and other infectious diseases through following six steps.
For more information about the project click here.
COVID-19 offers unexpected opportunity to quit smoking
Smokers are worried. A respiratory disease is running rampant across the globe and people with unhealthy lifestyle habits appear to be especially vulnerable. Smokers hospitalised with COVID-19 are more likely to become severely unwell and die than non-smokers with the disease. At any point in time, most smokers want to quit. But COVID-19 provides the impetus to do it sooner rather than later. A recent study has found the proportion intending to quit within the next two weeks almost tripled from around 10% of smokers before COVID-19 to almost 30% in April. This heightened interest in quitting in the face of COVID-19 represents a unique opportunity for governments and health agencies to help smokers quit, and stay off smoking for good.
To view the full article in The Conversationclick here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Adolescent “never smoked” rate rises
Using data from the Australian Secondary School Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey, a Prevention Centre PhD project led by Christina Heris found that the proportion Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents who have never smoked rose from 49% in 2005 to 70% in 2017. Additionally, rates of low smoking intensity increased by 10% from 67% in 2005 to 77 % in 2017 meaning that, overall, the number of cigarettes smoked in a day has decreased amongst smokers in the 12–17 age group.
Prevention Centre investigator Professor Sandra Eades, a Noongar woman, who supervised Christina’s project said “It’s fantastic to see that tobacco control is working for all students, including driving down rates among Aboriginal young people. But we know that young Aboriginal people experience more of the risk factors for smoking such as stress, racism and disadvantage. There is a need for governments to address these broader determinants.”
Original articles sought for inaugural HealthBulletin
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is welcoming submissions from researchers, practitioners and health workers of original articles (not published elsewhere) for inclusion in their inaugural edition of the next generation of the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin. They are seeking submissions that provide examples of research on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including policies, strategies and programs that have the potential to inform and support everyday practice.
For further information about how to submit papers click here.
Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website.
National COVID-19 healthcare worker guidelines
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher prevalence of respiratory conditions, many of which share symptoms with COVID-19. Healthcare workers examining a patient with respiratory symptoms are at risk of spreading infection between patients with the highest risk of transmission likely during throat and nose examination including when a swab is being collected.
Griffith University researchers have helped develop national guidelines to minimise healthcare workers’ risk of acquiring and spreading infection while examining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with respiratory symptoms. “These new guidelines aim to provide resources and support healthcare teams in prevention and management of COVID-19,’’ said Associate Professor Jing Sun from the School of Medicine who led the project.
For more information about the new national guidelines click here.
Image source: Flinders University website.
PPE innovation needed in remote health services
Clinicians, service providers and researchers have issued an urgent call for an Australian innovation in personal protective equipment (PPE) – the ventilated hood – to be made available to remote health services, saying that without the hoods, the risk of coronavirus transmission within remote healthcare services and communities is grave.
Lendlease and JT Academy are encouraging all local employers to utilise the JT Academy FREE employment functions and resources. All you need to do is send the details of any job vacancies you have and let them help you find the best candidates – they will advertise your vacancy on their fully functioning job board for free!
This unique collaborative employment initiative, directed by Managing Director, Johnathan Thurston is fast becoming one the most ambitious employment initiatives Far North Queensland has ever seen. It harnesses the unique strengths of both Lendlease and JT Academy, who together are striving to provide direct job opportunities for local jobseekers.
For more information visit the JT Academy website here.
Image source: Twitter #jtacademy.
Funding still required for rehab services
Weigelli Centre Aboriginal Corporation Inc Chairperson Ray Harris and CEO Daniel Jeffries have doubled down on the need for more funding to be made available for rehab services, saying revenue streams remained of concern with no additional recurrent funding available for rehab services. The Weigelli Centre and other services across the sector need additional funding to address the increasing need for drug and alcohol treatment services. The continuing challenges remain for services to provide support and assistance to Aboriginal individuals, families and their communities.
To read the full article in the Cowra Guardianclick here.
Image source: Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW website.
CHF Big Ideas Competition
Do you have an idea which is going to change the way healthcare is delivered?
What about an idea which will transform how the health system works?
Consumers Health Forum (CHF) of Australia is invites you to send in videos of your ideas for innovation in health, to be part of the Big Ideas Forum at their Australian and NZ Shifting Gears Summit in March 2021. Your big idea could be something totally new, or it might be an example of something that has worked well in your community that could be expanded or tried in other places. You may like to base your idea on one or more of the key shifts highlighted in CHF’s 2018 White Paper Shifting Gears: Consumers Transforming Health. To view the White Paper click here.
For more information about the CHF Big Ideas Competition click here and for details about the CHF Summit 2021 click here.
Image source: Consumers Health Forum of Australia website.
“Collectively, we genuinely thank the Food Ministers for implementing a warning that will benefit the community and reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
The Ministers were encouraged to do the right thing by almost four thousand community leaders and advocates and more than 180 community, health, medical and research organisations.
This decision made today by Ministers will improve the health and wellbeing of Australian families and communities for generations to come. It’s commendable that Ministers are now introducing a pregnancy health warning which the evidence has proven will effectively alert people to the significant risks of alcohol exposure in pregnancy.
Having a red, black and white label is so important so the message can be understood by all Australians regardless of their literacy levels or cultural backgrounds,”
FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi see Part 1 below for full press release
For 6 : New Zealand, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, the NT and the ACT
Against 4 :Federal , New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland ( voted down )
“We very much welcome this decision to protect the health and future of thousands of Australian children today through approving stronger and more visible pregnancy health warnings on alcohol.
This decision is one that is based on sound evidence for effective warning labels that will help to deter pregnant women from consuming alcohol and protect their baby from the damaging effects this can cause through Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.”
It’s been a long road to this decision, with mandatory labels having been discussed for more than a decade. Finally, this label will provide clear, visible information to help increase awareness of the harms caused by consuming alcohol during pregnancy.
It is also fantastic to see an example of Australian leaders supporting a preventive health policy which is based on evidence. It will save the country countless future costs in the health care and other sectors, and we hope to see more such policies in future.”
We congratulate the hundreds of organisations who have campaigned tirelessly for this change and the thousands of individuals who have shown their support – this was a joint effort to advocate for the public’s health and all those involved should be proud of this achievement,”
This is INCREDIBLE!🎉 We did it – Australia & NZ will soon have a mandatory, visible & effective health warning on alcohol products! It is amazing to see what we can achieve together.🙌 The actions each of you took made all the difference.👏 THANK YOU! #VisibleHealthWarningpic.twitter.com/9TK1sDyhCL
Part 1Fare Continued: Food safety Ministers in Australia and New Zealand have listened to the community and put the health and safety of families first by agreeing to introduce an effective health warning on alcohol products.
Ministers have today agreed to the recommendation of Food Standards Australia New Zealand which is a red, black and white warning, with the signal wording ‘pregnancy warning’.
NOFASD Australia COO Sophie Harrington says, “Tens of thousands of Australian families who are impacted by FASD are celebrating today’s decision, because they know how significantly this lifelong disability affects the health and wellbeing of our loved ones”.
“This new mandatory label will go a long way to improve community awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol throughout pregnancy, and will result in fewer babies born with FASD in years to come,” Ms Harrington said.
” The health costs of inaction would be greater than those incurred by the alcohol industry.
It is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that all of our citizens have a right to know of these harms.
FASD is 100 per cent preventable. People in our community have a right to know.”
Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, June Oscar, has written to the Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation urging the body to implement stronger pregnancy warnings on alcoholic beverages. Originally published here
The Ministerial Forum of Food Regulation is holding a vote today ( July 17 ) on whether pregnancy warning labels in red, black and white are needed
The alcohol industry says the financial costs of applying the labels would be millions of dollars
Health experts argue the labels would help reduce rates of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder
The letter came one day out from today’s key vote on alcohol labels, which will determine whether all pregnancy warnings will need to be printed in red, black and white.
In the letter, which is co-signed by 52 members of the Close the Gap Campaign, June Oscar asked ministers to take an “easy step” to protect unborn children from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
“Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has designed that effective warning, based on extensive research and consultation.”
“The red, black and white health warning they propose clearly alerts the community to the harm from using alcohol when pregnant and the risks to unborn babies and should be supported.”
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, while Indigenous women drink less on average than the rest of the female population, some Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by FASD.
Clinicians argue new labels key to reducing FASD
Prior to taking up her role at the Australian Human Rights Commission, June Oscar spent years working with communities in the Fitzroy Valley affected by FASD.
The commissioner said there are still many people in Australia who don’t know the risks of consuming alcohol whilst pregnant.
“I think many people do, but there are so many that I’ve had conversations with that have said to me that they wish they had known,” she said.
Also urging the government to implement the proposed new label is University of Sydney Professor of Paediatrics Dr Elizabeth Elliot.
The FASD specialist said she is constantly surprised at how little is known about the potential risks of drinking whilst pregnant.
“Many women drink during pregnancy, probably about 60 per cent of women in Australia, and many of those are not aware of the potential harms to their unborn child, or indeed their own health and the outcomes of their pregnancy.”
University of Sydney Professor of Paediatrics Dr Elizabeth Elliot argues alcohol label reform is key to better health outcomes.(Supplied)
The doctor said a label featuring prominent colours like red, black and white is more likely to change behaviour and spread the message to the wider community.
“We know from studies that labels will change awareness, knowledge and practice.
“It’s important that the community as a whole understands the harms, so that they can support women to stop drinking during pregnancy.”
Alcohol industry pushes back
Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said the industry he represents was “absolutely committed” to adequate pregnancy warnings.
But he said the requirement to make labels red, black and would be an overstep that would cost businesses money they don’t have right now.
“The mandating of three colours does come at a substantial cost at a very critical time for our industry,” he said.
“It would cost the industry a one-off cost of over $400 million, and $200 million ongoing.”
Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said the requirement to make labels red, black and would be an overstep that would cost businesses money they don’t have.(ABC News: Dane Meale)
Andrew Wilsmore said if the change to labelling was implemented, smaller craft alcohol producers would be most impacted.
“They’ve got higher costs involved in label changes than the efficiencies you can gain from some of the larger operators”
“These guys are small businesses. They’ve mortgaged their house. They can’t make money magically appear to appease a regulatory decision by bureaucrats.”
Health vs business costs
But June Oscar says the health costs of inaction would be greater than those incurred by the alcohol industry.
Open Letter: It’s time for a clear, visible health warning label
Dear Food Forum Ministers meeting 17 July 2020
For families, the most important thing in life is the health and wellbeing of our children.
That’s why it matters to all of us that our families have access to clear information about the health and safety of the products they buy – especially products that may harm our children.
Alcohol can cause brain damage in unborn babies when consumed during pregnancy – a condition known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Alcohol can also lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems.
Yet these products have never before been legally required to carry a health warning.
Thankfully, that’s about to change.
We are all in agreement that we need a mandatory label. Now our independent food authority has developed a clear and visible label that, with your support, will soon appear on all alcohol products sold in Australia and New Zealand.
This will replace the ineffective and confusing label applied inconsistently by some alcohol producers to date.
You will soon be meeting to decide whether to support this carefully designed label. As you do so, we ask that you put the health and wellbeing of Australian children first by supporting the evidence-based design in full.
Watering down the label through changes to its colour, size or wording, would be risking the health and wellbeing of thousands of Australians for years to come.
As a community, we want Aussie kids to have the best start in life.
Help our community give them that by supporting this new label without further delay.
” In the Overview we strive to provide an accurate and informative summary of the current health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In doing so, we want to acknowledge the importance of adopting a strengths-based approach, and to recognise the increasingly important area of data sovereignty.
To this end, we have reduced our reliance on comparative data in favour of exploring the broad context of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and how this may impact their health journey “
The annual Overview contains updated information across many health conditions.
It shows there has been a range of positive signs including a decrease in death rates, infant mortality rates and a decline in death rates from avoidable causes as well as a reduction in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke.
It has also been found that fewer mothers are smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy meaning that babies have a better start to life.
The initial sections of the Overview provide information about:
the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
social determinants including education, employment and income
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
measures of population health status including births, mortality and hospitalisation.
The remaining sections are about selected health conditions and risk and protective factors that contribute to the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
These sections include an introduction and evidence of the extent of the condition or risk/protective factor. Information is provided for state and territories and for demographics such as sex and age when it is available and appropriate.
The Overview is a resource relevant for the health workforce, students and others requiring access to up-to-date information about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This year, the focus will be mainly on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and presentation is within the framework of the strength based approach and data sovereignty (where information is available).
As a data driven organisation, the HealthInfoNet has a publicly declared commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to advance our understanding of data sovereignty and governance consistent with the principles and aspirations of the Maiam nayri Wingara Data Sovereignty Collective (https://www.maiamnayriwingara.org).
As we have done in previous years, we continue our strong commitment to developing strengths based approaches to assessing and reporting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
It is difficult to make comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non- Indigenous Australian populations without consideration of the cultural and social contexts within which people live their lives.
As in past versions, we still provide information on the cultural context and social determinants for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
However, for the selected health topics and risk/protective factors we have removed many of the comparisons between the two populations and focused on the analysis of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data only.
In an attempt to respond to the challenge issued by Professor Craig Ritchie at the 2019 AIATSIS conference to say more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’ where comparisons are made and if there is evidence available, we have provided a brief explanation for the differences observed.
Accompanying the Overview is a set of PowerPoint slides designed to help lecturers and others provide up-to-date information.
In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.